Archive

January 26th, 2017

Yes, Trump's Cabinet is super rich. That's not why we should be worried.

    Can a president with a private jet and a Cabinet of millionaires and billionaires understand and address the concerns of ordinary Americans?

    In much of the media coverage of President Donald Trump and his Cabinet picks, the assumption seems to be no. The Wall Street Journal ran the headline: "Trump's Wealthy Appointments Contrast With Populist Campaign Tone." Similarly, Politico assessed, "Trump's glittering roster of millionaires and billionaires risks undermining the fundamental basis of his campaign before the Manhattan magnate even takes the oath of office." Critics have accused Trump's selections of being out of touch with the working-class Americans he said he would fight for, or, worse, in the words of The Washington Post's Paul Waldman, "just one more con " plotted against the American people by Trump and his cronies.

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Trump's 'America First' policy will cost some countries much more than others

    Just minutes after Donald Trump took over as president, WhiteHouse.gov was updated with his new priorities. Among them? An "America first" foreign policy.

    Trump has laid out a staunchly nationalist vision for America, a zero-sum world where our needs are the only ones that matter. In his inaugural address Friday morning, there was little talk of international cooperation or building bridges. Instead, Trump offered this vaguely dystopian readout: "For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon."

    No more.

    "From this moment on," Trump said, "it's going to be America First." (A slogan popularized, for what it's worth, by Nazi sympathizers.)

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Trump's 10-point plan to help black America doesn't look like much of a deal

    Get ready, black people. It's time for Donald Trump's "New Deal for Black America."

    With his swearing-in as president on Friday, Trump's 10-point game plan for African Americans is now in play.

    "Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves," Trump said in his inaugural address. "But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities . . . an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."

    Among his pledges: a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure, "of which the inner cities will be a major beneficiary."

    There are some catches and caveats, as you might expect from a wheeler-dealer like Trump.

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Trump wants to manage the economy by personally running every business. He can't.

    If the economy is ever going to improve, President Trump is just going to have to do it himself.

    That, at least, seems to be Trump's guiding principle as chief executive of the United States. Previous presidents used their office as a bully pulpit to talk about what should be done, in general macroeconomic terms. Trump, instead, is pursuing the ultimate in ultra-microeconomics; he acts like he wants to walk into the boardrooms of major corporations and tell them how they should be run, how many people they should hire and where. His method: Persuade executives to appease him personally and allow him to take credit for their job creation, in a kind of modern economic version of droit de seigneur. He praises the companies that help his interests and shames the ones whose executives express concerns about his erratic leadership or vague policies on free trade, health care or defense.

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January 25th

Trump is feuding with the CIA, but he could end up making it stronger

    During the transition period from November through January, Donald Trump developed perhaps the most publicly antagonistic relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies of any incoming president in decades. He compared the agencies to Nazis, disdained their reports as fake and dismissed their assessments of foreign interference in the 2016 election. In an interview published in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, outgoing CIA director John Brennan called Trump's allegations "repugnant." Other intelligence officials have expressed a sense of dread about what's to come.

    Yet of all the government agencies likely to benefit, in terms of money and power, under the new administration, the winner may well be the CIA. Not the CIA's leaders in Washington, to be sure. The incoming president seems eager to cut some of the agency's senior spies and analysts. Instead, power would flow to operatives in the field - those who help arm allied foreign military forces, manage drone strikes, command small battles and reportedly kill enemy fighters in places from Somalia to Syria to West Africa to Afghanistan.

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The American debt trap limits options for the young

    "Just finance it!" This has been the advice that the U.S. has given to young people for decades now. We borrow money to go to college, to buy houses, to buy cars and even to make everyday purchases. We're bombarded by internet ads and junk mail offering new mortgages, auto loans, low-rate credit cards. Student loan sales agents meet freshmen in front of the student union on the first day of orientation. Public thinking seems to have shifted accordingly. Where someone from a bygone generation might judge their solvency by how much they have in the bank, we look at our monthly cash flow -- if more money comes in than goes out, we breathe a sigh of relief.

    As a result, Generation X and older millennials are the most debt-laden people in U.S. history. Back in 2014, researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis looked at how debt levels varied by the age of the head of household. Their findings confirm that despite aggressive deleveraging since the financial crisis, the problem remains acute:

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How much normalizing does an abnormal president deserve?

    Michiko Kakutani, chief book critic of the New York Times and evidently no fan of Donald Trump, had tweeted images of Edvard Munch's 'The Scream" and gloomy quotes from Leonard Cohen.

    Meanwhile, over at Fox News, Sean Hannity and Michelle Malkin, in high spirits on the set, had agreed, with broad smiles, about the "giddy" atmosphere in the network's green room as the inauguration approached.

    And New York City's leading tabloid newspapers, presumably without consultation, produced nearly identical front pages for the big day. Both showed a photograph of the new president pointing toward the cameras and the headline, "Don of a New Day."

    Business as usual. But one could discern something new emerging from America's media maelstrom.

    There was a tension - something that felt like cognitive dissonance, the effort to deal with two opposing things at the same time.

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Five myths about Sen. Jeff Sessions

    Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has been the subject of intense debate ever since Donald Trump nominated him to be attorney general. His critics argue that he could lead a radical rollback of civil rights policies, while supporters defend his record as more moderate. Sorting the truth about Sessions from the hyperbole isn't easy.

 

Myth No. 1

    Sessions has an unusually poor record on civil rights.

    Sessions has been called a "threat to civil rights" and "unfit " for his post, largely because of what critics see as his "alarming history of opposing civil rights" and support of policies that reinforce discrimination and produce "racist outcomes."

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CEOs used to bash Trump. Now they're enabling his reckless policies.

    Edmund Burke famously cautioned that "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." I have been reminded of Burke's words as I have observed the behavior of U.S. business leaders in Davos over the past few days. They know better, but in their public rhetoric, they have embraced and enabled our new president and his policies.

    I understand and sympathize with the pressures they feel. I used to remind my colleagues in the Obama White House that "caution is the cheapest form of stimulus." There is a clear case for corporate tax reform, for some targeted regulatory relief and a more positive government attitude toward business. Businesses who get on the wrong side of the new president have lost billions of dollars of value in 60 seconds because of a tweet. And you cannot hope to have influence on an administration you go out of the way to condemn.

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Americans have seen the last four presidents as illegitimate. Here's why.

    It's tempting to see the entirety of Donald Trump's story as unprecedented, but when he is sworn in today as the nation's 45th president, he will be our fourth consecutive leader to assume the office with a segment of the electorate questioning his legitimacy. On that score, Trump doesn't represent a new crisis for American democracy but rather an escalation of one that's been building - one that we've all played a role in creating and that he has deftly exploited to his advantage.

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