Thursday, December 01, 2016

Find something new or keep falling for this con

Joke's on us, America.  Because, surely, none among us could have predicted.....
WASHINGTON — Steven Terner Mnuchin, a financier with deep roots on Wall Street and in Hollywood but no government experience, is expected to be named Donald J. Trump’s Treasury secretary as soon as Wednesday, people close to the transition say.

Mr. Mnuchin, 53, was the national finance chairman for Mr. Trump’s campaign. He began his career at Goldman Sachs, where he became a partner, before creating his own hedge fund, moving to the West Coast and entering the first rank of movie financiers by bankrolling hits like the “X-Men” franchise and “Avatar.”

As Treasury secretary, Mr. Mnuchin would play an important role in shaping the administration’s economic policies, including a package of promised tax cuts, increased spending on infrastructure and changes in the terms of foreign trade. He could also help lead any effort to roll back President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and opening to Cuba by reimposing sanctions on Tehran and Havana.

His selection fits uneasily with much of Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric attacking the financial industry. Mr. Trump, in a campaign ad intended as a closing argument, portrayed the chief executive of Goldman Sachs as the personification of a global elite that the ad said had “robbed our working class.”
"Fits uneasily" with the rhetoric, but not so much with the parade of billionaires and oligarchs Trump has named to cabinet positions in recent days. But Donald Trump is a con man whose entire campaign was one long... and pretty transparent con.

Nevertheless, it is a con that worked.  Did it work, because Trump was able to stir up a tornado of resentment through a stream of racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric?  Absolutely.  Would any of that have been effective, though, if his opponent had not also been certain to install a government of (slightly woke) oligarchs and billionaires?  We never got to find out.  And, unfortunately, the Democratic Party is not going to learn a damn thing from the experience. Here's Tom Frank on that.
And here we are again. Today Democrats are wondering what went wrong, but before too many fundraising dinners have been digested they will have concluded they don’t need to worry, that demographics will bail them out sooner or later, and that the right and noble course of action is to proceed as before.

This will happen because what leading liberals cannot understand – what they are psychologically blocked from understanding – is that the problem isn’t really the white working class. The problem is them.

Let me explain what I mean by reminding you what this form of liberalism looks like. Somewhere in a sunny corner of the country, either right now or very shortly, a group of tech tycoons or well-meaning private equity investors will meet to discuss what went wrong in this election cycle.

They will consider many things: the sexism and racism of Trump voters, the fundamental foreignness of the flyover, the problems one encounters when dealing with evangelicals. They will celebrate some activist they learned about from NPR, they will enjoy some certified artisanal cuisine, they will hand out prizes to the same people that got prizes at the last event they attended, and they will go back to their comfortable rooms at the resort and sleep ever so soundly.

These people think they know what liberalism includes and what it doesn’t include. And in the latter category fall the concerns that made up the heart and soul of liberal politics a few decades ago: labor and work and exploitation and economic equality.
What portion of Hillary Clinton's campaign message addressed economic equality was largely cribbed in watered down fashion from issues that made up the core of Bernie Sanders's message. Instead of free college tuition, she offered loan forgiveness for "entrepreneurs" Instead of a $15 minimum wage, she offered $12... maybe... depending on whether or not individual state governments (largely Republican controlled, btw) got on board. Instead of holding corporate tax evaders accountable she offered them a "repatriation" plan that rewarded bad behavior with huge tax breaks. (More on that in a minute.)

But mostly she kept these issues in the background. Instead, her campaign emphasized Trump's many personal failings in the hope of perhaps shaming enough suburban well-to-do Republicans away from him. Here's Matt Karp on that.
Faced with a Republican opponent who openly touted his affinity for “the poorly educated,” Team Clinton focused on courting white voters at the opposite end of the class pyramid. Trump’s vulgarity and chauvinism, they hoped, would drive wealthy Republican moderates toward Clinton. Rather than aggressively contest Trump’s bogus populism, Democratic strategists concentrated on “moderate” suburban Republicans — the ideological cousins, and often the literal neighbors, of professional-class Democrats.

“For every one of those blue-collar Democrats [Trump] picks up,” former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell predicted in February, “he will lose to Hillary two socially moderate Republicans and independents in suburban Cleveland, suburban Columbus, suburban Cincinnati, suburban Philadelphia, suburban Pittsburgh, places like that.”

Electorally, of course, this strategy proved catastrophic. In the Midwestern swing states, Clinton hemorrhaged white “blue-collar Democrats” without winning nearly enough “moderate Republicans” to compensate.
The most embarrassing fact of this election will forever be Hillary Clinton's failure to defeat a candidate as personally repulsive and as obviously full of shit as Donald Trump. If the Democrats had run a candidate capable of attacking the hypocrisy of the billionaire Trump's flimsy claim to status as a working class hero they should have walked all over him.  Instead they ran Hillary Clinton and the con man Trump is selling candlelight dinners to million dollar donors who fund his inaugural.

But before he does that, Trump has a campaign promise to keep to the people Hillary's neglect turned off whether they held their noses and voted for her or not. 
Mr. Presley, the 59-year-old white Crawfordsville steelworker who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 and Mr. Trump in 2016, was even more emphatic that racial resentment or ethnic bigotry was not behind his support for Mr. Trump. “I grew up on the West Side of Indianapolis in a racist environment,” he said. “But I went to a high school that was 57 percent black, and I played football with a lot of black guys and we became close friends. I learned not to be racist.”

Instead of bias, what animates these voters, whatever their race or political orientation, is a profound distrust and resentment of wealthier, educated Americans, a group they say lacks a connection to them and does not care about their economic situation. And to them, Mrs. Clinton seemed at least as elite as Mr. Trump, if not more so.

“I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for him, but both candidates are evil,” said Ms. Shanklin-Hawkins, who reluctantly voted for Mrs. Clinton, but has never forgiven her for her remarks about “superpredators” in the 1990s, or the mandatory prison sentencing guidelines Mr. Clinton signed into law as president

“Hillary hasn’t sweated a day in her life, unless it was losing a tough case as a lawyer,” Mr. Maynard said. “We wanted to take America in a different direction. I’m just hoping Trump will do what he says.”
In this case, he said he would stop Carrier from shutting down a manufacturing plant in Indiana and moving its operation to Mexico.  In his campaign speeches he also implied that he would prevent any company from following suit by threatening them with severe (though never elaborately specified) penalties. In the Carrier case, though, Trump promised to get personally involved. And so he has.
INDIANAPOLIS — The long-promised call from Donald J. Trump to the heating and cooling giant Carrier came early one morning about a week after the election, when he unexpectedly won the industrial heartland.

The president-elect warned Gregory Hayes, the chief executive of Carrier’s parent, United Technologies, that he had to find a way to save a substantial share of the jobs it had vowed to move to Mexico, or he would face the wrath of the incoming administration.

On Thursday, as he toured the factory floor here to take credit for saving roughly half of the 2,000 jobs Indiana stood to lose, Mr. Trump sent a message to other businesses as well that he intended to follow through on his pledges to impose stiff tariffs on imports from companies that move production overseas and ship their products back to the United States.

“This is the way it’s going to be,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with The New York Times. “Corporate America is going to have to understand that we have to take care of our workers also.”
Wow that is some might tough talk.   But, remember, this is the same guy who just appointed Steven Mnuchin to head the Treasury Department. What, exactly, did Trump and Hayes come to an understanding over? It can't really be "that we have to take care of our workers."  A thousand of them are about to be laid off.
Despite the cheers Mr. Trump received as he walked around the factory floor, where the lines continued to run and he had to shout at times to be heard, another 1,000 workers for the company in Indiana will be losing their jobs.

This includes 700 at a United Technologies factory in nearby Huntington, as well as several hundred here. The 800 or so jobs that are being preserved are mostly on the lines that build medium- and high-efficiency gas furnaces.

Not long after Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence departed for the airport and to another rally in Ohio to celebrate his victory, workers coming in for the night shift received a letter titled “Company Update on Indianapolis Operations.”

“While this announcement is good news for many, we recognize it is not good news for everyone,” the letter stated. “We are moving forward with previously announced plans to relocate the fan coil manufacturing lines, with the expected completion by the end of 2017.”
Probably the $7 million in Indiana "incentives" in the form of tax breaks had something to do with it. This plus the promise of future giveaways and lax regulatory oversight from a corporate-friendly Trump Administration... and, of course, the opportunity to be a part of this PR stunt has Carrier and United Technologies feeling pretty good about their decision to threaten to move.  This isn't unlike what NFL franchises do to cities from time to time. Trump should have built Carrier a stadium.

Here's Bernie Sanders on that.
In exchange for allowing United Technologies to continue to offshore more than 1,000 jobs, Trump will reportedly give the company tax and regulatory favors that the corporation has sought. Just a short few months ago, Trump was pledging to force United Technologies to “pay a damn tax.” He was insisting on very steep tariffs for companies like Carrier that left the United States and wanted to sell their foreign-made products back in the United States. Instead of a damn tax, the company will be rewarded with a damn tax cut. Wow! How’s that for standing up to corporate greed? How’s that for punishing corporations that shut down in the United States and move abroad?

In essence, United Technologies took Trump hostage and won. And that should send a shock wave of fear through all workers across the country.
It should. If only they had been offered a better option during the election they might have taken it. But if Hillary Clinton represented something even slightly better than the con being run on them now, she certainly wasn't trying to convince them of it.  In fact, she was selling her own program of corporate giveaways. Remember that tax repatriation plan we mentioned?  Here's what that does.
American multinational corporations are currently stashing a staggering $2.4 trillion in profits — about 14 percent of the size of the entire U.S. economy — overseas. Multinationals are required by U.S. law to pay the statutory 35 percent tax on profits they earn anywhere on earth, but the tax is not assessed until the profits are brought back to the U.S.

This has allowed Corporate America to essentially hold U.S. tax revenue hostage, refusing to pay its taxes until Americans become so desperate that they will cut a deal giving multinationals a special new tax rate.

This strategy has already paid off once, in 2004, when multinationals got Congress to let them bring back $312 billion in profits at a one-time rate of about 5 percent. The legislation required that the cash be used to hire Americans or conduct research and development. Corporations ignored these provisions and instead used the money to enrich their executives and stockholders, while cutting U.S. jobs.

Both Hillary and Bill Clinton clearly envision cutting a similar deal during a Hillary Clinton presidency, although presumably they intend for the corporations to keep their part of the bargain this time.
"Their end of the bargain this time," was supposed to have been investment in an infrastructure bank which... assuming the money was ever collected... could eventually... depending on the form such a bank would take.. possibly lead to better roads, bridges, sewers, etc... and very likely some connected finance types getting rich in the process but that's Clintonism for you.

Anyway, if you are running the Hillary Clinton campaign, it is your job to draw the very easy (although maybe not exactly honest) line from this idea to "Jobs for working class people!" But the Clinton people never managed to sell their corporate tax  giveaway the way the Trump people sold and continue to sell theirs. And this is why they lost the rust belt. That and too many voters were turned off completely by the fact that they are ruled by billionaires and oligarchs either way. 

And while it's fine to point out that we're worse off under the gang of billionaires and oligarchs who are about to let Paul Ryan replace Medicare with gym membership coupons, looking down the road, it's important to understand that both are unacceptable and we need to find something new in our politics. Otherwise we're going to see new versions of this same con over and over.

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