Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Trump vs The People Who Elected Him
The Republican Party started out with a powerful foray to protect human rights. In the beginning, Abraham Lincoln was willing to fight a war against a states’ rights faction hell-bent on continuing the abomination called slavery, an inhumanity that the last northern state abolished in 1804. The party also became a powerful force for environmental and conservationist (“conservative”) causes under GOP naturalist President Teddy Roosevelt. It was the party of massive infrastructural investment, the National Defense and the U.S. Interstate Highway Act of 1956, under President Dwight Eisenhower. Ike didn’t privatize that infrastructure so poorer people would pay the richer people who might have otherwise built that Interstate Highway system. He just built the most modern highway system the world had ever seen.
Eisenhower also continued the great Republican human rights tradition, begun under Lincoln, in 1957 (pictured above): “Although skeptical about integrating a former white-only institution, [nine African-American] students arrived at Central High School on September 3, 1957 looking forward to a successful academic year. Instead they were greeted by an angry mob of white students, parents, and citizens determined to stop integration. In addition to facing physical threats, screams, and racial slurs from the crowd, Arkansas Governor Orval M. Faubus intervened, ordering the Arkansas National Guard to keep the nine African American students from entering the school. Faced with no other choice, the ‘Little Rock Nine’ gave up their attempt to attend Central High School which soon became the center of a national debate about civil rights, racial discrimination and States’ rights.
“On September 20, 1957, Federal Judge Ronald Davies ordered Governor Faubus to remove the National Guard from the Central High School’s entrance and to allow integration to take its course in Little Rock. When Faubus defied the court order, President Dwight Eisenhower dispatched nearly 1,000 paratroopers and federalized the 10,000 Arkansas National Guard troops who were to ensure that the school would be open to the nine students. On September 23, 1957, the ‘Little Rock Nine’ returned to Central High School where they were enrolled. Units of the United States Army remained at the school for the rest of the academic year to guarantee their safety.” blackpast.org
Republican Present Richard Nixon was the first modern American president to propose a system of universal healthcare for all Americans (it died in Congress) and became a champion of globalization. He personally lifted the Iron Curtain with the People’s Republic of China and began diplomatic relations with the once-hostile Mao Zedong. But that was then. The new GOP, under seeming populist Donald John Trump, is in the process of disbanding court-ordered supervision (by the U.S. Department of Justice) of big city police departments with clearly-proven records of using excessive force and fostering racial bias.
It has embraced many actions that are clearly anti-consumer, making life more expensive for those who can least afford it, including a huge, older and less-well-off constituency that formed the backbone of Trump’s base. The Federal Communications Commission, with direct support from Congress and the President, has empowered companies with access to their online customers’ personal information to sell that often-private data freely on the open market. The FCC has stated that it will not try and limit mergers and acquisitions among media companies or oppose billing practices and data streaming limitations that will absolutely jack up prices for cable subscribers and Internet users.
For those concerned about their drinking water, Congress and the President have pretty much wiped away restrictions against emitting pollutants into the air and dumping toxic effluents into public waterways… forcing those who can least afford it to use part of their dwindling food budget to purchase bottled water instead of using vastly less expensive tap water. Might even make them sick… and we’ll see how sickness and disability are becoming a luxury only the rich can afford.
Trump and his Republic cronies are deeply committed to the overwhelmingly-disproven trickle-down economic policy – most recently resulting in a near bankruptcy to the last state, Kansas, that attempted to implement it – where, by cutting taxes, the wealthy will theoretically instantly use their newfound excess cash to hire people in droves. I guess they forgot that these folks got rich in the first place (where they didn’t inherit it) by figuring out if there was sufficient business reason to grow and hire other than getting a windfall in lower taxes. Hmmm. Trickle-down, supply-side, incentivize-job-creators economics needs to go away. It never works.
Or the last time we gave a tax break to bring off-shore corporate money into the U.S., during the Reagan years, the result was a flurry of mergers and acquisitions that solidified big corporate power (vs competitive forces that might have benefitted consumers) and resulted in skyrocketing layoffs, the usual result of efficiencies almost always instituted when big companies combine.
With virtually all of the currently proposed tax cut reductions going to the wealthiest Americans under every GOP tax plan under consideration, something has to give on the expenditure side. Under the guise of getting “big federal government” out of our lives, the Trump GOP is focused on cutting programs that are aimed at helping the bottom half of our economy, where the vast pool of Trump supporters mostly dwell. Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, student loans and grants and, most of all, the Affordable Car Act, are in the crosshairs of axe-wielding conservatives who now control both houses of Congress and the presidency. Robin Hood in the reverse. Let the poor further enrich the wealthy.
And they’re back: GOP healthcare reformers. Even though the Affordable Care Act has finally stabilized and is producing increasingly positive numbers, notwithstanding that opinion polls are consistently showing a public support (60%) for “fix and continue” vs “repeal and replace,” Trump has pledged to use his administrative powers to defund Congressionally-approved support need to sustain the ACA in order to make it to fail (otherwise, it will continue to improve). Then, he suggests, even the Democrats will be forced (he thinks) to buy whatever the GOP is proposing, even though any version of the replacement act will exclude millions who are covered now, raise premiums and deductibles to much higher levels for those who might be able to pay and decimate programs aimed at subsidizing the poor, even the working poor.
The Donald and his Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, believe that the IRS should go all out to collect delinquent taxes, now approving private collection agencies to badger those owing federal taxes by telephone in addition to the formal written notices that the IRS normally sends out (IRS agents cannot use telephone collection methods). Rich folks with tax issues have lawyers and accountants battling the IRS. Less affluent taxpayers, like the bulk of the Trump base, are stuck with collection agencies and revenue agents to deal with.
“Consumer watchdogs are fearful that some of the nation’s most vulnerable taxpayers will be harassed and that criminals will take advantage of the system by phoning people and impersonating I.R.S. collectors… Twice before, in 1996 and 2006, the I.R.S. has tried to farm out some of its collection duties. Both times, the programs were shut down and deemed failures. The most recent attempt cost millions more than it took in. It also generated thousands of complaints, including one oft-repeated horror story about an older couple who received more than 150 phone calls in less than a month.
“Even so, Congress passed a law in 2015 ordering the I.R.S. to once again outsource some of its delinquent debt. The provision was buried in a $305 billion highway funding bill. The agency hired four companies — CBE Group, ConServe, Performant and Pioneer Credit Recovery — and started giving them cases this month… The companies will work on commission, earning up to 25 percent of the delinquent debt they collect.
“The I.R.S. is owed some $138 billion in severely overdue payments on 14 million accounts, according to agency data, and that huge sum drives lawmakers crazy. Enlisting the private sector’s expertise to solve the problem is an idea that comes up again and again…
“But Nina E. Olson, whose job at the Internal Revenue Service is to be an advocate on behalf of taxpayers, strongly disagrees… ‘Outsourcing the collection of federal tax debt is “a bad idea,’ she wrote in a letter to Congress. ‘It disproportionately impacts low-income and other vulnerable taxpayers, and despite two attempts at making it work, the program has lost money both times, undermining the sole rationale for its existence.’
“In years past, Ms. Olson said, the outside collectors employed by the government used psychological tricks that may have coerced some debtors into payments they could not afford… According to a study by the I.R.S.’s Taxpayer Advocate Service, which Ms. Olson runs, the last time the agency used outside collectors — from 2006 to 2009 — the companies collected a net amount of around $86 million while pursuing $1.6 billion in debt.
“After the remaining debt was returned to the I.R.S. for renewed collection attempts, agents brought in another $139 million — 62 percent more than their private counterparts… With the administrative cost of running the program factored in, the I.R.S. lost $4.4 million, an agency analysis found.” New York Times, April 19th.
It’s GOP mantra these days to privatize, to empower big companies to make money with few restrictions, to deregulate, to lower taxes for the wealthy and to cut social programs wherever possible. To get support from the volume of votes they need to get elected, which absolutely requires that people vote rather dramatically against their own interests, Trumpists and their GOP support system enlist catchy slogans-as-promises and offer religious and social conservatives the words they want to hear. Given that the vast majority of states are run (legislatively and at the gubernatorial level), both houses of Congress are controlled, the presidency is occupied and even the U.S. Supreme Court is dominated by GOP conservatives, it seems that such alternative facts work!
As day 100 of Trump’s rule came and went, the Donald told Fox News that our very form of constitutional government – with all of its inconvenient “checks and balances” – was a big problem for him and his constituents and in dire need of change: “It’s a very rough system… It’s an archaic system … It’s really a bad thing for the country,” he said. Good to know, our Dear Leader, good to know. Where have we seen governmental leaders challenge constitutional restrictions before? Let me think…
Meanwhile, the headless chickens we call Democrats are mired in their own, directionless, battles. Clinton-Pelosi elite liberals are lined up squarely against Sanders-Warren way-left progressives, and the not-so-loyal-opposition is more focused on defeating Republicans than in creating an agenda that disappointed Trumpists can embrace. 2018 mid-terms are next year; think the Dems will have a common platform by then?
I’m Peter Dekom, and the more I look at what we are becoming, the sadder I get for the legacy my generation is leaving future generations.