Posts Tagged ‘Donald Trump’

Trump’s “Threat” To Democracy: A Contrarian Take

May 13, 2017

Dan Rather posted that Donald Trump is attempting to “destroy or disable much of the government.” Retired admiral William McRaven said Trump’s hostility to the press “may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.” Headlines from the New York Times and NPR both ask if Donald Trump is a threat to democracy. The Washington Post editorial board unequivocally declares he is a “unique threat.” As does this writer. And this writer. And so on.

All of these individuals seem to have a religious devotion to democracy, and any “attack” on their god is heresy.

I daresay Donald Trump’s presidency is not a threat to democracy; his presidency is a natural by-product OF democracy.

American democracy is voting for people who want to use the levers of power to make other people do things they don’t want to do. Sometimes those levers are used with benevolence. Often its use is corrupt and malevolent. Should it be a surprise that when we hand over the power to act with corruption and malevolence (which we do as we increase the scope of human interaction subject to the dictates of democracy), democracy attracts corrupt and malevolent people? Who then act with corruption and malevolence? And so on.

Donald Trump is a threat to liberty. As was Barack Obama. As was George W. Bush. And so on.

These men have one thing in common: they came to power thanks to America’s democracy.

You reap what you sow.

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Trump Strikes Out Defining American Greatness

January 20, 2017

American greatness is defined by one word: liberty.

Generally, liberty is the right to live our lives as we see fit, as long as we don’t violate the rights of others. Government’s job is to protect those inalienable rights (not grant them). Government, through our system of checks and balances, is not supposed to act in an arbitrary manner and do what it wants just because. This is the rule of law.

Liberty means individuals:

-Have the right to speak out.
-Have the right to worship whatever deity they wish, or abstain from worship altogether.
-Are free from arbitrary searches and seizures of their persons or property.
-Are free from punishment without due process.
-Are free to defend themselves.
-Are free to pursue their dreams and (if successful) make a profit from that pursuit.

To paraphrase the 9th Amendment, the list above is not meant to deny or disparage other freedoms.

The United States has struggled to live up to these ideals in the course of its history, but it has done better than any other country to allow liberty to flourish.

Which leads us to Donald Trump’s inauguration.

President Trump said he would use today’s speech to define American greatness. Sadly, the components of liberty were missing from his speech.

Instead, we got the fallacy of protectionism. Some key quotes:

For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry.

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never ever let you down.

We will follow two simple rules; buy American and hire American.

This demagogue is clueless. These facts have been stated before on this blog, but they bear repeating again if protectionism is going to be our governing policy for the next 4 years:

-Free trade makes us wealthier. According to Daniel Griswold’s excellent book Mad About Trade (reviewed here), an American family of four is $5000.00 richer because of trade. Internationally, countries with open trade are significantly wealthier, have lower hunger indexes, and even have stronger environmental standards.

-“Buy American” provisions are job losers, depending on the level of export losses we endure due to trade retaliation. From the book Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America, economists Richard Vedder and Lowell Gallaway estimate 20% of the increased unemployment from 1929 to 1932 was a result of the notorious Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.

-While the job creation aspect is sometimes overstated by free trade proponents, there is a benefit.

-Protectionism that benefits certain industries always comes at the expense of other parties.

There is no morality in forcing one party to essentially pay a ransom to a second party because the second party has special political connections. If a business wants my money, than make a superior product. Provide superior service. Otherwise, you shouldn’t be in business.

If this is what the Republican Party stands for now, it’s a disgrace. I hope they fail.

We need a Milton Friedman now more than ever.

**UPDATE 1/20/17: Here’s a study showing the impact of withdrawing from NAFTA. Not too good for Trump’s vaunted manufacturing sector. Also, Radley Balko ponders the ramifications of Trump’s vow to end the country’s “anti-police atmosphere.” Not too good if value your civil liberties.

Trump’s Fascist Tendencies, Pt 2: Protectionism

December 6, 2016

Sheldon Richman explains one of the key components to Mussolini’s fascist Italy:

Beginning in 1929, in preparation for achieving the “glories” of war, the Italian government used protectionist measures to turn the economy toward autarchy, or economic self-sufficiency. The autarchic policies were intensified in the following years because of both the depression and the economic sanctions that other countries imposed on Italy after it invaded Ethiopia. Mussolini decreed that government bureaus must buy only Italian products, and he increased tariffs on all imports in 1931. The sanctions following the invasion of Ethiopia spurred Italy in 1935 to increase tariffs again, stiffen import quotas, and toughen its embargo on industrial goods.

Increased tariffs. Orders for government to purchase ONLY nationally made products. In fairness, there are lots of Americans from both sides of the political divide that share this belief.

And this includes the President-elect.

As quoted in the Wall Street Journal on how to supposedly rebuild the United States:

“We will have two simple rules when it comes to this massive rebuilding effort: Buy American and hire American,” Mr. Trump said at a rally Thursday evening in Cincinnati. “Whether it is producing steel, building cars or curing disease, we want the next generation of innovation and production to happen right here in America and right here in Ohio, right?”

Trump on Oreo cookies:

“Nabisco, they make Oreos. They’re moving to Mexico. I’m never eating another Oreo again. I am telling you. Never.”

Trump on Apple products:

“We’re going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries,” he said in January at Liberty University.

Trump vs. Ford Motor:

“They think they’re going to get away with this and they fire all their employees in the United States and…move to Mexico,” said Trump. “When that car comes back across the border into our country that now comes in free, we’re gonna charge them a 35% tax. And you know what’s gonna happen, they’re never going to leave.”

And so on.

Trump’s diatribes cherry-pick scenarios (“shipping jobs overseas”) without painting a full picture of supply-chains, value-added work, and how integral those aspects are to Americans as consumers and workers. Demagogues never do deal with the truth.

This isn’t meant to demean anyone who CHOOSES buy strictly American-made products. But Trump’s policy proposals aren’t about choice. It’s about using the powers of the federal government to punish individuals and companies for making consumer choices Trump disagrees with. That’s what protectionism does. Your right to choose what is best for you doesn’t matter. He wants you to pay the price for going against his agenda, no matter how damaging that agenda is to your pocketbook. Or your liberty.

Trump’s Fascist Tendencies, Pt 1: Flag Burning

December 4, 2016

Per the online Merriam-Webster dictionary, fascism is defined in this manner:

a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

Nation above the individual. Forcible suppression of opposition. Which brings us to this tweet from the President-elect:

It’s not surprising Trump believes this, as do a lot of self-styled “patriots.” Soon, the United States will be handing the daunting powers of the Executive Branch over to a man who hasn’t the faintest idea what liberty means, much like these “patriots.” The oath Trump will take includes the provision to “defend the Constitution.” There’s this tiny little amendment in that Constitution, the first one, that reads something like this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Flag burning is political speech at its most basic form. Noisy, abrasive, offensive political speech is the most American of American values. As libertarian entertainer (and former contestant on “The Apprentice”) Penn Jillette eloquently wrote,

Without the right to burn the flag, without that freedom of expression, the flag is just a piece of cloth. It means nothing. With that freedom, with our Bill of Rights, it’s the greatest symbol on earth. It’s magic.

Will the American flag eventually come to represent the very fascism America fought against in World War II? I hope that answer isn’t left up to Trump and his ilk.

The Psychology Of Trump

November 11, 2016

Not an endorsement, but an interesting viewpoint from one year ago predicting how Trump would win the whole thing:

Your Obligatory Election 2016 Postmortem

November 9, 2016

“President Donald Trump welcomes the world champion Chicago Cubs to the White House today.”

This will actually happen. Let THAT thought sink in for a moment.

To my left-wing friends and readers: I’ve read a few social media posts, lecturing the Trump crowd they need to “own” the consequences of their decision. Fair enough, but I pose this question-do YOU own what YOUR voting did to this country? While I wrote a few nice things about President Obama awhile back, the truth is that overall his presidency has been rotten. His regulations are stifling the economy, his support for more meddling in the Middle East backfired, he claims the power to detain and assassinate citizens without due process, and the centerpiece of his presidency is a convoluted mess. This is the “legacy” President Obama urged voters to protect by voting for Hillary Clinton. Own it.

To my Trump-supporting readers: if the last 8 years should have taught America anything, it’s that you don’t elevate a great orator, skillful in the use of vague platitudes, to a demigod. Instead of heeding that lesson, the “Great Hope” of Obama is replaced by the “Great Man” persona you have projected onto Donald Trump. But do you have any idea what Trump plans to do? Doubtful, since Trump says you don’t. Had you bothered, you’d understand that much of Trump’s core economic plans come straight out of the failed statist playbook. If Trump’s protectionist ideas come to fruition, our cost-of-living skyrockets without bringing back those vaunted manufacturing jobs. If Trump truly implements his immigration measures, we will have to jack up wasteful bureaucratic spending for the honor and privilege of becoming a police state. Mr. Trump has advocated single-payer health care for years. He believes in the power of infrastructure spending to stimulate growth. That’s not even getting into foreign policy and civil liberties. Do you really have as much faith in big government to make America “great” as Donald Trump does?

To vote-shamers and political tribalists of all stripes: this year’s election came down to an authoritarian scoundrel and a fascist assclown. It’s the most pride I’ve ever taken in not voting for president (although I almost buckled and cast a sympathy vote for Gary Johnson). This is the system you’ve legitimized. Stop pointing the finger at third-party voters and non-voters for their disgust at your choices.

To small-l and capital-L libertarians: a night where marijuana initiatives had great success and Sheriff Joe Arpaio went down in flames can’t be considered a bad night. Just make sure that next time you find a presidential nominee that is better prepared when he/she comes under media scrutiny. And maybe find a running mate that doesn’t gush over the opposition.

The Lesser Of Four (Or Five) Evils

October 17, 2016

End This Election

October 6, 2016

It’s getting apoplectic out there in political tribal land. On the left, Keith Olbermann proclaims Trump will “end this democracy.” On the right, Sean Hannity is apoplectic at conservative “saboteurs” who will own Clinton, refugees, the Supreme Court, and radical Islam.

Sorry, tribalists, this election does not matter.

Andrew Napolitano echoes sentiments I’ve expressed on this blog, but goes further:

What if they are both statists? What if they both believe that the government’s first duty is to take care of itself? What if they both believe in the primacy of the state over the individual?

What if, in clashes between the state and individuals, they both would use the power of the state to trample the rights of individuals?

What if the first priority of both is not to decrease the size and scope of government but to expand it? What if they both believe that the federal government may lawfully and constitutionally right any wrong, tax any behavior and regulate any event? What if they both want to add a few thousand new employees to the federal payroll, give them badges and guns and black shirts, and engage them as federal police to insulate the federal government further from the people and the states?

The whole thing is here.

A False Choice: The Economics of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

August 20, 2016

Do voters really have a clear choice between major party candidates this election?

Democrat Hillary Clinton is an unapologetic statist who always sees a role for government. “Regulation improves living conditions” she once told TV host John Stossel, and her campaign definitely promises more regulation: a higher minimum wage, “fair pay and fair scheduling, paid family leave and earned sick days,” and more regulations on the financial sector (for starters). Like any good Keynesian, Clinton wants to boost government spending, which means more spending on infrastructure, the manufacturing industry, and other things. She has a zero-sum outlook on economic matters, thinking we need to enact policies so America will “win the global competition for manufacturing jobs.” Thus her repudiation of NAFTA, her repudiation of the TPP, and her willingness to impose tariffs on countries that “break the rules.” The cherry on top of this statist sundae is a tax code that makes sure the wealthy pay their “fair share” and punishes companies for “shifting profits and jobs overseas” by imposing an “exit tax” and closes “loopholes.” In Clinton’s mind, this is “a more progressive, more patriotic tax code.”

Republican Donald Trump’s stream-of-consciousness rhetoric may be self-contradictory, but overall, his general philosophy is similar to Clinton’s. A man who supports raising the minimum wage, endorses the seizure of private property for so-called economic development, and proclaims he won’t “let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequences” cannot be viewed as someone who believes government power should have any restrictions. He sees the stimulative benefits of infrastructure spending, vowing to double Clinton’s spending proposals. Trump also sees economics as zero-sum game, stating we’re in the midst of “a trade war, and we’re losing badly.” Hence the need for trade protection that keeps “jobs and wealth inside the United States.” Only this will “make America great again.”

Do you think minimum wage laws have consequences, regulations do harm, infrastructure spending is overrated, and free trade benefits makes us better off? Do you think it is distasteful to wrap these bad policies up in the American flag? If so, then this is a sad year to trudge out to the polls.

Non-Voting: The Civic Thing To Do

June 19, 2016

Michael Brendan Dougherty has penned the best article on non-voting in this election I’ve had the privilege to read:

You may in fact believe one side is worse than the other. Even significantly. That’s fine. In the sacred sanctum of my heart, I’d rather die at the hand of a knife-wielding relative over a game of cribbage than by drowning in an inflated kiddie pool filled with ammonia. I’ve gamed both of these scenarios out at length, and one of them is certainly preferable to the other. But I’m not going to interrupt a pleasant November day to endorse either of them.

And please don’t tell me that I owe it to those who died on Utah Beach on D-Day, or at the Battle of Yorktown in the Revolutionary War, to choose between Trump and Clinton. If we really believed that electing a president was somehow connected to honoring our war dead, we would not have chosen a bilious moron and a greedy black hole of ambition as our candidates in the first place.