Category Archives: US politics

The Democratic Party Is Facing A Demographic Crisis

Musa al-Gharbi writes:

In 2008, Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama outperformed his predecessors John Kerry and Al Gore with virtually every single demographic group, handily defeating his Republican rival John McCain. This success spread to down-ballot races as well: Democrats expanded control over the House and the Senate; they controlled most governorships and state legislatures nationwide.

Many progressives came to believe that these results were not a fluke, that Obama’s coalition represented the future: an emerging Democratic majority that stood to reshape politics as we know it. The logic was simple: most of those who are young, college-educated, women or minorities lean left. Older white men leaned right, but whites were declining as a portion of the electorate due to immigration and interracial unions. Therefore, as the older generation passes away and a younger, more diverse, and more educated cohort steps into the fore, America will become more progressive in an enduring way.

Right now, these predictions are not looking so good. Read on here

Fixating on Russia continues to be used to distract from systemic failures of U.S. elites

Glenn Greenwald writes: The New Yorker is aggressively touting its 13,000-word cover story on Russia and Trump that was bylined by three writers, including the magazine’s editor-in-chief, David Remnick. Beginning with its cover image menacingly featuring Putin, Trump and the magazine’s title in Cyrillic letters, along with its lead cartoon dystopically depicting a UFO-like Red Square hovering over and phallically invading the White House, a large bulk of the article is devoted to what has now become standard – and very profitable – fare among East Coast news magazines.

Denouncing the autocratic abuses of foreign adversaries such as Putin has long been the go-to tactic to distract attention from the failures and evils of U.S. actions — including the unpleasant fact that support for the world’s worst despots has long been, and continues to be, a central precept of U.S. policy.

That Putin ordered Russian hacking of the DNC’s and John Podesta’s emails in order to help Trump win is now such consecrated orthodoxy that it’s barely acceptable in Decent Company to question it. But that obscures, by design, the rather important fact that the U.S. Government, while repeatedly issuing new reports making these claims, has still never offered any actual evidence for them. Read full article here.

The Democratic Party must be trying to fail

Nathan Robinson writes: “At this point, one has to conclude that the national Democratic Party has a death wish. Given the opportunity to throw a minuscule bone to the Sanders progressives, the DNC declined. By giving its chairmanship to former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, instead of Rep. Keith Ellison, party leaders have shown that they must be actively desiring electoral oblivion”. Read full article here

One cannot but remember Robinson cataclysmically prescient article where he predicted that selecting Hillary Clinton as DNC nominee would ensure defeat at Trump’s hands.

He wrote a year ago in February 2016: “… a Clinton match-up [with Trump] is highly likely to be an unmitigated electoral disaster, whereas a Sanders candidacy stands a far better chance. Every one of Clinton’s (considerable) weaknesses plays to every one of Trump’s strengths, whereas every one of Trump’s (few) weaknesses plays to every one of Sanders’s strengths. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, running Clinton against Trump is a disastrous, suicidal proposition… Donald Trump is one of the most formidable opponents in the history of American politics. He is sharp, shameless, and likable. If he is going to be the nominee, Democrats need to think very seriously about how to defeat him. If they don’t, he will be the President of the United States, which will have disastrous repercussions for religious and racial minorities and likely for everyone else, too”.

Keith Ellison in the coming insurgency against Trump

Here’s the interesting thing about Islam,” Keith Ellison, the Minnesota congressman currently running for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, said. It was a sunny, gelid afternoon just after Christmas. “The Prophet Muhammad—peace and blessings be upon him—his father dies before he’s ever born. His mother dies before he’s six. He’s handed over to a foster mom who’s so poor, the stories say, her breasts are not full enough to feed him. So he grows up as this quintessential orphan, and only later, at the age of forty, does he start to get this revelation. And the revelation is to stand up against the constituted powers that are enslaving people—that are, you know, cheating people, trying to trick people into believing that they should give over their money to appease a god that’s just an inanimate object. And those authorities came down hard on him! And his first converts were people who were enslaved, children, women—a few of them were wealthy business folks, but the earliest companions of the Prophet Muhammad were people who needed justice. I found that story to be inspiring, and important to my own thinking and development.”

Read full article here

The last neocon out, and one Islamophobe less in Trump’s cabinet

After John Bolton’s disappearance, Elliott Abrams is now done for. Goodbye to the last two neocons in play in regard to potential appointments.

Now the drama starts with the actual cabinet appointees as Michael Flynn, NSC chief, resigns. Goodbye to bad rubbish. Keith Kellogg takes over the NSC as ‘acting head’: at least he doesn’t foam at the mouth.

Trump might have stuck with Flynn as the revelations over his contacts with the Russian Embassy came out, if it hadn’t been for Trump’s loss of face over the ‘Muslim ban’.

Who comes out of all of this a hero – or heroine? Sally Yates: who warned the White House about the illegality of the Muslim ban and about Michael Flynn. Where is she? Fired of course.

Trump will not be drawn by neo-conservatives

In a sign that Donald Trump will not be drawn into another neo-conservative nightmare, two of his most powerful supporters, Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, are being frozen out of future Trump organisations. They had been pushing John Bolton as Secretary of State, and then after Rex Tillerson became Trump’s appointee, they pushed for him as number two.

 

Trump’s poor grasp of economic reality, and the prospective failure of his economic populism

There are three factors that will ultimately make Trump economics an event limited in time that will add to Central Bank debt and be followed by crisis and stagflation:

  1. His tax cuts mean that Trump will have to rely on monetary expansion. The Fed’s Jan 19 announcement of rising interests rates to bring sanity back to the capital markets, will conflict with the need to fund expenditures through tax credits as seems to be the plan. The whole thing relies on a replay of the old Reagan-Thatcher ‘trickle-down’ nonsense, which has been thoroughly discredited. As Ha-Joon Chang has explained, Western economies are undermining productivity by massively scaling back welfare while reducing purchasing power by squeezing wages.
  2. Falling unemployment figures under Obama, which have been used to show us a successful neoliberal trajectory to have hidden a dark truth. Although I list Joseph Stiglitz’s articles on Trump economics below because he talks a lot of sense about upcoming problems, his statement that Trump inherits a vibrant economy from Obama is wrong. The reason that trump has come to power is that the mass of the population is desperate and tired out. So Trumpist antiwelfarism will add insult to an already massive injury.
  3. Trump idea that he can bring jobs back to the US has to face technological realities. The industrial landscape has changed fundamentally, and both Stiglitz and Gwynne Dyer write eloquently about these difficulties. Trump economics cannot, given the political and economic structures in place at the moment, drive money into the hands of the middle classes: it is merely continue, if not accelerate the transfer of wealth to the top.  Unless Trump suddenly becomes a ‘national socialist’, his project will founder.

Joseph Stiglitz writes:

The only way Trump will square his promises of higher infrastructure and defense spending with large tax cuts and deficit reduction is a heavy dose of what used to be called voodoo economics. Decades of “cutting the fat” in government has left little to cut: federal government employment as a percentage of the population is lower today than it was in the era of small government under President Ronald Reagan some 30 years ago.

the increase in infrastructure spending is likely to be accomplished through tax credits, which will help hedge funds, but not America’s balance sheet: such programs’ long track record shows that they deliver little value for money. The cost to the public will be especially high in an era when the government can borrow at near-zero interest rates. If these private-public partnerships are like those elsewhere, the government will assume the risks, and the hedge funds will assume the profits.

The debate just eight years ago about “shovel-ready” infrastructure seems to be a distant memory. If Trump chooses shovel-ready projects, the long-term impact on productivity will be minimal; if he chooses real infrastructure, the short-term impact on economic growth will be minimal. And back-loaded stimulus has its own problems, unless it is managed extremely carefully.

Read full article here

Gwynne Dyer writes:

Neither Donald Trump nor his new appointment of Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor understands the significance of their forthcoming collaboration.

Puzder bears a large part of the responsibility for fulfilling Trump’s election promise to “bring back” America’s lost industrial jobs: seven million in the past 35 years. That’s what created the Rust Belt and the popular anger that put Trump in power. But Puzder is a fast-food magnate who got rich by shrinking his costs, and he has never met a computer he didn’t like.

He tells us: “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age-, sex-, or race-discrimination case”.

But it isn’t evil foreigners who “stole” seven million jobs, and will probably eliminate up to 50 million more in the next 20 years. It’s the robots and computers that Puzder is so fond of. As automation moves up the skill sets, self-driving cars will annihilate another four million jobs. A 2013 study concluded that 47 percent of existing jobs in the United States are vulnerable to automation in the next 20 years, and the numbers are as bad or worse for the other developed countries.

This is what is really driving the “populist revolution” that caused two of the world’s oldest democracies to make bizarre, self-harming political choices in the past year. First Brexit, then Trump. Neo-fascism looms as we fear  a re-run of the 1930s. Economic growth has slowed since the crash of 2008, and unemployment is much higher than it looks. The official US unemployment figure is only 5 percent, but almost one-third of American men between the ages of 25 and 54 are “economically inactive.” So angry populist leaders are popping up again all across the developed world.

The “Dirty Thirties” ended in the Second World War, and there are obvious parallels today. TheEU is fraying at the edges, and Donald Trump has talked about curtailing US support for NATO. He has also threatened to slap huge tariffs on Chinese exports to the US, and it’s probably a bad idea to push China too hard when it is already in grave economic trouble.

But this is not the 1930s. There are no ranting dictators promising revenge for lost wars, and government benefits mean that unemployment is no longer a catastrophe for most people in Western countries. The old white working class (and some of the middle class) are angry because jobs are disappearing and because immigration is changing the ethnic balance in their countries, but they are not angry enough to want a war.

Trump’s election means that we are in for a wild ride in the next four years, but he will ultimately disappoint his supporters because he is barking up the wrong tree. He cannot bring back the jobs that were lost, because most of them were not lost to his favorite culprits: Free trade and uncontrolled immigration. Even if Trump understood this, he could not admit it in public, because there is nothing he can do about it.

Read full article here. Dyer’s article reiterates some of Joseph Stiglitz’s earlier warnings.

 

Rand Paul Vows to Block John Bolton as Deputy Secretary of State

Jason Ditz writes

President-elect Donald Trump is facing criticism for other nominations, but none may be so impactful as Sen. Rand Paul’s (R – KY) promise to oppose John Bolton’s nomination as Deputy Secretary of State, saying the ultrahawkish Bolton is “an automatic no.”

Paul expressed openness at Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, saying he’s going to reserve judgement on him, but that Bolton “should get nowhere close to the State Department.” Read full article here.

Perhaps the Bolton proposal is a ploy by Trump to manoeuvre the Senate into endorsing Tillerson, while giving them a decoy to shoot down.