In “Trump: Making America White Again” Mr. Blow says the president-elect aims for a country by and for white men. Prof. Krugman, in “Build He Won’t,” tells us not to fall for the Trump infrastructure scam. Here’s Mr. Blow:
This may well be the beginning of the end: the early moments of a historical pivot point, when the slide of the republic into something untoward and unrecognizable still feels like a small collection of poor judgments and reversible decisions, rather than the forward edge of an enormous menace inching its way forward and grinding up that which we held dear and foolishly thought, as lovers do, would ever endure.
So many of President-elect Donald Trump’s decisions herald a tomorrow that is bleak for anyone who held hope that he could be a different, better man than the one who campaigned (I was not among that cohort), or those who simply assumed that the gravity of the office he is to assume would ground him.
Hard-line Trumpism isn’t softening; it’s being cemented.
Increasingly, as he picks his cabinet from among his fawning loyalists, it is becoming clear that by “Make America Great Again,” he actually meant some version of “Make America a White, Racist, Misogynistic Patriarchy Again.” It would be hard to send a clearer message to women and minorities that this administration will be hostile to their interests than the cabinet he is assembling.
He has promoted Stephen Bannon, an alt-right, white nationalist cheerleader and sympathizer, to chief White House strategist.
Senator Bernie Sanders responded to the Bannon announcement with a blistering statement:
“The appointment by President-elect Trump of a racist individual like Mr. Bannon to a position of authority is totally unacceptable. In a democratic society we can disagree all we want over issues, but racism and bigotry cannot be part of any public policy. The appointment of Mr. Bannon by Mr. Trump must be rescinded.”
But of course, Trump had no intention of rescinding the appointment. Indeed, he had more controversial appointments to come.
He has chosen the extreme anti-Islam hyperbolist Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — who also happens to be a stop-and-frisk apologist and has tweeted that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL” — as his national security adviser.
As The New York Times reported Thursday:
“General Flynn, for instance, has said that Shariah, or Islamic law, is spreading in the United States. (It is not.) His dubious assertions are so common that when he ran the Defense Intelligence Agency, subordinates came up with a name for the phenomenon: They called them ‘Flynn facts.’”
In October, Flynn tweeted:
“Follow Mike @Cernovich He has a terrific book, Gorilla Mindset. Well worth the read. @realDonaldTrump will win on 8 NOV!!!”
The New Yorker dubbed Mike Cernovich “the meme mastermind of the alt-right” in a lengthy profile.
The magazine pointed out:
“On his blog, Cernovich developed a theory of white-male identity politics: men were oppressed by feminism, and political correctness prevented the discussion of obvious truths, such as the criminal proclivities of certain ethnic groups.”
Then there was the choice of Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general. In 1986 Sessions famously became only the second nominee in 48 years to be rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee, due to racist comments and behavior.
When confronted by the committee about remarks he was accused of making about the N.A.A.C.P. and the A.C.L.U., Sessions responded:
“I’m often loose with my tongue. I may have said something about the N.A.A.C.P. being un-American or Communist, but I meant no harm by it.”
But not all of Sessions’s issues regarding minorities have a 30-year vintage.
In response to the attorney general announcement, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement that read in part:
“But we cannot support his nomination to be the country’s next attorney general. Senator Sessions not only has been a leading opponent of sensible, comprehensive immigration reform, he has associated with anti-immigrant groups we consider to be deeply racist, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Security Policy.”
Indeed, FAIR was quick to congratulate Sessions on his nomination Friday, saying in a statement: “It’s hard to imagine a better pick for the attorney general position than Senator Jeff Sessions”; the group called on Sessions to rid the country of sanctuary cities.
The S.P.L.C. has written about FAIR, saying:
“FAIR leaders have ties to white supremacist groups and eugenicists and have made many racist statements. Its advertisements have been rejected because of racist content. FAIR’s founder, John Tanton, has expressed his wish that America remain a majority-white population: a goal to be achieved, presumably, by limiting the number of nonwhites who enter the country.”
Trump is making a statement that it would behoove America to heed: The America he envisions, and is now actively constructing from his perch of power, is not an inclusive America. It is a society driven by a racial Orwellianism that seeks to defend, elevate and enshrine the primacy of white men and is hostile to all “others.”
That orange glow emanating from the man is the sun setting on America’s progress, however slow and halting, on race and gender inclusion and equity.
And now here’s Prof. Krugman:
Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist, is a white supremacist and purveyor of fake news. But the other day, in an interview with, um, The Hollywood Reporter, he sounded for a minute like a progressive economist. “I’m the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan,” he declared. “With negative interest rates throughout the world, it’s the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything.”
So is public investment an area in which progressives and the incoming Trump administration can find common ground? Some people, including Bernie Sanders, seem to think so.
But remember that we’re dealing with a president-elect whose business career is one long trail of broken promises and outright scams — someone who just paid $25 million to settle fraud charges against his “university.” Given that history, you always have to ask whether he’s offering something real or simply engaged in another con job. In fact, you should probably assume that it’s a scam until proven otherwise.
And we already know enough about his infrastructure plan to suggest, strongly, that it’s basically fraudulent, that it would enrich a few well-connected people at taxpayers’ expense while doing very little to cure our investment shortfall. Progressives should not associate themselves with this exercise in crony capitalism.
To understand what’s going on, it may be helpful to start with what we should be doing. The federal government can indeed borrow very cheaply; meanwhile, we really need to spend money on everything from sewage treatment to transit. The indicated course of action, then, is simple: borrow at those low, low rates, and use the funds raised to fix what needs fixing.
But that’s not what the Trump team is proposing. Instead, it’s calling for huge tax credits: billions of dollars in checks written to private companies that invest in approved projects, which they would end up owning. For example, imagine a private consortium building a toll road for $1 billion. Under the Trump plan, the consortium might borrow $800 billion while putting up $200 million in equity — but it would get a tax credit of 82 percent of that sum, so that its actual outlays would only be $36 million. And any future revenue from tolls would go to the people who put up that $36 million.
There are three questions you should immediately ask.
First, why do it this way? Why not just have the government do the spending, the way it did when, for example, we built the Interstate Highway System? It’s not as if the feds are having trouble borrowing. And while involving private investors may create less upfront government debt than a more straightforward scheme, the eventual burden on taxpayers will be every bit as high if not higher.
Second, how is this scheme supposed to deal with infrastructure needs that can’t be turned into profit centers? Our top priorities should include things like repairing levees and cleaning up hazardous waste; where’s the revenue stream? Maybe the government can promise to pay fees in perpetuity, in effect “renting” the repaired levee or waterworks — but that makes it even clearer that we’re basically engaged in a gratuitous handout to select investors.
Third, what reason do we have to believe that this scheme will generate new investment, as opposed to repackaging things that would have happened anyway? For example, many cities will have to replace their water systems in the years ahead, one way or another; if that replacement takes place under the Trump scheme rather than through ordinary government investment, we haven’t built additional infrastructure, we’ve just privatized what would have been public assets — and the people acquiring those assets will have paid just 18 cents on the dollar, with taxpayers picking up the rest of the tab.
Again, all of this is unnecessary. If you want to build infrastructure, build infrastructure. It’s hard to see any reason for a roundabout, indirect method that would offer a few people extremely sweet deals, and would therefore provide both the means and the motive for large-scale corruption. Or maybe I should say, it’s hard to see any reason for this scheme unless the inevitable corruption is a feature, not a bug.
Now, the Trump people could make all my suspicions look foolish by scrapping the private-investor, tax credits aspect of their proposal and offering a straightforward program of public investment. And if they were to do that, progressives should indeed work with them on that issue.
But it’s not going to happen. Cronyism and self-dealing are going to be the central theme of this administration — in fact, Mr. Trump is already meeting with foreigners to promote his business interests. And people who value their own reputations should take care to avoid any kind of association with the scams ahead.