Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Ignorance of Donald Trump and the Shameless Capitulation of the Republican Party

by Nomad

When Trump revealed the details of his long-anticipated economic program, economists shuddered. It was suddenly clear that Trump hadn't the faintest grasp of fiscal realities. Tea Party voters and Reagan Conservatives also had their own reasons to tremble in disbelief at their own politicians' endorsements.

With Ignorance and Confidence

The sardonic Mark Twain once wrote:
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.
Had he been privileged enough to meet Mr. Trump, Twain might have added a few other more requirements to his epigram: "an angry and ignorant electorate, a compliant or timid press and lots of ready cash."  
Apparently armed only with those five qualities, any fool can rise to the top of the Republican Party and, with a little luck, become president of the United States.

In this election, there's been a shortage of policy discussion from Donald Trump. We know he intends to build a wall and force Mexico to pay for it. He plans to stop all Muslims from entering the country.
We have been assured his plans were going to be "great" and they were going to be "huge." Other than that not much else to report. a surprising number of voters didn't seem curious so long as they were entertained.

It was assumed that he would share his wisdom at some point. sooner or later, people were bound to get tired of the Trump's schtick and start asking for a few specifics.

That when things start getting risky for a demagogue like Trump. It's very possible that the whole artifice could come crashing down, without warning, like porcelain factory on top of a fault line.
And with that crash, an entire party is left in shards and recriminations. Some still think that it is only a matter of time before that happens.

Many of the Republican elite are clearly banking on Trump's bluff holding solid until November. 

"More Ignorant Than You Could Imagine"

In a  New York Times op-ed piece. entitled The Making of an Ignoramus, Paul Krugman examines in detail the Republican presumptive nominee's astonishing lack of intelligence on almost every subject necessary to be a leader of a nation.   

Trump, says Krugman, is "more ignorant about policy than you can possibly imagine."
As soon as the candidate stopped talking about how universally beloved he was, and as soon as he departed from his vague promises about making America great again (a slogan he stole from Ronald Reagan, by the way) something immediately became clear.

There's no doubt about it. The guy is an idiot. 
No, really.
Yet the kind of idiot uniquely qualified to lead a political party in disarray which has only hollow words and strategic posturing instead of committed principles. Conservative voters- no matter how much they might detest Clinton- have every reason to sit this election out and hope for something better four years from now.

In some ways, Krugman observes, until now, Trump has been just doing "a clumsy job of channeling nonsense widely popular in his party, and to some extent in the chattering classes more generally."

However, the other day, Trump finally - one feels reluctantly- decided to share his economic plans for America when he becomes president. Financial experts were horrified and amazed by Trump's "brilliant" ideas, which, as Krugman says, basically involved "running the country like a failing casino."

That's one thing that Trump actually knows about.
Initially, Trump seemed to suggest that he could negotiate with America's creditors and convince them to take a reduction in the face value of their debt.
In that dreadful scenario, stunned analysts pointed out, American prestige as a stable economic power would be trashed. Others asked how Trump would induce lenders to accept such a deal in the first plan.
What was he planning to offer as an incentive? What does America have as collateral?
Funny you should ask.

The Greek Model

The Atlantic Monthly's assessment of Trump-o-nomics was categorical. 
This policy would be so disastrous that even its suggestion is dangerous. In the event of a recession, Trump would treat the full faith and credit of the United States to a capricious hair cut. As Josh Barro explained, this wouldn’t just represent a historic default, putting the U.S. in the position of a country like Greece or Argentina; it could also spark an international financial crisis, as “investors would cease to see Treasuries as a safe asset and demand higher interest rates in exchange for risk.”
If Greece is the model, then it is important to note that defaulting on loans generally leads to a mandatory sell off of public assets at fire-sale prices. 

Greeks will tell you, somebody made an astounding profit out of the arrangement, to the detriment of the Greek nation. As CNN reported last summer.
The Greek government agreed to transfer up to 50 billion euros ($55 billion) worth of assets to an independent fund as part of the $96 billion bailout deal with Europe. The trust's goal will be to generate cash by either selling these assets or by turning them around into money-making enterprises.
Among the state-owned assets were the partly state-owned telecommunications company OTE, Greece's Public Power Corporation, and the Independent Power Transmission Operator (ADMIE).

Forced privatization even today remains a vital component of Greece’s latest bailout deal. After defaulting on its loans, Athens agreed to transfer “valuable assets” to an independent fund, with the aim of raising €50bn (£35bn). Half of that sum was to be used to shore up capital reserves at Greek banks and a quarter to be used to repay Greece’s creditors and the rest was to be spent on "unspecified investments." 

The loss of state-owned assets can impact on a nation's economy in a number of ways; it may, in some degree, rob the nation of its sovereignty since outside investment essentially buys and controls property own by the state on behalf of the people as a whole. For example, think of a privatized national park system. It also deprives the government a source of income, (if those assets are properly managed.)     

For president Trump, a default on the national debt would be a disaster. However, for businessman Trump, a sell-off of state-owned assets would be something like a gold rush. 
So perhaps Krugman isn't seeing the big picture.
Perhaps Donald Trump isn't such an ignoramus, after all.
He just wants to be America's Great Auctioneer.

Why Trump's Clarification was More Frightening

But... no! Wait!! Trump said. He didn't mean what he had just said.
In a mad dash to clarify what he had earlier said (and to blame reporters for misunderstanding him), on Monday morning, Trump appeared on CNN claiming that he never meant to suggest that he would want the US to default on its debt. And then, he added,  the country didn't have to worry about such a scenario anyway. America can "print money."

"People said I want to go and buy debt and default on debt, and I mean, these people are crazy. This is the United States government. First of all, you never have to default because you print the money."
Again, the economists and other know-it-alls cringed and writhed in horror. Suddenly the truth was flung in the faces of all Americans- at least the ones who are still paying attention.
Trump has no clue about economics.. at even a basic level.   

Admittedly economics can be complex and it's often hard to find a consensus opinion when it comes to fiscal policy. However, this particular matter, the danger of printing money to cover government expenditures, is one point most economics would agree upon.

If Trump was incapable of grasping elemental principles of economics, then a quick glance online could have provided the information he needed.
The problem is that printing money would cause inflation and effectively reduce the value of money.
If you print more money the number of goods and services will stay the same, you just have more money. Therefore people will be willing to spend more cash for the same limited number of goods. Therefore, the price of goods would simply rise.
The same source also explains:
There is another problem with printing lots of money. People who bought Government debt – in effect those who lent the government money, would see a fall in the value of their bonds. If there was hyper inflation the value of the bonds would become worthless. Therefore, people would be unwilling to lend money to the government in the future.
An easy-to-understand explanation, something a pre-teen could absorb.
But not Trump.

Trump and the Tea Party's Betrayal of Principles

But there was something else wrong with Trump's hastily amended economic plan. It was immediately clear that Trump didn't understand that this is already the US economic policy, and conservatives in the Republican party have been howling about it for years. Complaining about printing money to pay off loans has been a tried and true rant since before Reagan.   

Talking about out of control government spending against our national debt is one of the chief complaints of the Tea Party. 
Washington has not meaningfully reduced spending, regardless of which political party has been in control. Instead, Washington’s answer to these problems has been to simply ignore them by taking more of your money through taxation, raising the debt ceiling, and printing more money – instead of cutting back on the runaway spending and reducing the size of the government. This current path is unsustainable and must be reversed with policies that help us repair the damage and create a debt free future so that our children and grandchildren see greater opportunities ahead.
Yet there was no public condemnation of Trump's remarks. A hypocritical silence has descended on the GOP and its bratty kid sister, the Tea Party. As a spokesperson for the Tea Party, former vice president candidate Sarah Palin, (who normally takes every opportunity to comment on social media) had nothing to say about Trump's silly statement.  She's already sold out to him and it is a little late to back peddle now.

It seems as though Trump has no concept about how economics works or even the most basic conservative principles. The demands from the Right to cut Medicaid and Social Security (and just about every other government assistance program)  are all based on national debt hysteria.

In a time when the Left and the Right cannot agree on anything, both sides have agreed that the nation cannot keep printing money to solve its debt problems. The only substantial difference is how to go about reducing the national debt. Conservatives say drastic cuts are the solution, Liberals call for a reassessment of the tax structure to include more taxes on the top wage earners.
Neither side, no matter how much fuss and fight about other things, is committed to "printing more money."

Too bad nobody bothered informing Trump.

Trump's Judgment Based on Past Failures

It doesn't take an economic Cassandra to predict the effect of Trump's economic policies. Krugman warns:
The Trump solution would, among other things, deprive the world economy of its most crucial safe asset, U.S. debt, at a time when safe assets are already in short supply.
In other words, it would be a disaster not just for the US economics but quite likely for the rest of the world that looks to America as a stable base for the rest of the world economies.

Krugman asks a good question too. Why would Trump think America defaulting on its loans ever - for any reason- be a solution to our problems?
One answer is that he’s extrapolating from his own business career, in which he has done very well by running up debts, then walking away from them.
To put it another way, this is Trump's modus operandi and what he defines as success.  For decades, bankruptcy was an integral part of his business career.  

In the debates, the subject came up and Trump was extraordinarily pleased about that fact that four of his businesses have filed for bankruptcy. By his estimation, it was a smart move and there's nothing particularly uncommon about declaring bankruptcy.
Hundreds of companies have done it, says Trump. (Likewise failed economies of nations like Ecuador, Jamaica, Belize and Argentina have all gone bust.) 

"I used the law four times and made a tremendous thing. I'm in business. I did a very good job."
So, it stands to reason that defaulting on the national debt, which is the same as declaring a country bankrupt, is no biggy for a man like Trump. 
Besides, after eight years - but more likely four- it will be somebody else's headache. Isn't that exactly what George W. Bush did, with two expensive wars, tax cuts, an economic meltdown and a bailout?  
*   *   *
The true definition of stupidity isn't merely being uninformed. All of us are uninformed about something. The real description is an inability to know what the majority of people take for granted- otherwise known as "common sense."
And it's also being incapable of absorbing the facts contrary to what you might wish to believe and then acting accordingly. 

That's especially true for Donald Trump. For him, everything he says must be correct and when things go pear-shaped, it's the result of somebody else's misinterpretation of his ideas. Egomaniacs all think like that. 

Krugman notes that it is rather fitting that Republicans have found a more or less perfect symbol of their broken party.
He really is frighteningly uninformed; worse, he doesn’t appear to know what he doesn’t know. The point, instead, is that his blithe lack of knowledge largely follows from the know-nothing attitudes of the party he now leads.
Ignoramus Trump is, in Krugman's estimation, the perfect candidate to drive the conservative movement off the cliff once and for all.

The Republican List of Shame

The majority of the leaders of the party are willing to come groveling at the feet of an ignoramus, playing fast and loose with the fate of their 162-year-old party and the fate of the nation. 
  • John Boehner- driven out of his position by Tea Party radicals for not adhering strictly to conservative principles, Boehner is now endorsing a candidate who doesn't even understand them.
  • Dick Cheney- Headline to read: Confessed and proud war criminal and torturer endorses torture-supporting GOP candidate.
  • Newt Gingrich- the man who shut down the government for 22 days over a budget dispute is now endorsing a candidate who wants to print money to avoid default.
  • Reince Priebus- the RNC chairman who effectively oversaw the surrender of the GOP to Trump and still refuses to admit it.
  • Rick Perry -a man who once called Trump a "cancer."
  • Mike Huckabee -the person who said it would be “ludicrous” and “foolish” to elect a president who didn’t have executive experience.
  • Bobby Jindal - the very same man who called Trump 
    a madman who must be stopped' is now endorsing him.
  • Rand Paul -the guy who posted a political ad questioning Trump's conservative bona fides.
  • Ben Carson- the sleepy candidate unwittingly revealed he had been illegally promised a position in the Trump administration. 
  • Marco Rubio - In April, he endorsed Trump but even today calls him an 'erratic conman' who shouldn't have nuclear codes. Now, he appears to be okay with that.
  • Eric Cantor - the same guy who in 2008 complained
"We just carry on doing the same old thing and never look back. We spend more money, we run up more debt, we print more money, and we think that is going to solve the problem that was created by spending too much money, running up debt, printing too much money. Today, we are talking about tinkering on the edges without dealing with the big problem."
  • Mitch McConnell -who not long ago said that the entirety of the GOP Machine is ready and willing to go to war with Trump because he could never be elected. Today, he's had a characteristic change of heart.
  • John McCain -a man whose war record Trump publicly mocked. An endorsement from the man who inflicted Palin on the world isn't as much of an endorsement as a warning of doom.
  • Rob Portman -who declared himself to be an uncompromising conservative was willing to compromise when it came to Trump.
  • Chris Christie -Some attributed Christie's endorsement as pure political opportunism. Hard not to agree.
  • Nikki Haley- the Republican who made this reference to Trump:
“Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true.”
  • Mike Pencea steadfast conservative who once rejected Trump and enthusiastically supported Cruz "as a principled conservative who's dedicated his career to advocating the [Ronald] Reagan agenda." Now, Cruz, is a distant memory and Pence has since thrown his support for Trump.
Another name on that list was Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. and he really deserves a little special attention  if only as an example how Trump has successfully corrupted the conservative movement and exposed the Tea Party hypocrisy. 

Not long ago, Arkansas senator Cotton was considered a rising star. He endeared himself to Tea Party voters by  condemning "Washington power games and deal-making." 
Cotton was the epitome of Tea Party dissatisfaction with business as usual in the nation's capital. 
Take a loot at what Cotton wrote long before Trump came along.
“Ambition characterizes and distinguishes national officeholders from other kinds of human beings. Inflammatory passion and selfish interest characterizes most men, whereas ambition characterizes men who pursue and hold national office. Such men rise from the people through a process of self-selection since politics is a dirty business that discourages all but the most ambitious.”
That's an extraordinarily accurate description of Trump.

One would, therefore, think that Cotton could in no way endorse a man like Donald Trump. One would think Cotton would be shouting his disgust from the rooftops.  
But, lo and behold, Cotton is ready to engage in the same Washington power-plays and deal making that he was formerly so revolted by. 

Outside of the elected officials:
  • Rupert Murdoch- the mad scientist who helped to create this monster in the first place.
  • Rush Limbaugh- who still hasn't moved to Costa Rica, though he promised to.
  • Sheldon Adelson- the casino mogul who has openly used his gambling loot to buy influence in the Republican Party. In the last presidential election, he reportedly threw away close to $100 million.
  • Jerry Falwell Jr.- When the Liberty University president  compared Trump to biblical leader King David, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission fired back, saying " “King David was no dime-store demagogue.”
  • Ann Coulter- perhaps the only person whose political endorsement means less and is more nauseating than loser and quitter Sarah Palin's.
Still worse, knowing Trump to be a fool, these people ignore the dictates of their conscience (or what they consider their consciences) and throw their support behind a man absolutely and undeniably unfit to be president. 
They talk about principles but they have clearly shown that principles do not really matter when power is at stake. 

It is definitely not smart party politics to support an ignoramus as the nominee of your party. And it is not patriotic or to support a fool's desire to become president. 
It goes beyond simply cheering on stupidity or turning a blind eye to the faults of your party's nominee.

It is, at best, a form of cowardice and at worst, a form of borderline treason.