Sunday, December 31, 2017

Competition vs. Cooperation

Trump is a reaction to Obama.  

It was clash between two world views: a Hobbesian world of competition over a idealist world of cooperation.

Trump is a competitor.  He sees the world like a warrior sees the world: Nice guys finish last.  

A lot of people see it that way, too.  They like a bully.  They think bullies understand the world.  Business is competition.  Labor markets are competition. Rigor builds character.  

Election Night, 2016
Obama's polite tone projected a world view of thoughtful cooperation, respect, appreciation of constraints, blowback from decisive actions, and the interests of others.  Obama saw two sides in Israel-Palestine struggle.  Obama welcomed multilateral agreements.  He saw two sides to the issues of police behavior with black suspects. 

Obama said there were no red states and no blue states.  There was only the United States of America.  That--and the complete collapse of the American financial system under the watch of a Republican president--got Obama elected.  We thought we wanted a uniter, until we got one.

Obama set the stage for Trump.

Republicans saw Obama as weak.  They called Obama "feckless."  Sarah Palin said he wore "mom's jeans."  Trump said he got rolled by Mexico and China on trade.  All the Republican candidates criticized his imposing rules on drone strikes to minimize collateral deaths of bystanders.  Obama's administration did not dissolve the financial institutions whose carelessness and greed destroyed the economy, nor did he prosecute the leaders of it. He worked out a deal. 


Barrack Obama communicated a world view that humans--and nations--live in a complicated world where the interests of others overlap and conflict, and that people and leaders need to act with self restraint as we negotiate these relationships.

Trump communicated an opposite view.  Humans--and nations--live in a complicated world of competition, where the interests of others overlap and conflict, and that each are attempting to win.  Only saps, weaklings, and losers exercise self restraint.   Play to win, in trade and geopolitical influence.

The limits on any one party are created by the competition between the self-interested actors, not by third-party rule makers, and most certainly not by self-defeating politeness.   

Click Here: "You can't handle the truth"
Trump is a competitor.  A great many people see the world as a tough world of competition, with winners and losers in a zero sum world.  The attached clip is cited frequently, for the simple reason that it dramatically depicts this world view:  

"You can't handle the truth.  Son, we live in a world that has walls and those walls need to be guarded with men with guns. . . . You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. . . and my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives."

Dog eat dog, and "America first" are not grotesque ideas to Trump.  

Trump is criticized by the media and by Democrats for governing for his base, rather than "reaching out."  That misunderstands Trump.  Trump sees governing for his base as a point of pride--and so do a great many American voters.  Jesus' instruction to "turn the other cheek" was revolutionary and remains so, because it is simply not how most humans think.  Life experience tells them that when they turn the other cheek they get taken advantage of.  That was Trump's fundamental charge against Obama: he was weak and let himself and the USA get taken advantage of.

Roman General.  Presidential.
Trump sits in the oval office.  He won.  His Christian base expects him to use that advantage in the courts.  His Zionist base expects him to carry out a Netanyahu favored policy in Israel.  His trickle down corporate base expects him to cut taxes on the tenth of one percent.  Trump is keeping those promises.

In a world where the equilibrium is set by wins and losses, not rules, winners win and losers submit.  Democrats use words like "bully" and "provocateur" and "vulgar" and "self interested" and think they are calling him bad names. They don't understand why Trump doesn't cool it and moderate his image to become more "presidential."  Trump thinks he is being presidential, and so do a great many Americans, when he is bluntly selfish and insulting to rivals. 

Democrats would make a mistake to advance a constitutional scholar or a legislator to take him on. Trump is a warrior.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

We have a mad King, on a path to re-election.

Trump may be crazy.  It won't keep him from being re-elected.

He is the center of attention.

Being senile or psychotic is not a disqualification.

You can rent it.
Students of Roman history are familiar with the idea of crazy leaders.  Caligula made his horse a Senator, married his sister, and had multiple people killed.  The King George the Third that the American colonies rebelled from in 1776 had rages and hallucinations.  

The system survived them.  

I myself observed a man unfit for the presidency, indeed unfit to dress himself.   It was the summer of 1992.  I attended a Bohemian Grove weekend and arrived early for a "lakeside chat" by former president Nixon.  I had a front row seat on a bench.  A man tapped my shoulder from behind.  "Would you mind giving up your seat for President Reagan?"   I turned and stood.  There was Ronald Reagan, 3 1/2 years past his presidency.  He was led to me by his handler.  Reagan himself was a zombie, staring vacantly.  He appeared to have no idea where he was.  His handler sat him down onto the bench.  Reagan's head dropped.  Alzheimers.

In his final couple of years in office Reagan was no trouble.  He was fading out, and he was surrounded by capable people. We survived.

Madness is a different thing.  It is active and energetic and disruptive. It may be bad governance but it is not bad politics.  Democrats need to figure that out, but they haven't yet.

Crazy is interesting and genuine.  Transcripts of informal talks often read "weird."  I know from personal observation that Trump is an extreme version of this.

The transcript of this week's half hour interview with NY Times reporter took things up another notch, with Trump seeming both incoherent, vainglorious, and unable to focus. Commentators on the left are calling him crazy.  Diseased.

Trump:  "I know more about the big bills. … Than any president that’s ever been in office. Whether it’s health care and taxes. Especially taxes. And if I didn’t, I couldn’t have persuaded a hundred. … You ask Mark Meadows [inaudible]. … I couldn’t have persuaded a hundred congressmen to go along with the bill. The first bill, you know, that was ultimately, shockingly, rejected. … I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A.. . . "

Weird. Worrisome to many.  

Thad Guyer left a comment yesterday, the burden being that Americans are in the midst of a Stockholm Syndrome, in which the victim of a kidnapping or other abuse becomes so fixated on the abuser that they become dependent upon him:

Guyer wrote:  "Trump is the first president in my lifetime for which our president is a daily obsession, not just in the USA but across the globe. All of us are addicted to him, every tweet echoes in the media. Even to his most ardent detractors, Trump has become the value equilibrium in how we articulate our values if not our entire political selves. Can America psychologically simply cut off that life and return to normalcy in our body politic, to boring ho-hum politicians? If Trump is reality television, the most popular show of all time, will voters just turn it off after one season? What would replace his tweets and our media obsession?"   [Read the full comment in the comments section of yesterday's post.]

Trump might in fact be "crazy" in some way, but this is yet another misdirection for Democrats. Democrats think that Trump craziness is bad.  In fact it is good for Trump. Trump is crazy-interesting, and he is crazy-appealing to his base.  He is a provocateur. And the focus on Trump simply adds to the Stockholm Syndrome effect.  All eyes on Trump.

Like the Archie Bunker character, saying ignorant bigoted things, and like the Steven Colbert character doing the exaggerated version of Bill O'Reily, Trump has created a fascinating character.  
Trump's undisciplined mania for praise are wonderful fodder for comics, but they are not the route to Democratic victory in 2018 and 2020.  They affirm the Trump brand and they keep the attention on Trump.

Democrats cannot be simply not-Trump.  They need an interesting character of their own.  

That character will need to be OK with progressive policies to get the nomination, but he or she cannot be--overtly or by implication--condescending and disrespectful to the "deplorables."  Opponents will attempt to depict any Democrat as an effete snob. Count on that. The Democrat needs to make that difficult and unpersuasive.

He or she needs to be OK with patriotism, religion, country music, and blue collar work. The Democrat needs to be OK with empowering women, but also recognize that it isn't easy to be a guy, either. The Democrat needs to address immigration as medicine, something in which dose is critical, and acknowledge that there are side effects to manage.  

It is time for Democrats to elevate Democrats.  Enough Trump.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Trump could be re-elected.

It's the economy, stupid.

There is a school of thought that Donald Trump is voicing the right policies and that Trump-ism is more popular than the unpopular Trump.

Immigration policy.  One presumption is that, in fact, a great many Americans are worried about too many immigrants, too fast, and that they are changing traditional America.  Trump led on that issue and he demolished his GOP rivals, then beat Hillary.  

Click here. Politico article saying what this blog has been warning.
Job policy.  Another presumption is that Trump spoke aggressively to American jobs, via trade protection and offshoring, and that Americans of both parties were ready to change from the bi-partisan policy of free trade.

Foreign policy.  A third presumption was that Trump voiced a strong and selfish America First policy, and a great many voters thought the Obama language of cooperation and harmony came across as weak, and they wanted Trump-style change.

I say no.  That's not it.  It isn't policy.  It is salesmanship.

Donald Trump is a skilled brand manager and he is--right now--at work creating an extension to the Trump brand.  

Trump is evolving from "Mr. Shake Things Up on Policy" to "Mr. Prosperity."  And it is working for him.  Democrats are letting him get away with it.

Trump says, prior to me it's carnage.  Now the economy is booming. By the time of the mid-term elections GOP candidates will have a story in place that makes all the mis-steps and frustrations and midnight tweets of Donald Trump and the GOP legislative fecklessness irrelevant.  

Their story will be:  "Well, Trump may be a little undisciplined, but he sure knows how to supercharge the American economy.  The tax bill was part of that."

That is it.  That is enough.  

Trump's presumed collusion, his golfing, his narcissism, his tweets, his intemperance, his White House chaos, his emollients, his family, his crassness, his hairstyle, his dishonesty, his fawning love of Fox--all the things that get Democrats riled up--become irrelevant.  GOP people can concede them, if they want.  The more time Democrats focus on them the more time they utterly waste.

Trump's quirks?  Who cares. He's Mr. Prosperity.  It's the economy, stupid.

Democrats have a choice: either they say he improved it for stockholders and the very rich (which he did) but not for the average middle income person, or they argue that the improvement was underway under Obama and all Trump did was ride on Obama's coat-tails.  It is probably too late for the second option.  Neither Obama nor other Democrats made the claim of recovery clearly and strongly when they had a chance.  

Therefore, Democrats are left with the path of saying the recovery is un-even, that the stock market reflects the rich and the comfortable getting richer, not the poor and middle class getting ahead.  It puts Democrats in the position of being nay-sayers. It puts them in the class-war position, the poor against the rich. And it forces Democrats to say that business is not all that good, even though, in fact, it was getting better under Obama and is improving still.   It is less than ideal.

The bad news for Democrats is that in fact Trump salesmanship changed investor and public sentiment.  Consumer confidence is up.  He is in the enviable place of being a cheerleader for the home team. That is the Trump brand: saying his hotels are the best, his steaks are the best, his country is the best, his economy is the best, and his presidency is the best.

Democrats need to get on this, with a narrative of rich man's bliss and middle class neglect, and then they need to sell it as well and vigorously as Trump sells his narrative.  Or else quietly pray for a recession.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Roiled Waters when the Tides change

There is a big change happening in the culture war.  Majority Rule is out.  Minority rights are in.

The Culture War is the current big divide between the two political parties.  The Moral Majority people are figuring out that they are actually a minority now.   

They are building a fortress to keep back the tide of history.

Gerrymandering.  Stacked courts.
Political party ideologies mostly clash on culture, not economics.  The differences between Democrats and Republican are not economic or class based.  Neither party is clearly pro or anti free trade.  Neither party is consistent on taxation of different income segments.  Everyone says they want to tax the rich and help out the middle class.  Both parties talk "populism."

Trump's criticism of immigrant interlopers was a defense of the public benefits and the safety net for its rightful beneficiaries, not a criticism of it.  Under Trump's leadership of the GOP neither party opposes America as a social welfare democracy.  (Presently Trump in; Ryan out.)

In the culture war there is an anti-abortion party and a woman's autonomy party.  A party uncomfortable with gay marriage, and one that accepts it.  A party of church-going Christians, and a party that sleeps in on Sundays.  A party of whites, and a party of diversity.  A party that resists European style cosmopolitanism, and a party that sees diversity as the inevitable and acceptable future.  

Great again vs. becoming fairer.

Religious conservatives see the handwriting on the wall. They are losing the position of "Majority Triumphant."   Trump and Fox are asserting we can now--at long last--say 'Merry Christmas," he says. The assertion is factually laughable, but psychologically correct.  It embeds a premise:  Christian primacy is at war and their side is in slow retreat because they are losing.

The Christian right sought one big policy action from Trump: appointment of conservative judges.  These judges are not there to expand majoritarian power. Those judges are there to defend minority rights.  

The Masterpiece Cake vs. Colorado case pits minority rights of free speech and the free exercise of religion against majority culture.  The "conservative" position is to allow the baker to exercise a personal religious right, to refuse service of decorating a cake for a gay marriage.  They are defending religious practice over a majority consensus that it is nasty--and illegal--to discriminate.  

Inconsistencies are rampant.  Today Trump, Fox News, and conservative political opinion condemn black athletes from exercising a free speech right to protest police violence.  In years past Jehovahs Witnesses wanted the free exercise of religion to avoid saying a Pledge of Allegiance.  Conservative opinion had been that they must conform.  They are on both sides of this.

But even in this change of tides there are swirls and eddies.  They defend faith, but  mostly Christian faith, not the free exercise of Muslim faith.  The conservative Christian majority opposed building a Mosque near the World Trade Center site.  

ACLU: it's about discrimination.  Not religious freedom.
Inconsistencies take place on the left as well.  The ACLU defends the gay couple, not the baker.  In cases past, the ACLU defended the Jehovah's Witnesses and the religious minority.  The ACLU generally defends the underdog.  Currently it is the gay couple, not the baker.  In future years this might switch, as the left and ACLU figure out what the right is realizing, that Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority is mis-named.  It is no longer a white, Christian nation.

But they won a squeaker with Trump, and they are using this time to build physical and legal fortresses to lock in their vanishing majority.  Walls on the border.  End 14th Amendment birthright citizenship.  Slow legal immigration. Voter ID.  Reduce voting hours.  Keep former felons from voting   Gerrymander House districts.  Appoint and confirm conservatives to the courts.  Attack higher education.  Embrace media silos. Home schools.

These are fortresses in a retreat.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Focus on good policy, not good investigations.

Being smart angry.

That means being angry at your real opponents, not your frustrating allies.

I witnessed a smart piece of political wisdom earlier this year.  I was standing next to a senior political aide to Senator Ron Wyden, and we were observing a group of angry young climate activists.   I had said to her that I thought they were too perfectionist, too demanding, too intolerant of compromise.

Liberal, but not the most liberal.
She told me to relax.  They are young and idealistic and dedicated, she said.  That is a good thing.   I appreciate their dedication and impatience, she told me.   I pushed back, "But they say mean, impatient things about Ron."  She said their idealism was what was important and they are impatient because they really, really expect things to change quickly.  Maybe with their pushing, it will change for the better slowly.

I respected that attitude.  Ron Wyden is among the more liberal senators, but there is room to his left. Oregon's own other senator Jeff Merkely is more liberal.  Click for a ranking.  So is Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and a few others.  Wyden gets angry flack from the post progressive vanguard of the progressive and environmental left.  Some call him the enemy, and denounce him.  But the attitude of his political staff isn't anger back.  It is to embrace their activism.  She said they aren't enemies, for goodness sake.  They are the leading edge energy.  


But there is some misdirected anger out within Democratic thinking.  It is easy to be angry at frustrating and disappointing allies.  They are so close at hand, their values are so similar, and yet they are so frustratingly wrong-headed about something.  I see it.  I experience it.  It is dangerous.  

Democrats risk being the party of investigations, not the party of solutions.  It may be what people feel, but it isn't smart.  Indeed, it is self destructive.

I monitor and participate in a number of political Facebook groups, some of which are self-consciously by progressives, for progressives.  A great many people in these groups voice anger directed at the DNC, Debra Wasserman Schultz, Donna Brazile, Tom Perez, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic Party generally.   Much of the energy is stuck at the presumed stupidity and injustice of nominating Hillary and not Bernie Sanders.  The ongoing refrain within those circles is that the process must have been corrupt to have come up with such an unwelcome result.  And there is evidence of it.  It all diverts from progressive policies. They want investigations and removals.

Same with Russian collusion with Trump.  Many progressives make impeaching Trump a litmus test for being a "real" progressive.  Nancy Pelosi is criticized for not pressing for impeachment.  An election as unwelcome as Trump's simply must have been from a corrupted process. 

Impeachment talk is a false direction.  It sends the message that Democrats are angry-dumb, and not the party of solutions. The more time Democrats spend on Russian collusion the less focus they give to defining and articulating progressive policies that can attract the loyalty and enthusiasm of American voters.  Anger at Hillary, anger at the DNC, and impeaching Trump isn't smart anger.  

Trump has defined his brand as a change agent. That is locked in. There is room working with that brand identity to shape that brand to show Trump generates destructive, chaotic change: bad.  With Trump defined as destructive change, there is room for Democrats to define themselves as agents for helpful change.  To do that Democrats need to get a grip on their focus and their brand.  If Democrats are mostly angry about process and corruption then they are simply a different form of destructive change and therefore not really an alternative to Trump.   Democrats become a good alternative to Trump when Democrats are associated with policies of good change.  That could be Democrats.

That is being angry smart.  

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Animal Spirits

Investors are enthusiastic about Trump economy.

Democrats will be stronger if they recognize and learn from things that are aiding Trump's popularity.  Trump unleashed the "Animal Spirits" of consumer and investor confidence.

A great many people consider Trump to be vulgar, narcissistic, autocratic, unstable, intemperate, manipulative, dishonest, and racist.  I ask readers to accept for a moment that all these things are true. Then simultaneously acknowledge that it is possible for even such a man as Trump to have done something right. 

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Trump pushed the psychological "RESET" button on the American economy.  For better or worse, Trump represented the possibility of dramatic change.   Possibly it would be terrible change--nuclear war with North Korea. Even the imagined potential for catastrophe had a purpose that helped Trump: it made realistic the notion that Trump could create dramatic change.  

Trump was a shot of adrenaline to the system, particularly to the investors and entrepreneurs of America. Beginning the morning of the election the stock market was swamped with buy orders.  Mutual fund managers, hedge fund principles, institutional traders and the body of independent investors all simultaneously, on balance, made an estimation:  Trump would be good for American business.  

They estimated that Trump would eliminate some of the regulations intended to keep banks from self destructing. They assumed Trump would unleash petroleum frackers, drillers, and marketers. And Trump would support tax cuts for businesses thus increasing corporate after-tax earnings.  Plus tax cuts for the very wealthy.  And Republican Trump could get an infrastructure bill through a Republican Congress that had stifled Obama accomplishing. They estimated that judges conservative on abortion and gay rights would be conservative on business issues.

At bottom, they calculated that Trump's populism was just surface deep sweet talk to get the gullible coal miners and nationalist flag wavers and Christian evangelicals and modern day Archie Bunkers to vote Republican, but that Trump's main instinct and policy would be to protect the interests of people doing business.   

They were right.

Post election.  I saved jobs.
On the day after the election Donald Trump turned from pessimist to optimist. Trump announced a demarcation line.  Before him, misery and job loss and bad deals and carnage.  After his election, happy days.

Days after the election he had photo ops with labor leaders and with businesses planning to move factories to Mexico.  Tump had his story.  A new era.  He sold it.  The media and Democrats looked like whiners.  

Obama had not stood in front of a factory in Indiana, claiming to have saved jobs. Trump did.

As this blog as reported, in fact the economic recovery is continuing a trend line started eight years ago, but the psychology and narrative is in fact different.  The president is saying things are good now. 

Investors believe it.   The stock market has climbed 28% in the one year after election day.  

Democrats need to understand and integrate this reality of sentiment and create a narrative to explain it.   Trump has his narrative: It was me.

Democrats are late to create a counter narrative.   Obama never pushed RESET after the 2008 financial crisis, no other Democrats sold the idea of optimism and recovery.  Too many people still felt blue.  

The next Democratic message can not be "we need economic change" because Trump has claimed the success and no one wants to change success, full employment, a booming stock market, and an economy running at full tilt. 

Democrats wasted a year telling people what they already knew: that Trump was an unstable, impetuous, narcissists. That may not be relevant, if the issue is a strong economy and Trump owns that. Democrats have not been telling people what they needed to know, which is that Trump inherited a booming economy.  Those banking "regulations" are actually protections to keep the bankers from stealing us blind once again and to keep the rebounding economy on track.  And the environmental "regulations" are actually protections to keep the oil and gas people from using our air and water as a dump so their billionaires can get even richer.
It is too late for to change the past. Trump claims credit for the optimism.  Democrats let him.

Events might reverse the narrative.  A recession is overdue. Trade war might break out.  Trump might stumble us into war somewhere. But Democrats made a major mistake when they let Trump claim credit for the current recovery.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Political Christianity on Christmas Day

Christmas has been weaponized.   The political right found a good political issue.

Click: 30 Seconds. Taking on Atheists
It rallied the team.  It was good politics.  The intended victim was Democrats.  

The Christian right's embrace of Trump is one of the great political triumph's of recent politics.    Trump created a voting block of some 25% of the electorate--white self-identified evangelicals--and some 85% of them voted some for Trump.   

They voted their politics, and they linked their politics to the idea of anti-abortion and state sanctioned primacy of Christianity.  In the Republican primaries Ben Carson and Ted Cruz rivaled Trump for this issue.  Cruz had run for Senator from Texas as a champion of political Christianity and continued it in the Presidential race.  The voters preferred Trump.  The Christian right transferred their support to Trump.

Fox: Christmas Morning
Trump worked for that support.  He promised to transform the courts.  That was the prize for the Christian right.  He got the early support of Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and heir to his legacy.  Trump echoed the Christian nationalism theme of Bill O'Reilly on Fox, a Christian warrior in the perpetual "War on Christmas."   

Fox settled in on Trump.  Trump had his team:  Fox, Breitbart, the Christian right, and then the GOP.

Trump understood that Christmas was a symbol of public establishment of Christian primacy.  Nativity scenes in parks, civic tree lighting, public office closures, school holidays: Christmas was affirmation that Christianity was on top, the normal and traditional thing, America great, again and still.   It was not one of many.  Yes there are Jews, and yes there are Muslims, and yes there are non believers but Christmas was special.   Therefore Christians are special.

Christianity is the default.

Oppose "leftists."
Today is Christmas and conservative media has a story to tell on Christmas morning.  

Jesus is back on top, with a champion in the White House.  The good people of America have elected a Republican who has confronted secularism and joyously celebrates real Christmas.  Donald and Melania in the White House.   

Tradition. Christianity. Trump. The GOP.  Jesus. 

Jesus has taken sides.  No one overtly puts a "Vote Trump" button on Jesus' robes, but the political right has linked itself to Christian primacy.  Vote Christian; vote Trump. Vote GOP.

Christian voters are bought in.  Some 90% of white self-identified evangelical voters supported Mitt Romney in 2012.  Some 80% supported Roy Moore in the Alabama special election.  

Merry Christmas
The liberal Christian church--the Matthew 25 church of outreach to the poor, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned--is politically quiet.   Silent Night. Whatever spirituality they practice is nearly invisible.

The visibly political Christian church embraced nationalism based on race and  national origin. It won. The most segregated time in America is 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning.  The white Christian church won, and this is their first Christmas morning.  Previous presidents celebrated the Christmas tree lighting and sent Christmas greetings.  It was a tradition of continuity and inclusion.     

Inclusion is political, and it lost.  Trump celebrates Christmas as victory.  Jesus and Trump won big.  

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Walden tells a half truth.

Walden's story is partly true, but not true.  It is not the whole truth.  It is not nothing but the truth.

Walden is a Oregon Rotarian. Oregon Rotarians are the kinds of people he hurt the most: business and professional people.

It probably won’t matter.  The Republicans will still vote for him.

Click: Walden sells it: It's a Middle Class tax cut.
Greg Walden is in an interesting spot.  He is a Republican in a nice safe Republican rural mountain-west type district in Oregon.  Because Oregon is a blue state that took advantage of the Medicare expansion under the ACA his District has the nation's highest number in the country of constituents who profited from the Medicaid expansion--the expansion he and the GOP worked to repeal.  Hospitals in his district would be particularly vulnerable to those people losing coverage. Yikes. Moreover, he is the sole Republican congressman in a state that is number two in the nation (behind California) in being a state whose prosperous citizens will find their taxes raised by the tax bill he just passed.  The cap on deductions is brutal on two-income Oregon families.

Double whammy for his state and district.

He isn't on the outside looking in, a scrappy fighter saying "Don't do this!"  He is a leader in the GOP.  He is on the inside.

Lobbying was very effective
But Walden can pull this off.  He has a reputation and manner as a nice genial guy.  That is a huge asset.  He looks and sounds sincere.  Earnest, not angry.  It's a Republican District and a lot of voters are inclined to believe him. Unlike Trump, he does not brag about the enemies he smashed.   He does the opposite.  He minimizes, he misdirects, and he fibs.

First, Walden says something we would like to be true, but is not. 
        "We’re closing the loopholes and making filing your taxes as easy as filling out a postcard. The Washington special interest lobbyists lost, and the hard-working American taxpayers and job creators won."

Media reports on the tax bill report the direct opposite.  It was paradise for special interests.  They helped write the bill, the bill was rushed through without hearings, and the proof is in the pudding.  Special interests came out great.  

Even Walden's own explanation of the bill reveal the handiwork of interest groups jiggling the fine print.  Walden noted that there is a special provision for wineries and craft breweries.  Special provision for medical deductions, home mortgage deductions, and for Oregon farmers for whom a $11 million dollar tax free inheritance wasn't enough, so it was raised to $22 million.

He spoke to the doubling of the standard deduction but not the end of personal exemptions which reverse the value of that.  He spoke to the increased standard deduction but not its effect on donations to churches and nonprofit organizations.  He spoke to the modest tax reductions on some Oregonians but not to how small it was compared to the tax benefit to corporations, inheritors of large estates, and real estate investors like Donald Trump.  He said nothing about retention of the "carried interest" loophole, the one that allows hedge fund principles earring tens or hundreds of million dollars a year to pay lower tax rates than do nurses or truck drivers.

Pass Through Loophole
A fascinating loophole got put into the bill as the final senate votes were being rounded up. There is a special exemption for income earned by business people whose income is earned by a pass-through entity (i.e. S-Corp) rather than as an individual.  This enables a giant tax shift onto employees and away from employers.  Regular working middle income employees don't have this option.  They get W-2 income, payment from their job.  Pass through entities will deduct an immediate 20% from their income.  Here is a Forbes article that helps explain it:  Click: Forbes

Many Oregonians will see a significant tax hike.  The $10,000 cap on deductibility of state income tax--presented by Walden as generous--actually means a tax hike on most Oregonians with two-incomes.   Many Congressmen from states with an income tax rebelled, saying the tax code cannot do that to them.   Not Walden.

Click, Atlantic: Enemies punished
The Atlantic's David Frum has just published an article giving details on the special punishment for enemies--blue states and disfavored professions.  Those two-income families and most professionals were made ineligible for that "pass through" loophole. The loophole is available to real estate owners, but not health, law, brokerage, athletics, performing arts and other personal service professionals. 

Will it matter politically?  Isn't this too complicated to hurt Walden? 


Yes, probably.

After all, who understands S-Corp loopholes and the interplay between lower tax rates--but higher taxable income-- and estate tax exemptions, other than accountants and lawyers?   . Every family's situation is different and it will be hard to compare back and forth just exactly went wrong when a person discovers their taxes seem no less than last year.  

Walden seems like a mild nice guy, not out to hurt anyone.  And he is saying something that is partly true: that many working people's taxes will go down a little.  Accentuate the positive, ignore the negative.

Oregon's two-income families and professional people are the people most aggrieved.  Walden will face them when he gives Rotary speeches, but these are people who are generally succeeding in the current environment and may well vote on issues other than taxes.  Besides, a lot of them are Republicans.  They might believe him and not their accountant.

Solid professional and business people used to be the essential donor class for Republicans, but this is a new era.  The GOP gets its money from the multimillionaires and PACs, not the merely comfortable and prosperous.  It gets its votes from the working class and from cultural conservatives.  

Walden doesn't actually need Rotarian-type professionals to hold his seat.  They got sacrificed.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Immigration Showdown

Democrats have a problem on immigration.

There is an easy solution for them.  But it won't work.

No compromise
First, Republicans.  The Republicans are split on immigration.  There are still a significant minority who like the George  W. Bush policy and some kind of bi-partisan non-confrontational "pathway to citizenship" approach, but the majority like what Trump is saying.   Trump focuses on the problems immigration creates.  Mexican rapists. Muslim terrorists.  Asian job stealers. Border sneakers.  Family bringers.  "And some, I assume, are good people," he admits reluctantly.  

People get the message.  America for Americans.

Meanwhile, Democrats.  Democrats have political room on immigration to differentiate themselves from Trump, just communicate they  are nicer than Trump.  Don't say nasty things, or imply most Mexicans are gang bangers and rapists.  Show the respect to Muslims that George W. Bush showed them.  They could be Trump-lite.  Sure, control the borders better.  Support deportation of criminals more visibly.  Support some kind of moderate position regarding a pathway to citizenship for people who are clearly "innocent" of illegal entry, young children who were brought here by parents, who know no other country than the USA.

There is a problem.  It isn't good enough to please the very group they are trying to please.   Young DACA beneficiaries don't want their citizenship while their parents are deported. They don't want half a loaf.   But Democrats of the kind who are able to be elected--e.g. Chuck Schumer--understand the problem.   The majority of Americans would accept half a loaf.  But the majority dissolves if the immigration-supporters go too far.  The thing that aroused native born white voters was that immigration was coming too fast, too far.  That is what elected Trump.

There is the dilemma.  If Democrats try to compromise--to be better than Trump, but lean in the direction of stronger immigration control, they infuriate the politically aroused DACA people.  But if they please the activist Hispanic community, they estrange the white native born Americans and once again lose the White House.

Here is Thad Guyer's take on all this:


[Thad Guyer is a litigation attorney practicing worldwide, made possible by electronic communication and filings, plus air travel.  He specializes in assisting whistleblower employees.  His experience in litigation gives him unusual insight into which messages are persuasive to judges and juries.  His guests posts here over the past two years document that he was early to observe that Donald Trump's speeches against immigration were getting political traction.]

Thad Guyer

The Ticking DACA Time Bomb for Democrats

Dreamers and Latino activists are livid that Democrats put up no fight at all to include DACA amnesty in the continuing resolution passed Thursday night.  Instead everyone went home for Christmas.  The send off was anguishing, as 31 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus marched to Chuck Schumer’s office right after the vote and confronted him.  Voices were raised, Schumer told them to stop yelling at him. See Washington Post, “In private meeting, Schumer angrily confronted by Hispanic Caucus members as prospects for DACA deal slip again”, Dec. 21, 2017,  Other angry Latinos occupied Senator Tim Kaine’s office chanting “Shame on Kaine” as shown in viral twitter videos. See,  The pleas of these Democratic leaders that it would be catastrophic to shut down the government and injure citizens in the name of non-citizens fell on deaf ears and provoked outrage.  

Trump’s well planned time bomb is ticking.  He carefully packed it in a legislative box, entered March 6, 2018 as the detonation date, and sent Pelosi and Schumer off with it.  They promptly issued a press release saying “Trump agrees with us on DACA”.  That joy lasted 24 hours until the White House said “sure, in exchange for a massive border security package”.   That, it turns out, is the only way to diffuse the bomb.  As CNN asks, “Did Democrats lose their leverage on DACA?”, CNN, Dec. 22, 2017,  The answer is “duh!” 

In the meantime, the GOP and White House have been adding new conditions to any deal, including requiring agreement in principle on “ending chain migration”, i.e., “family unity” applications so immigrants winning green cards can then begin bringing in their families over a period of years.   In Vietnam where I live, for example, whole families place hopes in the strategy that if just one member can get to the USA, then everyone will eventually follow in the next 10 years.  Trump pledges he’s ending that, and GOP majorities are now signaling their agreement with Trump.  Trump owns the GOP as surely as he owns his Old Post Office Trump Hotel at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue.

That’s the really tricky part for Democrats-- how to defuse Trump’s time bomb. Trump quotes the deactivation price in the billions for new border security, and a promissory note on cutting back on chain migration.  The DACA “kids” occupy the halls of Congress crying “no way”, they won’t throw their parents under the bus to benefit just themselves. Trump is unfazed, in fact he’s gearing up to separate families at the border, warning “get back, you’ll lose your kids to ICE, enter legally or not at all!” See, NYT, “Trump Administration Considers Separating Families to Combat Illegal Immigration”, Dec. 22, 2017,  

Democrats are stymied; they can't win by appearing tolerant of porous borders. Yet, it unlikely Democrats can retake Congress and the White House without 70 percent Hispanic support and strong voter turnout.  Democrats are headed for a major reckoning with the ides of March. McConnell is right, campaigning is done in the real world, media and electoral realities have been starkly divergent when it comes to Trump.  That was the lesson of 2016, just as it will be in 2018 and 2020.  Let’s hope Democrats have learned the lesson.