Despite Tuesday’s Results, Trump And The GOP Continue To Destroy Our Country

It was only on Tuesday that it seemed like sanity was finally returning to our world. But we should know better. We live in the world of Donald Trump and his milieu, and suffer with the outrage, disgust, and shock created by them on an almost daily basis. And any feelings of a return to normalcy will always be fleeting.

The shocking, almost total victory in the Virginia elections combined with other Democratic wins across the country gave us all the hope that the tide had finally turned and that perhaps enough Republicans had finally come to their senses. Minorities, LGBTQ, and women candidates won elections around the country, giving us a glimpse into the future. Even Donald Trump was relatively restrained and delivered a sober, rational speech to the South Korean National Assembly, if you ignore the plug for his golf club.

It was all too good to last. The Russian investigation expanded to include even more of Trump’s inner circle. The supposed “coffee boy” George Papadopoulos was not only meeting with the Russians, but also with Conservative MPs in Britain, and helping to write an important Trump foreign policy address. In addition, Papadopoulos kept senior Trump adviser Steven Miller, as well as other top campaign officials, informed about his multiple contacts with the Russians. It makes you wonder whether Miller and Papadopoulos had a conversation or two while Papadopoulos was cooperating with Mueller.

Carter Page was his usual bizarre self as he testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee and the transcript of that testimony release on election day. That testimony showed that Page notified Jeff Sessions about his forthcoming trip to Russia and kept Corey Lewandowski and Hope Hicks updated on the results of those meetings, which included senior Russian officials, something Page had always denied up to this point. This just added to the number perjuries committed by Sessions as both Papadopoulos and Page have now said that Sessions was aware of their activity with the Russians.

We also learned that Cambridge Analytica reached out to WikiLeaks in order to get Hillary Clinton’s emails just after it had signed on with the Trump campaign and at the same time that other members of the campaign were reporting back to headquarters that the Russians had dirt on Hillary.

Then we were hit by the news that Judge Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, had been accused of molesting a 14 year old girl when he was 32. In addition, Roy was apparently fond of “dating” girls between the ages of 16 and 19. Despite contemporary witnesses, Moore, of course, denied he had done anything illegal. Republicans in the Congress, with the exception of less than a handful, refused to repudiate Moore, saying no one knows whether the accusations are true. Even worse, Republicans across the board in Alabama openly stated that they really didn’t care if Moore was a child molester, they would vote for him anyway because the option of having a Democrat in office was to unthinkable to contemplate. I wonder what could concern Alabamans so much that a Democrats is unacceptable, other than perhaps the Democrats represent certain minorities.

It didn’t take long before Trump himself was off the rails again. Having done virtually nothing to openly pressure the Chinese about North Korea or the trade deficit problem he vowed to tackle, Trump went to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Vietnam and vowed that the US will not “be taken advantage of anymore” in its trade deals. The members of the gathering must have had a good chuckle at that one because they all agreed on advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal which solidifies Chinese power in Asia and specifically excludes the US.

At those same meetings, Trump reportedly had a brief meeting with Putin where he claims he took Putin at his word when he said that the Russians did not interfere in the US election. Worse than taking Putin at his word, however, was what Trump had to say about the US intelligence agencies, namely, “I mean, give me a break, they [the intelligence community] are political hacks. So you look at it, I mean, you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey. Comey is proven now to be a liar and he is proven now to be a leaker. So you look at that and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with them.” This was on Veterans Day.

On Friday, a 36 year old blogger, who was only out of law school for three years and has never seen the inside of courtroom during that time, was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a straight party line vote and his nomination for a federal district court judgeship will be now be voted on by the full Senate. Besides his distinct lack of qualifications, the blogger was unanimously given a “not qualified” rating by the American Bar Association. In the last 30 years, there have been only six judicial nominees rated as “not qualified” and four of those six have been Trump nominees. Of course, none of this matters to the Republicans who are relying solely on the ideological litmus test imposed by the Federalist Society in order to determine their votes.

In Puerto Rico, only about 40% of the people have had access to power restored, that is, until a major power line supposedly repaired by Whitefish Energy once again failed leaving 80% of the island in the dark. In addition, 20% of the island still has no access to clean drinking water and cell phone service is still spotty at best. The incidence of water-borne diseases is increasing rapidly on the island and no one has a clue of how many people actually died from the hurricane directly or how many have died in the aftermath. All we do know is both those numbers are considerable. In the midst of all this, the general in charge of the relief effort is pulling out the military resources because, according to him, “we are out of the crisis”. I’m pretty sure that thousands in Puerto Rico would strongly disagree with that analysis.

Meanwhile, over at the State Department, Rex Tillerson’s destruction of our diplomatic corps continues apace. The Department is now offering $25,000 buyouts of employees who decide to “retire” before next April. According to the New York Times, Tillerson “has already frozen hiring, reduced promotions, asked some senior employees to perform clerical duties that are normally relegated to lower-level staff members, refused to fill many ambassadorships and senior leadership jobs, and fired top diplomats from coveted posts while offering low-level assignments in their place. Those efforts have crippled morale worldwide.” As Chris Murphy tweeted this morning, “The purposeful gutting of American power abroad is mystifying. If you didn’t know better, you’d think some rival government was running our foreign policy.”

Finally, the Republican tax plans for the House and the Senate have been released. There are significant differences between the two bills that will probably be difficult to overcome but the outlines are crystal clear. This will be a gigantic tax cut for corporations, especially those that have engaged in massive tax avoidance by parking profits overseas, and the truly wealthy. It is specifically designed to reward passive owners over actual workers. Some estimates show it wail raise taxes on a majority of middle and upper income households in order to shovel even more money to upper one-half of 1%. It will raise taxes on half of families with children. Of course, Republicans are trying to once again pass this off as a middle class tax cut while openly admitting it is trickle-down economics one more time.

But what’s more interesting about both GOP plans is that they clearly violate the Byrd rule which requires that the deficit not increase beyond the 10 year window in order to avoid a filibuster and the requirement of 60 votes in the Senate. Considering the deficit increases dramatically as we progress to ten years out, there is no way that this bill will pass unless many provisions are sunsetted after 10 years. The GOP did this with the Bush tax cuts and, in fact, the middle class tax cuts implemented under Bush remained in place after 2010 because tax cuts on the wealthy were repealed and the implementation of sequestration. But, if the GOP were to attempt to take the same approach with this plan, it may not help to say you are going to sunset the tax “cuts” for individual in order to pay for even bigger corporate taxes. On the other hand, it is insane economic policy to sunset the corporate tax cuts in 10 years. Of course, the other option is to simply violate the Byrd rule and effectively destroy the filibuster once and for all. Considering the enormous pressure from its plutocratic donors, the destruction of the norms of governance and democracy that the Republican party has engaged in for the last 20 years, and the general deconstruction of American government that the Trump administration is currently engaged in, violating the Byrd rule would hardly be out of the question.

All these outrages have occurred since last Tuesday’s election, less than one week ago. And there are probably a dozen more outrages that I missed. While we might be encouraged by the results on Tuesday night, we should never lose sight of the damage that the Trump administration and it sycophants in the Republican party are doing on virtually a daily basis. Like the hurricanes that hit the US this year, it will take years, if not decades, to recover from this destruction.

Originally published at on November 12, 2017.



Thoughtful discussions on politics and economics with sidelights in photography and astronomy.;;

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