Trump Attacks the Ronald Reagan Foundation and Fox News as Poll Numbers Sink

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Donald Trump attacked two conservative bastions over the weekend in an outburst that was likely caused by his consistently poor performance in national polls.

The President took aim at Fox News – a reliably conservative network that he sometimes claims is insufficiently loyal – but he also attacked the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute.

The Reagan Foundation asked the Republican National Committee not to use the late president’s image in campaign materials. Trump was also angered to learn that the foundation’s chairman is also publisher and CEO of The Washington Post.

So the Washington Post is running the Reagan Foundation, and RINO Paul Ryan is on the Board of Fox, which has been terrible,” the President wrote.

So the Washington Post is running the Reagan Foundation, and RINO Paul Ryan is on the Board of Fox, which has been terrible. We will win anyway, even with the phony @FoxNews suppression polls (which have been seriously wrong for 5 years)! https://t.co/fOi3AROxuz read more

Opinion: Trump’s Attack on Land, Environment Undermines American Lives and Economy

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Ronald Reagan notoriously once asked, “Where would this country be without this great land of ours?”

As ridiculous as Reagan sounded asking that question, the question has taken on a renewed seriousness given Donald Trump’s assault on the American land itself and thus, by extension, we Americans who depend on a safe and well-managed environment to provide clean water and myriads of other resources to make our lives possible.

And I’m not just talking about the fact that William Perry Pendley, appointed last July to head the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees a substantial chunk of the nation’s publicly-owned lands, advocates for selling off public lands, basically robbing taxpayers of this “great land” and hence “this country.”  Pendley would indeed prefer to leave Americans pondering literally the question Reagan asked.

I’m talking about the fact that Trump has proudly rolled back not just Obama-era regulations spelled out in the 2015 Waters of the United States rule but also key elements of the Clean Water Act legislated in 1972 and amended multiple times in the 1970s and 1980s to ensure Americans had access to clean water by regulating the dumping of pollution into the nation’s surface waters, including lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, and coastal areas.

Without a lot of fanfare, Trump issued the Navigable Waters Protection rule at the tail-end of last January, completing his obliteration of the Obama administration’s water protections—and worse. Derrick Z. Jackson, a Fellow of the Union of Concerned Scientists, points out, Trump’s rule is somewhat ironically named, allowing clear navigation for polluters.

Coral Davenport, writing for The New York Times, elaborates the damage of trump’s roll-back, writing, “The new water rule for the first time in decades allow landowners and property developers to dump pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into hundreds of thousands of waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects.”

Her reporting highlights the actually informed perspective of Blan Holman, a lawyer specializing in federal water policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center.  In Holman’s expert judgment,

“This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen. This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution. This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.” read more

Opinion: What Do The 99.9% Think About A Wealth Tax?

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The wealth taxes Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed continue to provoke the malice of Wall Street, corporate democrats, and now even other Democratic candidates running for president.

As I have written in  PoliticusUsa.com (here and here), the intensity of the energy devoted to this criticism, combined with the lack of substance typically informing these critiques, is puzzling because the  policies would impact, in the case of Warren’s proposal, only .1 percent of American households.   The intensity seems disproportionate to the impact.

Is this outrage on behalf of the 99.9 percent of Americans?

Is the 99.9 percent of Americans voicing these criticisms?

Let’s look at who’s talking:

When Warren surged in the polls in September, CNBC published an article with the headline: “Wall Street Democratic donors warn the party: We’ll sit out, or back Trump, if you nominate Elizabeth Warren.” The article offered this quotation as representative of the widespread opinion among “high-dollar democratic donors and fundraisers in the business community”:  “You’re in a box because you’re a Democrat and you’re thinking, ‘I want to help the party, but she’s going to hurt me, so I’m going to help President Trump.’”

To whom is this quotation attributed? The reporting tell us: “a senior private equity executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity in fear of retribution by party leaders.”

Clearly, this is a proud voice representative of average Americans worried about healthcare and how they’ll take care of their children and pay for college. In case you missed my irony, the opposite seems to be true.

A more recent critic appearing in the headlines on CNBC.com is Barry Sternlicht, CEO of Starwood Capital, a company possessing $60 billion in assets. On CNBC’s “Squawkbox,” he said, “I think it’s a crazy idea.” He questioned the ability of the IRS to arrive at an accurate valuation of his business: “It’s impossible to do—multiples, changes in interest rates. It’s almost an impossible thing to do.”

Really? The IRS, or even the company that files its own taxes and reports on its value, cannot figure out what the company is worth?

If it’s a matter of fluctuating values, Gabriel Zucman, an economist at UC Berkeley who helped craft Warren’s proposal, countered: ““The IRS would come up with the best valuation possible. If the taxpayers disagree, they can pay, in kind, with shares.”

Sternlicht’s main complaint, though, is this: ““You’re going to empower a lot of accountants. They’re going to be the biggest, fastest-growing industry in the world.”

So the reasons Warren’s wealth tax is “crazy” is because it’s difficult to calculate the value of a company (even though the companies themselves do it every day in market environments) and because it would create more work for accountants.  Should we also not seek to pass necessary environmental policies because they might entail more work for scientists?

There is little push-back in the media when these criticisms are voiced, even when those voices pretend to speak for the majority of Americans.

For example, Lawrence Summers, Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, and law professor Natasha Sarin argued in a paper they wrote that a wealth tax would “undermine business confidence, reduce investment, degrade economic efficiency and punish success in ways unlikely to be good for the country or even to be appealing to most Americans.”

Again, is this critique compelling and does it really capture, while it pretends to speak for the majority, what is really “appealing to most Americans”?

The idea that a tax that would impact .1 percent of American households, costing these households two cents on every dollar of wealth over $50 million, would “undermine business confience,” sounds, on the surface, rather ludicrous, as is the idea that it will reduce investment and make the economy function less efficiently.

Let’s just think historically for a minute, and we can see that America prospered when tax rates were much higher for the wealthy. In thinking about these critiques, let’s keep in mind that the top marginal tax rate for individuals in the U.S. through the 1950s and 1960s exceeded 90%; from 1971 through 1980, the top rate was 70%; and Ronald Reagan cut the top rate to 50% in 1982.  In recent years, the top rate has fluctuated between the mid- to high-30s.

Was this punishing to the wealthy? They seem to have done just fine.

And what has not been talked about are the economic efficiencies and investments Warren’s plan would spur, not to mention what most Americans would find appealing. She proposes with the revenues to provide universal childcare, to make college at public institutions tuition-free, and to address the student debt burden that creates a major drag on the economy.

Just take the last point:

College debt levels have topped $1.4 trillion and, according to many economists, constitute a major drag on our economy. Think about it: college graduates saddled with debt are reluctant, and frankly unable, to purchase a home, start a family, or create a small business, constraining key sectors that drive economic growth and vitality under capitalism such as the housing market and entrepreneurial development.

According to a study from the Levy Institute, canceling the $1.4 trillion in student debt would spur economic activity to the tune of creating between 1.2 and 1.5 million new jobs in the first few years, creating tax-paying citizens who buy houses, start families, create businesses, and so forth.

And we know that providing childcare helps people work and contribute to the economy.

So what about these efficiencies?

Beto O’Rourke, in the last debate, jumped on the bandwagon, accusing Warren’s policies of being “more focused on being punitive or pitting one part of the country against the other instead of lifting people up.”

It would be good to hear from most Americans, those already feeling punished in this economy. They’ve been pushed down for years by policies favoring the .1%.

Would not a wealth tax, such as Warren proposes, help lift them up?

It would be good to hear from the 99.9%.  Maybe this constituency can get an interview on CNBC.

Beyond Disowning Trump, GOP Apostates Must Be Accountable for History of Exploiting Political Offices at People’s Expense

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Joe Scarborough, former Republican but still self-proclaimed conservative host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, has hoisted himself into media and political limelights of late with his popularizing of the moniker “Moscow Mitch” for senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, who has refused to bring to the senate floor for a vote a bill to fund measures to protect U.S. elections from Russian interference.

Certainly, Scarborough has positioned himself as an anti-Trump crusader, critical of both Trump and a sycophantically compliant GOP. He, in fact, publicly announced his departure from the Republican Party on Stephen Colbert’s show in October 2017.

Scarborough stands with other disaffected Republicans, such as former Florida representative David Jolly, who formally left the party, and talk show host and former member of George W. Bush’s administration Nicolle Wallace.

Wallace claims she didn’t leave the party; the party left her by changing its core platforms, saying “This Republican Party is unrecognizable to me . . . I’m not embarrassed to share a political party with John McCain or the 41st president or 43rd president.”  Her show is also known to parade other disaffected Republicans such as David Frum, Steve Schmitt, and Charlie Sykes.

There is always something unsettling about these figures’ somewhat holier-than-thou turning on the GOP, disavowing its current politics and form as though they represent a sharp break, an incongruous discontinuity with the respectable and dignified GOP with which they reverently identified.  This stance of moral indignation at Trump’s cruelty, hate, and flagrant celebrations of racism and sexism, just doesn’t sit right.

It’s not just insufficient; it’s dangerously deceptive, erasing the Republican Party’s complicity in producing Trump and in promoting the divisive, repressive, self-serving, and hostile politics characteristic of the current White House.

This week’s bombshell reporting on the newly-released tape of Ronald Reagan’s conversation with Richard Nixon, in which Reagan referred to African diplomats as “monkeys,” begins to make this point clear. Reagan doesn’t sound all that different from Trump, when he tells Nixon, ““Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television, as I did, to see those, those monkeys from those African countries — damn them — they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!”  And Nixon laughs.

The only difference between Trump and Reagan here is that Reagan thinks nobody will hear the conversation, so his hateful racist attitudes can inform Republican policies in coded and unrecognized ways.

This m.o. is, of course, the playbook of the infamous Southern Strategy, which has been insufficiently addressed and recalled by media pundits. Michael Tomasky is one of the few, penning a piece about how the Southern Strategy has returned “with a vengeance.” And Maya Wiley, in a recent segment on Hardball, invoked it to point out that Trump, even in violating the code of the Southern Strategy, represents a continuity with past Republican politics:

“So all we`re really seeing here is a continuation.  Donald Trump blew up the southern strategy when he ran for president.  Remember, the southern strategy, which Richard Nixon perfected, which was sort of wink, wink, nod, nod, we`ll use coded language, but we`ll be very polite because we don`t think racism is okay to say aloud.  So we`ll wink and we`ll nod.  He threw the wink and the nod out already in 2016.”

But we aren’t getting enough analysis of and emphasis on this linkage between past and present when it comes to demanding accountability from these now self-satisfied, even self-righteous, disaffected Republicans lamenting the loss of their dear GOP.

Let’s remember exactly how Republican operative Lee Atwater described the Southern Strategy he crafted to get Nixon elected in 1968 and, really, move to consolidate Republican dominance in the South moving forward to the present, aiding and abetting the likes of Scarborough.

Here’s how Atwater characterized the strategy in a 1981 interview, laying bare its racist underpinnings:

You start out in 1954 by saying, “[N-word], [n-word], [n-word].” By 1968 you can’t say “[n-word]”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N-word], [n-word].”  (parenthetical substitutions of “n-word” are mine.)

So what did Republicans like Scarborough support? What did the George W. Bush administration, for whom Wallace served as a Communications Director, support?  They supported vigorously positions that defended states’ rights and tax cuts—the codes for defending racist policies. States’ rights, of course, are about allowing states to skirt federal enforcement particularly around civil rights issues, enabling local governments to be as racist as they like. And Atwater neatly explained the racist dimensions of tax cuts.  Scarborough was a member of the New Federalists that advocated for states’ rights, and he had been recognized by the conservative organization Americans for Tax Reform for his support for cutting taxes.

And anyone who has seen Adam McKay’s Vice, a biting satirical “documentary” of Dick Cheney’s rise to power, or Rachel Maddow’s more serious Why We Did it, documenting the complicity of the Bush administration and oil corporations in deceiving the American people to sell the invasion of Iraq, can certainly see good reason to believe that the administration in which Nicolle Wallace participated is not different from Trump’s in the way it abused the Presidency for personal enrichment or to serve the enrichment of a good old boys corporate network at the expense of the American people.

Without accountability for this past and how it has created our present, we can’t move forward in a new direction by fully recognizing the mistakes off the past.

We can’t be fooled that restoring a GOP establishment is any less racist or harmful to the people than Trump.

We might ask Wallace, given the Southern Strategy and the corporate-sponsored Iraq war, if Trump’s GOP is really so unrecognizable.

National Review Writer Claims Dems Sentimentalize Past Republicans. No, We Don’t

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It is troubling that Republicans insist on projecting: making their problems a liberal or progressive problem. Like being blamed for Trump when it is beyond question that they built that without any help from us. All Donald Trump did was make even deplorable an already crude message.

Yet Daniel Payne writes at National Review that it is progressives who have a “tendency to sentimentalize Republicans from years past.” As opposed to the conservative tendency to lift them to sainthood, like Ronald Reagan.

Payne tells us that Dana Milbank writing at The Washington Post in March that “Donald Trump makes me miss George W. Bush,” is an example of this progressive tendency to sentimentalize. But Milbank isn’t sentimentalizing; he is measuring a degree of awful. Bad as Bush was, Trump is worse.

By the same token, yes, at the time, Mitt Romney was the worst. And if we miss Romney now, it is only because Romney can’t hold a candle to Trump’s deplorable rhetoric. Payne is adept at making strawmen. He claims “this year” Romney is “up for sainthood in the Church of Progressivism,” but saying “a candidate bragging about” his imaginary “search for competent women” is preferable to a candidate who assaults them is not sentimentalizing.

It is a measure of how much worse the GOP’s rhetoric – and candidates – get every year. It is conservatives who use past Republicans as a yardstick, particularly now that they’ve gotten what they asked for in Trump. But there isn’t a lot to measure up to. Ronald Reagan was no prize, in many ways more like Joe McCarthy than the “Saint” Ronald they’ve conjured.

In fact, back at the start of the “Commie” scare of the late ’40s, Reagan testified as a “friendly” witness before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC),

“Sir, I detest, I abhor their [alleged Communists in the Screen Actors Guild] philosophy, but I detest more than that their tactics, which are those of the fifth column, and are dishonest, but at the same time I never as a citizen want to see our country become urged, by either fear or resentment of this group that we ever compromise with any of our democratic principles through that fear or resentment. I still think that democracy can do it.”

Reagan worried that “this group” would cause us to compromise with our democratic principles because of fear and resentment. We have a couple problems here for Republicans. Not only does Reagan seem to be condemning the Trump “movement” from the grave, given his place in Vladimir Putin’s pocket.

The future president also said,

“I would hesitate to see any political party outlawed on the basis of its political ideology…However, if it is proven that an organization is an agent of a foreign power, or in any way not a legitimate political party…then that is another matter.”

Talk about “legitimate” political parties was then, and is now, a slap at Democrats, who were considered then to be no different than communists and today no better than Islamic terrorists. The same can be said of the conservative attempt to delegitimize Islam as a religion, as though only Islam has a political component.

After all, the Religious Right made public their goal of taking over the Republican Party and have never failed to gloat at every success they’ve enjoyed. They love the idea of banning Muslims, just like the conservative base of the 50’s loved the idea of banning Communists.

The GOP has been working to delegitimize Democrats since the New Deal, and they’ve tried to delegitimize those Christians who didn’t go along with the Religious Right’s foray into politics.

As Dara Lind wrote at Vox recently,

“Then, in the 1980s, the Reagan administration caused “a bit of an uproar” (in Cox’s words) when Congress found out it had been denying visas to communists on the grounds that it would hurt US foreign policy. In 1990, Congress passed an immigration law that significantly narrowed the reasons the US could deny a visa on ideological grounds. Furthermore, it declared the US couldn’t use “foreign policy” as a reason to keep someone out simply based on his beliefs or associations.”

Just substitute “religious” for “ideological” and Donald Trump sounds more like Saint Ronald than Trump’s Republican detractors would care to admit. Ideological tests? Bring them on.

Believe me when I say this, that no Democratic sentimentalizes anything about the Republican Party since Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

Conservatism’s skewed view of the past, exemplified here by Payne, unravels when taken out of its fantasy context: he says “liberals in 2012 claimed that Romney would be a ‘disaster’ for women,” and he would have been; but that was before we met Donald Trump as a candidate. Saying that one candidate is worse than another does not sentimentalize the other.

Payne protests that “President Barack Obama accused Romney of wanting to take the United States back to ‘policies more suited to the 1950s,’” but it was true then and it remains true now, notwithstanding Trump’s despicable misogyny.

Conservatism is and has always been about maintenance of the status quo, of the “good old days,” while for liberals and progressives it is about change for the better. Trump is feeding on the desire of the Republican base to turn the clock back to 1950s style white privilege. Nothing has changed, except by degree.

In fact, Payne sounds a lot like Trump when he projects reactionary conservative behavior onto liberals, claiming liberal political philosophy “exists less as a coherent and workable set of political and public-policy beliefs and more as a fanatical, oppositional vehicle for hysterics who shriek and faint whenever a new Republican walks onto the scene.”

If that doesn’t describe modern Republican politics to a tee, nothing does.

No, let’s be clear here: Democrats Don’t “sentimentalize Republicans from years past.” It’s just that bad as past Republicans were, Republicans of today are even worse.