Trump The Socialist President
I always find it amusing whenever I see folks on Facebook, promoting the belief that (impeached) president Donald J. Trump is a “socialist” or a “crypto-Democrat”.
I usually just note the existence of the phenomenon, shrug my shoulders and move on. It’s a notion that a certain segment of ‘Never Trumpers’ and ex-Republicans are passionately invested in. It’s a logical fallacy at least in the sense in which they are assessing it.
The arguments that Trump is a Democrat, when examined even superficially, don’t pass the sniff test. But Trump as a socialist? Well, that assertion is not entirely facetious. The only difference with a distinction, is the brand of socialist.
With the caveat that what most people who use the term ‘socialist’ as a pejorative, are not referring to the textbook economic definition, Trump is not a Euro style socialist.
That’s where governments such as Norway, Finland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden maintain a hybrid capitalist system (what the Swedes call, “middle way”) with an integral social safety net and investments in human capital – tuition free secondary education, career training, preventative medical care and a robust pension system that provides security in old age to everyone, not just to those who are among the investment class.
But Trump is a socialist. What kind? We’ll examine that specifically in a moment.
What they really hate about Democrats
People who decry the Democratic party – loathe and despise them for a host of reasons. For some, it is the question of how Democrats tend to favor a more inclusive and pluralistic society.
Generally, this comes in the form of fear and resentment towards certain classes of immigrants – people of color, who are entering the United States without official paperwork because they are fleeing murderous narco-traffickers and their network of vicious street gangs.
Further, in a substantial number of cases, the governments of those countries are actually protecting the organized criminal class and making it impossible for residents to rely on assistance from law-enforcement. That the circumstances these refugees are attempting to escape, were initially caused by and sustained by failed American policies such as the “War On Drugs” and the propping up of dictatorial regimes, is of little consequence to the anti-immigrant activists common among Tea Party elements.
Others oppose Democrats because of their tendencies toward defending civil liberties. Democrat elected officials have annoying habits of standing against the use of excessive force by rogue police officers and un Constitutional policies, most often applied to minority communities, such as the “Stop and Frisk” policies of New York City during the tenure of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Then there are the cultural skirmishes where social conservatives nurse grievances about the decline of the exclusivity of the Judeo-Christian totems in America – this leading to false assertions such as the Christmas holiday and Thanksgiving, being under siege. Birth control and women’s reproductive rights are another source of contention.
But perhaps the most universal complaint about liberals and progressives, hence Democrats, is that they advocate the allocation of resources toward the human capital of society. Expenditures that require the participation, not just from the working and middle class, but from those who have benefited the most from the improvements that our system of government has established.
In a word, right leaning voters, most prominent among them – Trump voters, decry “socialism”.
Most often the term is injected into a discourse or declarative statement in the most general of terms. Missing is the fact that, in the sense they are referring to it, America has been a “socialist” nation for over 84 years.
Our system of laws have incorporated a host of elements that make up a safety net to ensure that we don’t regress to the era before we had programs to rescue people impacted by the economic collapses that are habitually consequential to the excesses of predatory capitalism – such as the Great Depression and more recently, the Great Recession.
Creative Capitalist destruction of the middle and working class economy
The Great Recession, in large manner, was accountable to a casino gambling environment rampant in the epicenter of our investment hubs, the foremost being Wall Street. The guardrails were removed and financialization succumbed to its greatest or worst tendencies toward excess.
The quasi government entities such as the Federal Reserve and Fannie Mae came to the rescue of those at the top of the economic food chain and those who broke even the few remaining laws that existed to put the brakes on the out of control behavior, leveraged influence and escaped criminal accountability.
Moreover, the institutionalized investment class, exemplified by the likes of Trump Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, not only recovered, but on the way back up, ravaged homeowners causing massive displacements through unlawful foreclosures.
The effects of that resonate to this day, when we observe that those who are not still experiencing homelessness are now renters who have been priced out of the home owning market, by corporatized investment collectives who accessed monopoly capital.
We recall that even the pathetically feeble attempts by the Obama administration, to enable a proportionately small number of families to work out loan modifications, were bemoaned by Republican elites, most notably Rick Santelli, who recently recommended that all Americans be simultaneously exposed to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
This was so that everyone who was destined to die, would do it quickly so that the markets could get back on track of inflating the values of economic assets to yet another shattering eruption, that with little doubt would trigger a repeat of “too big to fail, too big to jail”.
“In many ways Donald Trump is a socialist himself. He is a socialist who believes in massive help to large corporations and the rich. When Trump was a private businessman – he is a real estate developer – he himself received some $800 million in tax breaks and subsidies to build luxury condominiums. That’s called socialism for the very, very rich.”
– Bernie Sanders
All of this brings us to the present moment, where a communicable disease, the rapid spread of which, has been exacerbated by the confused, incompetent and negligent management by Donald Trump, leads to his call for bailouts of certain segments of our economy.
Included among them quite prominently are components of that economy in which Trump’s own business activities are most vulnerable in terms of the impact of the virus.
Bailing out the 1 percent
Trump, his White House economic apparatus, including the Treasury Department, floated an initiative to provide government relief to the segments of the economy, that at present, appear to be the most impacted by the interruption of consumer activity – the airlines, the cruise lines and hotels.
We’ll not delve into the specifics of the proposal, because for one, there isn’t much in the way of specifics to begin with and the political dynamic of how, when, if and to what extent such a plan would take shape, are still in flux.
It is interesting however, that Trump’s main conduit between himself and Congress, for such an endeavor, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, is signaling that he is acutely aware of the optics. “This is not a bailout,” Mnuchin said, according to The Washington Post‘s Jeff Stein. “This is considering providing certain things for certain industries. Airlines, hotels, cruise lines.”
When is a bailout, not a bailout? When a member of the swamp that Trump restocked the lagoon with, insists it isn’t one. The Washington Post also reported that Mnuchin, in a meeting with GOP Senators, insisted that in their messaging, they strenuously avoid employing the “bailout” term:
When Mnuchin visited with Republican senators at their Tuesday lunch, the secretary pleaded with them not to use the politically charged word “bailout” in describing the proposed relief for Boeing, one of many large corporations that stands to benefit from the administration’s plan. One senator raised a hand and asked if they should instead call them “freedom payments,” which prompted laughter, according to a person briefed on the closed-door meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid about the discussion.
But the leisure industrial complex is not the only Trump stakeholder that the (impeached) president intends to exempt from the vaunted but fictitious narrative of the “free market” in beloved Republican rhetoric.
The domestic fossil fuel industry will be lining up at the soup kitchen as well. Falling demand for crude oil and natural gas, combined with a two pronged assault from Trump’s friendly authoritarians in Saudi Arabia and Russia, to drive down market prices, (crude oil could soon hit around $20 or under), results in Trump calling for a relief flotilla of government funds.
There is little doubt that if strict conditions were attached to the special interest bailouts, such as executive pay caps, a haircut for shareholders and mandates for living wages and benefits for workers, that said industrial complexes would find the terms unacceptable and reject the funds. Cutting CEO and other executive compensation, would have more than an odious smell to the boards of these failing corporations.
It could be a contagion, in and of itself. It would be a game changer, as Dean Baker, writing in Marketwatch, points out:
“This sort of restriction on CEO compensation is important because it can help to counteract the crazy upward trend in CEO pay we have seen in the last four decades. There really is no countervailing downward pressure. CEOs ask their friends on corporate boards for big pay increases year after year, and the board has no reason not to give them more of the company’s money. If major corporations can be effectively run by CEOs getting one tenth the going rate, it would set a valuable precedent.”
Trump’s Payroll Tax Three Card Monte game
Trump realizes, however, that there has to be a sweetener – a bribe, if you will, for rank and file voters, to make this fiscal feces more digestible. He’s calling for a payroll tax holiday.
There is a lot that is remarkable about that, but one aspect is that leading D.C. think tanks specializing in tax policy, such as the Tax Foundation are not in support of the proposal. They note that the payroll tax suspension would precipitate $900 billion or more in addition to the already 1 trillion annual deficit.
But the argument against it doesn’t end there. Eric Boehm, writing in Reason, comments that:
Fiscally, a payroll tax cut would be utterly irresponsible. The payroll tax funds Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—all of which Trump has sworn to protect from cuts. That means his proposed payroll tax cut would only add to the shortfalls already facing those entitlement programs.
And it would probably fail as a way to stimulate an economy hobbled by a pandemic anyway. Because the economic shock from the coronavirus is likely to be a supply-side disruption, stimulating demand—and that’s what a tax cut would try to do—would be of limited use.
As the Cato Institute sees it, the tax holiday is an expensive bribe from Trump – a bailout for his own re-election prospects. “Big tax cuts—such as the proposed employee payroll tax cut—seem an expensive blunt instrument for alleviating distress”, says Ryan Bourne, an economist with Cato. Bourne adds that, “If social distancing is necessary, we don’t want employees out spending more money because they have more in their pockets.”
One notable detail of Trump’s payroll tax plan is the sunset date – at the end of November. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by connecting the dots on that. It’s just too transparent.
A paid sick leave program has also been floated by Trump and a legislative initiative to send stimulus checks to families, is being negotiated in Congress. In Trump’s conception, having agreed to direct payouts to Americans whose finances have been upended by the outbreak of COVID-19, will be a gesture of generosity that will endear him to voters who would ordinarily be skeptical of his radioactive negligence during the initial onset of the spread of the disease, when it could have been halted at the epidemic stage.
Trump’s economic bribery scheme – Part Deux
This wouldn’t be the first time, Trump has enacted, with or without the cooperation of Congress, emergency – let’s call them what they are, bailouts, to segments of commerce that have been negatively affected by economic disruptions, even those of his own mismanagement.
Trump has, as a consequence of the calamity resulting from his trade war with China, funneled money to agriculture. Not small farmers imperiled by bankruptcy, but to corporate factory farms, the big players, the big donors to him and his party.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) published an analysis of the payouts, which revealed that the “the richest of the rich” — the top 1% — received 13% of the federal payments, or more than $177,000 each. The bottom 80%, on the other hand, got an average payment of $5,136.
Three of the “fat cats” received more than $1 million each, while 45 got more than $500,000. Even the Republican Governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice and his immediate family cashed in from the “Market Facilitation Program” to the tune of $125,000.
Anne Weir Schechinger, a senior analyst with EWG summed up the fraud:
“The administration’s MFP policies stack the deck against small farmers in favor of the big guys,” Schechinger and her colleagues wrote, adding that, “laughably lax eligibility rules allow cousins, nieces and nephews and far-flung relatives living in cities, with no real connection to farming, to cash government bailout checks. Even Trump 2016 campaign advisors and billionaires are cashing in.”
The “Economic Stimulus” they really care about
As of publication, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP Senate caucus have presented their version of a economic stimulus bill that Senate Democrats were not allowed to participate in the crafting of. And the expectation on the part of the GOP, is that they will simply accept it as drafted without objections.
“We need to deliver relief now,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “We need to go big. We need to minimize new complexity. And we need to move swiftly.”
The Washington Post outlines what the GOP has in mind in terms of priorities, when they use the term, “stimulus”:
The original Senate GOP plan included numerous delays on corporate and business taxes, such as delaying payment of employer payroll taxes until 2021 and 2022. Beyond the general corporate tax changes, the initial Senate GOP bill also proposed relief for bigger firms and corporations, a move that some critics have alleged could amount to taxpayer funded bailouts. The bill would not provide direct cash subsidies to these large firms. But it does call for other forms of emergency federal help, such as low-interest loans. The airlines would receive $50 billion in “loans and loan guarantees,” while cargo air carriers would receive $8 billion.
So – what sort of “socialist” is Donald Trump? A “corporate socialist”. Corporate socialist is a relatively mild, if unflattering term for what would ordinarily be labeled as Fascism. It’s sort of the same thing we do when we refer to the “trash pick up guy” as the “community sanitation engineer”.
But it’s not much of a problem for Republicans, because after all, even a bad word like socialism, has a nice ring to it if you put the adjective ‘corporate’ in front of it. Certainly better than “crony capitalism” or worse yet, “predatory capitalism”.
On Friday, it became apparent that the Democrat House has no intentions of providing life rafts to Trump’s corporate cronies.
Who are the socialists, now?