A warning to those thinking Trump might end up enacting progressive policies...
UPDATE 1/15/17: Reposting this given this evening's "news" that Donald Trump is "promising" to allegedly replace Obamacare (the ACA) with "insurance for everybody" in some mysterious fashion which wouldn't involve being "single payer" (assuming he even has a clue what that actually means):
"Trump declined to reveal specifics"...."Trump warned Republicans that if the party splinters or slows his agenda, he is ready to use the power of the presidency — and Twitter — to usher his legislation to passage."..." Although he was coy about its details — “lower numbers, much lower deductibles”..."“It’s not going to be their plan,” he said of people covered under the current law. “It’ll be another plan. But they’ll be beautifully covered. I don’t want single-payer. What I do want is to be able to take care of people,” he said Saturday."
Sorry, but when I hear Trump wants to "take care of people", all I can picture is this exchange in Pulp Fiction:
"He asked me if I'd take care of her while he's gone."
"Take care of her ?" (finger pointed to head)
So. Here we are. Barring some extraordinarily shocking development (which I wouldn't rule out in a year and a half of shocking developments), it looks like the unthinkable will happen in just 68 days: Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.
No one knows with certainty exactly how this will play out, because we're in utterly uncharted territory. Arguments vary over whether Trump is, in his heart, a true fascist who'll bring about a true Naziesque Hellscape (massive waves of deportations, imprisonment in internment camps, genocide, the whole works); "only" a dangerously unstable, unqualified grifter who never expected to actually win and will now treat his term of office as the ultimate long con...or a reverse-Manchurian Candidate figure who'll actually end up turning on the GOP completely and will push through a bevy of progressive policies after all!
He could also be some combination of all of the above...as well as some other profile which no one has even imagined as of yet.
Last spring, during the primaries, there was a month or so where there was still a small but not unreasonable possibility that Ted Cruz could have ended up pullling the nomination out of the grasp of Trump's hands. During that time, there was a lot of discussion among progressives (and some intellectually honest #NeverTrump conservatives) as to which one would be worse from a progressive/Democratic/liberal point of view.
After all, the reasoning went, Trump supposedly held strongly liberal positions on many key issues up until like 5 minutes ago (he was pro-choice, etc). He's promised a gargantuan infrastructure spending program (roads, bridges, etc)! Hell, during the very first GOP primary, he came right out and said that he thinks Single Payer healthcare is awesome in other countries! He later stated that whatever he came up with would "cover everyone" with "the government paying for it all". How awesome is that for a progressive!!
However, there are some major problems with this:
- FIRST: Trump has no actual core values other than Trump. The reason his "policies" never seem to make any sort of rational sense is because he has no actual "policies" other than "what can I say which will create the most adulation and/or outrage"? He feeds off of attention, whether positive or negative. He's flip-flopped between one policy and the complete opposite one not only within days or hours, but in some cases within the exact same sentence...because he's complete stream of consciousness. He utters whatever happens to pop into his tiny pea brain at that particular moment; five minutes later he might deny having even said it. In other words, it's entirely possible that he has no intention of actually trying to bring about universal coverage (whether via single payer or otherwise) whatsoever.
- SECOND: Who's gonna be the "top" and who the "bottom" when it comes to the 100% GOP-held Congress? The general concensus is that the entire Republican Party is now his tool to do with whatever he pleases; after all he's famous, so they'll let him do whatever he wants, even grab them by the pussy, so to speak. That's what he's been doing for the past year and a half, much to the dismay of many Republicans and Democrats alike...and nearly the entire party has now caved and is kissing his ass so they can now join his mob of degenerate sycophants.
On the other hand, I don't think anyone, including him, ever expected he'd actually win until recently; he seemed rather dazed after his meeting with Obama last week, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly didn't understand that no one at the White House would be sticking around to answer the phones and run the copy machine; they're supposed to staff up entirely on their own. Guys like Mitch McConnell have been around DC for a long time; they may end up being the ones controlling him instead of the other way around. If that's the case, then say hello to not only the bulk of the ACA being scrapped, but also privatized Medicare.
- THIRD: Even any theoretical "progressive" policies would almost certainly be bundled with corruption and waste in execution. Who remembers this?
Back in 2003, when the second round of the utterly unnecessary Bush Tax Cuts were doled out (jacking up the federal deficit for decades to come), I received my very own check from the IRS for something like $300 or so. I distinctly remember that it had, typed in the lower left-hand corner, "TAX RELIEF FOR AMERICA'S WORKING MEN & WOMEN".
As it happens, I donated the entire $300 to charity, since I had never asked for it and didn't want it. However, I always remembered the shamelessly partisan promotional nature of how it was done. A physical check with the actual dollar amount and a big, bold slogan referring to "relief" (the implication being, of course, that taxes are by their very nature a negative, awful thing which one needs relief from).
Now we have Trump claiming that he's gonna have "the government pay for it all", along with a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan to repair roads, bridges and so forth. From a progressive POV, this sounds great, since we've been pushing for a massive domestic infrastructure program for decades. The problem is that he also plans on invoking huge tax cuts for the wealthy (i.e., it would ballon the debt to even further hights) and/or that the actual projects would be privately funded (and thus, private corporations would reap a windfall of tax credits for doing so) while also creating regressive taxation (toll roads, etc).
In addition, given Trump's history of shady, self-serving deals, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the bulk of the infrastructure projects end up being won via no-bid deals by Trump-connected contractors, at rates 10x the market rate...and then turning out to suffer from shoddy workmanship, poor-quality materials and so forth. Hell, even if he were to somehow actually start construction of his infamous Mexican Border Wall, it would likely turn out to be built out of balsa wood filled with moldy Trump Steaks.
On the bright side, given his history of stiffing contractors, he might decide not to allow payment to any contractors whether they do a good job or not, so there's that.
- FOURTH: However, none of the above address the real reason why this "progressives might have a lot to love!" mindset re. a Trump administration is incredibly dangerous, which I summarized in September:
— Charles Gaba (@charles_gaba) September 27, 2016
— Charles Gaba (@charles_gaba) September 27, 2016
I'm quite serious here. There's an old saying about Benito Mussolini: "At least he made sure the trains ran on time!"
Well, first of all...no, it turns out that was a load of crap:
Every political leader — whether he be a democratically elected representative or a usurping tyrant — seeks to gain broad public support, because the greater his support, the greater his power. That power may ultimately be used for good or for bad, but either way it must be obtained before it can be wielded.
One of the best ways to gain the support of the people you want to lead is to do something of benefit to them. Failing that, the next best thing is to convince them that you have done something of benefit to them, even though you really haven't. So it was with Benito Mussolini and the Italian railway system.
After the "march on Rome" (which was itself a myth of fascist propaganda) on 28 October 1922 that resulted in King Vittorio Emanuele's appointment of Benito Mussolini as prime minister and the accession to power of the fascists in Italy, Mussolini needed to convince the people of Italy that fascism was indeed a system that worked to their benefit. Thus was born the myth of fascist efficiency, with the train as its symbol. The word was spread that Mussolini had turned the dilapidated Italian railway system into one that was the envy of all Europe, featuring trains that were both dependable and punctual. In Mussolini's Italy, all the trains ran on time.
Well, not quite. The Italian railway system had fallen into a rather sad state during World War I,and it did improve a good deal during the 1920s, but Mussolini was disingenuous in taking credit for the changes: much of the repair work had been performed before Mussolini and the fascists came to power in 1922. More importantly (to the claim at hand), those who actually lived in Italy during the Mussolini era have borne testimony that the Italian railway's legendary adherence to timetables was far more myth than reality.
Secondly, even if he DOES end up enacting a couple of progressive wish-list items, he's still dangerously unstable and unqualified to hold high office, and has already caused every Neo-Nazi, KKK member and other white supremacist hatemonger to come out of the woodwork. Much of the damage has already been done even if he were to resign or get impeached within his first month in office.
The myth of Mussolini's punctual trains lives on, albeit with a different slant: rather than serving as a fictitious symbol of the benefits of fascism, it is now offered as a sardonic example that something good can result even from the worst of circumstances. As Montagu and Darling wrote:
Mussolini may have done many brutal and tyrannical things; he may have destroyed human freedom in Italy; he may have murdered and tortured citizens whose only crime was to oppose Mussolini; but 'one had to admit' one thing about the Dictator: he 'made the trains run on time.'
No, thanks. I'd rather walk.