Sense from Seattle

Common sense thoughts on life and current affairs by a Seattle area sexagenarian, drawing on personal experience, years of learning as a counselor to thousands of families and an innate passion for informed knowledge, to uniquely express sensible, thoughtful, honest and independent views.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Two Months Later

Much has happened in the first days of the Trump Administration since I asked the question "What's Next" in my posting here on January 11th.  Things happen too fast for me to keep up with events on this blog, but here is contextual view.

Bob Woodward's book "Shadow" came out in 1999. In it he discussed the impact of the special counsel law enacted in the aftermath of Watergate and how it affected the five subsequent Presidents through Clinton. That particular law was allowed to expire after the abusive Ken Starr led witch hunt. It is still possible to get a special prosecutor appointed but the process for doing so is not as specific. One takeaway from the book is that four elements have to be present in order to remove a president: low public opinion polls, a bad economy, a hostile media, and incontrovertible evidence of wrongdoing. In the case of Trump: the polls are low and will probably keep going lower; the economy is in a delicate stage with stocks overpriced and the uncertain and likely ill-conceived Trump and Republican policies possibly leading to a downturn; the corrupt Trump is hostile to the media and they are starting to do a better job of investigating his corruption which makes them technically hostile to him; and the investigative process is apparently already taking place in the judicial, intelligence and ethics sectors of our government and spilling over to the Congress, all of which may at some point produce the incontrovertible evidence.

The big picture for me is simple and is already playing out with the Trump Administration and Republican Congress. Republicans are for tax cuts on the rich and reduced regulations that increase profits regardless of the damage done to the non-rich and the environment. They "pay" for such tax cuts and regulatory reductions by reducing services and safeguards for the non-rich and disregarding any harm to the environment. The "Tea Party" Republicans continue to be a thorn in the side of the more traditional Republicans and now the party has to deal with the corrupt and cuckoo Trump as well as a newly energized Democratic Congressional contingent.

After seven years of demonizing the ACA, Republicans have to come up with its "promised" replacement, something which never existed and which they cannot legitimately create. All they can do to get the Tea Party to go along is cut the tax portions of the ACA while at the same time reducing the actual benefits and number of insured without those who will be affected complaining. Judging by the hostile receptions Republicans received at their local Town Halls, the smoke and mirrors act is not going over well so far.

For now, I will bypass economic analysis except to say I cannot see Trump and the Republicans actually doing anything to give it a shot in the arm. Infrastructure spending is a need on which everyone seems to agree, but how to pay for it is the problem. The obvious answer is to raise the modest federal gas tax which has been at the same rate since 1993, but Republicans will never agree to that, especially since the fossil fuel industry is a huge part of their donor base. More likely is another "smoke and mirror" attempt involving "public and private partnerships" that tries to make it look like minimal tax money is being used when in fact the public debt is actually going to be increased. I doubt the Tea Party will fall for that, but some version of it might be worked out with the Democrats.

The Judicial branch of government has a significant role to play now. Cases can be brought to block specific Trump actions, as was done with the Muslim ban. Trump has always used threats of lawsuits as a bludgeon in his business dealings and it is time for payback by anyone with a grievance against him. As I wrote earlier on this blog, "Sue the bastard". Personal suits against Trump and suits to block his governmental abuses open the door to the discovery process to obtain evidence. This process needs to be as widely used as possible to pry open the door of secrecy he has always hid behind. He is actually proud of his lack of business ethics and flaunts it to bully those unfortunate enough to get engaged with him. Once elected he tore off any mask of propriety and openly says no conflicts or ethics rules apply to him or to those who work in his White House. There is a germ of truth in that, but blatant conflicts and lack of concern for appearances of propriety will erode further his already historically low favorability ratings. Flying down to Florida every weekend at a cost of $3 million to taxpayers and having to pay for secret service protection for his globetrotting sons and daughters is going to get old fast. 

All the talk of Trump connections to Russia is not fully registering with the public yet. Congressional Republican committees are reluctant to seriously pursue Russian inquiries until they see what legislation they can get enacted before Trump's favorability drops even lower. Democrats on the committees will have to take the lead in trying to expose Trump and raise the call for deeper investigations. John McCain, no Trump fan, may probe some through his Armed Services Committee. For now it is the media doing the hard investigative work and publicizing their findings. What the FBI and intelligence agencies are investigating in this regard is being leaked a little but the bulk of it will probably only be disclosed to Congress behind closed doors. For Trump to fall, this line of inquiry must lead to incontrovertible evidence of his wrongdoing.


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