Why Did Trump Choose to Be Such an Unpopular President?

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and co-founder of Bank Whistleblowers United. Jointly published with New Economic Perspectives

Donald Trump promisedto deliver a middle-class tax cut of epic proportions.

“The largest tax reductions are for the middle class, who have been forgotten,” Trump said in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 22, 2016.

If Trump had fulfilled that campaign promise, it would have made him spectacularly popular and vastly increased his support beyond his base.  He, not the ‘Republican Party,’ controlled the House and the Senate. Many Democrats would have supported a serious cut in middle-class taxes.  Better yet, from Trump’s perspective, many Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and ‘Chuck’ Schumer would have bitterly opposed the Trump Tax Triumph on the economically illiterate basis that budget surpluses are next to godliness.

Trump could have followed up his tax cut success with a real infrastructure program distributed through grants to counties, cities, and states.  Again, this would have been spectacularly popular and even Pelosi and Schumer would have rushed to co-sponsor the legislation.  This would have been the second Trump triumph.  With those two triumphs, the Republicans would have won a whole series of close congressional elections in 2018, retained (and perhaps expanded) control of the House, and expanded control of the Senate. That would have been the third Trump triumph and would have positioned him brilliantly for reelection.

I return now to expanding on the mystery of Trump’s refusal to enact a real tax cut for the middle class. As Paul Krugman has emphasized, it is extraordinary for a President to give away trillions of dollars in tax reductions – and end up like Trump having his tax cuts prove massively unpopular.  Consider how easy it would have been for Trump’s Treasury Department to design the tax cut to expand his base and deepen his popularity with his base.  The average annual tax savingsof the quintessential middle-class household with an income of $50,000 – $75,000 is a paltry $870.  Worse, the Trump corporate tax cuts are permanent, but the tax cuts for the middle class largely end in 2027.  By 2027, the net effect of the Trump tax plan for that same middle-class family would be a $30 tax increase.  Working class households would suffer slightly larger tax increases in 2027 than their middle-class counterparts.  Treasury, run by a plutocrat (Steven Mnuchin) for plutocrats, designed the Trump plan to give its benefits overwhelmingly to the plutocrats. Mnuchin’s minions, drawn from the worst of Wall Street, ensured that the tax cut benefits would go overwhelmingly to the ultra-wealthy.

Trump could have created a real middle-class tax cut.  He could have used round numbers – every household with combined taxable income below $75,000 gets a Trump refund of $5,000.  If Trump wanted the refund more quickly, he could have given every household with taxable income below $75,000 the prior tax year an anticipatory refund of $5,000. If he wanted to favor groups that made up his existing base, the Trump tax cuts could have been larger for farmers, blue-collar workers, or the elderly.  He could have denied tax cuts to those he viewed as likely to vote against him – the poor.  If Trump wanted to plug entrepreneurship, he could have created a $20,000 tax credit for anyone who started a new business during the tax year (or even in prior tax years).  These are merely examples designed to make the general point – it is easy to shape a massive middle-class tax cut certain to be spectacularly popular with broad segments of the population – including Democrats and Independents otherwise inclined to vote for the Democrats.

What would have such a real tax for the middle-class have done to the overall economy?  It would have stimulated the economy far more effectively than Trump’s tax giveaway to the plutocrats – and it would not have produced any harmful inflation.  The reason for the first point is that the working and middle class are far more likely to increase their consumption if given a lump sum tax cut of several thousand dollars.  That increases demand and business leaders respond by increasing production and capacity, which further stimulates demand.  The obvious question is “can this cause inflation in some circumstances?” Yes, if the tax cut is so large relative to unused capacity that it creates a serious scarcity of real resources. The Great Financial Crisis, however, so reduced labor force participation and growth that cuts the size of the Trump tax cut, even if given to the middle class instead of to the plutocrats, would not have been large enough to absorb our economy’s unusually large unused capacity.  Trump’s tax giveaway to his puppet masters (my wife’s apt phrase), predictably, did not lead to a record economic boom stimulated by a dramatic surge in investment in new plant, equipment, and research & development.  Instead, it produced an orgy of stock buybacks and massive raises for CEOs.

What would the public reaction have been to a real middle-class tax cut that stimulated the general economy far more effectively that Trump’s tax payoff to his puppet masters? The public would have loved it and given Trump great credit for it.

The last sentence understates the scale of political benefits that would have come to Trump had he fulfilled his campaign promise to slash middle-class taxes.  It leaves out how much the so-called Democratic centrists’ opposition to such a tax cut would have added to Trump’s popularity while reducing support for Democrats in the 2018 congressional elections.  The ‘New Democrats’ and the House Democratic leadership are fervent supporters of “paygo” limitations on budget expenditures. They are far to the right of Republican members of Congress on this issue.  More precisely, Republican members of Congress overwhelmingly pretend to care about budget deficits and federal debt only when the President is a Democrat.  ‘New Democrats,’ ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats, and Democrats who join “Problem Solvers” and other groups religiously oppose deficits even when increasing the deficit is the best economic action.  The result of the ‘centrist’ Democrats’ war against even desirable deficits is that they would have fought and died to oppose a real middle-class Trump tax cut. They would have predicted that it would produce a disaster.  Their predictions about the grave and imminent peril of increasing the deficit, as always, would have proven false.  Trump would have emerged with his own popularity greatly expanded and enhanced as his greatest rival’s popularity greatly diminished.  The Republicans would have held the House, and possibly expanded their majority there and added to their Senate majority.

Trump would have demonstrated that he was the expert on the economy, taxes, and the deficit.  Pelosi would have demonstrated her recurrent failure to understand the economy, taxes, and the deficit.  She would likely have been defeated in 2018 in the Democratic vote for minority leader.  Pelosi is a skilled legislative leader, with terrible, closely related, blindspots on deficits and the urgency of dealing with climate change.  She acts as if we cannot afford to save the planet by acting decisively against global climate change now.  That view is horrific economics and public policy.  Similarly, she would have been at her worst in arguing that Trump was endangering the Nation by creating a real trillion-dollar middle-class tax cut.  She would have been the face of the Democratic Party in the 2018 elections – the woman and her Party that tried to keep your middle-class family from receiving a $5,000 tax cut.  When the economy reacted positively to the resultant stimulus, her humiliation, and that of her Party, would have been complete.

Given what Trump knows now about Pelosi’s skill in legislative infighting he should be able to weigh the “opportunity cost” of not using a real middle-class tax cut to maintain control of the House and to discredit and ultimately cause the Democrats to remove Pelosi from leadership.  Trump’s cowardly and corrupt surrender to his puppet masters on the tax cut and infrastructure allowed the Democrats to gain control of the House. That made it possible for Pelosi to become Speaker again and to rain down the blows on Trump that have made his life miserable.

Trump’s refusal to deliver the great middle-class tax cut he promised (twice, in 2016 and 2018) has only two possible explanations.  One, he is spectacularly stupid.  Not mediocre, lazy, or nearly invincibly ignorant.  It takes spectacular stupidity to be unable to see, after months of meeting and press reactions, that the middle-class will love major middle-class tax cuts and hate tax cuts designed by Trump’s puppet masters to go overwhelmingly to the exceptionally wealthy.

Trump is the laziest, most corrupt, and most narcissistic President in U.S. history.  It is clear whenever he speaks that he is far from intelligent.  He is not, however, spectacularly stupid.  He is normal stupid.  He knew that a real middle-class tax cut would have made him spectacularly popular.

The other explanation for Trump’s breaking his tax promise to his base also explains his breaking his infrastructure promise.  In both cases, Trump has chosen the policy option that is worst for the American people – and for Trump’s popularity.  In both cases, Trump kowtows not to his base but to the wealthiest and most rapacious American elites.

Trump is spectacularly cheap.  He did not fund his presidential election and he was not remotely as wealthy as he claimed to be for decades.  He cannot borrow from any reputable bank in the world.  He is in office not due to a wave of small contributions from his base, but because he kissed the ring of a whole string of plutocrats who share two Trumpian traits.  They are sleaze and they are greedy.  They provided the funding to put Trump in office.  Their members and minions populate the horror show that is the Trump administration.  The plutocrats crafted the Trump tax cut to provide the astonishing transfer of wealth to the plutocrats.

The plutocrats knew that if Trump delivered a real middle-class tax cut and infrastructure program he would become spectacularly popular.  That would make him far more powerful and potentially independent from his plutocratic puppet masters.  A real middle class tax cut would have given tax relief overwhelmingly to the middle-class instead of the plutocrats.  The puppet masters hated that idea and killed it before it ever became a policy alternative in the Trump administration.

Similarly, a real infrastructure stimulus plan would have made regular Americans far better off, made Trump widely more popular, and driven bipartisan agreement.  Trump’s plutocratic puppet masters killed that option before it could become a policy alternative.  The result is a plan designed by and for the puppet masters. Their predatory “partnerships” have the public provide the financing while the plutocrats skim the profits and dump the losses on the public.

We have run two real world tests of the relative power of Trump’s base versus his puppet masters. In both tax cuts and infrastructure, Trump has shown slavish fealty to his puppet masters even when it harms and upsets his base and prevents tens of millions of other Americans from adding their support.

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  1. b-rar

    World-class scumbag though he is, this was Steve Bannon’s blueprint from the get-go, and I think that’s why he was forced out by the Pence/Priebus axis in the administration:

    Like [Andrew] Jackson’s populism, we’re going to build an entirely new political movement. It’s everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up. We’re just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. It will be as exciting as the 1930s, greater than the Reagan revolution — conservatives, plus populists, in an economic nationalist movement.

    “The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f—ed over. If we deliver” — by “we” he means the Trump White House — “we’ll get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote and we’ll govern for 50 years.” source

    On this, I think he was 100% correct, but the GOP is not about coalition-building and never has been, but rather about raiding the public coffers to serve their patrons and throwing out red meat issues like abortion to keep social conservatives on board with an agenda that devastates their communities. That’s what we’ve seen over the last few Republican administrations, and Trump is really no different in that respect.

    1. Larry

      This is 100% correct with regards to Bannon. Trumps rhetoric on the trail has not matched his policy actions precisely because of the people that were ultimately chosen to run the ship. There has been turn over, but foreign policy has ended up recycling old neocon actors while domestic economic policy has been guided by Goldman Sachs sociopaths.

        1. Jack Gavin

          But infrastructure building as an economic force is not at all loony. He’s crazy. Not stupid (all the time).

          1. Anarcissie

            Trump hired himself out, and was hired, to break things, not construct Bannon’s 50-year Reich. In order to break things, which is his natural, instinctive métier in the present situation, he has had to make deals with those sufficiently destructive to let him do it, that is, the Republican Party. They were bought off easily with a tax cut for their masters. The construction of the 50-year-Reich would have required many more deals with many more kinds of people and slowed down the breakage. Likewise, he has had to make deals with the neocon war freaks to get some of them off his case, hence threatening (but so far not invading) Iran and Venezuela. Wars have to be constructed, too! Much better to do some idle saber-rattling and then cut yet another deal (as witness North Korea).

    2. Collapsar

      I believe I also read that Bannon wanted to regulate the big banks like public utilities. Imagine how popular an administration would be had it delivered on the middle-class tax cut promises, a massive job creation stimulus by way of sorely needed infrastructure work, and brought Wall Street to heel.

      1. Another Scott

        The problem for Trump is that he couldn’t deliver on his promises. The Republicans in Congress disagreed with him on these issues, and Democrats (many who claimed to have common ground on these issues) were focused on stopping him at all costs, not caring about the policies he proposed. The end result is Trump adopted the worst Republican policies (rightwing judges, deregulation, and corporate tax cuts). This is also why is foreign policy has been a disaster, he might have some good instincts on Syria for example, but is largely led by the worst of the worst, like John Bolton on Venezuela.

        1. valuationguy

          Let me preface by saying that I think Bill Black’s work on the 2008 banking crisis and the S&L scandals was top-notch….but he is totally offbase when it comes to analyzing President Trump’s actions…in this case. (I agree with him that the way the Trump SEC and Treasury continue to condone banking fraud is ridiculous….but that is more to do with his lack of effective control over various gov’t institutions due to the politically inspired FBI/DoJ investigations tying his hands in many ways)

          Did Trump get a tax-cut enacted…yes.
          Did the tax-cut benefit middle-class American workers…yes
          Did the tax-cut dis-proportionally benefit UPPER-CLASS Americans who held INVESTMENTS…yes.

          Black is railing against Trump for not getting more of the benefit of the tax-cuts DIRECTLY to middle class Americans….which is a valid issue…but one not entirely within Trump’s control since there is the Congress to contend with (and despite Trump running as a Republican…the Congressional Republican leadership…specifically Paul Ryan…never accepted him and actively worked AGAINST his agenda). Ignored by Black is that the tax-cut HAS unleashed a period of JOB CREATION and HIRING….with DIRECT benefits to both the low and middle class workers. Small business formation is necessary to empower the middle class…and Trump is TRYING to encourage this…despite the heavy regulations which have been enacted over two decades (of both Republican and Democratic control of the levers of power). Congress (both parties) however is controlled by the corporate interests…so they are going to demand their pound of flesh in exchange of getting ANYTHING passed.

          I fail to understand how people think his foreign policy has been a disaster. Syria is actually working out nicely (ISIS presence diminished/eliminated and troops being withdrawn)….Venezuela is working out (i.e. we haven’t sent in any troops yet Maduro is on the precipice of being ousted with little DIRECT U.S. intervention except for hot air)….NAFTA was destroyed and replaced with something much better for U.S. economic interests…..China has been forced to come to the trade table and offer serious concessions after DECADES of taking advantage of short-sighted U.S. economic policy…..North Korea is acting semi-civilized now that the U.S. is using it as a cudgel over China (rather than the other way around)…European gov’ts (or specifically the main backers of the EU…France and Germany) are whining how the U.S. is acting in U.S. national interest rather than EUROPEAN/GROUP/GLOBAL interests (even as their own populations are actively turning away from the globalist agenda). Again….U.S. national agenda doesn’t have to be POPULAR with other countries who pursue their OWN national agendas….this is the BIG BOY table and those without power can whine at the kids table. Once Europeans pay for Europe’s defense they can complain more forcefully about why we should support their predominantly socialist gov’ts.

          Why would Black care whether or not Trump is pursuing a POPULAR agenda with the middle class? Isn’t the pursuit of the POPULAR agenda what got us where we are in the first place? POLITICIANS pursue popularity…..Trump doesn’t need to as he is so narcissistic that it isn’t his highest priority (he believes he is popular with those that he cases about). Sure…there are plutocrats which benefit from Trump having backed the correct horse in the race….but given the choices presented, at least Black got a tax-cut which did benefit the middle class even if it wasn’t to the extent he would have liked. (Hillary was talking up tax-increases on the campaign trail lest everyone forget…..all of which would have hit the middle class hard…and would have worsened employment numbers.)

          Black fails to understand that the shift in the House wasn’t much of a surprised for an off-year election…particularly with the heavy media-driven criticism of the President supplemented by the historically HUGE # of announced retirements (26) by various Republicans most of whom would have easily won had they not retired. The only worse year in the past 35 was in 2008….the year Obama was first elected when 27 Republicans voluntarily retired (vs 3 Dems) and 21 seats flipped to the Democrats..

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Ahem, but the tax cuts were Administration policy and most decidedly designed by the Administration. Trump (actually Mnuchin) was widely lambasted for delivering a tax plan that was so thin as to be the functional equivalent of a napkin doodle. You don’t deliver handwaves as tax policy. The failure to present an adequate skeleton, let alone anything reesembling meat on the bones, created all sorts of other problems, and gave Congress far more influence than they normally would have had. This whole exercise was seen as the Trump Team not understanding and not caring about developing and implementing policy in an adequately organized manner.

            And as for his foreign policy, he’s escalated against Iran, Russia (new sanctions), and is now famously messing with Venezuela and Bolton has announced his intent to proceed with regime change elsewhere in Latin America. But you airbrush this out.

          2. Unna

            ***Syria is actually working out nicely (ISIS presence diminished/eliminated and troops being withdrawn)…*** You can thank V.V. Putin for that, plus Assad, Hezbollah, and Iran. America’s involvement was, shall we say, counterproductive.

            ***Venezuela is working out (i.e. we haven’t sent in any troops yet Maduro is on the precipice of being ousted with little DIRECT U.S.*** Trump employs a convicted felon and accused war criminal, and except for lip service the allies appear to be backing off, Maduro is still there and US troops don’t dare go in otherwise they’d be slaughtered by millions of armed and trained pro Maduro militia folk.

            ***European gov’ts (or specifically the main backers of the EU…France and Germany) are whining…”*** Germany is going ahead with Nord Stream II while Trump slobbers, tears his hair out, and consumes another Big Mac to make himself feel better. His geopolitical stupidity is solidifying the Russia China Iran axis with Turkey and Germany waiting in the wings. I once called Obama the greatest geopolitical imbecile since William II of Germany, but Trump’s now proven himself to be a bigger imbecile than even Hillary-Obama. Meanwhile Russia has targeted North American cities with its new weapons as it installs its S500 air defence to protect itself, and targets all of America’s more or less “useless in a real war” aircraft carrier fleet. But OMG the Donald will surely get his Fort Trump in sycophantic opportunistic Poland and a fat kiss on the lips from Poroshenko and his Ukrainian neo nazi American tax payer money pit.

            ***Once Europeans pay for Europe’s defense they can complain more forcefully about why we should support their predominantly socialist gov’ts.*** Europe doesn’t need a defence from Russia, only the American MIC does, and your tax money is all in to pay for it, don’t you agree? Meanwhile, their “socialist” countries have longer life expectancy, higher happiness levels, better schools, better medical care, and so on. Oh and the food’s better too.

            And how’s that China Belt and Road working out for you? Uniting a good bit of Eurasia economically and eventually linking it up to Germany and Europe. And all those “big beautiful” thousands of Kilometres of high speed rail they’re building while America has, like, zero? But I forgot, Trump’s idea of an economic development program for America is an on the cheap grab for Venezuelan petroleum sludge in an age of incipient climate catastrophe. Yeah, Good Luck with that.

            So, for the benefit of mankind (peoplekind if you live in Canada), I strongly suggest you continue with your Trump is a great president fantasy because actually, short of a real war, which neither Trump nor Bolton either personally or institutionally ever had nor will have the guts for, Trump’s making America weaker and less influential day by day, and as things stand, that’s a very good thing for everybody else in the world.

            1. valuationguy

              I do recognize Putin for correctly responding to the U.S. neocon threat in Syria…in pursuit of his own nation’s self-interest (irrespective of the benefit to Assad). However, Trump correctly reacted to the reality (we needed alot more troops if we wanted Assad gone given Russia’s countermove to the chemical attack false flag) by pivoting the mission to actually accomplish what we were SAYING all along that we were in Syria for (i.e. against ISIS). Thus, Trump gets out of Syria with a declared diplomatic win…despite that fact the chickenhawks (including Bolton/Brennan/etc) didn’t get their REAL reason for going into Syria in the first place (under Obama).

              Frankly…I don’t disagree with your characterization of Bolton (assuming that is who you are referring to)…but as long as Trump isn’t sending our troops into Venezuela…most of the U.S. public will be satisfied and just continue to root for Maduro’s self-destruction (with economic and diplomatic pressure from the U.S). You will note that only once the economic situation there is now so desperate that the local military is at least entertaining abandoning Maduro does the Trump admin start PILING on the pressure more heavily in order to speed the collapse and…hopefully…transition to a new system without EVERY lever of Venezuelan gov’t being destroyed. Until economic conditions are desperate…the key parts of Venezuela were not PREPARED to properly resist Maduro’s use of force.

              As for Germany’s selecting Nord Stream II….there is nothing Trump could do to prevent it…Bush and Obama actively opposed it while THEY were President as the geopolitical leverage that this gives Russia over Europe is self-evident to anyone. Germany NEEDS to satisfy its energy needs….and Russia can supply it the “cheapest”. What Germany failed to account for in its cost equation is that Trump realizes that there is NO GOOD REASON to defend Germany/France/EU from Russia with OUR (U.S. tanks, planes, military personnel) if Germany is going to just hand over their strategically defense critical energy supply (needed to fuel all those tanks, planes, military bases) to Russia. You claim that Europe doesn’t need to defend itself from Russia….well, I guess we are going to find out whether they will see the need if the U.S. pulls out (From how the EU is pledging more for defense as the U.S. threatens cuts NATO funding….I would guess you are wrong.) Additionally….with the added cost of defending itself…I’m wondering how Europe is going to fund its existing social contract….considering taxes there are double in some cases from what you get in the U.S. ….have you been WATCHING the “yellow vest” rioting lately or watching the polling data for the various EU socialist parties? Promising to take (tax) stuff from the “rich” is great…until the “rich” leave (which is happening in France, NY, NJ, CA, etc), decimating your tax base and leaving politicians facing angry mobs of pensioners who expect promises to be kept.

              As for China….the economic reality of having 1.3B Chinese consumers (and 1.1B Indian consumers) is going to pivot markets in to Asia regardless of what America (0.3B consumers) does to try and prevent it. Just as England supplanted Spanish Empire….and the U.S. supplanted the English Empire…so too will China and/or India supplant the U.S. Empire. You seem to indicate that Trump should propose a major infrastructure and development plan….but where is such a plan going to be funded…..and if it IS FUNDED (by raising taxes)….will it actually be built? China has a very centralized gov’t with direct control over its economic levers…making huge infrastructure development much easier than in the U.S. (though no less expensive). China doesn’t have to justify its budgets to its people….so the graft/corruption/waste is never revealed (and even if it was….what can the people actually do?). In the U.S. large projects ALWAYS lead to LARGE WASTE and corruption. (Look at EVERY major defense contract for some idea of the waste.) The problem with China is that the economic structure is opaque as its banking system is opaque….so what happens in a local (or worse yet…a global) economic decline/crisis? The last one was HOW many decades ago? (The Chinese Cultural Revolution in 1950’s/60’s)

              Trump is far from perfect…but I like his viewpoint of maximizing NATIONAL interests over those of internationalists…who have done little but take advantage of the U.S. for the past two decades.

              To Yves – you indicate that he is escallating against Iran/Russia/Venezuela….and I don’t disagree with you. However…I would point out that prior admins used similar economic tactics against each of the three. Only against Iran did the Obama admin consciously decide to ease off for a time…yet the intel community seemed to indicate that Iran used the period of lessor sanctions to increase support for various “terror” groups like Hezbollah, ISIS, etc…adverse to American policy interests. (I would also note that his use of these tactics specifically against Russia is driven more by domestic realpolitik considerations than anything else in my view.)

              As for Mnunchin…I agree he has his pluses and minuses. I hate his Wall Street outlook and roots (Gov’t Saches)….which I agree partially led to the a tax package which disproportionately benefited corporations (and investors)(and lack of proper SEC enforcement)….but I like his economic nationalism…which has been beneficial in supporting the more aggressive use of tariffs (along with Sec of Commerce Ross) against other countries using trade barriers to take advantage of the U.S.. I also like his choice of Powell as Fed Chairman….as SOMEONE had to start taking away the spiked punch bowl (by raising interest rates)…regardless if it results in a slowing economy (which is not helpful from Trump’s point of view).

              1. Unna

                Valuationguy, Hi,

                Actually I agree with a bunch of what you just said. So let me respond to what I might quibble about. Obama, in his dullness, picked a fight in Syria which he didn’t/couldn’t win. Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, and Syria were right to defend their interests. Just look at Libya, and I wonder if that turned out exactly how Hillary wanted: chaos, which let her loot Libyan arms supplies and ship them to Turkey and then down to Syria.

                Libya was going to be Syria’s fate and Putin et al stepped in to prevent it. Trump was clever enough to figure this out, but still, why are American troops still in Syria? Is Trump really in control anymore? Or are the neo cons, Sheldon Adelson, and Jared? I mean, let’s be honest here. Trump needs the money to run again, right? And Sheldon, as he admits, is a single issue donor, and it ain’t America’s issues he cares about.

                Maduro: Who cares what Maduro does? I don’t. He held an election that was at least as OK as the elections held in Georgia. And speaking as a proud Deplorable here – who would have voted for Trump over Hillary if only for the perverse reason than just to enjoy watching her lose and make a spectacle out of herself which you knew she would – I believe that Maduro is Venezuela’s business. Not America’s.

                What happened to that Trump promise to end the regime change nonsense? Was he being deceitful to the people who voted for him? Is he now, as I wrote in a different comment, become the palace presidential capon, owned by his masters and without power? Is he doing it for the oil?

                The last time America toppled a government in Latin America, Honduras – and thanks Hillary/Obama – it caused chaos (a recurring American foreign policy theme) and now America has tens of thousands of refugees from mainly Honduras trying to get across the border. And no, they can’t be let in. So what happens if Trump actually succeeds in overturning Maduro? You think E. Abrams, the death squad guy, and Guiado, a CIA creation, are going to bring happiness and pink butterflies to the Venezuelan people, or will it be death squads, economic oppression, and dictatorship? So do you want another tens of thousands person mob trying to get across the American border? This time from Venezuela.

                So tell me the truth: why really do you want to overthrow Maduro anyway?

                As to Europe, nobody cares about Russia. Germany wants to buy N gas. So let them. They don’t seem to be too afraid. And why should they be? Russia had 25 years to move into Crimea, but they didn’t until Obama the Bungler forced through a violent coup to replace a democratically elected, but typical for Ukraine corrupt government, with the neo con plan to take over the Russian naval base in Crimea, which in turn, Russia actually succeeded in doing without firing a single shot.

                Russia doesn’t want Poland or the Baltic countries as land or population. They’d prefer Poland not host American missile bases. But the Poles are big kids now, and they’ll have to take their chances in the event of war. We’ll see how that works out for them. Otherwise, maybe the Germans know more than you think.

                Oh, and by the way, when are you going to take those American soldiers out Germany? I don’t see what good they do for the Germans except as business for the male and female prostitutes. Maybe the prostitutes will be forced into a more honourable profession if the Americans can take a hint and leave. Hey, I don’t think prostitution is a good line of work, so call me old fashioned. Or are you waiting for a right or left wing government to order the Americans out?

                As far as China supplanting America as the next empire, why are you so down on America? I’m not. Why doesn’t America do its own Western Hemisphere Belt and Road? High speed rail crisscrossing America. Transportation corridors from North to the Southern tip of South America. Ports. Economic cooperation rather than Bolton-Abrams regime change nonsense? America has become so 20th century under Trump. Can’t America out compete China? America: the Can’t Do Country. Cultural pessimists like you are not helping things.

                And as far as socialism being too expensive, you need to read Naked Capitalism more and you’d find out that, for example, Canada spends less than one half the amount per capita on its socialized health care system as America does with its for profit one, and with better results.

                1. valuationguy

                  I’m generally a libertarian…so in general, I agree with you regarding a hands-off policy in Venezuela…and I wouldn’t support any direct action there as ultimately the Venezuelan’s have to take care of themselves. I agree that U.S. meddling in Latin America has an extremely bad history. That said, I’m not adverse to the U.S. jawboning its preferences…even to the point of diplomatically recognizing the opposition. Like it or not…events in Venezuela affect our national interests given the natural resources there affect global markets which affect U.S. economic interests. Does that mean I support military intervention or support?…heck no….and despite the conjecture by the press and support among neocons…I don’t see Trump committing military support to Guidaro as he would slit his throat among his own base.

                  You might be right that Europe isn’t concerned with Russia anymore….if so, hopefully some of that attitude will rub off on U.S. warhawks. However…as I stated before, the gov’t of Europe aren’t unaware of the military vaccuum that a pullback by the U.S. would create. (Russia might not get adventuresome…but what if two of the Balkan countries see ethnic rivalries flare up again or a major province in Spain revives its separatist origins?) I’d welcome the U.S. drastically (or entirely) reducing its military presence in Europe…specifically due to the fact that European and U.S. economic interests are no longer aligned as they were from 1945-1990 and it was that alignment which provided the continuing glue for NATO once the Warsaw Pact disintegrated. Russia isn’t really a threat to the U.S. (other than nuke-wise) but it COULD be an economic rival if they ever got their act together (and we stopped trying to keep then down).

                  As far as China (or India) supplanting America…is it not that I am down on America…it’s that I study HISTORY…and no empire lasts forever, particularly when the gov’t corruption rises to the level at which they have to depend on force to keep people inline….reducing the national cohesion. (Just look at what amounts to dialogue in the U.S. these days…and consider the authoritarian controls put in place to “protect” people and keep us “safe”). I am NOT making a comment that China is better or more productive than U.S…..nor do I particularly think that the current Chinese gov’t is going to survive the coming economic crisis. Neither Spain nor England rolled over and died once England and America respectfully supplanted their empires…so I don’t expect America to revert to a second class power….but all the economic trends support a lowering of the U.S. standard of living while China and India’s (which is much lower to start with) rises. I expect this to play havoc with the social contract here in the U.S.

                  As far as your comments about Canada healthcare….I don’t disagree with you that the costs of U.S. healthcare is too high….but a (small…about 25% of the difference) part of that cost is that we (U.S.-based purchasers of drugs) are subsidizing the advancement of healthcare elsewhere given the too heavy regulation on drug prices in most socialized systems…which pushs companies to make their profits in markets which aren’t as heavily regulated (like the U.S.). A majority of the problem in U.S. healthcare imo is that it is too deliberately opaque with regard to prices….due to 6 layers of middlemen all taking a 30-40% profit cut. There can be no price comparisons as in such an opaque system…thus capitalism fails. The best U.S. healthcare plan I’ve yet seen was modeled on Group Health Cooperative in Washington state a decade ago (it was generally single payer)….which Obamacare was SUPPOSED to model after…but failed miserable (and predictably). The rest of U.S. healthcare problems trace back to lack of simple enforcement of consumer protection and monopolization laws for the medical industry….which of course clashes somewhat with my libertarian views of course.

                  (My largest beef with socialized healthcare is that no one can draw a good line on what is NECESSARY or not. (England’s system gets this better than most but ultimately capitalism….if allowed to perform properly – which I don’t claim is happening in the U.S.- has historically been the best (though not necessarily FAIR) economic system at allocating scarce resources. Politicians don’t want to have to make decisions to deny a cancer patient that $100K/yr or month treatment because there is no JUST/FAIR way of putting a price on a life….but, taxpayers can’t afford to support every cancer patient’s treatments either. If the gov’t gets too involved…patronage/special interests/corruption ultimately follows. )

                  I do read Naked Capitalism on a daily basis….and while I agree on much of the content here…I have a fair amount of disagreement with some of it…especially when it goes into various social issues (which I don’t think the gov’t should be involved in) or climate.change. That said…I don’t EXPECT to agree with everyone else or Yves…but I’m willing to discuss things in hopes of continuing my own education.

                  1. Foppe

                    As far as your comments about Canada healthcare….I don’t disagree with you that the costs of U.S. healthcare is too high….but a (small…about 25% of the difference) part of that cost is that we (U.S.-based purchasers of drugs) are subsidizing the advancement of healthcare elsewhere given the too heavy regulation on drug prices in most socialized systems…which pushs companies to make their profits in markets which aren’t as heavily regulated (like the U.S.).

                    This is certainly what big pharma would like you to believe, but if you think that they would lower prices anywhere if they can get away with hiking them everywhere else, I have a bridge for sale. The only reason they charge so much to the US is because they can, and because the folks who wrote the rule book wrt price negotiation chose to create a system in which those who stand to gain most from high drug prices get to determine the prices.

                    As for “libertarianism”: do you believe people should be free to use their (economic, political) power to abuse and exploit others to the extent of their ability (including fomenting regime change, but certainly not limited to that — see also the feudal system that is US employment)? If not, it may be better to figure out how better to describe your leanings, because that’s how those with power understand theirs, even as they call themselves libertarians.

                    1. Yves Smith Post author

                      Yes and more specifically, the real risk of R&D (basic research and a lot more) is paid for by the US government, through NIH and other agency funding. The US does not charge for licensing this intellectual property. It’s a gift yet we let Big Pharma price gouge.

                      That also means that US drug companies should be regarded as public-private ventures, but we let serve as another case study in socialism for the rich: they have the public subsidize their risks heavily, yet they get to keep the upside.

                      The idea that Big Pharma needs these fat margins to do R&D is bullshit. First, drug companies spend more on marketing than R&D. Second, those drug companies play games to attribute as much overhead and shared spending to R&D, so the skew is even worse. Third, for the last 15+ years, over 85% of “new drug application” are in fact minor reformulations (like going from a pill you take every 8 hours to a once a day version) to extend patent life.

              2. Allegorio

                The US is not defending Germany, it is occupying Germany. Said occupation is in interest of the United States and not Germany. The purpose is to prevent an extremely mutually advantageous alliance between Germany and Russia which is proceeding apace and will become an even greater challenge to the Wall Street hegemon than is China. Neo Cons think of themselves as great strategists. From Iraq to the Ukraine no one else need think so.

          3. vlade

            “Once Europeans pay for European defense”.

            NATO EU spend is about 240bln. US total military spend is about 600bln.

            Are you saying that the US spends zero on its own security, and other interests, like in APAC, South America, Africa? Like the cost of having a fleet in Pacific, Indian ocean, costs of Afghanistan, Iraq etc is nil? Europe gets not a huge amount of benefit from the US navy, that alone costs close to 200bln/year. Similarly, not even closely half of airforce/army is deployed to Europe.

            Direct US spending on European security is *gasp* about 30bln *(that includes European Reassurance Initiative and European Defense Initiative).

            Also, unless you accept that there’s no security value to the US to have Europe as is, instead of say it being a collection of Russian/Chinese sattelites (for argument’s sake), even spending on European security is spending on the US security.

            So, when you actually look at the numbers, the Europe spends way MORE on its own defense than the US does.

            But you know, the US military budget is not only about the Europe. US wants to be a military superpower, projecting its power, and it has costs. The EU doesn’t, so it saves there.

            I’m not even going to go into other bits, which are every bit as Trump PR.

    3. Carolinian

      Good comment. And Trump has always been the dog that caught the car. Bannon had a plan but it’s unclear how on board Trump ever was since Bannon came on late and left early. Perhaps the explanation for Trump is that there is no explanation. He’s just goofing around, spending lots of time in his golf simulator room, until he gets turfed out or, given our dubious Dems, gets reelected. Who knows how seriously he takes any of this.

  2. PlutoniumKun

    Its certainly true I think that the Trump administration is not just captured by plutocrats, its captured by a subset over the very worst, most sociopathic plutocrats and their own particularly repellant mini-me subset of the 10%. This I think is one reason why not all Progressives (including Noam Chomsky and, arguably, Bernie Sanders) didn’t agree with the NC consensus that there was no difference between HRC and Trump.

    As b-rar above says, I think this is precisely why smarter populists like Bannon were shoved overboard. They saw the route to real long term power, but Trumps ‘friends’ didn’t want that, they just want more hot mud to wallow in. Maybe that’s a bullet we’ve all missed.

    It is related to one thing I’ve been mulling over… why is everyone so sure Trump will go for a second term? Wouldn’t it be in character for him to declare that he will retire to his gold-plated bathtub a ‘winner’, leaving a battered Republican Party to fall into chaos as they try to fill his void, making him look even better? I’ve never had the impression he enjoys being president. He may well sense a second term would be a big let-down as his power drains away. He may also genuinely fear a humiliation if the Dems find a truly popular formidable opponent (i.e. Sanders).

    And of course the route laid out by Bill Black above shows how Democratic Party that truly wanted power and wanted to use it could grab a firm majority. Its not rocket science – its all about giving money and universal benefits to the majority. But we all know why they don’t want to do that.

    1. whine country

      Excellent point about Trump’s second term. Even he must realize by now that running for a second term will be proof for all the world to see that he is truly mentally ill. As it stands now he is simply a manifestation of: “Be careful what you wish for.” and has risen to the level of his incompetence.

          1. Tony Wright

            Ego, pure and simple. But given the state of the economic cycle that would be a case of “enough rope” and ultimately, ignominious failure by any measure.

        1. whine country

          Doesn’t mean it’s wrong though! From my armchair perspective your comment sounds a lot like an ad hominem attack which is supposed to be a no no here. Oh, I forgot. You make the rules but don’t necessarily have to follow them.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            No. Calling someone out on their argument (or lack thereof) is not ad hominem. I’m not wasting my energy telling you what you should know since you incorrectly invoked the term. Go spend some time with Wikipedia.

            First, you are clearly not a mental health professional, since they don’t use “mentally ill” as a diagnosis.

            Second, if you were a mental health professional, you should know that diagnosing someone that you have not interviewed in person is a violation of professional ethics.

            Third, arguing with a moderator is a sign of very poor judgment and typically leads to the accumulation of troll points.

    2. California Bob

      Infighting and division among the Democrats will GUARANTEE a second Trump term (esp. if Schultz runs). Trump at least knows that (he’s said as much, I believe).

      1. sglover

        The coffee oligarch’s vanity campaign might turn out to be a wash. Yeah, he’ll pull some votes that might otherwise go to the Dems, but overall Dem voters are going to be much more numerous and much more motivated; they can afford the loss. Schultz will also attract the kind of suburban doofus who says, “I don’t like his style, but I think Trump has done a lot of good things” (meaning, he expects a big tax cut). So he’ll also pull votes from a dwindling bloc that can’t afford any losses.

        True, you can always count on the Dems to screw up a certain win. But I think that if there’s any group of voters whom Trump has really energized, it’s those who simply want to see him and his enablers gone.

    3. Joe Well

      Trump is so unpopular with not only ordinary Dem voters but with the the Dem elites (in a way that GWB, Bush I and Reagan werent) that he would be at risk of prosecution for any crimes committed while in office in a full Dem takeover. Nixon almost got prosecuted for Watergate and even Reagan might have been saved by his senility. The precedent for not prosecuting ex presidents is weak.

    4. Robert McGregor

      I think Trump needs to run for, and win a second term in order to have the maximum “legal cover” he needs. He cannot be prosecuted by New York State as long as he is president, and would give him cover until January 2025.

      1. Tony Wright

        By which time the Big Macs will probably have caught up on him, although the economic cycle probably already will have

    5. pretzelattack

      at one point some of the neocons were undecided whether to support clinton or not (paul wolfowitz springs to mind). i think they would have weaseled their way into clinton’s inner circle, too; she was already on their side vis a vis ukraine.

      1. integer

        The neocons loved Clinton and her plan for a no-fly zone in Syria; I recall Bill Kristol almost crying on Morning Joe over her loss. I still think the world dodged a bullet when Trump won.

  3. Mike Barry

    Upton Sinclair’s old quote still applies: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

  4. vlade

    I’d not rule out Trump stupidity. It may not be necessarily stupidity in the common sense (low IQ), but more of the ‘I see what I want to see’ stupidity (which IMO is worse).

    In my opinion, Trump has again and again shown he creates his own reality. In that reality, he’s successful and winning (no matter what) – so why should he do anything more?

    That’s not to say that if I can see that, others closer to him can’t and then he makes the perfect puppet.

    1. Chris Cosmos

      I do rule out stupidity. Trump managed to defeat, through his own initiative and the force of his personality a candidate that was, by conventional standards much smarter than hin in the ’16 election. The problem is our definition of intelligence it is still, despite decades of social science research, measured by IQ or other dubious assessment systems. There are many kinds of intelligence and Trump’s is a variant of “street smarts” that almost always escapes the intellectual elite because their relatively narrow band of understanding is as focused on narcissism as Trumps views are.

      Several people understood Trump’s form of genius and one of the most articulate was/is Scott Adams the creator of *Dilbert*. He considers Trump a master manipulator who uses all the tools of hypnosis and other dark arts to get what he wants–check his take out sometime.

      As for why he hasn’t been “smart” in office–I write about it below.

      1. vlade

        I read Scott Adams on this.

        The problem with that is that we (as humans) tend to overexplain things, and that’s exactly what he’s doing IMO.

        If you look at Trump’s history, apart from the Apprentice he has way more failures (and spectacular ones) that successes. That does not tell me he’s a smart negotiator, or having street smarts (his ego tends to get in a way, big way). I’ve met sharp traders/salespeople who had real street smarts (some of them came from gangs). They were in an entirely different league from Trump.

        Trump got lucky. He was in the right place at the right time. He was also, for a long time, really badly underestimated – first by GOP, then by HRC.

        Lastly, he was able to break any number of rules which were considered unbreakable – but he did not break them because he’s smart, he broke them because he was always living in his own reality, so for him there weren’t any rules.

        He’s breaking the rules now too – same reason. The thing is, reality will catch up, sooner or later. In his business case, it was catching up a lot (basically, if he put all the money he inherited into Treasuries, he’d be richer than he’s now).

        Again, it does not mean he’s smart. But we like to put in causality, so we have to find an explanation.

        And, for avoidance of doubt, I’m on record at NC saying on HRC winning the primaries that Trump would win the presidency.

        1. Jim A.

          Trump is good at spotting weakness and he has no compunction whatsoever in exploiting weakness. Which is to say that he is a bully. At the same time, he is a relentless self promoter that tends to believe his own BS. So he has a real tendency to “chase a losing hand,” as he did in the shutdown fight with Pelosi. The combination means that he has a mixed record in negotiations.

          1. jrs

            perhaps it has way less to do with smart (which has frankly never been apparent) and more to do with some people’s admiration of bullies. Well, and of course a weak predecessor (Obama) and a weak opponent (Hillary).

            1. Wukchumni

              Also the perception planted in the public mind that he’s really really rich, no doubt held sway.

              “There’s a certain part of the contented majority who love anybody who is worth a billion dollars.”

              J.K. Galbraith

          2. vlade

            I buy he’s a bully, and I buy he has no problem exploiting weakness if he perceives one.

            But I don’t buy he’s good at spotting any non-obvious weaknesses. There’s no evidence of that anywhere I can see. I’d be happy to see arguments to the contrary though.

            I also believe he often sees weakness where there’s none (because he lives in his own reality bubble).

            1. sglover

              If he really *was* such a shrewd judge of “weakness” or human behavior generally, he sure wouldn’t be the shit “dealmaker” that he truly is. His entire approach to “negotiating” is childish — never a moment’s thought for what the other party might want, never a moment’s thought for what *he himself* is trying to accomplish. He can’t even get his underlings to present a united front. His idiotic “national emergency” stunt is like renting a billboard with the message “In two years I can’t even get a few billion from *my own* party” — in big 10 foot high Day-Glo letters.

              1. Jim A.

                I think that we should add his inflated ego to the reasons that he is a bad negotiator. This means that he is unable to recognize the weaknesses in his own position, (witness how he was played by Nancy in the shutdown fight) HIt also leaves him convinced that he is a great negotiator, so he repeatedly goes with his gut instinct, rather than putting in the time and effort to actually understand the issues. And he has spend enough time bullying people less powerful than than he is convinced of his ability as a negotiator, despite the fact that when the has had to deal with other powerful players (like banks) he has often had his shirt handed to him.

                1. vlade

                  All that I’ll buy. In fact, I think the “egoistical bully” is the best short description of Trump.

                  Where he’s dealing with less powerful he wins. Where he’s dealing with more powerful, he loses – but pretends it was a win.

              2. Yves Smith Post author

                He apparently did a phenomenal job on the deal that made him, the Grand Central Grand Hyatt. As he’s gotten more successful, he’s surrounded himself with toadies and become self indulgent.

                1. vlade

                  My, admittedly limited, understanding on this is that that deal was really his father’s deal via the Dem NYC machine where the father managed to get 40y/400m tax abatament from NYC (by pretending there was a deal when there wasn’t yet) which helped Donald to secure the deal with Hyatt he didn’t otherwise had money for.

                  I.e. w/o his father’s influence, he’d not have been able to get it done.

  5. TiPs

    This is why people like Sanders and Corbyn are too dangerous to get elected, and the elite will pull no punches to make sure of it.

  6. Louis Fyne

    two words: Jared and ivanka. they represent the ‘ancien regime’ in the white house for the GOP and Democrats.

    both are neo liberal economically and have hints of being neoconservative on foreign affairs. only in 20-30 years will the historians get the real story. when POTUS has passed on and Ivanka seized/passed on her political ambitions.

    I expect both of their hands to be in the cookie jar if/when a non-Bernie ‘ Bourbon restoration’ storms into DC

  7. John Beech

    Let’s see, from the get-go the Dems were all about . . .

    I hate Trump, hate, hate, hate!
    Let’s turn him out of office, hate, hate, hate.
    He colluded with the Russians, hate, hate, hate!
    He’s bad to women, hate, hate, hate!
    His inauguration crowd was smaller, hate, hate, hate!
    His hands are small, hate, hate, hate!
    His ties are stupidly long, hate, hate, hate!
    His wife is a snob, hate, hate, hate!
    His treaty with the NK is badly done, hate, hate, hate!
    His efforts with Mexico are wrong, hate, hate, hate!
    He spends too much time playing golf, hate, hate, hate!
    He’s fat, hate, hate, hate!
    He nominates the wrong people, hate, hate, hate!
    He looks like this balloon, hate, hate, hate!
    he looks like this naked statue, hate, hate, hate!
    His efforts to make Europeans pay more for their protection is wrong, hate, hate, hate!
    His tax cut is for the wrong people, hate, hate, hate!
    His skin color is odd, hate, hate, hate!
    His hair is ridiculous, hate, hate, hate!
    His judge selection is biased, hate, hate, hate!
    He got fewer votes so he shouldn’t be President, hate, hate, hate

    . . . have I forgotten anything? Probably. The upshot, now some Dems are wondering why he’s not done more for them and why the relationship has gone off the rails? Seriously?

    Me? It’s changed my viewing habits. I used to enjoy Morning Joe. Now, I never watch more than a few minutes before getting disgusted at the unfairness of their portrayal. I used to enjoy CNN but now can’t stand the subtle (and not so subtle slant against the President) so I no longer depend on them.

    I used to enjoy WaPo . . . no longer. Ditto the Gray Lady, so now it’s the Post for me although Murdoch’s other baby, FOX news remains too over the top for me (I left them years ago).

    Now I watch OAN news, a channel I never heard of before but that while sometimes over the top for the President (meaning I have to filter it somewhat), by and by it largely presents news regarding what’s really going on. And sites I visit for relatively unbiased news now include Reuters and DW – both Europeans focused but starkly less biased in reporting US news.

    All I can say for Democrats is you reap what you sow. Works the same for Republicans and I believe this is partly a result of the overwhelming hit job on President Obama, for whom I didn’t vote but highly respected (still do, in fact). Heck, I still like President Clinton despite never voting for him while he’s become persona non grata with Dems. And it goes back further to Anita Hill with the Senate. Tit for tat – never ending – sigh.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      This seems slightly off topic to me, or are you suggesting that there are no middle-class Republicans?

    2. Adam Eran

      One corollary to your observation: When attending local Democratic clubs, I’ve noticed that the “I hate Trump” mantra is loud and clear. Bring up the grifting of the Clintons and Obama and the attendees are non-plussed, to say the least. Yet their kvetching about Trump accomplishes nothing … except perhaps reinforcing their tribal solidarity…while self-examination or self-criticism might actually change something. They prefer the comfort of tribal solidarity. Like Bernie says, they’d rather have a first-class cabin on the Titanic than a successful crossing.

      1. John Beech

        Adam, your experience mimics mine. Bringing up the Clinton grifting is met by a ‘so what’ attitude. Yet this is exactly what pushed me to vote for DJT when my candidate Jeb (a fairly vanilla middle of the road RNC kind of guy) fell by the wayside. And once I threw my support behind Trump I felt committed to follow through because I couldn’t abide HRC. To the point I was dismayed when DNC and HRC machinations deprived Sanders of the nomination.

        Basically, I would have voted for Sanders had he been on the ballot. And I believe a lot of otherwise sane Republican voters would have as well because we’re not blind, we knew exactly what Trump was (is), e.g. a fast talking bullshitter of the first water. How he manages to sell is amazing to me but he does.

        Thus, counting the cost of Hillary to the moderate center of which I am a part, the tally now includes two fairly far right justices, plus a slew of Federal judges of the same ilk. And because he’s getting results in NK and may well manage to get a deal in Israel, I don’t see him failing to win in 2020 so if RBG dies, that makes a third SC appointment!

        In essence, being nonplussed at the Clintons has(is) costing an awful lot. And until there’s a mea culpa for her by Democrats, I don’t see moderate Republicans budging. This means absent a Sanders candidacy in 2020, I’m going to vote for Trump again because Harris belongs to Clinton, Biden will fold before it’s done, and the rest are wannabes.

        Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised is HRC runs again!

    3. Robert McGregor

      I don’t agree with the general thrust of your comment, but my compliments on your multi-line “verse section,” . . . “He’s fat, hate, hate, hate” . . . It’s funny, and makes your point.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        The “hate” business as well as the repetition is hardly original. Putting it in imitation verse is a little, worth at least a yawn. But for the term itself, go to any conservative site, and you will find anyone in anyway critical of Trump, never mind of any and all other right wing fruit cakes, is, by definition, a hater or a snow flake. Labeling all comers with those brilliantly original designations is -quite literally- an obsession.

        Beech must be pleased that he thunk it up all on their own.

        1. John Beech

          Brooklin Bridge wrote in part . . . Beech must be pleased that he thunk it up all on their own.

          Are you this rude in person, or did you save it for me? It’s my experience on NC there are folks whom can be reasoned with, and those with whom I may disagree but still have an intelligent conversation. Then there are the insufferably smug and the obvious idiots. The later typically characterized by poor use of language (to include spelling and grammar errors, which often indicate little education if not an outright lack of intelligence. They sully what this site is supposed to be about.

    4. Robert Valiant

      Donald Trump is the most accurately representative American president of all time. To hate Trump would be to hate America.

      1. eg

        As Mencken put it:

        “all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

        The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

      2. Lambert Strether

        There’s something to be said for ingesting enormous amounts of television as one way toward insight into the American psyche (granted, as manipulated, but the manipulation and its results — not always intended! — are real).

    5. Oh

      Your observations about the Dims hate for Trump are well done but you fell flat on your face when you said you respect that master grifter Obama and the shyster Clinton.

      Maybe one day you’ll realize that there’s only one party – and that’s fro the 10% and you’re not included!

  8. Wukchumni

    In my business life, occasionally I had to deal with telemarketers and it was strictly cash and carry, for I didn’t trust any of them as I knew how they operated with their ‘customers’, the strong arm tactics on the phone to beat all objections, and it didn’t matter how they got there, say anything as you lied your way to a sale & most importantly, having a conscience was not in the cards. They were all ruthless in that regard.

    I’ve always seen a lot of boiler room in our President, as he’s applied the same standards to the job.

  9. Chris Cosmos

    Trump is a very smart guy. His mind is tuned to the public far more than most politicians. He is also what Scott Adams calls a “master manipulator” who knows how to cut people down to size through an apt and clever quip by naming people to humiliate them. He uses repetition and completely ignores logic. He understood and understands that myth and symbols trump reason because we live today in a post-rational age. People are no longer ashamed of their ignorance but glory in it and thus are even more easily manipulated than before. Trump defeated a highly professional electoral machine when few people other than Scott Adams (who predicted his victory very early on) would have thought this bloviating fool could possibly win.

    Once in office Trump faced the full fury of the swamp or as I prefer to call it the “snake pit” that is Washington DC. Washington is the capital of the Empire, the “New Rome” and the sole guarantor of international “stability.” The focus of Washington has evolved now to guarantee not just stability but to use heroic methods to stop human progress unless it enriches oligarchs. We are an oligarchy not a Constitutional republic with democratic institutions we are an inverted totalitarian society (the phrase Sheldon Wolin used). Trump needed allies and needed them quickly. He was facing a possible coup d’etat since Washington was in November of ’16 an overturned hornet’s nest of plots to “get” him at all costs. First he appointed a lot of generals to try and eliminate the military as a threat–anyone should be inclined to worry about them since the military has the overwhelming support (74%) of the American people no governmental institution comes close other than the police at somewhere over 50%. Quickly, he genuflected to Israel, the great hidden force in Washington that all must bow to and then he asked, I’m sure, the corporate elite what they wanted and they wanted what they always want–low taxes, no regulation. This insured his survival but he ended up crippling himself in the process. Today he has little real power. He’s now stuck with the slimiest of the slime in both domestic and foreign affairs and is doing his best to drag his feet and wave his arms to appear to be doing “something” but he has virtually no power. He’s done. Washington has kicked the shit out of him with their phony Russia, Russia, Russia narrative and the endless fun-making by corporate entertainment. He’s been a distraction to the stunning corruption that has increased even beyond Obama’s regime and the circus continues as’ again, we have to see what new horror we will face in ’20.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      Trump is what we’d call in Ireland, a cute hoor. He is not smart, but he has very good instincts about how to manipulate people and situations to his advantage. You can go far with those skills, but eventually more strategically minded people will outmaneuver you.

      1. whoamolly

        Re: Cute hoor

        In my limited experience as a tourist, the Irish are probably the best people in the world at intelligent, witty insults. Their keenest insults seem to have three qualities:
        – They are plainly true on first thought.
        – They are deeply insulting on second thought.
        – They are ambiguous on third thought. As in: Was that insult really a compliment? Or did it simply state a universal truth?

        Calling Trump a ‘cute hoor’ appears to meet all three criteria.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          That’s quite an acute observation! Cute hoor is indeed both an insult and praise in Ireland, sometimes simultaneously.

          I should have clarified, by the way, that the second definition in that link is the closest to what I have in mind.

    2. whine country

      With respect, I must disagree with your’s and Adams’ characterization of Trump citing the concepts that NN Taleb presented in his first successful publication: “Fooled By Randomness”. Trump is a random occurrence which would never have occurred except for the confluence of random events, the principal one of which is the Democrats’ decision to run Hillary Clinton, as his opponent. Forget the Electoral College – If you ignore vote totals in California and Hawaii, two states that would overwhelmingly vote for a Democrat convicted of child molesting, Hillary was not even close on the popular vote for the entire country, and the EC totals would have been overwhelmingly for Trump. Ignore the vote like Macron ignores the Yellow Vests, and another Trump will be elected until one who is not fundamentally a con man is substituted to oppose him. My prediction BTW – Trump is one and done.

      1. Whoamolly

        If Trump wants a second term, I think he’ll get it.

        I would not be surprised if the Dems ran 2020 the way they ran 2016. Same strategy, same consultants, a few different lower level players, same end result.

        1. jrs

          yes they might make the same mistakes, but add in that Trump is a complete failure in policy and is widely disliked except among the true believers, and well he might not win. At this point the Dems might run a weak candidate, but Trump at this point has ALSO become a weak candidate, who can no longer run on promises of well Hope and Change basically (“drain the swamp”, “MAGA” etc.)

      2. Katy

        “I must disagree with your’s and Adams’ characterization of Trump citing the concepts that NN Taleb presented in his first successful publication: “Fooled By Randomness”. Trump is a random occurrence which would never have occurred except for the confluence of random events”

        I’m re-listening to Taleb’s The Black Swan on audiobook. One of his points is that explaining the “causation” of historical events with hindsight is generally folly, and predicting future events that are so clearly dependent on randomness is also folly.

        Regardless of whether Trump is smart or not, he is a survivor. It is impossible to predict with any certainty whether his luck will continue.

        Based on what Trump has accomplished so far in his presidency, he will have to rely on random luck to win a second term. Because he does not appear to be following any strategy for re-election. If he really wanted to get re-elected, you would assume that he would try to make voters happy.

        But who knows. Maybe he will use his previous strategy of promising the moon to his supporters without ever delivering on the promise. It worked for Obama.

    3. TimR

      You think he’s just some independent actor managing to pull all this off himself? Trump has always been artificially promoted, going back to his tabloid days. He was helped by Roy Cohn, who was involved in the 50s McCarthy theater, and family was in NY machine politics.

    4. Unna

      I think the truth that has emerged since the election is that Trump never thought he’d get elected and ran as a big publicity stunt for his name brand. And he sure did have fun doing that. He was probably most stunned when he won and his wife was not amused. That’s maybe why that young kid of his looked so glum on election night. He maybe planned afterwards to start a news network centred on himself after he lost, who knows. But that’s why he had no plans for any programs when he got in and no one lined up to take jobs. Then he was overwhelmed with the anti Trump-Russia hysteria, day one violent demonstrations, lack of support in his own party, and so on as recounted by Chris Cosmos.

      The article is exactly right in that if he had followed through with a big middle class tax cut and a federal paid for infrastructure program, and not some Justin Trudeau style public private partnership nonsense which came to nothing, got out of the wars, reached an agreement with Russia, he’d have been the most popular president in 50 years. But Trump never had any intention of doing anything because he never thought he’d get elected. Besides, he’s revealed himself to be at best a gutless blowhard and a political coward. So now he’s the presidential palace capon (feed him another Big Mac), prettified, unhealthy, and fully owned and controlled by his masters who paid for him. He no longer has power, if in fact he ever did.

      And so, once again, power is in the streets waiting for someone to pick it up. It’s there for a Bernie Sanders – if he doesn’t lose his nerve and triangulate his way into irrelevance and ridicule – or a Tulsi Gabbard who at least appears to be determined and to believe in something. But it’s not there for a Harris or a Biden who would only be place holders, if they can even win, for the people they work for. My guess is, however, that Tulsi’s the candidate for the next cycle.

  10. Alex Cox

    The criticism being levelled at Trump – that he is greedy and stupid – is applicable to the entire political class, Republicans and Democrats.

    Remember, HRC started her political career as a Republican and Goldwater girl. And Trump was nominated by Jesse Ventura to be the People’s Party presidential candidate, with Oprah as his VP!

    Actual policies don’t appear to matter to either of them: what is important is fame, the approval of what the author calls their puppet masters, and getting more money. Perhaps worse, Trump doesn’t appear trust his instincts: for example, his idea, now abandoned, that getting into a shooting war with the Russians might be bad policy.

    1. Wukchumni

      Putin came out with a list of targeted American places that Russia could hit with a nuclear missile in 5 minutes flat, and one of them is McLellan Air Base, which has been closed for a quarter of a century.

      It’s the only target within range of me, and wouldn’t that be something if through bad intelligence of Boris’s, I get wiped out for nothing?

      1. Jim A.

        Even after START, the Rusians have so many warheads that the choice is “Should we stir up the rubble of Cleveland again, or target ex-military bases on the off-chance that the Americans have hidden something there?”

    2. The Rev Kev

      Anything left underground below McLellan Air Base? One wonders. Trump may be greedy and stupid but he is also as cunning as a s***house rat. Look at how he has fought off all attacks on him over the past two years in spite of all the forces marshaled against him. Maybe he will call it quits after one term, call himself a winner, and then go home. But going by Roman history, that is when the real attacks begin – when he is no longer President. I wonder what his plan is for that? Take a copy of the CIA’s dirt files on all the politicians for protection?

      1. Wukchumni

        Anything left underground below McLellan Air Base?

        The same issue that Erin Brockavitch brought to our attention, is underground @ McLellan…

        n 2015 the Sacramento Bee reported that McClellan Airfield had been designated as a Superfund site, because the Environmental Protection Agency has identified 326 waste areas on the base. Water wells closest to the base in the Rio Linda-Elverta district, have had the highest levels of hexavalent chromium, which is a known carcinogen. Water from six of 11 wells tested above the state’s maximum contaminant levels for chromium-6, which is 10 parts per billion. (Wiki)

        1. Alex Cox

          According to the MSM, Putin identified two targets which are no longer functional military centres: USAF McClellan, which was supposedly closed in 2001, and Fort Richie, Maryland, which we are told was closed in 1998.

          What to make of this? Is Russian intelligence so second-rate that it literally has no idea what to target? Or are the Russians making the point that they know much better than the MSM where the targets are?

          Since the US military is the world’s biggest polluter I wouldn’t be too surprised if, as the Reverend suggests, they have placed command and control centres immediately adjacent to/above/below superfund sites.

          Still, it’s valuable that the targeting issue has been addressed. If only the Russian President had included all the targets Russia’s thousands of missiles are aimed at, rather than only mentioning five of them! Targeting is the biggest secret in nuclear war fighting policy (see Daniel Ellsberg’s book). The Russian military coming clean about all their targets would be salutory and might reduce the current crazy US/UK talk of the “salience” of nuclear weapons.

  11. marym

    Trump’s approach to most issues is self-aggrandizement (ego or financial); and inflicting suffering and destruction (on individuals, families, most demographic groups in this country, the federal bureaucracy, public programs, regulations, the environment, international alliances and treaties, “norms,” and nations).

    He said a few nice words about infrastructure and health care during the campaign, but he never had a positive program, appointees, or a relationship with Congress to do anything about any of it.

    Whatever combination of stupidity, ignorance, hate, greed, or laziness contribute to this approach, there’s no path from there to anything truly populist (for all of us) and thus widely popular.

  12. Adam

    I agree with most of this article but don’t find calling Trump “stupid” constructive. In fact, I think the more people call him stupid and racist, the better his chances of winning are.

    Just call him out for what he’s done like Black does. He campaigned on cutting taxes for the middle class and ended up cutting them for the plutocrats. Simple.

  13. RUKidding

    Another blog that I read regularly has had posts similar to Mr. Black’s post, above. That, in fact, it would’ve been quite easy for Trump to become much more popular had he followed through on a few of his campaign promises, including those enumerated by Mr. Black: a) a true, for real Middle Class tax cut (rather than what ends up being a tax increase for many of us), b) real infrastructure work (rather than wasting billion$ on a senseless govt shutdown in order to build Wall, which would both destroy the environment in places, while offering nothing in terms of true “protection”), and c) really going after Military spending and drawing down our troops from ginned up “conflicts” globally (rather than sabre rattling now with Venezuela, for example).

    So simple, but I always predicted (because I’m such a genius ha ha) that these finer ideals would never even be attempted by this lowlife skeezebag. Seriously, anyone who believes him … just look at his record for heaven’s sake. It’s a record of horrible business practices, constantly ripping people off (and bragging about it), a string of major league business failures (often out of stupidity and cupidity), and so forth. That’s not touching on his personal issues – long known – with mistreatment of women and POC, plus the fact that he’s long been known to recruit, hire and employ scores of undocumented workers to construct his casinos and work on his properties.

    Yeah. Trump could’ve played a really different game here and garnered much more support even from whining Democratic voters had he followed through on a few key campaign promises. Trump even managed to mouth the usual platitudes about “reaching out” to all citizens, no matter how they voted, and being the Pres of “everyone.”

    Ha ha fooled you. Fool me once blah blah blah…

    Trump NEVER had one iota of an intention to do ANY of that. He was always beholden to at least a certain segment of the Plutocrats, and those are the Masters that he serves. The End.

    Sure as a racist white supremacist and misogynistic oaf, he’s happy to toss out huge chunks of red meat to his base, who seem to be ever so thrilled with him because they perceive that Trump has made it “ok” to be a flaming asshole. So be it.

    Yeah yeah Trump’s not totally stupid, in that he hooked himself up with some rich Sugar Daddies who possibly have paid off some of his massive debts. So I guess that was “smart.” For the rest, he just sold the country down the river to the lowest of the low who commenced the rapine and plunder without missing a beat.

    My prediction? Trump will most definitely run again in 2020 because he’s more protected in the White House than out of it. I doubt that he “likes” being POTUS, other than when he can run around to his rallies and soak up the adulation – or when he’s kicking back at Mar el Largo.

    IF the Ds don’t get their act together – a sadly likely scenario – Trump could well win again. He has certainly fooled enough voters into believing that somehow – counter to all reality – he is making their lives better. MAGA. I don’t see it from where I sit, but…

  14. Hayek's Heelbiter

    In the 1980s, I worked for a major investment bank and was responsible for overseeing the input of the first Trump bankruptcy into our system, all 300 pages of it (!)

    In essence, and according to my novice understanding, the lenders allowed Trump keep his name and brand, while they got everything else, properties, income streams, current and future, etc.

    Four decades later, he is still beholden to them, and I wonder as a continuation or an even greater accumulated accretion.

    At the time, I thought a photocopy of the bankruptcy agreement would make an interesting historical document, but I was too ethical, my paper collection was already vast, and I never expected anyone that constrained to ever rise phoenix-like again.

  15. Darius

    What about a zero-percent bottom tax bracket. Wouldn’t that be the simplest thing and most easily communicated? It also is permanent.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      The lowest tax bracket is actually below zero. Not the same, but related, millions of Americans have a negative net worth (in dollars).

  16. Lambert Strether

    For the GOP, the opportunity Trump squandered is of the same scale as the opportunity Obama squandered, for Democrats.

    Can’t anybody here play this game? –Casey Stengel

    1. Darius

      Excellent point! Would drive both of them and their supporters nuts. Republicans are hostages to their billionaire rape and pillage ideology. Democrats are hostage to their centrist serve-the-donors mentality.

    2. Michael Fiorillo

      I don’t know: saying Obama “squandered” his opportunity implies that he might have once cared to make use of it.

      I’m convinced that he was put forward because his Overclass backers knew that he would purposefully destroy that opportunity.

  17. Barry

    It seems to me that as the demographics shift, the Republicans have been engaging in more and more destructive/desperate tricks to stay in power for another cycle. Congressional comity was based on the sense that one didn’t get too carried away because what you did to the other party could be done BY the other party when it got back into power. The fact that comity has gone out the window to me looks like a symptom of the Republican sense that they don’t expect to be able to hold onto power much longer, and are treating each round in office as either an attempt to cement right-wing power more permanently (like taking over the courts) or out-and-out looting.

    I think the looting behavior is in line with the plutocrats’ sense that the US citizens are no longer of much use as producers and are outliving-their usefulness as customers, having been induced to leverage themselves to the hilt. So now the name of the game for the oligarchs: is extracting every bit of value left (social security, pensions, retirement money, savings), securing every bit of property that can be secured (foreclosed homes, public lands, everything that can be re-conceptualized as ‘intellectual property’), dumping the losses and debt on the peasants, and setting themselves up as neo-feudal lords.

    Trump’s tax cuts seem to be in line with my model of current US politics.

    1. jrs

      They are helped by things like 80% of the population is soon going to be represented by 20% of the Senators, while the other 80% of the Senators will represent a mere 20% of the population.

      But yea they also steal elections when they have to of course (W of course).

  18. EoH

    One answer is that Trump wasn’t legislating in the normal, politically opportunistic way. As with everything he does, he was legislating for himself. One suspects he needs the money, because his claims to wealth are as unreal as his hair. For Trump, a rising tide does not raise all boats; it raises only the yachts.

  19. nihil obstet

    Everything said here about Trump’s opportunity to win the next elections and control government is true of every other politician in Washington. Why didn’t Obama do it? Why don’t the Democrats run on the platform and do it? Only Trump could propose a tax cut for every family? Only Trump could propose a big infrastructure program? Nope. So why don’t a significant number of politicians do it?

      1. witters

        “Good question” – Well, yes, but not to know the answer (as seems to be the case given much of the above thread), seems to me either self-deception on an “Obama was a great President!” level, or, sad to say, that the question itself was merely rhetorical. At the very least, it is a bit disappointing to see BB miss the answer.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      It is a good question. I think the power of conventional thought is the simple answer. Conventional candidates positively shudder at the idea of pulling the curtain back too far and revealing too much of the setup for the game of plunder to go on. What would their donors say? It would be akin to going on stage to a national debate buck naked. It positively screams against every brain washed fiber of these “professional’s” experience with politics. Trump, on the other hand, could care less about exposing the machinery as he has lived mostly on the edge anyway and fancy’s himself to be all about the sacred “now” of every profit opportunity and while this unorthodox political attitude almost certainly freaked out his donors initially, it delighted the public, made fortunes for the MSM and paid big dividends to his campaign of leap frogging the “likely” Republican plugs.

  20. Synoia

    Trump is the laziest, most corrupt, and most narcissistic President in U.S. history.

    He has much company in that race. Obama could compete for at least 2 of that three, and his work might have been focused on his personal good, not the common good.

    Aca, aca, aca is not a cough, its a profit enter.

  21. Jon Paul

    Donna Brazile was on Bill Maher last week, and if her words are any indication, the DNC is still firmly under the thumb of it’s corporate sponsors as well (and she seemed fine with it). I fear they will find yet another way to blow a great set-up in 2020.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      They’d certainly prefer to lose to Trump or another Republican than see a Bernie/Tulsi adminstration.

  22. David Durrence

    Trump could have been(and still may)be one of the best Presidents this country ever had. We finally put
    a world class businessman in the White House to HOPEFULLY run the country like a major and profit-
    able corporation. IF GIVEN THE CHANCE! What kind of job could anyone do with a pack of wild dogs
    at his heels the second he stepped off the podium after being sworn in. Every move, every comment
    and every breath me literally takes is criticized negatively and his actions impaired. I hope he runs and wins again. Maybe he can get around to the countries business rather than dealing with whipped up & served up scandals.

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