Saturday, September 30, 2017

Trump: Distract from taxes; focus on the National Anthem.

Trump is a magician.  Look at my pretty assistant.

This week had important events on health and taxes.  The GOP failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, but behind the scenes it isn't being fixed; it is being sabotaged. This effects millions of people directly and all of us indirectly.  Trump announced tax plan that cuts business taxes and marginal tax rates and ends the alternative minimum tax, while asserting that it is a tax cut for the middle class.   This effects everyone, and the consequences for the budget deficit is huge.   Meanwhile 3.5 million Americans are without electricity and thousands of buildings are destroyed.

It is easy to be fooled.  Democrats posting in Facebook appear to think this was a bad week for Trump.  CNN appears to think so as well, with a lead headline about a "mind-bogglingly bad week."

It is CNN whose mind is boggled.  

Trump has distracted the public attention, positioning CNN and the mainstream media as fake and out of touch.  Trump is positioned as the sensible, American truth teller.

It is a pretty good magic trick.

Trump is using big, bold body-language symbolism on cultural issues to overwhelm the straightforward stories of GOP failure and hypocrisy on health and taxes and has made the story about things that serve the big Trump story that makes Trump and his base majority of Republican voters immune to attack.  He finished the week in which he was slow to acknowledge the problems in Puerto Rico with an attack on his accuser.  It is her fault.

Fox News has become the Donald Trump defender network.  Breitbart has stepped into the role of spokes-media for the Trumpian id, but Fox is now State Television, with Donald Trump personally being the state.  (Louis XIV:  "L'etat c'est moi."  "I am the state," he told his Parliament.)   The opening splash page of the Fox News site changes, so I have preserved it with a screen shot, shown below.

Look at the stories covered: Tom Price resigns, Will & Grace outrage (i.e. their topical digs at Trump in the return of the show after several years), a gift by Melania Trump rejected because of political correctness, a black man making "outlandish" accusations against cops, NFL protests, NBA commissioner dealing with protests, Bernie Goldberg opining on NFL protests, Louisiana dealing with anthem protests, How to hack-proof your home, Conservative students being targeted, Tucker Carlson commenting on leftist political correctness, Tucker Carlson commenting on leftists being hypocritical satanists, Tucker Carlson saying politically correct leftists hate Dr. Seuss, the Supreme Court and alert to bias against conservatives, Trump's attacks on poor leadership in Puerto Rico.

Thirteen of the top fifteen stories on page one deal with the culture war.  There are zero on health care and zero on the tax plan.   The stories present blacks, Hispanics, and leftists as unruly and disrespectful of white leadership.  Blacks and Hispanics are unruly and wrong; white liberals are snobs.   Trump--and Fox--are on message.   White resentment, yes; health care and tax policy, no.

Meanwhile, based on 30 years as a Financial Advisor, with decades of close observation of the tax issues of prosperous people in and around the top one percent of income, I consider the Trump tax plan is a modest tweaking rather than a dramatic overhaul of the tax system, but that the effect of it will be to help my prosperous now-former clients lower their taxes.   The mortgage deduction primarily helps the pretty well off, people who have nice houses and mortgages, not the very well off, who don't have mortgages.  The alternative minimum tax generally catches people with big incomes and sheltered incomes or deductions, and that is proposed for elimination.  This is abig deal for the very prosperous.  So is lowering the marginal tax rate.   The news analysis presented in the mainstream news sources--saying that the tax plan has minor effect on everyone but the very wealthy--seems accurate to me.

Meanwhile, Trump calls that news source fake.  Believe him, not them.

The key takeaway, however, is that the news that is getting high emotional attention and is the subject matter of news read by the Trump base is not about taxes or healthcare.  It is about white resentment at dangerous or incompetent blacks and Hispanics, and about the snotty hypocrisy of white liberals.   Trump changed the subject.  The technique is to take the most mockable, least comprehensible cases and generalize them.  So there are two stories on a librarian uncomfortable with a Dr. Seuss book and no leading story on taxes.  And he characterizes the NFL players as people spitting on America.

The result is that Trump gains credibility where it counts.  He appears to understand and share common values (i.e. there is nothing wrong with Dr. Seuss books) and he associates the mainstream press with over-the-top liberal snobbery and hypocrisy.  If on cultural issues Trump is credible, and CNN and the NY Times are unreliable, then Trump must be the credible one on taxes, too.

This works for Trump.

1 comment:

  1. Great points...absolutely true. If you channel flip from CNN to Fox you get the disaster in PR and the tardy response against the NFL protest. The coverage reinforces Regressive prejudices.

    Perhaps those in the Trump cult could be shown how false and biased FOX is, but they don't want to know. To even enter the debate presupposes there is value to the "other side", i.e., the truth.


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