The Real Evil Behind the Republicans’ Tax and Budget Plans

Republicans have long dreamed of destroying the social safety net once and for all.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Neal Gabler / BillMoyers.com

Link: https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/gop-long-game-tax-cuts?akid=16463.123424.ZIXTn7&rd=1&src=newsletter1086211&t=17

Emphasis Mine: 

Bloggers additions:

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=   In memory of the late Belle Likover – http://obits.cleveland.com/obituaries/cleveland/obituary.aspx?pid=186268198        =

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It isn’t easy watching the country you love fall down a black hole from which it is not likely to emerge, but that is precisely what happened this past week with the Senate passage of the so-called “tax reform” bill. Bernie Sanders spoke for many when he said it will “go down in history as one of the worst, most unfair pieces of legislation ever passed.”

To which I’d add, not only the worst legislation, but also the most radically transformative passed in our lifetimes. The bill seems to have something to hurt every American, except for the wealthy. It raises taxes on most middle-income wage earners over the long haul, eliminates the individual mandate for health care (which will send insurance premiums soaring) and allows oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The House version removes deductions for large health care expenses and compels graduate students to pay taxes on tuition waivers, though the Senate version retains both. Speaking of the health care provisions alone, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers predicted millions would die.

But to be perfectly honest, bad as they are — and they are very bad — these aren’t likely to be the worst problems with this patchwork legislation. Though it was seemingly thrown together at the last minute, with senators scribbling changes in the margins even as it was being debated on the floor, and though it was concocted solely to give the Republicans and their monster-in-chief a legislative victory — any legislative victory — it would be misguided to think that there isn’t some grand scheme behind it.

In fact, for all the haphazardness, the tax reform measures passed by the House and Senate, which must be reconciled in conference before final passage, achieve a deliberate and much-cherished GOP goal that supersedes short-term victory. Republicans have long dreamed of destroying the social safety net once and for all. This is the bill that finally threatens to accomplish their plan.

The New Deal, which created that safety net, arose in the Great Depression precisely because the free markets that Republicans insist to this day are the answer to every problem failed Americans miserably. Government was needed to bail them out then and to protect them in the future.

New Dealism was a set of programs — Social Security, public works, fair labor laws, conservation and dozens more — but it was also an attitude about government and the role it could and should play, from actively helping citizens in distress to equalizing an unfair tax structure.

The proof of its success is that Republicans didn’t dare revoke it when they came back to power. Frankly, they couldn’t, because New Dealism was too popular for them to do so. Dwight Eisenhower didn’t even reduce the highest marginal tax rate of the 1950s, which sat at 91 percent. And believe it or not, no one outside of right-wing extremists called him a socialist.

Still, there were elements of the Republican Party that chafed over New Dealism and never gave up hope of rescinding it and returning America to its primordial state — when the wealthy controlled everything and ordinary people were left to fend for themselves. The Republicans, a coalition of big business, farmers and small-town Rotarians, hadn’t been the party of the people for a long time.

The GOP’s two deepest strains may have been personal responsibility and Social Darwinism, and neither was especially hospitable to government intervention of any sort. In combination, these beliefs challenged the very foundations of New Dealism, assuming not that government was a collective instrument to help Americans when they needed it, but that government assistance subverted self-sufficiency and undermined the natural order of things: the poor were poor and the rich were rich because they deserved it.

(N.B.: Social Darwinism was a product of Herbert Spencer – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_Spencer.  The Principle of Natural Selection is Survival of the Fitter, not Survival of the Fittest, as is often misstated.)

This was by no means the entirety of the Republican Party. Though it is impossible to imagine right now, there was a progressive wing of the party with stalwarts like Robert La Follette, George Norris and William Borah. And there were moderates who, while favoring Wall Street, didn’t abhor all government involvement in the economy.

With this concession, New Dealism not only endured the griping against it, but, during Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, grew — with Medicare and Medicaid signal achievements. By necessity, even Richard Nixon was a sort of New Dealer, introducing the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

That’s the way it was throughout the postwar period — until Ronald Reagan.

Of the many ways Reagan changed American politics, among the most important was taking the extreme right-wing factions of conservatism who had been knocking at the party’s door and letting them in. This was a sneaky trick and a cataclysmic one that eventually would lead to Donald Trump.

(N.B.: It is often stated – as in ‘Reagan changed’ , above – that a POTUS was alone responsible for legislation. In Fact – as Donald J. Trump and many of his supporters have learned – a bill becomes law only after it has passed both houses and signed into law by the President: the PPACA  is a example.  I might also observe that when 40 was in office, his mental capacity to comprehend what was happening was always in question.)

Once upon a time, these folks were widely dismissed as kooks and pushed to the margins. Now they were at the heart of the party. All you need to know is that Reagan got his political start delivering speeches about “the ant heap of totalitarianism” and reviling Medicare as inevitably leading to a socialist dictatorship. (We’re still waiting.)

Reagan and his right-wing friends shared one great ambition: to destroy New Dealism. Part of this was to further enrich their rich benefactors and disempower the poor under that old guise of free markets and Social Darwinism. But there’s another possible reason, more psychological than ideological: You hurt people because it makes you feel more powerful and because you think they have it coming. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) admitted as much the other day when he said, in defense of the estate tax repeal, that if you give ordinary Americans tax breaks, they will just waste their money on “booze, women and movies.”

Inevitably, New Dealism and Republicanism cannot coexist, because New Dealism is about helping people and Republicanism is about insisting that people can only help themselves. There is not a shred of empathy in the latter.

And therein lies the real driving force and the grand strategy behind this so-called tax reform. The House and Senate bills will both increase the deficit — the deficit about which Republicans have caterwauled for 50 years — by more than one trillion dollars! But rather than admit such rank hypocrisy, they deny that a trillion dollars will actually be added to be the deficit. The biggest dissemblers say that the resulting economic growth from tax cuts will take care of it, which is utter nonsense. The less egregious liars say that they will raise taxes if the deficit balloons, which is also nonsense. But — and here is the fine print — they say that if necessary they will cut government programs to keep the deficit under control.

That is the basic point. The object of tax reform is to create a gigantic deficit to justify ending the New Deal.

The time will come, and it is not far off, when every New Deal and Great Society program will be on the chopping block. And when they are, Republicans will start their deficit hawk mating call again. And because the deficit will have swelled so much, programs will be slashed. They won’t just nibble away at the edges. They will try to kill the whole thing.

Democrats will protest. They may even be in power. But if they are, they will be handed an untenable situation, having to choose between deficits and programs. In effect, Democrats are being set up. You can already hear Republicans saying we can’t afford Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps or even Social Security. It is government as cruelty.

In the past, when it came to New Dealism, Republicans always had to hide their true intentions because when they dared reveal them, as George W. Bush did when he sought to privatize Social Security, the hue and cry was deafening. In fact, a few weeks ago I wrote about how Americans were wising up, and it’s true that the more they learn about this “tax reform,” the more opposed they are. Right now, the opposition is overwhelming.

But with Donald Trump in charge, Republicans feel no need to conceal. They have been emboldened, I think, to show their true selves because they feel Trump has their back with his supporters — and as long as they have that army behind them, they are willing to take the risk of promoting a “reform” nearly everyone else hates. Those aggrieved white men who form the bulk of rank-and-file Republicanism don’t care if they have to pay more taxes. They don’t care if premitheir health insurance premiums soar. They don’t care if their children can’t afford to go to college. Surveys show that they are more devoted to Trump than to their own welfare, and they will follow Trump wherever he leads, even if he leads them to financial disaster. He voices their hatreds, and hatred trumps policy. Such is modern Republicanism.

In a way, you can’t blame Republican office holders for being fired up. They have the New Deal in their sights, and they are eager to pull the trigger. Yet this country already has suffered grievously from Republicanism and Trumpism. It has lost its moral compass, and is about to put an alleged child molester in the Senate. America is going to suffer a great deal more once the deficit reckoning comes and the great unraveling begins. When the social safety net is gone, what happens to those who fall — which in truth, could be every single one of us?

Neal Gabler is the author of five books and the recipient of two LA TImes Book Prizes, Time magazine’s non-fiction book of the year, and USA Today’s biography of the year. He is a senior fellow at the Lear Center for the Study of Entertainment and Society.

 

The Normalization of Evil in American Politics

The racist, misogynist, authoritarian strain has always been there, but Trump’s candidacy has brought it into the mainstream. And media have helped.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Adele M. Stan/The American Prospect

Emphasis Mine

Time was when a presidential candidate who played footsie with segregationists and white supremacists would have banished to the fringes of the American political scene. But Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has changed all that.

Oh sure, there have been plenty of codes telegraphed to the anti-black base of the GOP’s southern flank: Ronald Reagan’s choice of Philadelphia, Mississippi, as the place to make a “states’ rights” speech in his 1980 presidential campaign; Richard Nixon’s southern strategy and “Silent Majority” framing. But after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, expressions of outright racism were frowned upon in presidential politics. And articulations of misogyny were generally doled out in the form of withering condescension.

I don’t need to recount for you Trump’s friendliness with the alt-right, the white nationalist movement that was given a platform at Breitbart News by Stephen K. Bannon, the man Trump hired as his campaign CEO. You don’t need to take my word for it; Bannon has boasted of this fact. And you surely know of Trump’s numerous retweets of posts and memes from white supremacist websites. And who can forget all of the lovely things he’s said about women, calling them fat pigs and demeaning them for having menstrual periods?

Just yesterday, Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, declined for a second time to say that former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke was “deplorable,” stating that he isn’t “in the name-calling business.” Isn’t it enough, Pence asked, that he and Trump have disavowed Duke’s endorsement?

Trump yesterday won the endorsement of Operation Rescue president Troy Newman, an anti-choice extremist who co-authored a 2003 bookaccording to People for the American Way, that “argued that the government has a responsibility to execute abortion providers.” In 1988, Newman’s co-author, Cheryl Sullenberger, was sentenced to three years in federal prison for conspiring to bomb an abortion clinic.

On Friday, Donald Trump appeared before evangelical Christians assembled at the Values Voter Summit, an annual confab convened by FRC Action, the political arm of the Family Research Council. The conference exhibit hall featured the booths of such co-sponsors as Tradition, Family and Property, a paleo-Catholic cult whose founder described the Spanish Inquisition as the church’s most glorious moment, and the conspiracy-theorist and segregationist John Birch Society, which William F. Buckley thought he had managed to purge from the conservative movement in 1962. This was the first time the JBS appeared in the Values Voter hall of sponsors. It could be said that the Trump candidacy helped pave the way, what with his embrace of the conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones, and his numerous winks to white nationalist extremists.

The following day, FRC President Tony Perkins, who has endorsed Trump, defended the alt-right when I asked him about the movement at a press conference. Its existence, he seemed to say, was the fault of President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, for having “snuffed out” the voices of people who disagree with the administration’s policies.

To lay all of this at Trump’s feet would be to give him too much credit. As I’ve argued before, the misogynist, racist, nativist, anti-LGBT right wing that took over the GOP in 1980—of which Perkins himself is evidence—has much to answer for, not least of all, the rise of Donald Trump as the party’s standard-bearer. Trump may not have been the first choice of right-wing leaders, but they created the conditions that cleared his path to the nomination, and most have lined up behind him since he won it.

But mainstream media are also complicit in this normalization of hatred, allowing it to masquerade in the guise political positions. For decades, when reporting on the Christian right, for example, media have treated it as a religious movement, barely mentioning—if at all—the roots of movement positions in the segregationist backlash of the South. Instead, media executives allowed themselves to be cowed by the right wing’s outrage machine, every time it cranked up its conveyor belt of allegations of the anti-religion bent of reporters.

Today, the same tendency is evident in the false-equivalence reporting prevalent in the degrees to which media cover different stories. Questions about Clinton’s emails demand teams of reporters toiling for months; scandals involving Trump are too often written as one-off reports—so fearful are mainstream editors of fielding an accusation of liberal bias.

In the meantime, a monster has been allowed to grow in our midst. Bannon take an obscure fringe of the right and elevates it to a platform that garners tens of millions of pageviews per month. Trump hires Bannon. Media say, hey, that’s interesting, do one story, and say, “Next?”

Covering the Values Voter Summit this September 9 and 10 was downright depressing. Trump addressed the conference on Friday, and Pence on Saturday—meaning that the conference attendees represent a legitimized constituency of the GOP, as they have for 30 years. The founders of the religious right are passing onto their just rewards. Organizers Paul Weyrich and Howard Phillips died in 2008 and 2013, respectively; Phyllis Schlafly died on September 5 (but not before she took the opportunity to endorse Trump). The movement they founded, however, continues to wreak the havoc of hate on the American political landscape, and the media dare not call it by its name.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet’s senior Washington editor, and a weekly columnist for The American Prospect. Follow her on Twitter @addiestan.

 

see: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/normalization-evil-american-politics?akid=14641.123424.gOievu&rd=1&src=newsletter1063713&t=4

Trump’s Massive Mendacity: How Fox News and the Right Gutted the Truth for ‘The Donald’

Mendacity
Mr. Mendacity

 

Source: AlterNet

Author:Paul Rosenberg

Emphasis Mine

With Donald Trump’s ascension as the GOP’s presidential nominee, we’ve clearly entered a new stage, and as usual this election cycle, it’s happening much more rapidly and in ways that have caught media and political elites by surprise. But how we got here and what lies ahead share much more in common than most are willing to admit, most pointedly, the extent to which the media and the GOP have created the Trump candidacy—despite all their professions of dismay—by decades of devaluing objective reality.

A classic book on this subject is Mark Hertsgaard’s On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency. In an early passage about the GOP’s role in the abandonment of reality, he wrote:

Leslie Janka, a deputy White House press secretary, who resigned in protest after the administration excluded the press from the Grenada invasion, went so far as to say, “The whole thing was PR. This was a PR outfit that became President and took over the country. And to the degree then which the Constitution forced them to do things like make a budget, run a foreign policy and all that, they sort of did. But their first, last and overarching activity was public relations.

As for the media’s role, Hertsgaard interviewed more than 150 journalists and news executives, most of whom “rejected the idea that Ronald Reagan had gotten a free ride from U.S. news organizations,” he noted, “But this self-absolution by members of the press was contradicted by none other than the Reagan men themselves…. ‘I think a lot of the Teflon came because the press was holding back,’ said [Reagan’s Director of Communications] David Gergen. ‘I don’t think they wanted to go after him that toughly.’”

The book presents wide-ranging evidence of precisely how this came about. A classic example was Reagan’s Star Wars missile defense program, which he claimed would render nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete,” an example of “politics as theater taken beyond the absurd…. Had Reagan bothered to ask he would have found that not one of his senior advisers shared his simple minded faith that SDI would protect American people and cities from nuclear ruin. Reagan’s dream of a leakproof nuclear umbrella was a fantasy, and all the King’s men knew it.” Yet, to this very day, the media has never accurately reported how utterly impossible the Star Wars promise was.

But that was three decades ago. In the years since—from the imaginary Whitewater scandal during the Clinton Administration to Iraq’s imaginary WMDs during Bush—the GOP and the media together have created the perfect environment for Trump, a man for whom “everything is negotiable” applies quite literally to the very notion of objective reality itself.

Some in the media understand that something is wrong. Last December, PolitiFact noted that, “In considering our annual Lie of the Year, we found our only real contenders were Trump’s — his various statements also led our Readers’ Poll. But it was hard to single one out from the others. So we have rolled them into one big trophy” and thus awarded is “2015 Lie of the Year” to “the campaign misstatements of Donald Trump.”

And Factcheck.org’s year-end roundup reached a similar conclusion, designating Trump “King of Whoppers,” as it explained:

It’s been a banner year for political whoppers — and for one teller of tall tales in particular: Donald Trump.

In the 12 years of FactCheck.org’s existence, we’ve never seen his match.

He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims, but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong….

In past years, we’ve not singled out a single claim or a single person, and have left it to readers to judge which whoppers they consider most egregious.

But this year the evidence is overwhelming and, in our judgment, conclusive. So, for the first time, we confer the title “King of Whoppers.”

More recently,  in late March, the Washington Post’s fact check editor, Glenn Kessler, collected all of Trumps “four Pinocchio” lies in one place, expressing a similar sentiment:

There’s never been a presidential candidate like Donald Trump — someone so cavalier about the facts and so unwilling to ever admit error, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. At last count, 67 percent (26 of 39) of our rulings of his statements turned out to be Four Pinocchios, our worst rating. By contrast, most politicians tend to earn Four Pinocchios 10 to 20 percent of the time. (Moreover, most of the remaining ratings for Trump are Three Pinocchios.)

As a reader service, here’s a running list of our Four Pinocchio rulings. Since Trump never takes anything back — and often repeats the same false claims — voters are likely to hear these time and again during the campaign season.

The problem with all this recognition of Trump’s mendacity is just how little difference it seems to make—and how clueless the press itself remains regarding what to do about it. They seem to understand little or nothing about how the situation came about over time, what they are doing wrong right now, or what they ought to be trying to achieve going forward.

Trying to knock down Trump’s lies one at a time is a fool’s errand. It’s like trying to cut the head off of the hydra; for every lie you chop down, two new ones take its place. You have to step back and grasp the full magnitude of his lying, how he kneads together a whole multitude of lies into a single narrative, one which he then quickly casts off the moment it becomes advantageous to abandon it in favor of something else—possibly even the exact opposite of what he had been arguing the moment before.

Perhaps the best way to understand him is simply as a salesman. There are no objective facts where he comes from, just selling points. And the only thing he’s really ever selling is himself.  Whatever dream or desire you may have, he is the answer to what you want. As I argued back in December, he does not lie so much as bullshit, in the sense of H.G. Frankfurt’s book “On Bullshit”:

[B]ullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant.

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t lie, however. He’s simply indifferent to whether what he says is true or not. Which is why he lies so easily and excessively, even without concern if the lie has already been publicly debunked. The ideal bullshitter could pass a lie-detector test no matter what he said, which seems to capture Trump perfectly.  It can help, of course, to recognize his lies. But it’s much more useful to recognize what he’s trying to accomplish with them—or with the sprinkling of truths he freely intermingles with them. First, he’s trying to free himself of any possible accountability to anyone else: If facts themselves are negotiable, no one can call him to account for lying; he is free to define reality in any way that suits him. Second, the ultimate purpose of freeing himself, and defining reality as he wishes, is to establish dominance over everyone else: He is interested in power, pure and simple.  Some examples can help to clarify both of these goals.

When it comes to freeing himself of accountability, it’s useful to think of some of Trump’s common verbal tropes, such as “hearing” that Obama wants to confiscate guns, or to admit 200,000 Syrian refugees, or making vague claims about sourcing advice, praise or even resentful admiration from “experts” or “really smart people”—for example, falsely claiming that “Many of the great scholars say that anchor babies are not covered” by the 14th Amendment, or his widely reported, but nonexistent investigative team he sent to Hawaii to research Obama’s birth certificate. “I have people that have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” Trump told Today Show‘s Meredith Vieira on April 7, 2011. On April 25 he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that “somebody” he refused to identify told him “it’s not there and it doesn’t exist.” Two days later, Obama released his long-form birth certificate, and we never heard of Trump’s “investigation” again. Why? Because it never existed. It was all bullshit, from top to bottom. But it was always phrased in a way to free Trump of ever having to prove anything. The flip side of Trump’s imaginary experts and investigators is his habit of saying “nobody knows” about things that actually are well known — such as whether our nuclear arsenal works (it does), or who Syrian refugees are, perhaps even ISIS! (actually we do), or where Obama was before his public life, expanding on his trademarked birtherism. “He grew up and nobody knew him. You know? …. Nobody knows who he his until later in his life. It’s very strange,” Trump said. “The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.” Except, they do. From grade school through college. It’s Trump who is crazy—100 percent wrong about everything.

Similarly, Trump likes to say that various good or bad things “never happened before,” such as his winning 66 of 67 counties in the Florida primary (Bush and Gore both swept the state in 2000), or having GDP growth under zero (which has happened 42 times since WWII). No doubt he has “experts” who research these things for him, too!

Trump’s entire existence is one of ceaseless exaggeration, which appears repeatedly in these sorts of statements, often overshadowed by other considerations—the fact checks above focus on the 14th Amendment, or the nuclear arsenal, rather than on Trump’s imaginary “great scholars” or who Trump was talking about when he said, “They don’t know if it works.” Cogent—if mistaken—arguments could be made on any of these subjects, based on genuine, specifically cited expert testimony, for example, or specific individuals who could credibly contradict Obama’s life story, or a list of past county-level election results. But Trump is not even remotely interested in making such arguments. He holds them in contempt. However, he is interested in having people take him seriously, because if they all laugh, he can never gain power—which is why we ought to be paying attention to his routine reliance on wild overgeneralizations and hyperbolic, anonymously sourced claims and accusations that go along with them. They represent the soft underbelly of all his extravagant lying. Just imagine an 8-year-old saying these same sorts of things. You’d immediately spot him as a bullshitter, regardless the specifics he was talking about.

Trump’s interest in being taken seriously is only a means to an end, of course. And that end is power, pure and simple. Trump’s politics may have morphed dramatically over time, but his interest in power has not. The core of what he’s up to is a struggle for personal power, and all his lies, all his bullshitting are most fundamentally explicable when viewed in terms of who he’s going after and why. Focusing on the lies themselves, rather the purpose that Trump is pursuing, will only generate longer and longer lists of things that Trump and his supporters will ignore. If they can ignore 30 things, then why not 300? Or 3,000? But if you look to what his game is, then you’ve got a chance to get a foothold in confronting him in terms of that very same game.

Take, for example, Trump’s recent refusal to release his taxes, on the grounds that he’s being audited. “I would love to give the tax returns. But I can’t do it until I’m finished with the audit,” he said on Meet the Press. But this claim is utterly bogus, as the IRS pointed out back in February: the IRS can’t so much as comment, but there’s no reason Trump needs to hold back anything. If he’d love to give his tax returns, go right ahead! Then Buzzfeed reminded everyone of another lie baked into this little charade: Trump had promised to release his taxes in 2011—and tied that promise to Obama releasing his birth certificate. Of course, Obama did release his birth certificate shortly after that, and Trump, being Trump, never did release his taxes—though he did promise to release them “at the appropriate time,” another habitual Trump obfuscation.

We could go deep into the detail of how Trump is lying about releasing his taxes—in fact, I’m about to say a bit more about that. But the most important thing is to keep focused on his struggle for power: Why is he lying, rather than simply releasing his taxes, like everyone else? The two most sensible points to make are (1) he’s got something to hide—very low tax rates, unsavory associations, whatever—which he thinks would be very damaging, and (2) he thinks he’s better than anyone else, so he doesn’t have to play by the rules. These are important points to focus on because they deal with his obsession for power.

We can see that obsession in action if we take a closer look back at that earlier episode Buzzfeed called attention to. Trump’s promise then emerged as part of a series of Trump-imagined tests of strength and dominance, which he sketched out over the course of a few minutes in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, first versus NBC, then versus President Obama, and finally versus Mitt Romney. While Buzzfeed linked to a condensed presentation on The View, the full interview in context [transcript] allows us to see how Trump strings together this series of different bullshit narratives, each of which served him well in the moment, which is all he seemed to care about. He lied repeatedly—but always in the service of portraying himself in command.

Stephanopoulos first asked about Trump’s plans to announce if he’d run for president, and Trump responded by chest-thumping over how distressed this was making NBC, as a way to build himself up while simultaneously explaining away his refusal to commit:

I have the number one show on NBC. The Apprentice, The Celebrity Apprentice. And they are not happy about it. And I’ll be honest with you, NBC wants to renew anything I want to do. They’ll do anything for me. Anything….

So, the head of NBC and all of the people at NBC are working very, very hard on me. “Donald, we’ll give you anything. We’ll do anything you want to do. One year, two years, three years. Please, whatever you want to do.”

Not exactly. Celebrity Apprentice was NBC’s fifth-rated show that season so far (#44 overall and #36 in the 18-49 demographic), and was way past its peak popularity. The initial incarnation of The Apprentice ranked 7th, 11th and 15th its first three seasons, and then dropped out of the top 30, never to return. It fell to 75th in  2006-07, after which it was replaced by Celebrity Apprentice, which ranked 48th in 2007-2008, and in the 50s the next two seasons. It was ranking modestly better in 2011, but after all Trump’s pretense of magnanimity for NBC in delaying his decision, his grandstanding and taunting of President Obama helped drag the show’s ratings down. At the end, it was reported:

Pulling in a rather paltry 2.9/7 share in the coveted 18-49 demo, the episode proved to be the lowest spring finale ever for The Apprentice, Celebrity or otherwise.

Next comes the tax returns-for-birth-certificate quid pro quo, sandwiched between this initial act of preening vis-à-vis NBC and another act of preening vs. Mitt Romney. Here’s how Trump presented it:

Trump: … I give up a lot if I run. A thing like that, I also give up a lot of my free, private life. I have a great company. I’ve done a great job. Which if I run, you’ll see what a great job. Because I’ll do a full disclosure of finances.

(OVERTALK) [Stephanopoulos: Including your tax returns?]

Trump:We’ll look at that. Maybe I’m going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate. I may tie my tax returns. I’d love to give my tax returns. I may tie my tax returns into Obama’s birth certificate.

Note how Trump says two directly contradictory things, back to back. First, that he’d “ love to give my tax returns,” and then that he “may tie my tax returns into Obama’s birth certificate.” So which is it? Something he’d love to do? Or something he’ll do only in exchange for something else?

It’s an absurd offer on its face. Every presidential candidate in the post-Watergate era has disclosed their tax returns. It’s what you do. No president had ever been asked to produce a long-form birth certificate. Trump asserts his dominance over Obama by making an absurd demand, and insisting that it be taken seriously as a normal political transaction. He even pretends he’s being generous, further posturing himself as superior to Obama. For Trump, the promise of releasing his tax returns only matters as part of this mini-drama. Once the drama is finished, it’s on to the next one.

After a brief interlude of preening and self-praise for building “a great company,” “a strong company,” “an under-levered company,” with “tremendous net worth, far greater than even numbers that you’ve read,” Trump turns to contrasting himself with Mitt Romney, after prompting from the host:

Stephanopoulos: You took on Mitt Romney, you said it [Trump’s net worth] was bigger than Mitt Romney’s.

Trump: Well, it’s many times bigger, but that’s nothing bad about him. By the way, I have respect for Mitt Romney. I don’t know him, but I have respect for him. The fact that my net worth is many, many, many times greater, I’m not knocking him. You know, it comes off like it’s a knock. It’s not a knock. I have respect for Mitt Romney.

Of course Trump is knocking Romney!  Why else make the comparison in the first place? And by claiming that he’s not knocking him, Trump only twists the knife even further. That’s just how he rolls. It’s all about finding the right angle to attack someone, and then building layer upon layer on the original attack. Facts have no more role in the matter than they do in a schoolyard fight.

Which is why Trump really doesn’t seem the least bit concerned that as part of this series of put-downs he said, “I’d love to give my tax returns,” or that he proposed tying their release to Obama’s birth certificate. Whatever he said yesterday—or even a minute ago—forget about it. Five years ago? You’ve got to be kidding! Facts are negotiable, like everything else. Power is the only thing that matters.

This is what Trump is. This is how he operates. It’s why he ran the sort of primary campaign he did—a campaign characterized by a series of vicious attacks on other candidates as they appeared to pose a threat to his advancement. Facts do not matter to him—why should they? They only get in his way. They are perhaps his most persistent enemies. But facts matter enormously to the health and survival of a democratic republic. Without them, ruination is assured. There is no such thing as a post-truth republic. It’s time that the press woke up from its decades-long slumber that began with Ronald Reagan. They’ve got a lot of lost ground to make up, before it’s too late.

Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English. Follow him on Twitter at @PaulHRosenberg.

see:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/trumps-massive-mendacity-how-fox-news-and-right-gutted-truth-donald?akid=14285.123424._F2ujT&rd=1&src=newsletter1056976&t=10

Obama Shatters Republican Fantasies By Posting Lower Unemployment Numbers Than Reagan

Source: PoliticsUSA

Author: Jason Easley

Emphasis Mine

Reality bites Republicans again, as the unemployment numbers under President Obama are lower than at any time during the Reagan presidency.

This chart from Matt Yglesias at Vox delivers the stone cold truth:

Vox-reagan-obama

Before Republicans start scrambling for excuses, Yglesias pointed out that labor participation is lower now than when Reagan was in office, but that is due to the fact that the United States is an older country that has more retired people than when Reagan was in office. Labor participation rates have been dropping for decades so blaming Obama for decreasing labor participation rate is both false and disingenuous.

In 2011, President Obama became the biggest tax cutter in history, “Beneath all of the Republican and Tea Party grumbling about taxes, one key fact continues to be ignored. According to the Tax Policy Center, Federal taxes are lower than at any time since 1955. Obama has now reduced taxes by more than any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.”

President Obama’s 2009 stimulus was the single biggest tax cut in US history:

The Obama tax cut is $282 billion which is larger than the tax cuts of Ronald Reagan, JFK, and George W. Bush. Even worse, Republicans voted against it.

According to the Wall Street Journal, George W. Bush’s first tax cut in 2001 was $174 billion. His second tax cut in 2004 and 2005 was $231 billion. As Steven Waldman of Beliefnet pointed out last week, Obama has kept a campaign promise to cut taxes that few Republicans thought he would keep.

Barack Obama has proven to be a more successful president than Ronald Reagan. President Obama brought the country back from a bigger economic crisis, has a lower unemployment rate, and reduced the deficit instead of shattering the finances of the nation like Ronald Reagan did with trickle down economics.

In the face of Republican obstruction, President Obama has built a lasting legacy of presidential accomplishments.

If you want to make a Republican explode, simply point out that even by their own metrics of success Barack Obama has been a better president than Ronald Reagan.

See:http://www.politicususa.com/2015/09/05/obama-shatters-republican-fantasies-posting-unemployment-numbers-reagan.html

Carter, Reagan, and Machiavelli

Source: NT Times

Author: Krugman

Emphasis Mine 

Rex Nutting has a very nice article about the reality of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, which has been distorted out of recognition by the myth of Saint Reagan. As he points out, Carter presided over faster average job growth and lower unemployment than Reagan; unfortunately for Carter, his timing was bad, with vigorous growth for most of his presidency but a recession at the end.

Or to be more specific: the Federal Reserve put the US economy through the wringer from 1979 to 1982 in order to bring inflation down. Carter presided over the first part of that double-dip recession, and got wrongly blamed for it; Reagan presided over the second part, and wrongly got credit for the later recovery. 

What you see in all this is the remarkable political dominance of recent rates of change over even medium-term comparisons. The chart shows real median family income, which rose a lot through 1979, and was still far from having returned to that peak by the end of Reagan’s first term. Nonetheless, Carter was booted from office amid derision — “are you better off now than you were four years ago?” (actually yes), while Reagan won a landslide as a triumphant economic savior.

But Machiavelli knew all about this:

Hence it is to be remarked that, in seizing a state, the usurper ought to examine closely into all those injuries which it is necessary for him to inflict, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily.

Make sure that the bad stuff happens early in your rule; then you can claim credit when things get better, even if you leave the nation in a worse condition than it was when you arrived.

See: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/21/carter-reagan-and-machiavelli/?_r=1

Remembering Reagan’s Sweet Little Lie to the Air Traffic Controllers

Source: DailyKos

Author: Steven D.

Emphasis Mine 

Most politically astute and knowledgeable people remember that it was President Ronald Reagan who began the assault on our unions by taking on the Professional Air Traffic Controllers union (PATCO).  By refusing to negotiate with the union regarding pay and working conditions, and hiring replacements (i.e., scabs) to take their jobs, he set the stage for the ongoing eradication of unions and the working middle class. As The New York Times noted in 2011:

More than any other labor dispute of the past three decades, Reagan’s confrontation with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, or Patco, undermined the bargaining power of American workers and their labor unions. It also polarized our politics in ways that prevent us from addressing the root of our economic troubles: the continuing stagnation of incomes despite rising corporate profits and worker productivity.By firing those who refused to heed his warning, and breaking their union, Reagan took a considerable risk. Even his closest advisers worried that a major air disaster might result from the wholesale replacement of striking controllers. Air travel was significantly curtailed, and it took several years and billions of dollars (much more than Patco had demanded) to return the system to its pre-strike levels. […]

By 2010, the number of workers participating in walkouts was less than 2 percent of what it had been when Reagan led the actors’ strike in 1952. Lacking the leverage that strikes once provided, unions have been unable to pressure employers to increase wages as productivity rises. Inequality has ballooned to a level not seen since Reagan’s boyhood in the 1920s.

This event was and is rightfully considered a watershed moment in the Republican Party’s attempts to destroy unions and the union movement.  Since Reagan took on PATCO, unions have seen their membership number decline precipitously, and most working class Americans have seen their wages and salaries stagnant, even as the individuals (CEO’s, Senior executives, and people like Mitt Romney and his former firm Bain Capital) who control major corporations and industries have seen their pay and income soar to levels once though unimaginable.

What many may not know, however, is that Ronald Reagan in the last days of the 1980 election campaign, sent a letter to the President of PATCO, Robert E. Poli, promising he understood the many numerous concerns air traffic controller had with their pay, outmoded equipment and working conditions.  Specifically, he promised to provide them with the most up-to-date equipment and to work with them to provide more staffing and less brutal work schedules in the interest of public safety.  Here’s a image of Reagan’s letter to Pioli, dated October 20, 1980:

For those having difficulty reading the content of that letter from the image, here is a transcription of the text in full:

Dear Mr.Poli:I have been briefed by members of my staff as to the deplorable state of our nation’s air traffic control system.  They have told me that too few people working unreasonable hours with obsolete equipment has placed the nation’s air travelers in unwarranted danger.  In an area so clearly related to public policy the Carter administration has failed to act responsibly.

You can rest assured that if I am elected president, I will take whatever steps are necessary to provide our air traffic controllers with the most modern equipment available and to adjust staff levels and work days so that they are commensurate with achieving a maximum degree of public safety.

As in all other areas of the federal government where the President has the power to appoint, I fully intend to appoint highly qualified individuals who can work harmoniously with Congress and the employees of the governmental agencies they oversee.

I pledge to you that my administration will work very closely with you to bring about a spirit of cooperation between the president and the air traffic controllers.  Such harmony can and must exist of we are to restore the people’s confidence in their government.

Sincerely,

Ronald Reagan

Based in part on this this letter Poli and other senior PATCO officials had PATCO endorse Reagan for President.  PATCO was one of only four AFL-CIO affiliated unions to endorse Reagan over Carter.

[N]ewly elected PATCO president Robert Poli—who’d succeeded the more irenic incumbent John Leyden in a surprise insurgent challenge—was keen to demonstrate his clout before the union’s restive rank and file. He presumed to be bargaining from a position of strength because during the run-up to contract negotiations, PATCO had sought to secure firm Washington backing with another surprise move: it endorsed Reagan in the 1980 election, partly as a matter of heeding the shifting national mood, and partly out of sheer exasperation with the Carter administration’s handling of key controller concerns.

Never has a Union leader made a more serious mistake in judgment.  The Reagan appointed head of the FAA failed to negotiate in goof faith, reacting to PATCO’s demand for pay raises, improved equipment and less arduous working hours with a counteroffer equal to approximately 1/7 of the cost of the union’s offer.  Poli accepted the offer, but did so with little enthusiasm.  Reagan had doubled crossed him and put his position with PATCO’s membership at risk. The administration’s hard line only encouraged those at PATCO to strike, which was Reagan’s goal all along.

He immediately invoked the Taft-Hartley act and fired all the striking air controllers on August 5, 1981, a total exceeding 11,000.  Reagan then hired 5.500 scabs as the FAA head, Drew Lewis claimed that there had been a “surplus of controllers.”  The FAA also reduced flights by 25% and also brought in 370 military controllers.  Though the FAA promised to have staffing levels up to pre-1981 levels within two years, in fact it took almost a decade before those levels were again achieved.  This was due partly to Reagan’s ban on rehiring any of the fired PATCO controllers.  

Reagan never had any intention of working with the union.  This can be best demonstrated by the fact that in February, the Reagan Department of Justice, aided by the FAA, had complied a list of air traffic controllers to arrested and prosecuted in the event of a strike.  One Federal District Judge in Denver threw out all the criminal indictments against local PATCO officials, labeling the Reagan DOJ’s actions as creating a “hit list” at a time when the government was supposed to be negotiating with the union in “good faith.”

Today, of course, the Republican candidates feel free to openly demonize unions and seek to destroy the right to collectively bargain.  We’ve seen the actions of Republican governors elected in 2010 as proof of that.  The nation’s political landscape is vastly changed by what Reagan accomplished in his showdown with PATCO.  Reagan gambled that he could get away with his lies back then, and he succeeded.  Now Republicans can lie on a daily basis and no one in the media even bothers to check the claims they make, the numerous falsehoods and prevarications they promulgate.  Now the unions are shrinking, and they more often than not refuse to strike our of fear.  Now Democrats govern as 1990’s era Republicans, catering far to often to the wealthy elites and multinational corporations and failing to support unions.

And it all started with Ronnie Reagan’s sweet little lie to the air traffic controllers.  He wasn’t concerned about the safety of air travel.  He wasn’t willing to work with PATCO to improve working conditions or modernize our air traffic control system.  He wanted an easy target to make the case that unions are bad for America, and he hoodwinked PATCO into believing he would act honorably and treat them fairly.  He lied, and we have been paying the price for it ever since.

ORIGINALLY POSTED TO STEVEN D ON MON JUL 09, 2012 AT 11:39 AM PDT.

ALSO REPUBLISHED BY KOSSACK AIR FORCE AND IN SUPPORT OF LABOR AND UNIONS.

See:https://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/07/09/1107835/-Remembering-Reagan-s-Sweet-Little-Lie-to-the-Air-Traffic-Controllers?detail=emailclassic

Don’t Count Out the GOP From Trying to Sink Obama’s Historic Iran Deal: They’ve Done It Before

Republican attempts to sabotage a Democratic president’s deal with Iran are nothing new.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Thom Hartmann

Emphasis Mine

Ronald Reagan – or at least his campaign – committed treason to become president, and normalizing relations with Iran may expose the whole thing.  

As news of a US-Iranian nuclear deal spread like wildfire this week, the mainstream media began to ask its usual set of questions. Is the deal for real? Can we trust the Iranians? And the Republicans in Congress are going totally nuts.

Republican attempts to sabotage a Democratic president’s deal with Iran are nothing new, however. Just ask Jimmy Carter.

In the early fall of 1980, Carter thought he had reached a deal with newly elected Iranian President Abdolhassan Bani-Sadr over the release of the 52 hostages held by radical students at the American Embassy in Tehran. President Bani-Sadr was a moderate, and as he explained in an editorial in the Christian Science Monitor published on March 5, 2013, he had successfully run for president of Iran on the popular position of releasing the hostages:

“I openly opposed the hostage-taking throughout the election campaign…. I won the election with over 76 percent of the vote…. Other candidates also were openly against hostage-taking, and overall, 96 percent of votes in that election were given to candidates who were against it [hostage-taking].”

President Carter was confident that with Bani-Sadr’s help, he could end the embarrassing hostage crisis that had been a thorn in his political side ever since it began in November 1979. But Carter underestimated the lengths his opponent in the 1980 presidential election, California governor Ronald Reagan, would go to win the presidency.

Behind Carter’s back, the Reagan campaign had previously worked out a deal with the leader of Iran’s radical faction, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, to keep the hostages in captivity until after the 1980 presidential election in order to humiliate Carter and hand the election to Reagan. This was nothing short of treason.

As President Bani-Sadr wrote for the Monitor, “I was deposed in June 1981 as a result of a coup against me. After arriving in France, I told a BBC reporter that I had left Iran to expose the symbiotic relationship between Khomeinism and Reaganism. Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a clandestine negotiation, later known as the ‘October Surprise,’ which prevented the attempts by myself and then-US President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 US presidential election took place.”

The Reagan campaign’s secret negotiations with Khomeini — the so-called “October Surprise” — were successful in sabotaging Carter and Bani-Sadr’s attempts to free the hostages. And as President Bani-Sadr told the Christian Science Monitor, “The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the [1980] election in Reagan’s favor.”

Iran released the hostages on Jan. 20, 1981, at the exact moment Ronald Reagan was sworn into office, by way of saying, “We kept up our part of the deal; now we expect you to start shipping us those weapons you promised.”

That October Surprise emboldened the radical forces inside Iran. A politically weakened Bani-Sadr was overthrown in June 1981 and replaced with Mohammed Ali Rajai, a favorite of Khomeini’s.

The October Surprise also led to the deaths of thousands of innocent people around the world, and in Central America in particular. Reagan took money from the Iranians and used that money to destabilize Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador in ways that still haunt the region. And he set the Supreme Court (by appointing Scalia and two other right-wingers) and the nation on a course that would see the destruction of much of the New Deal and the evisceration of America’s middle class.

But those are just the most obvious results of the October Surprise. If Carter were able to free the hostages like he and Bani-Sadr had planned, Carter would have won re-election. After all, he was leading in most polls in the months leading up to the election, and most Americans saw Reagan as a right-wing radical shill for the billionaire class (history proved them right).

So, now that the doors of Tehran may be thrown open to the press, Republican leadership is facing a huge crisis: Saint Ronnie could be exposed. If former Iranian president Bani-Sadr is telling the truth – and all the evidence (including the fact that Reagan was selling weapons to Iran in violation of US law) points to his treason — then there’s certainly evidence of it floating around in Tehran. If that evidence surfaces, it could make for considerable discomfort on the Republican side of the aisle.

Of course, this is not the first time a Republican presidential candidate committed treason to gain the White House. Consider the case of Richard Nixon.

In the fall of 1968, President Lyndon Johnson had finally negotiated a tentative agreement to end the Vietnam war. But Richard Nixon knew that if the war continued, it would tarnish Democrat Hubert Humphrey’s chances of winning the election. So Nixon had envoys from his campaign talk to South Vietnamese leaders to encourage them not to attend an upcoming peace talk in Paris. Nixon promised South Vietnam he would give them a better deal when he was president than LBJ could.

The CIA intercepted the communications and turned them over to President Johnson, who thus found out about this political maneuver to prolong the Vietnam war just three days before the 1968 election. He immediately phoned the Republican Senate leader Everett Dirksen. Here’s a transcript (audio here):

President Johnson: Now, I can identify ‘em, because I know who’s doing this. I don’t want to identify it. I think it would shock America if a principal candidate [Nixon] was playing with a source like this [South Vietnam] on a matter this important.  I don’t want to do that.

But if they’re going to put this kind of stuff out, they ought to know that we know what they’re doing. I know who they’re talking to, and I know what they’re saying. …Some of our

folks, including some of the old China lobby, are going to the Vietnamese embassy and saying please notify the president [of South Vietnam] that if he’ll hold out ’til November the second [US election day] they could get a better deal. Now, I’m reading their hand, Everett. I don’t want to get this in the campaign. And they oughtn’t to be doin’ this. This is treason.

Sen. Dirksen: I know.

In subsequent tapes, Dirksen relates his efforts to get Nixon to pull back, and his lack of success. Unable to end the war, Vice President Hubert Humphrey lost the election to Nixon, and both Johnson and Dirksen took the secret of Nixon’s treason to their graves.

Those tapes were just released by the LBJ library three years ago, and the fact that there wasn’t a media firestorm is a true testament to how well the media protects the establishment parties… or to how incompetent the media has become after all the media consolidation of the past 30 years and the death of investigative journalism. 

South Vietnam took Nixon’s deal and boycotted the peace talks in 1968. The war continued, and Nixon won the White House thanks to it. And the war continued for four more years, and another 20,000 Americans and a million more Vietnamese died.

And Reagan’s treason –just like Nixon’s treason — worked perfectly. The Iran hostage crisis continued and torpedoed Jimmy Carter’s re-election hopes. And the same day Reagan took the oath of office — almost to the minute — the American hostages in Iran were released.

And in exchange for that, Reagan began selling the Iranians weapons and spare parts in 1981, and continued until he was busted for it in 1986; remember the “Iran Contra” scandal?

So twice in recent times, Republicans took the White House through naked treason.

Makes you wonder what they’re planning for next year…and what they’re willing to do to keep Tehran wrapped in a blanket of sanctions-silence.

Thom Hartmann is an author and nationally syndicated daily talk show host. His newest book is “The Crash of 2016: The Plot to Destroy America — and What We Can Do to Stop It.

See: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/dont-count-out-gop-trying-sink-obamas-historic-iran-deal-theyve-done-it?akid=13305.123424.CNFQGv&rd=1&src=newsletter1039390&t=1