Archive

November 21st, 2016

Trump's tangled web of family and business ties

   On Friday, Donald Trump named his three eldest children -- Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric -- along with his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to his presidential transition team. That group will direct the appointment of about 4,000 new people to posts that the White House oversees within the federal government.

    Those appointments are where the president-elect knits together people with his policies; people who get those jobs are by nature beholden to Trump's transition team.

    Membership on the transition team also gives the eldest Trump children skin in the policy game, despite months of assurances from their father and others that there would be a bright, impermeable line separating them -- and their financial stewardship of the Trump Organization -- from the inner workings of the White House.

    Donald Trump himself already brings ample financial and business conflicts of interest to the White House. And President Trump, like all presidents, will be free from the conflict-of-interest laws that proscribe the financial dealings of most other members of the executive branch.

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Trump promises to tear up trade deals. Here's what he should do.

    Donald Trump's upset of Hillary Clinton was fueled in no small part by the votes of working-class Americans, mostly whites, for whom his populist economic message deeply resonated. At the heart of that message are what the president-elect called the "disastrous trade deals" signed by Democrats like President Bill Clinton (NAFTA) and supported by President Obama (TPP).

    Of course, Trump was challenging Republican orthodoxy as much as that of Democrats, which also explains the depth of his support on the issue. For decades, elites from both parties ignored those who see themselves, often with good reason, as being hurt by trade with low-wage countries. For those of us who've long been documenting these downsides of trade (while, in my own case, not at all dismissing the upsides), the question was less whether an anti-establishment candidate would gain traction from this issue and more what took an opportunistic politician so long to discover its potency.

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Trump led an anti-intelligentsia revolution

    Donald Trump will often be mocked in the coming months as the anti-elitist, anti-establishment disruptor of politics who wants to lower taxes on the elite and who is not above hiring establishment figures such as Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus for his team. The mockery will mostly be misplaced simply because the terms "elite" and "establishment" are understood too broadly: Trump's movement was against only certain forms of establishment elitism that have nothing to do with wealth, membership in a party hierarchy or even political experience.

    By most measures, of course, Trump himself is part of the establishment. He's a billionaire who knows most of the country's celebrities and power brokers socially. He went to Wharton. He lives in a Manhattan penthouse. The people who voted for him aren't too dumb to notice that. They weren't fooled by rhetoric that somehow masked the Republican candidate's true status: He boasted about his wealth, connections and elite education on the campaign trail. And even if he hadn't, skyscrapers bearing his name stick out of more than one city's skyline.

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November 20th

For an evangelical magazine editor, the election brought a 'soul abandonment'

    The night that Donald Trump was elected president, I got very little sleep. Surely the wine I sipped as a wave of red swept from east to west across that horrible, televised electoral map didn't help. But I managed to have one vivid dream.

    In it, I'm standing on a stage in a stadium full of fellow Christians. And I'm telling them that they voted for the wrong candidate, and that Trump's presidency will prove to be a grave mistake.

    Wednesday greeted me as it did half the voting population, with waves of grief. But since then, the grief has turned into a more complex emotion - something like soul abandonment. After an election in which 81 percent of my white co-religionists supported Trump, the faith that has been my home for 20 years seems foreign, even hostile.

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Trump can't repeal the laws of economics

    Following a brief market plunge, the president-elect's speech last Tuesday night was more conciliatory than many expected and emphasized his commitment to infrastructure investment. Investors have, on balance, concluded that the combination of a shift to very expansionary fiscal policy and major reductions in regulation in sectors ranging from energy to finance to drug pricing will raise demand and reflate the U.S. economy.

    The result has been a rise in real interest rates and inflation expectations, along with a strong stock market and a strong dollar. Experience suggests, however, that initial market responses to major political events are poor predictors of their ultimate impact.

    The late MIT economist Rudiger Dornbusch made an extensive study of the results of populist economic programs around the world, finding that while they sometimes had immediate positive results, over the medium- and long-term they were catastrophic for the working class in whose name they were launched. This could be the fate of the Trump program given its design errors, implausible assumptions and reckless disregard for global economics.

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There's no silver lining to Trump's win. Progressives must make their own.

    Donald Trump's election to the presidency has permanently damaged the country. There's no getting away from that. But those of us who lost Tuesday can still build something from the wreckage. We can find and support each other in defense of common values. Americans across the political spectrum are alarmed by the election result. Here are some concrete ways we can act.

 

- "Mourn, then organize."

    As Peter Dreier recently noted in the American Prospect, Democrats need some time to mourn. Take that time for self-care, for whatever gives you joy and restores your resilience. I certainly needed that time. I'll never forget election night. About 10, my daughter, so excited about a potential Hillary Clinton victory, asked me in tears, "What's happening, Daddy?" My own tears began to flow.

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The trouble with Trump's infrastructure plan

    During the Obama years, most conservatives were against fiscal stimulus and most liberals were for it. Now that President-elect Donald Trump has proposed a major boost in government spending, many commentators will feel urges to migrate to the opposite positions. In light of this ideological turmoil, we should keep a clear head on when government spending truly stimulates the economy.

    The first principle is not to be fooled by increases in measured gross domestic product. A new Trump stimulus would probably boost GDP, but that doesn't mean it would be working well.

    Measured GDP just doesn't capture the relevant trade-offs for evaluating government spending. For instance, a lot of U.S. workers are producing organizational capital. They work on business plans, building client lists, developing marketing strategies, cultivating customer relations and performing other future-oriented activities common to service-sector enterprises. On any given day, most of us are not churning out additional widgets.

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The heartbreaking letters my immigrant students wrote me about Donald Trump's win

    As I watched the election coverage Tuesday night, the only thing I was thinking was "what am I going to tell my students tomorrow?" I teach government at a high school for recent immigrants. Some of my students are here legally, many as refugees, others are undocumented, and some came without documents and have since been granted asylum.

    I decided to write them a letter to explain how I was feeling. I invited them to respond. Here is an excerpt of the note I gave my class on Wednesday, along with the reflections they shared in response:

    "I know that many, if not all of you, came to this country with hope that our government would protect you from many of the problems in your countries. I feel like my country has let you down. We tell the rest of the world that we are this great place and I feel like many of the lies we tell others are becoming clear. I know that many of you are scared right now. I want you to know that I am scared too.

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The 200-year era of 'left' and 'right' is over

    U.S. democracy may be government of the people, by the people, for the people. But who are "We the people"?

    In the United States, every couple of years, one finds out. Elections reveal how the identity of the people - the sovereign person - has changed in body, will, and soul. As with human beings, certain moments in the life of the sovereign being are revealing of its true personality. Donald Trump's victory was one such moment.

    Before the primaries, it was possible to dismiss the electoral relevance of white working-class America, and those left behind by globalization more broadly, and many did: Look no further than the desiccated Washington-consensus platitudes regurgitated by Hillary Clinton and most of the Republican primary candidates.

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Stop protesting democracy: Saying #notmypresident is the same as saying #notmyconstitution

    What was lost in the election last week?

    Decency. Humanity. Morality. All the way around.

    From protesters destroying property in Portland, Oregon, to racists destroying a sense of safety in Silver Spring, Maryland, too many people are undermining the foundation of our country in the aftermath of a polarizing election. And our first order of business is to fix it. Because this is about democracy, really.

    Donald Trump is going to be our president. And saying #notmypresident is the same as saying #notmyconstitution or #notmycountry or #notmyAmerica.

    It is our America. All of us.

    Yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. A majority of Americans who voted last week - and a totally shameful 43 percent of y'all stayed home, and you better not have been at those protests if you did - voted for her.

    But the same constitution that gives protesters the right to peaceful assembly also created the electoral college that gave Trump the White House.

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