Why “The Donald”

trumpLast summer as the Dow Jones average hovered near its all-time high of 18,000+, one of the commentators on the CNBC business channel commented that Lloyd Blankenfein had just joined the billionaire’s club. I was a bit taken aback. While Goldman is the premiere investment bank on Wall Street, during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the largest percentage of the $85 billion spent to bail out A.I.G. was funneled to Goldman Sachs in order to settle credit default swaps issued by AIGFP to Goldman as a counter-party. Who knew that a person could be a billionaire and a welfare queen at the same time?

Recently, the charity OXFAM AMERICA issued a report stating that for every dollar spent by corporations in America on lobbying activities, they receive $130 in tax breaks, and approximately $4,000 in federal loans. Since 1952, the share of corporate taxation as part of federal revenue has declined from 32% to 11%.

From studying the results of recent primaries, there is a significant backlash against the economic policies of Republican and Democratic administrations.

In addition to the financial crisis and tax policies, foreign trade agreements are perceived as benefiting a few while middle class jobs disappear. A recent article in the New York Times outlined the decline of the steel industry in Birmingham Alabama. It was not pretty.

Somehow, Trump, whose companies have gone bankrupt more than once, has been able to feed on this feeling that the system is structurally unjust, to win the nomination of a major American political party. This is not pretty. And while Donald the person may be dismissed, the reasons for his success should not be.

— Les Schreiber

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15 responses to “Why “The Donald”

  1. Very well stated. The biggest news about Donald Trump (or Bernie Sanders for that matter) has nothing to do with Trump or Sanders. It has to do with the abject revulsion that the majority (or near majority) of Americans feels for our elected officials and the fiasco of a government they have created.

    My question is this – when will the toxic bile felt within many Virginians for our federal government convert to the same burning anger against our state government? Virginia’s state government is more corrupt and less transparent than our federal government. Who will be the Trump and Sanders of this state? And will Virginia’s Clown Show apologists, in office and writing blogs, personally attack the Trump and Sanders of Virginia rather than examining the question of why such candidates have become so popular?

    Les is completely right – the question of what is going on in America today goes far deeper than any examination of Donald Trump (and the establishment politicians within both political parties are running scared and confused).

  2. Federal statutes should be amended to prevent any former member of Congress from lobbying for 5 years; any congressional staff member from lobbying for 3 years; any member of the Administration who was confirmed by the Senate for 5 years; and any person holding a political appointment in the Administration for 3 years.

    But what about Crony Capitalism and BR? Despite the fact overweight trucks do at least $200 m in damage to Virginia roads and bridges (2008 data, as I recall), most BR contributors supported tax increases for transportation. While overweight truck permit fees have been raised, they still no where recover the costs of damages to transportation facilities.

    And then there is the Silver Line. Even though studies showed traffic congestion would not be decreased when the Silver Line opened; the benefiting landowners’ contributions were limited; the project did not meet federal funding guidelines; and the project is largely being funded on the back of DTR drivers, few on BR challenged what the project is: a huge transfer of wealth from ordinary people to well connected landowners.

    We close our eyes to those businesses that break federal law by hiring illegal immigrants and who, in turn, impose burdens and state and local governments and taxpayers. And some even close their eyes to the decades of corruption within the Clinton family and their hangers-on.

    Crony capitalism needs to go.

    • Crony capitalism does need to go. That will only happen when Virginia has a Trump or Sanders like candidate for statewide office (probably governor). That person or people will have to come from outside the establishment of the two crime syndicates we call major political parties in Virginia. In order to build the momentum required to break through the obstacles erected by the two major crime syndicates the candidate or candidates will have to be aggressive, loud, potentially profane and very willing to be controversial. As their following builds, he she or they will have to be independently wealthy or able to raise money outside of the normal channels employed by the establishment political parties (i.e. direct contributions from crony capitalists). They will be publicly and personally attacked not only by the political establishment but also by the state’s editorial writer and blog publishers. The breadth, depth and greed of the political establishment, the establishment’s mouthpieces and the crony capitalists who fund the establishment will be on full display.

      Only then will we have the chance to rid ourselves of the Ricoh violation we call a state legislature along with their street captains and capos in the state’s crony capitalist community.

      Until the day I describes comes (and it will come) the citizens of the Commonwealth are faced with a Hobson’s choice – push for action while accepting the corruption of the state government or resist all progress in the name of thwarting the state’s ingrained political corruption and crony capitalism.

  3. No, it’s not pretty. And thank you, Les, for a nice description of the problem.

    What bothers me most is that “this feeling that the system is structurally unjust” has led so many to espouse irrational solutions. “Irrational” because they can’t possibly be implemented or obviously won’t work or would be catastrophic if they did. Or because they fly in the face of moral and historical and even religious values we have long and deeply espoused. We hear often that his support is rooted among those less well-educated; but I have better-educated friends who wish him well, even while they refuse to debate his particulars. Why, even in anger, would they choose to disregard the consequences?

    I don’t blame The Donald for his supporters. He is, if anything, unbelievably transparent — what you see is what you will get if he’s elected. The fact that he has got this far certainly demonstrates “a significant backlash.” He is abhorrent to me but as you say, “while Donald the person may be dismissed, the reasons for his success should not be.”

    I trust that if he’s elected, our checks and balances will survive. But how can we not worry? Like Bob Ewell’s challenge to Atticus Finch, is the Trump phenomenon just an ugly and irrational convulsion of meanness and xenophobia in a rear-guard fight against inexorable trends toward a smaller, more civilized, moral world? Or will the Ewells triumph this time; is Trump inevitable? Is our future no better than tribal, our capability for social improvement through institutions no better than demonstrated in Syria or Somalia, or McCarthy’s ‘The Road,’ or in some zombie apocalypse?

    • Obama’s unilateral actions have been as damaging to our constitutional system than anything that has occurred in history. And, while I don’t like the Donald, Hillary is promising her supporters she will continue government by executive edit.

  4. I disagree with a lot of this post. Yes, there are always critics. But “the system” that is apparent in Washington is a byproduct of exactly what “the people” wanted. Or perhaps what hundreds of millions of dollars of right wing propaganda for decades has produced?

    Where do so many of these ills emanate from? Pretty simple…the campaign finance system. Crony Capitalism? Check. Tax breaks for big corporate donors? Check. I could go on and on. But this is exactly what “the people” wanted. Common Cause and others have been advocating for strict campaign finance (or better yet, publicly funded elections) for decades. But the Kochs, etc. used think tanks to create the fallacious doctrine of “money is speech”. And “the people” have consistently rejected candidates who advocated for strict campaign finance laws and hard as a rock contribution limits. If you believe “money is speech” and that the “marketplace of ideas” would be squelched by campaign finance, and my absolute favorite…that campaign finance reform is “the incumbent protection act”, well, then you are a crony capitalist even if you don’t admit it. “The system” would not be so “corrupt” if we didn’t have private interests fund our elections. You can do everything else in the world you want about our political system, but so long as we have a system in which elections are funded by private interests, you can be sure “the system” will never change. Not Trump. Not Sanders. Not anybody. You have to reform campaign finance to flush the system.

  5. Too Many,

    I agree with Les and Acbar, but I question your solution re: lobbying. It is but a band aid. Money will always find a way to lobby. It always does. And too restrictive an approach would also be arguably unconstitutional, since I recall there is a right to petition the government contained therein. Can’t remember the article and I can’t lay my hands on my pocket constitution at the moment.

    The real problem is that there is so much money for lobbyists and petitioners to go after. They’d be fools not to. I regularly get castigated by my wife for not applying for our share of federal grants. We could: 1.) write a definitive history of smoking in Russia; 2. examine whether local eagles are laying eggs in their multiplying nests; 3. make a documentary film of the traffic at the corner of Rt 60 and Arch Road; 4. examine whether a cat running on a treadmill can make enough electricity to power a kid’s playhouse in the backyard; or 5.) whether our dog’s facial expressions can communicate more than his bark. Pop Quiz: Quick, without looking it up, which of these grants have actually been doled out by the government?

    • There is a right to petition government. But there is no right to be employed as a lobbyist. People and entities can still lobby their government if recent members of Congress, their staff, high level administrative officials and other political employees cannot make money trading influence.

      Cville – why can Common Cause lobby and be tax exempt? No tax exempt entity should be permitted to lobby through anyone who is paid – either salary or third-party fees.

      Also, so long as Jeff Bezos is allowed to influence public opinion through free speech, why cannot the Koch Brothers and Tom Steyer do the same? Money is speech.

      • The Koch Brothers and Tom Steyer can purchase a newspaper if they wish and publicize their views. They can run issue advocacy ads if they wish.

        But neither they nor Jeff Bezos nor you nor I should be allowed to spend money on ads or other campaign materials that directly aid a specific candidate. So long as Congressman X receives $100K in direct support from billionaire Y, you can be sure that when billionaire Y needs some aspect of crony capitalism, Congressman X will do his bidding. The system will not change until that is eliminated.

        In Virginia, we most assuredly need redistricting reform, hard caps on campaign contributions, and a transformation in judicial selection. We will get none of those so long as people elect Republicans. Thus, you will continue to have the same corrupt system. Don’t believe me about the GOP? Find me one single solitary Republicans in the General Assembly who supports redistricting reform, campaign finance reform, or taking the selection of judges away from the General Assembly.

        • Cville – in today’s age of electronic media, why is a newspaper different in terms of attempting to influence the public than any other company or nonprofit’s efforts? I’m not arguing against freedom of the press. A newspaper, TV or radio station can write/broadcast whatever it wants.

          I am challenging, as did the majority in Citizens United, how the federal government can treat election-related expenditures made by a media company differently from those made by a non-media company. For example and according to a 2015 column in the Richmond Times Dispatch, “the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which prohibited ‘electioneering communications’ — those supporting or opposing political candidates — by corporations and labor unions 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. But it contained a whopping exception for the media, by exempting electioneering communications ‘appearing in a news story, commentary, or editorial.'”

          Why is the Richmond Times Dispatch, the Washington Post, the New York Times or the McLean Connection different from any other corporation (or labor union) in terms of rights to influence elections? Both types of corporations are spending money to influence an election.

          The Washington Post will spend money in direct support of individual candidates it endorses (e.g., Hillary Clinton). And that will occur within 60 days of November’s general election. How many “pro-Clinton” editorials and commentaries will the Post run in the 60 days before the presidential election?

          The Left argues this is OK and effectively that any non-media corporation that does not endorse Hillary Clinton should not be permitted to do so. What special role does the MSM play today? How many Americans get most of their news from non-traditional media sources? What does newspaper circulation look like today?

          The role played by newspaper editors in trying to influence elections today is no different than the role played by labor union officials and corporate political types in trying to influence elections.

          • The Left supports only measures that will yield more political power for the Left. That’s why, for instance, the Left never complains about the use of mandatory union dues for political purposes that individual union members might disapprove of. The Left never complains about the diversion of bank fraud settlements to fund Left-wing activist groups. The Left never complains about preferential income tax treatment to set up charitable foundations that engage in “educational” activity… invariably (with the exception of the Koch brothers) activity that is conducive to leftist aims and objectives.

            Politics is all about power, and the self righteousness wrath directed at evil, power-hungry Republicans (and from others, at evil, power-hungry Democrats) is cheap claptrap.

        • >>But neither they nor Jeff Bezos nor you nor I should be allowed to spend money on ads or other campaign materials that directly aid a specific candidate. >>

          I had thought C’ville might be one of the more rational folks on this blog, but I find I must rethink. This is one of the most stunning statements I’ve heard from a supposed citizen of this country. I should not be allowed to spend money on ads to support my candidate? Seriously? Let’s leave aside for a second the notion that it doesn’t matter (How much did Jeb Bush have spent on him with absolutely zero effect?); Citizens United pretty much takes care of your thought, just as Roe v. Wade pretty much takes care of whether abortion is basically legal.

  6. so much to discuss so I’ll not other than to say – it’s not good enough to oppose something and gridlock… and you can’t freeze stuff in place and hope for the next election to go your way.

    And when you stir up the ignorati on the issues – you get what you get for candidates for POTUS.

    You can’t play that game without getting burned and now we have this really odious spectacle of people supporting a megalomaniac for POTUS because they cannot fathom the alternative.

    we did not get here – by accident.

    • Good observations all.

      As for ‘megalomaniac,’ I looked it up. “Megalomania is a psychopathological condition characterized by fantasies of power, relevance, omnipotence, and by inflated self-esteem,” says Wikipedia, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalomania. Check.

      As for ‘stirring up the ignorati on the issues,’ the only question is whether he, and they, have the maturity actually to consider the issues of the day and to give us coherent, thoughtful, respectful solutions to any of them.

      As for ‘fathoming the alternative,’ every attempt to do that has foundered in the likes of Whitewater.

      What options remain? There are two competent ex-governors already running on the Libertarian ticket; but the chance of enough voters crossing over to elect a third party candidate is slim to none. And that only leaves, as you put it, ‘gridlock . . . and hope for the next election to go your way’ — even if that hope is four years off, and that’s no way to run our Nation in the meanwhile.

  7. well – most observers think 3rd party just elects one of the two leaders and more likely lying-you-know-who… since – the non-establishment vote is further splintered.

    so your real choice is megalomaniac or lying you-know-who – you can either make the direct choice or the de-facto head-in-the-sand 3rd party method or just not vote at all.

    😉

    but even if Trump wins – he’ll need the Senate and if the GOP loses the Senate – there is going to be real trouble in River City for those who believe Trump has their answers.

    So how do the GOP candidates for the Senate feel about Trump and having him coming to their state to openly support them ?

    so far, not so much… eh?

    Remember – the swing states with blue urban areas and red rural (like Va) are the states that both Mr. Trump and Senators must win … no matter what happens to lying-you-know-who!

    4 more years with a 4-4 on the SCOTUS?

    lordy.

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