Blow and Krugman

Mr. Blow says “No, Trump, Not on Our Watch” and that if  politicians won’t stand up to Trump, the American people will.  Prof. Krugman, in “Building a Wall of Ignorance,” discusses a Mexican standoff that epitomizes Trumpism.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

When Barack Obama was in office — remember the good old days, just over a week ago, when we didn’t wake up every morning and wonder what new atrocity was emanating from the White House — Republicans were apoplectic about his use of executive orders. They called them “unilateral edicts” and “power grabs.” As Iowa Senator Charles Grassley once said in a floor speech: “The president looks more and more like a king that the Constitution was designed to replace.”

What a difference a week makes.

Now many of those Republicans are as quiet as church mice as Donald Trump pumps out executive orders at a fevered pitch, doing exactly what he said he’d do during the campaign, for all of those who were paying attention: advancing a white nationalist agenda and vision of America, whether that be by demonizing blacks in the “inner city,” Mexicans at the border or Muslims from the Middle East.

Trump’s America is not America: not today’s or tomorrow’s, but yesterday’s.

Trump’s America is brutal, perverse, regressive, insular and afraid. There is no hope in it; there is no light in it. It is a vast expanse of darkness and desolation.

And that is a vision of America that most of the people in this country cannot and will not abide. That is a vision of America that has galvanized ordinary American citizens in opposition in a way that is almost without precedent. We are inching toward anarchy as both the people and the president refuse to back down.

Not only is Trump a literacy-lite, conspiracy-chasing, compulsively lying bigot, he is also a narcissistic workaholic who now wields the power of the presidency. You could not have conceived of a more dangerous combination of characteristics. He is the paragon of the clueless and an idol of the Ku Kluxers. Already, people feel deluged by a never-ending flood of national damage and despair. But Americans are not prone to suffering in silence. America’s period of mourning has ended; the time of anger and active opposition has dawned. The greatest two motivators of electoral activism in this country are a desire for change and durable fear: In Trump, those two are wed.

The most recent move to excite and outrage the opposition was Trump’s move to “indefinitely suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees and temporarily ban people from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the United States,” according to a New York Times editorial.

The ban is nonsensical and likely unconstitutional, as well as chaotic and damaging to our national security interests.

As The Times noted Saturday: “Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, no one has been killed in the United States in a terrorist attack by anyone who emigrated from or whose parents emigrated from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the seven countries targeted in the order’s 120-day visa ban, according to Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina.”

The report continued: “There was a random quality to the list of countries: It excluded Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where the founders of Al Qaeda and many other jihadist groups have originated. Also excluded are Pakistan and Afghanistan, where persistent extremism and decades of war have produced militants who have occasionally reached the United States. Notably, perhaps, the list avoided Muslim countries where Mr. Trump has major business ventures.”

Furthermore, as CNN reported on Sunday, on Friday night the Department of Homeland Security decided that the restrictions “did not apply to people with lawful permanent residence, generally referred to as green card holders.”

The report continued, however: “The White House overruled that guidance overnight, according to officials familiar with the rollout. That order came from the President’s inner circle, led by Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon.”

Yes, that Steve Bannon, the one who was recruited to the Trump campaign from his job as executive chairman of Breitbart News and is now Trump’s chief strategist, the one who said of Breitbart to Mother Jones in July: “We’re the platform for the alt-right.” Alt-right is just a slick, euphemistic repackaging and relabeling of white nationalists, whether they be white separatists, white supremacists or actual Nazis.

Also, as The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, Trump added Bannon to the National Security Council while removing the director of national intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This is outrageous. What does Bannon know about national security? It is becoming worrisome that in this reign of bigotry, Bannon may be the brain and Trump the brawn; Bannon the spiritual president and Trump the spurious packaging.

America will not stand for this, so if obsequious conservative politicians or lily-livered liberal ones won’t sufficiently stand up to this demagogic dictator, then the American people will do the job themselves.

Over the weekend, protesters spontaneously popped up at airports across the country to send an unambiguous message: Not in our name; not on our watch. It is my great hope that this will be a permanent motif of Trump’s term. If no one else is going to fight for American values, it falls to the American people themselves to do so.

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

We’re just over a week into the Trump-Putin regime, and it’s already getting hard to keep track of the disasters. Remember the president’s temper tantrum over his embarrassingly small inauguration crowd? It already seems like ancient history.

But I want to hold on, just for a minute, to the story that dominated the news on Thursday, before it was, er, trumped by the uproar over the refugee ban. As you may recall — or maybe you don’t, with the crazy coming so thick and fast — the White House first seemed to say that it would impose a 20 percent tariff on Mexico, but may have been talking about a tax plan, proposed by Republicans in the House, that would do no such thing; then said that it was just an idea; then dropped the subject, at least for now.

For sheer viciousness, loose talk about tariffs isn’t going to match slamming the door on refugees, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, no less. But the tariff tale nonetheless epitomizes the pattern we’re already seeing in this shambolic administration — a pattern of dysfunction, ignorance, incompetence, and betrayal of trust.

The story seems, like so much that’s happened lately, to have started with President Trump’s insecure ego: People were making fun of him because Mexico will not, as he promised during the campaign, pay for that useless wall along the border. So his spokesman, Sean Spicer, went out and declared that a border tax on Mexican products would, in fact, pay for the wall. So there!

As economists quickly pointed out, however, tariffs aren’t paid by the exporter. With some minor qualifications, basically they’re paid for by the buyers — that is, a tariff on Mexican goods would be a tax on U.S. consumers. America, not Mexico, would therefore end up paying for the wall.

Oops. But that wasn’t the only problem. America is part of a system of agreements — a system we built — that sets rules for trade policy, and one of the key rules is that you can’t just unilaterally hike tariffs that were reduced in previous negotiations.

If America were to casually break that rule, the consequences would be severe. The risk wouldn’t so much be one of retaliation — although that, too — as of emulation: If we treat the rules with contempt, so will everyone else. The whole trading system would start to unravel, with hugely disruptive effects everywhere, very much including U.S. manufacturing.

So is the White House actually planning to go down that route? By focusing on imports from Mexico, Mr. Spicer conveyed that impression; but he also said that he was talking about “comprehensive tax reform as a means to tax imports from countries that we have a trade deficit from.” That seemed to be a reference to a proposed overhaul of corporate taxes, which would include “adjustable border taxes.”

But here’s the thing: that overhaul wouldn’t at all have the effects he was suggesting. It wouldn’t target countries with which we run deficits, let alone Mexico; it would apply to all trade. And it wouldn’t really be a tax on imports.

To be fair, this is a widely misunderstood point. Many people who should know better believe that value-added taxes, which many countries impose, discourage imports and subsidize exports. Mr. Spicer echoed that misperception. In fact, however, value-added taxes are basically national sales taxes, which neither discourage nor encourage imports. (Yes, imports pay the tax, but so do domestic products.)

And the proposed change in corporate taxes, while differing from value-added taxation in some ways, would similarly be neutral in its effects on trade. What this means, in particular, is that it would do nothing whatsoever to make Mexico pay for the wall.

Some of this is a bit technical — see my blog for more details. But isn’t the U.S. government supposed to get stuff right before floating what sounds like a declaration of trade war?

So let’s sum it up: The White House press secretary created a diplomatic crisis while trying to protect the president from ridicule over his foolish boasting. In the process he demonstrated that nobody in authority understands basic economics. Then he tried to walk the whole thing back.

All of this should be placed in the larger context of America’s quickly collapsing credibility.

Our government hasn’t always done the right thing. But it has kept its promises, to nations and individuals alike.

Now all of that is in question. Everyone, from small nations who thought they were protected against Russian aggression, to Mexican entrepreneurs who thought they had guaranteed access to our markets, to Iraqi interpreters who thought their service with the U.S. meant an assurance of sanctuary, now has to wonder whether they’ll be treated like stiffed contractors at a Trump hotel.

That’s a very big loss. And it’s probably irreversible.

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