Trump’s Year Zero – A Status Report

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office, February 13, 2017 (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images)

Distracted by the toxic fog of lies and threats, one can lose sight of the real, material damage from this administration. At the end of Trump Year Zero, what genuine damage have we suffered and where have our fears outpaced real events?

Here’s a summary of what I see as the worst impacts so far. They are ranked in importance from least to greatest, in terms of the human and economic impact and how difficult those effects will be to remedy.

Ending Police Reforms

Our Attorney General, J. Beauregard Sessions, has decided that White Lives Matter. The Justice Department in September summarily disbanded its police oversight program operating through the COPS initiative. Trying to establish some capable police oversight takes time. Something as simple as providing official documentation of police murders is complex and fraught with resistance. Dismantling this effort sends years of work down the toilet. Another effort can be started in the future, but the early gains will have been lost.

Gutting the State Department

Xenophobes hate diplomats. Diplomats are smart, worldly, and comfortable moving across boundaries of culture and tribe. Stalin often exiled people to the gulags for nothing more than having served his government abroad. McCarthy was convinced that the State Department was brimming with Communists. One of the brainiest jobs in government outside scientific research, diplomats have always been hated by the far right. Republicans have finally wrecked the State Department.

Under the leadership of a Texas oil executive with strong ties to Moscow, this has become one of the worst jobs in government. Almost 60% of our senior Foreign Service leadership have left, taking with them hundreds of years of accumulated knowledge and experience. They aren’t being replaced.

Those Foreign Service Officers who haven’t yet gotten the hint received a not so-subtle nudge from their asshole boss this month. Tillerson is reassigning career diplomats to do FOIA paperwork. This sick move satisfies two key Republican goals, further degrading the State Department while disclosing what they believe are its dark conspiratorial secrets.

This is unfixable. It would take decades of concentrated effort to rebuild quality and competence in an agency as complex as State. We simply aren’t going to have the kind of diplomatic apparatus we once enjoyed. Bye bye.

Declining Attractiveness for Immigrants

The number of applications for H1B visas, the special category for high-tech immigrants, fell last year for the first time since the recession. Fewer foreign students applied to US universities for the first time since 9/11. Travel to the US dropped by a little more than 4% last year.

Just a few weeks into the Trump administration a white terrorist murdered an Indian engineer in Kansas City. Trump’s silence on the murder was heard pretty loudly around the world while Americans failed to notice. When combined with the rest of the administration’s racist agenda, highly valued immigrants are finding better places to go, especially Canada and Australia. There’s been a surge of interest on Indian job sites by US-based workers who want to return home.

If the economy remains strong, it may be possible to reverse this. What’s most worrying is the decline in student applications. That’s a class of people who will be building the next generation of the global economy. If young professionals no longer want to do that here, then we will face painful, long-term problems. We will look back wistfully on an era when we didn’t even have to try to recruit immigrants. Ah, the good old days…

Withdrawal from TPP

A trade agreement, completed late in 2016 after more than a decade of delicate, complex work would have sealed US leadership in the world’s largest emerging market. US priorities around commerce, labor and environmental issues would have been at the center of a new century of Pacific trade.

Now they won’t.

Trump killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The rest of the Pacific Rim countries originally in the deal have completed it without us. Now the Chinese are moving into our void to craft a successor agreement built around their culture, laws and interests. This is not fixable. We held a leadership position based not on our present or future power, but on our past power. We pissed it away by electing a moron. Now it’s gone. Barring a major disruption on the scale of a Chinese Civil War or a regional war, our position of economic leadership in the Pacific is lost. This will have its most painful effects for us in manufacturing, software, and entertainment, but many of the impacts may not even be apparent yet. This may be the dumbest move America has ever made.

A Clumsy Territorial Tax Scheme

Tax policy is complicated. People running our government right now don’t trouble themselves with complications. Our switch to a territorial tax scheme was executed in such a slapdash manner that it enhanced incentives to eliminate American jobs.

Two provisions are likely to have the greatest job-killing impact and they seem to have been crafted almost purposely to cause this outcome. The first, “full and immediate expensing,” removes one of the obstacles to automation. Replacing humans with machines may not be very difficult anymore, but it usually involves significant upfront capital outlays. This provision changes the way those outlays are amortized, basically making it possible to treat them as an expense in year one.

Combine that with one of the most generous territorial tax plans in the world, and there’s little reason to locate any menial jobs in the US. Unlike most territorial plans, our brilliant new system imposes no taxes on new income earned by companies abroad. These two provisions are the hammer and anvil for industries vulnerable to automation and offshoring. And maybe just a bit of karmic justice for the Rust Belt voters who elected these people.

This tax plan commits the US government to borrow $1.5tr and hand that money to our wealthiest citizens and corporations. That’s bad, but it can be reversed by passing a single bill. The impact of the territorial provisions on an already fragile jobs base will probably be terminal.

The End of the Post-War International Order

Our allies in Europe and Asia have learned some hard lessons about our reliability as the world’s leading power. They have begun to craft new arrangements. Trump is merely the last nail in this coffin. Over the past half century, America has produced too few Bush 1’s and Obamas and too many Bush II’s and Trumps. We are an increasingly erratic and dangerous partner, less to be trusted than contained. That is a seismic reordering of international relations, one which won’t be corrected with an election or an impeachment. We will spend the coming era on the defensive, doing what we can to protect our international standing as our credibility erodes. Barring a revolution in the US followed by half a century or so of progressive leadership, this trend isn’t going to be reversed. The era of US leadership over the world’s liberal democracies is finished.

On the Horizon…

Killing a Fair Housing Campaign

One of the most promising outcomes of the Obama Administration was barely noticed by the public. A HUD program called “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” was beginning to look like the most important move toward desegregation since the Civil Rights era. It was a simple rule that forced cities to examine the racial impact of housing policy, and it was already showing some hopeful results not only toward desegregation, but also in making housing more affordable. Naturally, Republicans want to shut it down. Trump’s HUD, led by his token black friend Ben Carson, has suspended the rule. Under a white nationalist government, the fate of a promising desegregation scheme seems certain.

Limiting Student Loan Forgiveness

In a few cases, the Trump administration’s idiots overlap with its crooks, like in the leadership of the Education Department. Officials are taking steps to eliminate Obama Era measures that protected students who had been victims of student loan fraud and roll back access to repayment relief. There is no political constituency for these moves. It’s pure corrupt opportunism by officials with financial ties to the industry.

Letting Employers Take Tips

A proposed rule change by the Labor Department would let employers pocket tips. It is unclear whether this is sloppy drafting of an otherwise reasonable effort to improve conditions for “back of the house” employees, or an effort to open a new revenue stream for restauranteurs. Frankly, it looks like an error and might go nowhere.

What isn’t on the list

Immigration enforcement. Look closely at the most wrenching deportation cases and you’ll notice something troubling. With few exceptions, they are merely the continuation of an enforcement process begun under the Obama Administration. Obama was the deportation President. Deportations have actually declined under Trump. ICE has grown incrementally more reckless and abusive, but the material impacts have so far been limited.

Vote suppression. This should have been a big deal. Trump officials poured resources into a concentrated campaign across multiple departments to systematically suppress registration and turnout. They even set up a task force under aspiring young Nazi, Kris Kobach, to coordinate their campaign with state governments. Their failure despite heavy investment and passionate interest demonstrates how lucky we’ve been so far. Everyone in this administration who isn’t an idiot is either a crook or a mole. They are utterly incapable of executing any task requiring the smallest volume of intellect, attention or planning. At their worst, they are vandals.

Environmental protection issues. There remains a lot of potential damage, but not much has happened yet. Leaving the Paris Accord was mostly symbolic. Loosening restrictions on the coal industry may not matter much, since that business continues to die. This is one of those areas where you need more than just incompetent leadership to make an impact.

Net Neutrality. Handing a public asset worth hundreds of billions of dollars to a handful of companies for free is kind of a big deal, but it would also be really easy to take back. The companies know this, so they are slow-playing their hand. Only if the issue is forgotten for a few years will they make a serious move. This is bad, but we have time to fix it.

Health care. This really should have been easy. Just repeal the ACA. Having failed at his dead-simple step, the rest of their efforts have amounted to vandalism and harassment. By stalling, they are slowly eroding low income families’ access to health care for their kids. They are making it incrementally harder to get Medicaid and just generally chipping away at access. But there has been no large scale shift here. And frankly, even under the ACA access to affordable health care in the US was terrible. Little has changed.

Destruction of government ethics oversight. To avoid the formal appointment process, Trump promoted an incompetent lackey as interim head the Office of Government Accountability. That sucks, but it merely makes a weak and ineffective government function more so. Little known fact: our process for ethics enforcement was always a joke. Our government is unusually corrupt by the standards of other major democracies. If anything, this experience may raise public awareness and concern around the issue.

The Wall. Seriously, how hard is it to build a wall? Too hard, as it turns out.

Stacking the Judiciary. Again, this should have been a slam dunk. Think tanks handed the administration lists of people to slot into these jobs. On the surface it looks good, as they submitted a record number of appointees and the courts are the only area where this administration has expended effort on appointments. However, of the 200 or so submitted, about 30 have been appointed. An unprecedented number of low level appointments have resigned or been denied thanks to gross incompetence. Expect the slow pace to grind to a halt as the scandals ripen. There are a little more than 3000 federal judges. If all of his current appointments go through, Trump will have named 6% of them.

Privatizing US military and intelligence operations. First of all, the biggest steps in this direction were taken by President Bush. Trump is just removing the veneer. Second, the darker plans around privatizing covert activity haven’t happened and probably won’t. Again, it’s the kind of program that would require careful, cunning engagement from competent adults. They don’t have any.

Looking closely at some of the most troubling social developments of this year, you discover that many of them have been in motion for quite some time. This administration has been most successful at merely continuing bad ideas placed in motion by previous leaders. Where damage can result merely from inattention or incompetence, the impact of this administration has been staggering. Where damage requires careful attention, cleverness, and planning, they have failed across the board.

As stated earlier, Trump’s election was itself the most damaging development of our time, an event that ended a sort of Golden Age of the 3rd Republic. No matter what this administration does or fails to do, we probably don’t see a stable new order without a radical and probably violent restructuring of our government. We’ve been pretty lucky so far, but a reckoning looms.

89 Comments

  1. Rachel Maddow had the author of the NY Magazine article on tonight to discuss the story about Jeff Sessions pressuring FBI Director Christopher Wray (at Trump’s urging) to terminate Andrew McCabe. one of the senior level Justice officials Comey confided in about Trump. From WaPo, here’s their “take”.

    How this doesn’t rise to the level of obstruction of justice is beyond my understanding.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/tensions-between-sessions-and-fbi-over-senior-personnel-from-comey-era/2018/01/22/c95fc2bc-ffeb-11e7-8acf-ad2991367d9d_story.html?

      1. Not impossible, but unlikely, Dinsdale. The PA case was based solely on the state constitution, not on federal grounds. My own dear FL had its Supreme Court invalidate congressional districts on much the same ground just a while back, and federal courts didn’t intervene. Hard to see why that’d be any different this time.

      1. The only races PA Dems can win are statewide with a huge voter turnout. Then, with control of the Lege, they can begin the hard slog back to gaining traction. Getting people to move from urban areas into the heart of PA is probably not a viable strategy for Dems…We’ll see if SCOTUS allows a stay of the state court decision.

  2. Well that was fast. Schumer just got (Susan) collins’ed by McConnell. We know how that works out..

    If they knew they couldn’t hold they should never have shutdown the govt. Now their bluff has been called and any future threat will carry basically no leverage.

    That said, this was probably the best face-saving solution left after the trigger was pulled.

    1. FWIW, Jeff Flake was stiffed by McConnell as well when he didn’t schedule a vote on immigration that he promised Flake.

      There is no guarantee McConnell will keep his word, which is has not in the past. I also think Schumer lost ground by letting Trump know Dems would cede funding for his “wall” as part of the trade for a clean DACA bill…which T then rejected.

      The biggest problem I see is with the House. Ryan made no promises to bring up immigration and the Freedom Caucus is dead set against passing DACA legislation. So, in best case scenario, McConnell calendars immigration, DACA passes (with what limitations, who knows?), it goes to the House and dies. This is so wrong but then so much of how Republicans have governed is wrong that my expectation level is nil.

      1. IMHO, it’s even worse. McConnell didn’t promise a vote on DACA (which would have increased pressure on Ryan to do the same). He promised a vote on some vague “immigration” bill. That could be funding for the wall for all that McConnell cares. As long as it has something to do peripherally with immigration, he’ll label that the vote that he promised Schumer.

        Then, when the next CR comes around, McConnell could credibly claim he held up his end of the bargain by scheduling a vote on an “immigration” bill, while Schumer will be left trying to explain that either a) he’s so weak he can’t get McConnell to keep his word or b) was so stupid he got played. Either option makes the Dems look like losers, and makes it even harder to push for DACA in the next shutdown debate. Plus no one in America likes voting for losers, especially low-information voters who vote on little else than what their “gut” tells them.

    2. Honestly, I’m relieved that this round is settled, because while I think the Dems are in the right on DACA, I considered their situation a bit precarious. You sometimes have to beat a tactical retreat. Trump will crow about “winning”, and yes, that’s annoying, but there’s a long game here. I think Ezra Klein has some good points:

      https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/1/22/16920532/shutdown-deal-democrats

      CHIP is dealt with and out of danger- that is a good thing. I agree that McConnell is a 2-faced bastard, and I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw the Capitol building. But if he pulls any crap on DACA, the Dems can do this again. I hope it doesn’t come to another shutdown, but it might be better optics if it happens because McConnell didn’t bargain in good faith. They need to hash out their DACA bill and keep Donny2Scoops out of it until it’s time to sign.

      I am disappointed in Flake and Collins for not calling out McConnell’s duplicity, although they still have time to reverse that.

      1. Dems can do this again, true enough, but what’s the point now? Unless they’re just intending to use a short-lived ‘fight’ as a political cudgel to beat Republicans over the head over before the midterms, their position’s been squandered and they’ve no leverage whatsoever (and please, don’t get me started on McConnell’s ‘promise’) to force action.

        What’re they going to do, berate McConnell for being a liar and going back on his word? While they waste their time with that, the Majority Leader will be going all in to savage red-state Dems on the shutdown (and no, the fact that they voted with Republicans means less than nothing) to keep his Senate majority, even if Republicans lose the House.

        Dems going out of their way to pick this fight again would only incentivize that strategy even more, and Republicans will be more than happy to tar and feather Democrats as cowards and weaklings every day until Nov ’18; whatever it takes to depress their turnout if even a little bit and hopefully churn out some more of their own voters.

      2. As WX pointed out earlier, the House plan included 6 years funding for CHIP…so no net gain for all the pain. Plus, funding from taxes under the ACA are put off which saves Republicans several billion dollars and deprives ACA funding stream for subsidies and premium assistance.

        On Feb 8, I think there is going to be a battle over funding regardless of DACA from the Freedom Caucus over raising the debt ceiling but now at least the GOP can say they recovered billions for the Treasury by delaying the ACA taxes….I just do not see the House passing an immigration bill and I do see Trump increasing his wall budget demands for any proposal, whether it gets passed or not.

      3. Fly, I agree. Take some money off the table and put it in your pocket.

        Why can’t we stand up for DACA again? It still has the same value.

        I think the Republicans will negotiate very hard on immigration, but something will be accomplished, and it will include DACA. It may include some other things we won’t like but, hey, Republicans are in power now.

      4. unarmed, what’s the strategic path by which Democrats stand up for DACA again and actually manage to get it done this time? What’s their leverage? Their only viable option’s shutting down the government again, and their red-state members have already proved themselves unwilling to risk it. Certainly, one could make the argument that CHIP’s off the table now, and so Republicans have lost a valuable hostage, but fundamentally, we’re just back to where we’ve always been: intractable gridlock.

        For argument’s sake, say we have a repeat of ’13 and the Senate manages to pass something. In all likelihood, Paul Ryan’s not running for reelection anymore, and so there’s nothing to cajole a Speaker on the way out. You might as well try to get him to bring a tax increase to the floor, and we all know how likely *that* is.

        Even assuming that, through some extraordinary means, a vote was brought to the House floor and succeeded, in what alternate reality does sensible immigration reform get signed into law by the man who made his political debut calling Mexicans rapists and murderers? Immigration’s the *one* galvanizing issue for the base, and Trump cares more about keeping his base with him than anything else. We all know this.

      5. The way I see it Ryan, if the GOP doesn’t bargain in good faith, that’s some very potent motivation for the Dem base. Yes, it sucks for the Dreamers to be in limbo like that, but you stated the problem the Dems have: a racist in the White House who panders to the xenophobes and a House Speaker who DGAF. Plus a Senate Majority Leader who is less than trustworthy. The ultimate solution to helping the Dreamers is going to be voting GOPers out, I think. That’s the cold hard math.

      6. I generally concur with Fly. I do not trust McConnell, whenever he opens his mouth he generally lies. However, when the members of the Common Sense Coalition decided to accept his word, Schumer’s political position became untenable. If McConnell breaks his word once again, maybe these Senators will see what MCConnell truly is.

        Regarding the House, I see very little chance that they will codify DACA. The Freedom Caucus is dead set against it, and Ryan slavishly follows their dictates.

        But, still CHIP is funded for six years.

      7. It seems to me that the dems will have the same bargaining power in three weeks that they had last week. That is to shut down the government. Which isn’t much since that’s what the republicans want also.

        I think prodding the press to do some interviews of DACA recipients that have lost or will lose their DACA standing and be deported will increase the bargaining power.

        Maybe the threat of deporting a high performing teacher or budding scientist will change minds. Or not. It might harden the minds of those that believe furriners are getting all the breaks.

  3. Swing Left is running a donation derby based on the shutdown:

    https://swingleft.org/p/shut-them-down/

    Pledge $x per day the government is shut down to fund campaigns against Republicans in swing districts.

    I don’t have much to add to the commentary regarding the shutdown below, except that I read in the New York Times today that White House staff are among the initial round of furloughed federal employees. 45 may have played loose with shutdown politics before (“Maybe the government needs a good shutdown”) but let’s see how well he handles 40% of his staff disappearing overnight.

    1. Trump’s “inner” staff…the only “real” people that get to interact with him are considered “essential”….The ones who will be furlowed are those who actually do all the work, mind you….Sort of like the complaints emanating from the House gym that there aren’t any clean towels….Poor babies!

  4. Does anyone know of a poll that asks if a registered voter did not vote because “there is no way trump will win”. I think, hopefully, that this could be substantial number.

    Or “are you more or less motivated to vote in the next presidential election”

    I think answers to those questions will help me make it through the next 3 years.

    1. It might be more useful to become a voter registrar and try to get more people registered to vote. I stopped counting on “hope” a long time ago in favor of bare knuckle, down in the trenches work. We are all discouraged but I think it’s accurate to state that doing nothing is not an option. It’s going to take getting involved – making phone calls, getting people to the polls, knocking on doors….basic stuff that does work when it’s prodigiously applied.

      Hang in there, Unarmed! We’re “stronger together”!

  5. Call me a pessimist, but I think the Dems are going to get the blame for this current shutdown, and it won’t be pretty. My only hope is that Americans’ memories are short and it hopefully won’t affect the Nov. elections.

    I’m well aware of the inside baseball procedural issues surrounding this latest impasse. The problem is, most Americans aren’t, and they don’t care. It’s hard not to spin this as “Dems shut down the govt for an immigration bill”. This is deadly on 2 counts: 1) the shutdown itself 2) the fact that we did it for immigration.

    The first is damaging enough. We dems are supposed to be the responsible party. But the second is, IMHO, the most damaging. For most people who support DACA, it’s not their #1 issue, coming in far below economics, healthcare, maybe even taxes. Which means the Dems are basically saying they’ll throw down the gauntlet for immigration, but not for any other issue.

    The average American will ask “why didn’t the Dems shutdown the govt to defend the ACA? Or resist Trump’s tax bill?” I realize the procedural realities are that they *couldn’t* do that (both bills were done under reconciliation rules which didn’t need 60 votes, and none were attached to funding CRs). But the optics to the average American looks very bad.

    Furthermore, the Dems aren’t helping by basically agreeing with that narrative. No one’s going to accept it’s Trump’s fault when Dems themselves are saying they voted no because DACA wasn’t in there. Instead of focusing on DACA, the Dems should be saying “We’re tired of funding the govt through CRs. The Republicans control both houses and the Presidency and they still can’t produce a budget because they suck at governing. They’ve had enough extensions. Homework is due. Turn it in or fail the class. Our beloved military can’t keep fighting without being able to plan long-term. Oh, BTW, we want DACA in the bill.” This is essentially the position of the Republican ‘no’ votes (e.g. Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake), and the Dems should have pounced and taken it as their own “bipartisan” messaging, pointing to the fact that the Republicans couldn’t even rally 50 of their own votes for this CR. Instead, as usual, they’ve adopted the worst optics for an otherwise fundamentally reasonable position, handing the Republicans a battering ram which they’re now gleefully using.

    If they felt they couldn’t make that public position stick, then they should have accepted the CR, which at least comes with 5 years of SCHIP funding (which will take it off the table for a long time), and plan a battle around the next budget impasse, which will be in less than a month. Call me crazy, but I think the Republicans were actually being somewhat reasonable in offering a short-term, 4 week CR, in exchange for long-term SCHIP funding. Take it and regroup for the next battle if you can’t figure out a way to win this one.

    I suspect the Dems will break later this week, thereby accomplishing nothing, while looking like a loser, and confirming every on-the-fence voter’s suspicion that the Dems only care about minority interest groups and nothing about the concerns of the average American.

    1. Gosh I want you to be wrong this time, WX, but your batting average is pretty darn good.

      As a “tell”, Congressman Brady is the keynote speaker at a local Chamber of Commerce luncheon scheduled for this Tuesday…..He’s clearly anticipating this will be over and done with…..This is maddening. And, either way, the Dreamers and Dems get screwed….This is so wrong.

    2. WaPo seems to think there will be a deal….Here’s my problem with any “promises” to have a debate on immigration. The Freedom Caucus is dead set against any deal on DACA or immigration. Even if Dems get blamed for shut down, why should they have any confidence immigration reform (in any form) will get enough votes to pass, and, if it squeaks by, would Trump sign it?

      I just can’t see any winners here except the Republican hard-liners. Elections have consequences.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/trump-launches-new-round-of-partisan-attacks-as-government-shutdown-hits-day-2/2018/01/21/0560aece-fe35-11e7-a46b-a3614530bd87_story.html?

    3. I make a conscious effort to avoid predictions ever since last November, and so I’m not going to stick my neck out and assume what Democrats will or won’t do, but at the very least, WX, I think you’re dead wrong on this idea of funding the government now and living to fight another day. It’s not going to happen.

      Whether it’s now, in February, or on the cusp of March and hundreds of thousands of Dreamers are getting ready to pack their bags, the circumstances won’t change. If anything, they’ll be considerably worse for Dems if they back down. They’ll have ceded the moral high ground, their base will be depressed as hell, and Republicans will have absolutely no incentive to negotiate with people that they’ve already whipped into submission on this already.

      That aside, Rick Wilson has just posted an article up on The Daily Beast on the current shutdown politics, and he came to essentially the exact opposite conclusion that you did. I’m not saying he’s right, but gives his words a once over and see if they make some sense at least.

      https://www.thedailybeast.com/president-millers-shutdown-yes-republicans-will-be-blamedand-they-should-be?via=twitter_page

      1. This will just have to play out. I agree that the DACA issue is long overdue and I have absolutely zero confidence that enough Republians will keep their word on supporting any agreement that doesn’t require bloodletting from Dems. At some point, you just have to stand on principle, even if you go down hard, because it’s the right thing to do. Likewise, I am sick and tired of everything always being about Trump. I don’t want Dems or the Dreamers to be hurt but my trust threshold for the GOP is pretty slim.

    4. WX, like Mary, I fear you are correct. The Democrats keep losing because they have incompetent leadership, or at least an incompetent messaging/ marketing team. I said it months ago, and it has been said for years: The Dem’s keep bringing a knife to a gunfight.

      Nothing will change until the Democratic big thinkers realize how dumb/ uninformed the average American is and starts crafting messaging like the fascists, and also adopts every dirty trick tactic the fascists use.

      1. Dinsdale, with all due respect, that’s the dumbest idea I’ve heard since some ‘genius’ thought up the idea of a swimming desk (coming soon to a gold-plated factory near you! – https://www.thinkgeek.com/product/jtpo/?pfm=42_jtpo).

        We despise fascists, and so your suggestion is to become just like them? Look no further than to Republicans who try to act like Trump (hi, Ed Gillespie!) and see how that turned out for them. It’s a morally repugnant tactic, devoid of dignity that would only serve to undermine our country even further (more than enough of that right now, thanks very much), and it’s a political loser too.

    5. I’m probably an outlier here but I think its a decent deal. CHP is funded for another 6 years and it won’t look good if there is another failure to fix DACA before February 8th especially given that it would pass if just brought to either floor. I think this “OMG the Dems caved” hysteria is irrational. February 8th is another line in the sand and the Republicans are incapable of funding the government they control on their own….I had to stop and read what I just wrote. The majority party controlling both houses with their party’s president can’t keep the government open on their own. Kinda says it all doesn’t it?

      1. Koctya-
        I kinda agree with you, the deal is not that bad (especially in consideration of the usual stuff the Republicans have been trying to ram down the Dems’ throats).

        But that deal was on the table *without* shutting down the govt. That’s why I think the Dems should have taken that deal, then regroup and fight for DACA at the next round. There’s a real gain by getting SCHIP out of the way for 6 years, and they could even argue that they couldn’t risk SCHIP funding for a DACA debate.

        The dems should have taken that deal a few days ago without shutting down the govt, thereby still preserving the credibility of that threat. To the public, they could even say they “won” because they got the SCHIP funding they wanted (although most Republicans wanted it too). Now, instead, they’ve “lost” because they rejected the deal, only to come back to it when they caved on the shutdown. That’s the real tactical blunder they made.

  6. Some other conservatives are acknowledging the clouds around the silver lining:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-short-term-achievements-will-cost-conservatives/2018/01/19/c4f246e2-fd65-11e7-a46b-a3614530bd87_story.html?utm_term=.51f784d6a74b

    “Along the way, conservatives are ceding moral arguments and policy arguments. There will always be partisans on the left who hate anything those on the right do. But they are not who conservatives have to worry about. Conservatives have to worry about those in the middle who are persuadable. They have to worry about minority voters increasingly skeptical of the secular drift of the Democratic Party. They have to worry about younger voters. All of these people are not only increasingly alienated by Trump’s behavior but also by his defenders’ constant justifications for it.

    At a time of growing hostility to people of faith in the United States and a collapse of morality, the evangelical embrace of Trump hurts their Christian witness and minimizes the number of sympathetic ears to their cause. It has become harder to make the case for family and morality as prominent evangelicals applaud and justify the bad behaviors of a thrice-married adulterer who believes immigrants should be judged based on their nation of origin, not the content of their own character.”

    “Christian” leaders like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr. absolutely deserve to see their ministries whither and die from the moral rot they embraced. If you cannot stick to your own stated values, you cannot offer any real moral/spiritual guidance to people. I realize that the conservatives faced a horrid choice last year, one that moderates and liberals didn’t. But that is the true test of whether your values mean anything to you- do you stick to them when times are tough?

    1. Let’s talk about “people of faith”. Their support for DJT in full awareness of his sordid past and present actions destroys any legitimacy they pretend to have on the basis of “faith”. As the main speaker for the MLK Celebration hosted in The Woodlands this year stated: (paraphrased) How can people of faith ignore what Donald Trump is saying and doing and call themselves Christians?

      Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr are simply panderers. I have zero respect for these men and others who use the pulpit to glorify themselves, because that is all that is happening. There simply is no excuse for anyone who calls themselves “Christian” to support Trump. None. Zip. Nada.

      1. Matthew 4:8-10:
        ‘Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur. 9 And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you throw yourself to the ground and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”

        I make no claims to be a Biblical scholar, but that looks quite unambiguous to me, and was the Bible story I immediately thought of when these Evangelicals endorsed Trump.

    2. More damage reports from the right:

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/trumps-first-year-a-damage-assessment/2018/01/19/0b410f3c-fa66-11e7-a46b-a3614530bd87_story.html?tid=pm_opinions_pop&utm_term=.3a69640f4d54

      “The superficial appearance of normalcy in the rest of the government is not a sign of a robust democracy, but of confusion and a lack of direction. Because Trump does not have any kind of vision or even a basic set of policy preferences, and because he has no tolerance for the boring details of governing (including staffing important political appointments), the bureaucracy has remained mostly on auto­pilot in the past year. This situation will not last, and it should be no consolation to realize that potentially awful outcomes have been averted not by statecraft and prudent administration, but by inertia and incompetence……….

      Meanwhile, Trump has made good on the prediction that he would lead the conservative movement to disgrace, and he has gravely — perhaps even mortally — wounded the Republican Party. His endorsement of an accused child molester in Alabama’s Senate race coaxed a final humiliation of evangelical and “family values” conservatives that was a long time coming — and for many of us who are more moderate conservatives, our only regret is that it didn’t happen sooner. Yet the Trump effect has rippled further, attaching a repulsive hypocrisy to anything involving the word “conservative.” People who once insisted on religious beliefs and a sterling character as paramount in their evaluation of a president now wave away alleged payoffs to porn stars; fiscal conservatives now blithely applaud the addition of $1 trillion in debt; foreign policy hawks now mumble quietly as the president draws moral equivalences between the United States and Russia.”

      It just makes me respect the principled conservatives like Chris more and more.

    3. My comment is to repeat a statement that was made the head of the Republican Party in WA state last November following the elections (I’m paraphrasing some) – That’s the way it goes in the age of Trump, Urban areas, Suburban areas and Exurban areas are voting Democratic. Those are pretty tough odds for the Republican Party in a state that is basically urban. WA, CA, OR, CO and increasingly AZ and NM fall into those categories in the West. In the East, much of VA, the other middle Atlantic States, and New England are also included. The same is true of much of the Mid-West, Great Lakes States and some of the South except that there are varying degrees of gerrymandering and voter suppression skewing the results.

  7. Really not much to add in the way of different choices. I fervently hoped that NATO or giga-corporations affected by the isolationist policies would have assassinated the puppet tyrant by now, but maybe they realized that pence was quite possibly worse. Hell, the giga-corps are making out like bandits, so no way they would kill him.

    CNN is reporting today that recent polling has shrunk the Democrat’s favorability rating to a 49-44 advantage. Given the amount of gerrymandering we are going to see, and additional voter suppression, no way Dem’s retake the House, and even a simple majority in the Senate is a fantasy.

    http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/21/politics/cnn-poll-midterm-elections-generic-congressional/index.html

    Looks like the slow coup was a total success. Mueller will not stop this regime. The last few weeks of machinations by Nunes, Fox et al have made it clear that the propaganda machine will overwhelm any dissent when the puppet tyrant shuts down the investigation. We are not going to see a million people march on Washington when the current regime stops Mueller or the puppet tyrant pre-emptively pardons anyone and everyone.

    I cannot even begin to fathom any more how bad it will be 3 years, 7 years, or 15 years from now. The u.s. every day looks closer to Turkey’s model, and the Polish or Russian model is not far behind.

    Democracy is losing, all over the planet. Sure, there are a few bright spots, but fascism is making huge gains everywhere. Poland, Hungary, Turkey, France, U,K., U.S., and the Philippines are just a few places off the top of my head where democracy is losing ground or been wiped out.

    Take your pick: 1984, Soylent Green, Rollerball, Handmaid’s Tale, Idiocracy. We are seeing elements of any of these movies or books in our world today, and those elements are multiplying. The puppet tyrant and his regime are just another milestone on the path of repression that humanity is on.

      1. Gen. John Kelly is more hard-lined on immigration than I think most realized. Gen. Mattis just released a Pentagon report that scrubs any mention of climate change. So much for the generals “saving” us from Trump. Looks like he knew exactly what he was getting.

    1. As Chris Ladd himself said: ” we probably don’t see a stable new order without a radical and probably violent restructuring of our government. We’ve been pretty lucky so far, but a reckoning looms.”

      Maybe he’s right. Six months ago I would have outright rejected that point of view, but now … with each passing day and the likelihood that the Republicans may well retain power going into 2019 I’m not sure how much longer we can risk it. How much longer can the established norms of this country hold out against the Fox News/right wing talk radio propaganda machine + all the Russian bots and fake news websites & social media memes? I hope to God that this latest CNN poll showing a narrowing of the gap in the preferred party rule of Congress is an outlier … if it’s not … I don’t event want to go there.

      To use a military history metaphor, this is still Day 1 of Gettysburg … we haven’t even gotten to Little Round Top much less Pickett’s Charge yet. The outcome is very much in doubt, and it ain’t looking too good ATM for the defenders of the Constitution and the values this country was founded upon.

      1. I try to stay positive, but reading articles like this is sobering. We cannot depend upon only women (after all, 53% of white women voted for Trump); we have never been able to count upon Hispanics to GOAV; and mid-terms while better for the party not holding the White House, are still “mid-terms” not presidential year. So, plan for the worst, work like hell, and scratch for every vote we can. Then, at least we have a chance. “Hoping it will happen” is fairy dust. We have to make it happen the old fashioned way understanding that Republicans clearly will have their well funded GOTV machine in high gear.

        https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/20/democrats-wave-2018-216488

      2. I agree its always wise to underestimate the intelligence and attention span of Americans, but this administrations’ first year polling numbers are staggeringly bad…historic (below). Even a bleed off of 2-4% of his previous voters just won’t be enough to win another term. On a morbid note his key voting block (white men 50-65) are dying off at approximately 2% every 4 years. He is upside down with every other demographic.

        I can’t believe he will duplicate the 53% white women vote in 2020. If the Democrats take back the House in 2018 his agenda which has been sluggish at best will grind to a halt and the investigations on his profiteering from his office will begin. And he will not stop tweeting and pissing off 56% of the population.

        All my speculations leaves out likely money laundering, fraud and racketeering indictments likely to land on or near the White House. This guy will limp out of the WH in 2020 and pray NYS doesn’t prosecute him or his family on NY State charges.

        http://news.gallup.com/poll/226154/trump-first-year-job-approval-worst-points.aspx

  8. EJ

    I hope the government shutdown doesn’t cause too much disruption. Were I to attempt to make a joke of it, I could say that it seems to be becoming an American tradition; but I respect that your country is going through difficult times and will not attempt to make light of it.

    1. Politically, I believe this shutdown was desired by Trump, the House and the Senate. All three are Republican and they believe that this time they will profit politically. Time will tell, but my perception is that the R’s will get blamed by the American people. I think the GOP is already beginning to feel the heat, but the Freedom Caucus, Ryan, McConnell and Trump are quite hubristic now.

      Another, reason for the shutdown is that the House (read Freedom Caucus) has no intention of passing any kind of immigration reform. Their intention is to let DACA die. By including a six year extension of CHIP, they thought the D’s would pass this measure and then they could procrastinate on DACA and kill it. Really, they’d just as soon kill CHIP too, but that would be political suicide.

      1. We’ve only just gotten started of course, but as of right now, Republicans’ hopes certainly aren’t being answered. By a 20-pt margin, the WaPo has Americans blaming the formerly GOP as opposed to Democrats.

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/more-blame-republicans-than-democrats-for-potential-government-shutdown-post-abc-poll-finds/2018/01/19/c4fce2f6-fd32-11e7-ad8c-ecbb62019393_story.html?utm_term=.a9874b8a3cd6

        In fairness, a solid 18% blame both sides, but when you’re playing shutdown politics, it’s a zero-sum game, and it’s clear which side has the advantage right now. We’ll see if they can keep it.

      2. If what I’m seeing on various forums is correct, Donny can’t go to Maralago because of the shutdown – no funds for the Secret Service, etc. that would make him grumpy; he’ll be stuck in that dump of a White House.

  9. Since it’s at the top of the news right now, maybe it will fade away when it gets solved and not be an election issue, but the government shutdown, to me, should be among the worst episodes of the first Trumpian year. For all his talk (and book!) about his dealmaking prowess, he has in this matter been completely ineffective. Or, could there be an ulterior motive behind this? He is on record as saying the nation would be well-served by a shutdown (which means DJT would be politically well served by same.) And there may be truth to this, given the anti-government views of his base.

    His OMB director, Mulvaney, said it would be “cool” to be the one to direct the shutdown! Good Lord!!! And, as to the blame game going on, it was Trump who, in 2013, said it is up to the President to solve such dilemmas. So be it. Where is the leadership? There ain’t none!!! And it is the abject failure of Republican leadership, led by a White House adrift in a rudderless ship whose captain has the attention span of an amoeba, that is the cause of this failure. They do, after all, control the 3 relevant arms of the budgetary process.

    I explained the crisis to a friend of mine here in Costa Rica today, a political scientist and government official. After she stopped laughing at the inanity of the situation, she told me how the budget process works here: once a year the executive branch submits its budget to the Assembly (Congress) for approval; that body has 2 months to adopt and/or modify it; if it fails to take action, the budget from the PREVIOUS year automatically becomes the budget for the now-current fiscal year. No further action can be taken.

    Simple. And effective. No shutdown possible. Do you think some modification of this system might be possible in the US?

    I spent 20 years in the USG, much of it on the Hill. I’m afraid it’s too logical a proposition for the fragile egos in charge. It makes too much sense. But maybe worth floating it???

    1. Fragile egos aside, this majority Republican Party is actually talking about bringing back earmarks! They “like” being able to spread government pork around in order to procure votes….It’s insane more than funny since we’re living within the dyfunctional governance, but really, the only solution is at the polls…which mid-terms will offer our first chance for relief.

  10. About gutting the State Dept- a friend of mine has kin who work there, and what I’ve heard from her agrees with what you posted. experienced people getting out and horrid morale among those who stay on. Stupid, stupid, stupid. As a scientist, I’ve worked with people from all over the world. It was something that I took pride in- the fact that so many smart people were eager to come here to study and work and help advance science. It’s not all gone, not yet, but at best it will be diminished. I heard a radio story about colleges having more difficulty recruiting foreign students- they now ask whether the school is in a red state or a blue state. As for TPP, wasn’t that doomed anyway? Clinton had hopped on the bashing bandwagon. Or do you think she would have reversed herself (again) on that?

    I can see the history books, 100, even 50 years from now, telling the story of China’s ascent assisted by America’s self-inflicted decline.

  11. I register disagreement about the deportations. Obama’s deportations were targeted in theory and practice, becoming a fairly precise machine by the time he left office. The current deportations are designed to terrorize, regressing all that progress nearly instantly. This is but one article, but there are others on statistical profiles of the new deportations. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/02/16/president-trump-immigration-raids-target-fewer-criminals/97988770/

    As for the reduction in gross deportations: who knows if it is from personnel reallocation from the border, but I suggest that deterrence, i.e. maximum public cruelty, does work. Just as televised firing squads of innocents also would have acted as an even stronger deterrent. Right now, it seems the deterrence in question is whether we’re unhinged enough to mass deport the registered DACA Americans (where else could they call home?).

    1. Hi EJ!

      Another area I’d add is the dilution of banking reform…vis a vis the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and other Dodd-Frank provisions….most especially, capital requirements.

      Finally, what about the changes in separation of church and state? Gender protections? Choice for women? Sanctity/protection of legislative balance and protocols in Congress?

      Sadly, the list is long and Chris’ compilation will likely have many additions…but it is a sad, sobering list.

      1. The CFPB never really got up and running. I’m not sure it was ever going to matter even if Trump hadn’t wrecked it. You probably already know what I thought about Dodd-Frank, little more than window-dressing.

        For all the talk and threats around reproductive rights, what has happened that made one meaningful change in access? Lots of risks out there, but I can’t point to one material outcome that has changed yet.

      2. Count me as one who is very happy that the CPFB was on the job to root out the Wells Fargo abuses…And, we will never know, will we, what this bureau was capable of given the constant attacks and limitations placed upon it by the Republicans.

        As for womens’ rights – contraception access was weakened. With the concurrent efforts to kill the ACA, it has been more difficult to obtain health insurance, even with the acknowledgement that the plan had problems. Again, what could have been possible if the GOP had worked with the Dems to make improvements in the ACA (absent their own failure to repeal or replace it)? That and the refusal of many red states to expand Medicaid (and now adding the work requirement and paperwork element), refusal to fund CHIP (which impacts pregnant women…who might have been able to avoid pregnancy if they could have accessed contraception…and who certainly benefit from pre-natal and post-natal care.

        I’m curious about your thoughts on separation of church and state. I assume the changes that Republicans have imposed on regular order is so obviously negative to a functioning democratic process that it deserves mentioning but not explaining.

      3. EJ

        Hi Mary! Did you go to the march?

        With regard to women’s rights, while I doubt that Mr Trump can be described as a feminist, I think the worst that he can be accused of in his role as president is of letting the theocrats run wild. This is bad enough, of course, and those theocrats have returned the favour by ignoring their otherwise-stern morals when it comes to the president’s own sexual morality; but to use a phrase of Chris’s, this is normal everyday Republican crazy, not special Trump crazy.

      4. I absolutely DID go to the Houston Women’s March! It was a great time. I disagree about Trump and women, however. I believe Trump (a serial adulterer) is also a misogynist, given his personal history and own words. I would like to be able to find “something kind” to say about this man, but I confess I find him to be a despicable, narcissist who is mean and intellectually incurious.

      5. Another point about meaningful change in access for women for reproductive care is the blatant (and successful) effort to close Planned Parenthood Centers and force them to continually spend operating dollars defending their right to exist and to qualify for funding from states and the federal government for the traditional services they have always provided.

        There are a lot of “ways” to reduce access – cost barriers, geographical barriers, legislative barriers (48 hour wait, etc). Can’t agree with you on this issue, Chris.

    2. Honestly, I don’t think a Clinton Administration would have made a huge difference in Puerto Rico. Unpopular opinion warning – Puerto Rico was a mess politically before the hurricane. Like New Orleans, the storm exposed a lot of the dysfunction that was already there.

      The response from Trump’s leadership was pretty indifferent, but still not as ugly as what we saw from Bush’s FEMA director in New Orleans. To me, the story from this summer’s hurricanes was the impact of climate change, and how frighteningly disruptive it is likely to be. The poor responsiveness from FEMA in PR wasn’t good, but I don’t think it’s the center of the terrible outcomes in PR from those storms.

      1. In terms of the response to Hurricane Maria? Yeah, your probably right that the Clinton administration would not have been much better. I know people don’t want to hear this but Puerto Rico has some very rugged terrain and many small remote communities that may only be accessed by a single 2 lane road. However on other issues I think the Clinton administration would have been much more helpful. Puerto Ricans don’t want special treatment, they simply wanted to be treated the same as other Americans. The Democrats at least acknowledge that Puerto Ricans are Americans.

      2. Good point Chris F. Perception is often reality in politics, and Trump being such a jerk is insult that was completely avoidable on top of injury that was probably inevitable. Could cost the GOP bigly in Florida, maybe a few other east coast states.

      3. EJ

        I fully believe you when you say that Puerto Rico was a mess beforehand. I’ve read some essays about their debt problems which sound awful.

        However, it seems strange to me that, under a grownup government, the rest of the people of the American Republic would ever permit Puerto Rico to remain in its hurricane-hit state for this long. It’s been four months and 40% of the island is still without power; apparently they’re having to do it almost by themselves. Surely this can’t be normal?

        In Europe, there would be no question that the remainder of the country would spend whatever money was necessary to repair the damaged infrastructure of their nearby islands, regardless of how mismanaged those islands had been. I can’t imagine that Americans would be so lacking in citizenship as to be able to turn their backs on their fellows.

      4. Of course PR is not going to be “the center of the terrible outcome” of the storms, mostly because there aren’t any electoral votes there. But its residents are in fact US citizens, and a huge number are moving out — many to swing state Florida. Bodes not well for the GOP!!! A few of them did get a roll of paper towels thrown at them by his majesty on his perfunctory visit to the island “surrounded by water in a big ocean” though.

      5. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but the Koch brothers is cultivating the incoming Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics who are choosing FL as their new home. FL, with its electoral importance, is not to be neglected. Koch has established welcome organizations which help with all kinds of resettlement challenges these immigrants face upon arriving in FL. You have to admit that’s smart – and, calculating. Whether the Puerto Rican immigrants will see through this and actually become a significant voting block in FL remains to be seen. Although as Americans (by birthright in PR) they do have the right to vote once they move to the mainland but they have to register timely.

      1. The biggest irony of it Flypusher is that many (if not most) Puerto Ricans who are pro-statehood tend to identify as Republicans in terms of national politics (ex. former Governor Luis Fortuno and current Congressional Delegate Jenniffer Gonzalez). Even many of the newer arrivals in Florida are considered ‘swingy’ – much more so than the established “Nuyorican” community here in New York which tends to be solidly Democratic. Many Hispanics in general are turned off by the Democrats aggressively pursuing abortion rights … but are equally repulsed by the Republicans practically spitting in their faces and screaming about deporting their grandmother, how Puerto Ricans are “lazy leeches on welfare that need to be cut loose”, how people should be whipped for speaking Spanish in public, etc.

        My point is that the Republicans had a good thing going in terms of Hispanic outreach under George W Bush but then squandered it by becoming the party of White nationalism. Now they have likely turned Hispanics against the Republican Party forever … much like they’ve already accomplished with Blacks and Asians. You know, Dubya came within a whisker of winning not only the Hispanic vote but also the Asian vote.

      2. EJ

        Hi Fly!

        There will probably be another grand coalition, which is not good. This is the second-worst outcome we could have hoped for: it means that sensible people will run the country in a stable way for the next few years, but creates a terrifying void after that.

        Blame Christian Lindner. It is directly his fault.

      3. Fly it was such fun! I wish the helicopter had moved on as it made it difficult to hear some of the speakers, and I wish the speakers had been on an elevated platform on the dais so that we could see them…food for thought for next year. I am amazed at all the hard work so generously given by so many people. I was especially impressed by the animation and passion of the lady who provided sign language for all the speakers. She was amazing! Sound system worked well and the crowd was polite and enthusiastic. Signs were great as were the costumes and garb of the more creative. Was very impressed with comments of former Mayor Parker, Chief of Police Acevedo, and Mayor Turner. Music added a lot to the event tempo. Whatever your role, please tell the organizers how special the event was for those of us who were “first-timers”. We brought 3 buses from Spring/Montgomery area and lots more car-pooled. I don’t know what the crowd estimate was but guess that will be out tomorrow…Maybe 10-15K? I am so glad I could attend!

  12. You forgot one more thing that has always been my biggest fear … in the next couple of years, we’ll default on our debt. After all, our president has always used bankruptcy as a sound business strategy, and it goes hand in hand with all the right wingers who believe it won’t matter. Goodbye US dollar as the safe haven…

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