Archive for the ‘Brooks’ Category

Brooks and Krugman

March 24, 2017

In “The Trump Elite, Like the Old Elite But Worse!” Bobo tells us that Republicans behind a health care bill found a new way to ignore regular people.  And “gemli” from Boston will have a few words to say.  Prof. Krugman’s “Scammers, the Scammed and America’s Fate” is on politicians who aren’t real leaders, but play leaders on TV.  Here’s Bobo:

Legislation can be crafted bottom up or top down. In bottom up you ask, What problems do voters have and how can they be addressed. In top down, you ask, What problems do elite politicians have and how can they be addressed?

The House Republican health care bill is a pure top-down document. It was not molded to the actual health care needs of regular voters. It does not have support from actual American voters or much interest in those voters. It was written by elites to serve the needs of elites. Donald Trump vowed to drain the swamp, but this bill is pure swamp.

First, the new Republican establishment leaders needed something they could call Obamacare repeal — anything that they could call Obamacare repeal.

It became clear as the legislative process rushed forward that there was no overarching vision in this legislation on how to reform health care or even an organizing thought about how to improve the lives of voters. There was no core health care priority that Republicans identified and were trying to solve.

There were just some politicians who wanted a press release called Repeal.

Second, Donald Trump needed a win. The national effects of that win seemed immaterial to him.

His lobbying efforts for the legislation were substance-free. It was all about Donald Trump — providing Trump with a pelt, polishing a credential for Trump. His lobbying revealed the vapidity of his narcissism. He didn’t mind caving to the Freedom Caucus Wednesday night on policy because he doesn’t care about policy, just the publicity win.

Third, the bill was crafted by people who were insular and nearsighted, who could see only a Washington logic and couldn’t see any national or real-life logic.

They could have drafted a bill that addressed the perverse fee-for-service incentives that drive up health costs, or a bill that began to phase out our silly employment-based system, or one that increased health security for the working and middle class.

But any large vision was beyond the drafters of this legislation. They were more concerned with bending, distorting and folding the bill to meet the Byrd rule, an arbitrary congressional peculiarity of no real purpose to the outside world. They were more concerned with what this internal faction, or that internal faction, might want. The result was a pedantic hodgepodge that made no one happy.

In 24 hours of ugly machinations, the Trump administration was willing to rip out big elements of the bill and insert big new ones, without regard to substance or ramification.

House members were rushed to commit to legislation even while major pieces of it were still in flux, when nobody had time to read it, when the Congressional Budget Office had no time to score it, when the effect on health outcomes of actual Americans was an absolute mystery.

As the negotiating process has gone on you’ve seen rank-and-file House Republicans caught between the inside game and the outside game. The logic of the inside game says vote for the bill. Support Speaker Ryan. Don’t defeat a Republican president. But the outside game screams: Oppose This Bill. It’s bad for most voters, especially Republican voters. And nobody likes it.

I opposed Obamacare. I like health savings accounts, tax credits and competitive health care markets to drive down costs. But these free-market reforms have to be funded in a way to serve the least among us, not the most. This House Republican plan would increase suffering, morbidity and death among the middle class and poor in order to provide tax cuts to the rich.

It would cut Medicaid benefits by $880 billion between now and 2026. It would boost the after-tax income for those making more than $1 million a year by 14 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center. This bill takes the most vicious progressive stereotypes about conservatives and validates them.

It’s no wonder that according to the latest Quinnipiac poll this bill has just a 17 percent approval rating. It’s no wonder that this bill is already massively more unpopular that Hillarycare and Obamacare, two bills that ended up gutting congressional majorities.

If we’re going to have the rough edges of a populist revolt, you’d think that at least somebody would be interested in listening to the people. But with this bill the Republican leadership sets an all-time new land speed record for forgetting where you came from.

The core Republican problem is this: The Republicans can’t run policy-making from the White House because they have a marketing guy in charge of the factory. But they can’t run policy from Capitol Hill because it’s visionless and internally divided. So the Republicans have the politics driving the substance, not the other way around. The new elite is worse than the old elite — and certainly more vapid.

Now here’s what “gemli” had to say:

“For a populist revolt to work, Mr. Brooks says politicians should have listened to the people. Well, that didn’t happen. But neither did the people listen to the politicians.

The so-called president made it clear that he had no clue about anything, much less having the discipline, the experience, the subtlety of understanding or the interest to do anything for the people. He couldn’t form a coherent sentence, and what he did manage to say was a jumble of self-aggrandizing nonsense, vulgar boasting and utter falsehoods.

Likewise, Congressional Republicans had spent eight years leading by obstruction, shut-downs and filibuster. They voted sixty times to symbolically repeal Obamacare without offering anything to replace it. Who in their wildest dreams could have thought that a real “plan” was in the offing?

Mr. Brooks aided and abetted the frenzy, writing against Obamacare, and thinking that healthcare can be handled by competitive markets. Healthcare is not like buying shoes and soda pop. People don’t have a choice when they’re sick and dying.

The so-called populists may have been revolting, but that’s not the same as a populist revolt. This was a government and a people who were powered by hate and resentment. They overlooked the obvious warning signs, closed their ears to the bells and sirens that signaled danger, and voted for a crotch-groping ignoramus.

A sick government can’t provide healthcare for its people. And our government is at death’s door.”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Many people are horrified, and rightly so, by what passes for leadership in today’s Washington. And it’s important to keep the horror of our political situation up front, to keep highlighting the lies, the cruelty, the bad judgment. We must never normalize the state we’re in.

At the same time, however, we should be asking ourselves how the people running our government came to wield such power. How, in particular, did a man whose fraudulence, lack of concern for those he claims to care about and lack of policy coherence should have been obvious to everyone nonetheless manage to win over so many gullible souls?

No, this isn’t a column about whatshisname, the guy on Twitter, who’s getting plenty of attention. It’s about Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House.

I’m writing this column without knowing the legislative fate of the American Health Care Act, Mr. Ryan’s proposed Obamacare replacement. Whatever happens in the House and the Senate, however, there’s no question that the A.H.C.A. is one of the worst bills ever presented to Congress.

It would deprive tens of millions of health insurance — the decline in the number of insured Americans would be larger than what would result from simple repeal of Obamacare! — while sharply raising expenses for many of those who remain. It would be especially punitive for lower-income, older, rural voters.

In return, we would get a small reduction in the budget deficit. Oh, and a tax cut, perhaps as much as $1 trillion, for the wealthy.

This is terrible stuff. It’s made worse by the lies Mr. Ryan has been telling about his plan.

He claims that it would lower premiums; it would actually increase them. He claims that it would end the Obamacare death spiral; there isn’t a death spiral, and his plan would be more, not less, vulnerable to a vicious circle of rising premiums and falling enrollment. He claims that it would lead to “patient-centered care”; whatever that is supposed to mean, it would actually do nothing to increase choice.

Some people seem startled both by the awfulness of Mr. Ryan’s plan and by the raw dishonesty of his sales pitch. But why? Everything we’ve seen from Mr. Ryan amid the health care debacle — everything, that is, except the press coverage — has been completely consistent with his previous career. That is, he’s still the same guy I wrote about back in 2010, in a column titled “The Flimflam Man.”

I wrote that column in response to what turned out to be the first of a series of high-profile Ryan budget proposals. While differing in detail, all of these proposals share a family resemblance: Like his health plan, each involved savage cuts in benefits for the poor and working class, with the money released by these cuts used to offset large tax cuts for the rich. All were, however, sold on false pretenses as plans for deficit reduction.

Worse, the alleged deficit reduction came entirely from “magic asterisks”: claims about huge savings to be achieved by cutting unspecified government spending, huge revenue increases to be achieved by closing unspecified tax loopholes. It was a con job all the way.

So how did Mr. Ryan reach a position where his actions may reshape the lives of so many of his fellow citizens, in most cases very much for the worse? The answer lies in the impenetrable gullibility of his base. No, not his constituents: the news media, who made him what he is.

You see, until very recently both news coverage and political punditry were dominated by the convention of “balance.” This meant, in particular, that when it came to policy debates one was always supposed to present both sides as having equally well-founded arguments. And this in turn meant that it was necessary to point to serious, honest, knowledgeable proponents of conservative positions.

Enter Mr. Ryan, who isn’t actually a serious, honest policy expert, but plays one on TV. He rolls up his sleeves! He uses PowerPoint! He must be the real deal! So that became the media’s narrative. And media adulation, more than anything else, propelled him to his current position.

Now, however, the flimflam has hit a wall. Mr. Ryan used to be able to game the Congressional Budget Office, getting it to produce reports that looked to the unwary like proper scores of his plans, but weren’t. This time, however, he couldn’t pull it off: The C.B.O. told the devastating truth about his plan, and his evasions and lies were too obvious to ignore.

There’s an important lesson here, and it’s not just about health care or Mr. Ryan; it’s about the destructive effects of false symmetry in reporting at a time of vast asymmetry in reality.

This false symmetry — downplaying the awfulness of some candidates, vastly exaggerating the flaws of their opponents — isn’t the only reason America is in the mess it’s in. But it’s an important part of the story. And now we’re all about to pay the price.

Bobo, solo

March 21, 2017

In “The Unifying American Story” Bobo gurgles about the Exodus tale as a national creed.  “Gemli” from Boston will have a few words in rebuttal.  Here’s Bobo:

One of the things we’ve lost in this country is our story. It is the narrative that unites us around a common multigenerational project, that gives an overarching sense of meaning and purpose to our history.

For most of the past 400 years, Americans did have an overarching story. It was the Exodus story. The Puritans came to this continent and felt they were escaping the bondage of their Egypt and building a new Jerusalem.

The Exodus story has six acts: first, a life of slavery and oppression, then the revolt against tyranny, then the difficult flight through the howling wilderness, then the infighting and misbehavior amid the stresses of that ordeal, then the handing down of a new covenant, a new law, and then finally the arrival into a new promised land and the project of building a new Jerusalem.

The Puritans could survive hardship because they knew what kind of cosmic drama they were involved in. Being a chosen people with a sacred mission didn’t make them arrogant, it gave their task dignity and consequence. It made them self-critical. When John Winthrop used the phrase “shining city on a hill” he didn’t mean it as self-congratulation. He meant that the whole world was watching and by their selfishness and failings the colonists were screwing it up.

As Philip Gorski writes in his new book, “American Covenant,” which is essential reading for this moment, the Puritans understood they were part of one covenant and had ferocious debates about what that covenant meant.

During the revolution, the founding fathers had that fierce urgency too and drew just as heavily on the Exodus story. Some wanted to depict Moses on the Great Seal of the United States. Like Moses, America too was rebinding itself with a new covenant and a new law.

Frederick Douglass embraced the Exodus too. African-Americans, he pointed out, have been part of this journey too. “We came when it was a wilderness …. We leveled your forests; our hands removed the stumps from the field …. We have been with you … in adversity, and by the help of God will be with you in prosperity.”

The successive immigrant groups saw themselves performing an exodus to a promised land. The waves of mobility — from east to west, from south to north — were also seen as Exodus journeys. These people could endure every hardship because they were serving in a spiritual drama and not just a financial one.

In the 20th century, Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders drew on Exodus more than any other source. Our 20th-century presidents made the story global. America would lead a global exodus toward democracy — God was a God of all peoples. Reinhold Niebuhr applied Puritan thinking to America’s mission and warned of the taint of national pride.

The Exodus story has many virtues as an organizing national myth. It welcomes in each new group and gives it a template for how it fits into the common move from oppression to dignity. The book of Exodus is full of social justice — care for the vulnerable, the equality of all souls. It emphasizes that the moral and material journeys are intertwined and that for a nation to succeed materially, there has to be an invisible moral constitution and a fervent effort toward character education.

It suggests that history is in the shape of an upward spiral. People who see their lives defined by Exodus move, innovate and organize their lives around a common eschatological destiny. As Langston Hughes famously put it, “America never was America to me / And yet I swear this oath — / America will be!”

The Exodus narrative has pretty much been dropped from our civic culture. Schools cast off the Puritans as a bunch of religious fundamentalists. Gorski shows how a social-science, technocratic mind-set has triumphed, treating politics as just a competition of self-interested utilitarians.

Today’s students get steeped in American tales of genocide, slavery, oppression and segregation. American history is taught less as a progressively realized grand narrative and more as a series of power conflicts between oppressor and oppressed.

The academic left pushed this reinterpretation, but as usual the extreme right ended up claiming the spoils. The people Gorski calls radical secularists expunged biblical categories and patriotic celebrations from schools. The voters revolted and elected the people Gorski calls the religious nationalists to the White House — the jingoistic chauvinists who measure Americanness by blood and want to create a Fortress America keeping the enemy out.

We have a lot of crises in this country, but maybe the foundational one is the Telos Crisis, a crisis of purpose. Many people don’t know what this country is here for, and what we are here for. If you don’t know what your goal is, then every setback sends you into cynicism and selfishness.

It should be possible to revive the Exodus template, to see Americans as a single people trekking through a landscape of broken institutions. What’s needed is an act of imagination, somebody who can tell us what our goal is, and offer an ideal vision of what the country and the world should be.

Well, Bobo, that somebody is pretty much goddamn guaranteed not to be a Republican.  Even you are cringing now.  Here’s what “gemli” from Boston had to say:

“We had someone who told us what our goal is, and who offered an ideal vision of what the country and the world should be. Barack Obama did just that. He offered a message of hope and change, and his vision was ridiculed and ultimately destroyed by the conservative scourge.

There are the people who promise to enslave the poor. They spit on the ground when they mention Obamacare. They sneer at the idea of welfare, or providing a livable minimum wage. They have denied reality for so long that denial and alternative facts are now part of our national ethos.

We’re wandering in a desert of ignorance. We routinely embarrass ourselves on a world stage when the president of our country, the man who represents the essence of who we are as a people, demonstrates that we are not trustworthy or intelligent enough to elect a moral, honest or competent leader. The travesty of his rise to power speaks to our collective lack of those qualities.

We don’t need to follow ancient religious myths to thrive as a country. We were on the ascendancy for nearly a hundred years following a secular path away from bigotry, slavery, ignorance, exploitation of the poor, misogyny and homophobia. Now the party that wallows in the swamp of those defunct ideas wants to lead us back into biblical ignorance.

If the voting booths are not boarded up in 2018, we will find our way back. And we will vow never to let this happen again.”

Brooks and Krugman

March 17, 2017

Sorry for the hiatus — my computer was in the DOSpital.  As time permits I’ll try to get caught up on what was missed.

Today Bobo has decided to tell us to “Let Bannon Be Bannon!”  He contends that President Trump has abandoned Steve Bannon’s governing philosophy, and with it, the benefits the working class counted on.  I wonder how much Bobo really knows about Bannon…  He told The Daily Beast in 2014, “I’m a Leninist.” He elaborated: “Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”  That’s a benefit for the working class?  “Gemli” from Boston will have a word or two.  Prof. Krugman considers “Conservative Fantasies, Colliding With Reality” and says government spending is full of pointless waste — until you try to cut it.  Here’s Bobo:

I continue to worry about Steve Bannon. I see him in the White House photos, but he never has that sprightly Prince of Darkness gleam in his eye anymore.

His governing philosophy is being completely gutted by the mice around him. He seems to have a big influence on Trump speeches but zero influence on recent Trump policies. I’m beginning to fear that he’s spending his days sitting along the wall in the Roosevelt Room morosely playing one of those Risk-style global empire video games on his smartphone.

Back in the good old days — like two months ago — it was fun to watch Bannon operate. He was the guy with a coherent governing philosophy. He seemed to have realized that the two major party establishments had abandoned the working class. He also seemed to have realized that the 21st-century political debate is not big versus small government, it’s open versus closed.

Bannon had the opportunity to realign American politics around the social, cultural and economic concerns of the working class. Erect barriers to keep out aliens from abroad, and shift money from the rich to the working class to create economic security at home.

It was easy to see the Trump agenda that would flow from this philosophy: Close off trade and immigration. Fund a jobs-creating infrastructure program. Reverse the Republican desire to reform and reduce entitlements. Increase funding on all sorts of programs that benefit working-class voters in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Many of us wouldn’t have liked that agenda — the trade and immigration parts — but at least it would have helped the people who are being pummeled by this economy.

But Bannonesque populism is being abandoned. The infrastructure and jobs plan is being put off until next year (which is to say never). Meanwhile, the Trump administration has agreed with Paul Ryan’s crazy plan to do health care first.

Moths show greater resistance to flame than American politicians do to health care reform. And sure enough it’s become a poisonous morass for the entire party, and a complete distraction from the populist project.

Worse, the Ryan health care plan punishes the very people Trump and Bannon had vowed to help. It would raise premiums by as much as 25 percent on people between 50 and 64, one core of the Trump voter base. It would completely hammer working-class voters whose incomes put them just above the Medicaid threshold.

The Trump budget is an even more devastating assault on Bannon-style populism. It eliminates or cuts organizations like the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that are important to people from Tennessee and West Virginia up through Ohio and Michigan. It cuts job-training and road-building programs. It does almost nothing to help expand opportunity for the working class and almost everything to serve defense contractors and the national security state.

Why is Bannonism being abandoned? One possibility is that there just aren’t enough Trumpians in the world to staff an administration, so Trump and Bannon have filled their apparatus with old guard Republicans who continue to go about their jobs in old guard pseudo-libertarian ways.

The second possibility, raised by Rich Lowry in Politico, is that the Republican sweep of 2016 was won on separate tracks. Trump won on populism, but congressional Republicans won on the standard cut-government script. The congressional Republicans are better prepared, and so their plans are crowding out anything Bannon might have contemplated.

The third possibility is that Donald Trump doesn’t really care about domestic policy; he mostly cares about testosterone.

He wants to cut any part of government that may seem soft and nurturing, like poverty programs. He wants to cut any program that might seem emotional and airy-fairy, like the National Endowment for the Arts. He wants to cut any program that might seem smart and nerdy, like the National Institutes of Health.

But he wants to increase funding for every program that seems manly, hard, muscular and ripped, like the military and armed antiterrorism programs.

Indeed, the Trump budget looks less like a political philosophy and more like a sexual fantasy. It lavishes attention on every aspect of hard power and slashes away at anything that isn’t.

The Trump health care and budget plans will be harsh on the poor, which we expected. But they’ll also be harsh on the working class, which we didn’t.

We’re ending up with the worst of the new guard Trumpian populists and the old guard Republican libertarians. We’re building walls to close off the world while also shifting wealth from the poor to the rich.

When these two plans fail, which seems very likely, there’s going to be a holy war between the White House and Capitol Hill. I don’t have high hopes for what’s going to emerge from that war, but it would be nice if the people who voted for Trump got economic support, not punishment.

For that, there’s one immediate recipe: Unleash Steve Bannon!

Now here’s what “gemli” has to say about that:

“The president and the swamp dwellers who slithered in when Americans opened the door for this experiment in mom-and-apple-pie fascism have no workable governing philosophy. Running a country means caring about the people who live in it, and not about whether Arnold Schwarzenegger was a flop or how big the inauguration crowds were. Staffing key positions with crypto-clansmen, racists, billionaire banksters, Russian puppets and garden-variety idiots is unlikely to form a coherent, user-friendly administration.

Bannon isn’t being restrained by the president. He, the president and the calcified Congressional Republicans are being exactly who they are: malevolent frauds, con men and grifters who have no idea how to run a country, and who care less than a fig that the downtrodden will be trodden upon even harder.

In fact, the downtrodden who voted for the president and his stupid ideas might deserve to reap the bitter harvest of their actions. They need to realize that there are consequences to giving morons and thugs the keys to the White House. Expecting help from Bannon, Paul Ryan and the other Rush Limbaugh Republicans is absurd. They don’t help the needy. The needy are there to be pandered to and exploited. Sometimes the needy are needy because they lack discernment, and don’t know who’s actually trying to help them.

Whatever happens, the current administration should not be unleashed. They should be caged.”

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

This week the Trump administration put out a budget blueprint — or more accurately, a “budget” blueprint. After all, real budgets detail where the money comes from and where it goes; this proclamation covers only around a third of federal spending, while saying nothing about revenues or projected deficits.

As the fiscal expert Stan Collender put it: “This is not a budget. It’s a Trump campaign press release masquerading as a government document.”

So what’s the point of the document? The administration presumably hopes that it will distract the public and the press from the ongoing debacle over health care. But it probably won’t. And in any case, this pseudo-budget embodies the same combination of meanspiritedness and fiscal fantasy that has turned the Republican effort to replace Obamacare into a train wreck.

Think for a minute about the vision of government and its role that the right has been peddling for decades.

In this vision, much if not most government spending is a complete waste, doing nobody any good. The same is true of government regulations. And to the extent to which spending does help anyone, it’s Those People — lazy, undeserving types who just so happen to be a bit, well, darker than Real Americans.

This was the kind of thinking — or, perhaps, “thinking” — that underlay President Trump’s promise to replace Obamacare with something “far less expensive and far better.” After all, it’s a government program, so he assumed that it must be full of waste that a tough leader like him could eliminate.

Strange to say, however, Republicans turn out to have no ideas about how to make the program cheaper other than eliminating health insurance for 24 million people (and making coverage worse, with higher out-of-pocket spending, for those who remain).

And basically the same story applies at a broader level. Consider federal spending as a whole: Outside defense it’s dominated by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — all programs that are crucial to tens of millions of Americans, many of them the white working-class voters who are the core of Trump support. Furthermore, most other government spending also serves purposes that are popular, important or (usually) both.

Given this reality, why are so many people opposed to “big government”?

Many have a distorted view of the numbers. For example, people have a vastly exaggerated view of how much we spend on foreign aid. Many also fail to connect their personal experience with public policy: Large numbers of Social Security and Medicare recipients believe that they make no use of any government social program.

Thanks to these misperceptions, carefully nurtured by right-wing media, politicians can often get away with running on promises of drastic spending cuts: Many, perhaps most voters don’t see how such cuts would affect their lives.

But what will happen if anti-big-government politicians find themselves in a position to put their agenda into practice? Voters will quickly get a lesson in what slashing spending really means — and they won’t be happy.

That’s basically the wall Obamacare repeal has just smashed into. And the same thing will happen if this Trump whatever-it-is turns into an actual budget.

Mr. Trump himself gives every indication of having no idea what the federal government does; his vaguely budget-like document isn’t much more than a roughly scribbled list of numbers, with no clear picture of what those numbers would mean. (In fairness, one could have said the same about Paul Ryan’s budgets in the past. In fact, I did.)

But the reality is that the proposed cuts would have ugly, highly visible effects. Zeroing out the Community Development Block Grant program may sound good if you have no idea what it does (which Mr. Trump surely doesn’t); eliminating Meals on Wheels, an immediate consequence, not so much. Nor would coal country, which voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump, like the consequences if he eliminates the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Wait, there’s more. Effectively disemboweling the Environmental Protection Agency may sound smart if you imagine that it’s just a bunch of meddling bureaucrats. But the public wants stronger, not weaker, environmental protection, and would not be pleased to see a sharp deterioration in air and water quality.

The point is that Mr. Trump’s attempt to change the subject away from his party’s health care quagmire isn’t going to work, and not just because this supposed budget literally isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. At a more fundamental level, it doesn’t even change the subject.

Republicans’ budget promises, like their health care promises, have been based on an essentially fraudulent picture of what’s really going on. And now the bill for these lies is coming due.

Brooks and Krugman

March 10, 2017

In “The Republican Health Care Crackup” Bobo says it’s not just a bill, it’s the end of an era in American politics.  “Larry Hedrick” from DC will have something to say to Bobo.  Prof. Krugman has questions in “A Bill So Bad It’s Awesome:”  What were Republicans thinking? Were they even thinking?  Here’s Bobo:

The Republican health care bill could represent the moment when the old order of American politics completely cracks up, the end of a certain era in American politics.

That era began around 1974, when Ted Kennedy introduced a bill to supplement America’s employer-based insurance system with a government program. The Democratic dream of universal coverage continued through Hillary Clinton’s time as first lady and reached a partial culmination with the passage of Obamacare.

Combating government health care was a central Republican preoccupation through all that time, and the passage of Obamacare provoked the Tea Party reaction and final arrival of Goldwaterite populist conservatism.

By 2010, however, both the Obama administration and the Tea Party opposition were out of step with the times. They both still thought the big political issues in American life were universal health care and the size of government.

In fact, another set of problems had magnified and come to overshadow the old set. This new set included:

First, the crisis of opportunity. People with fewer skills were seeing their wages stagnate, the labor markets evaporate. Second, the crisis of solidarity. The social fabric, especially for those without a college degree, was disintegrating — marriage rates plummeting, opiate abuse rates rising. Third, the crisis of authority. Distrust in major institutions crossed some sort of threshold. People had so lost trust in government, the media, the leadership class in general, that they were willing to abandon truth and decorum and embrace authoritarian thuggery to blow it all up.

If President Obama had made these crises the center of his administration, instead of the A.C.A., Democrats wouldn’t have lost Congress and the White House. If the Tea Party had understood the first two of these crises, there would have been no opening for Donald Trump.

Trump came along and exploited these crises. But if his administration’s health care approach teaches us anything, it is that he has no positive agenda for addressing them. He can tap into working class anxiety negatively, by harnessing hostility toward immigrants, foreigners and the poor. But he can’t come up with a positive agenda to make working class life more secure.

So we have a group of Freedom Caucus Republicans who still think the major problems in the country today can be cured with tax and spending cuts. We have a Trump administration that has populist impulses but no actual populist safety net policies. And we’ve got a Republican leadership in Congress mired in Reagan-era thinking and trying to pay lip service to every obsolete prejudice in the various wings of the party.

You end up with this hodgepodge legislation that pleases nobody and takes the big crises afflicting our country and makes them all worse.

The Republican health plan would make America’s economic chasm worse. It would cut health subsidies that go to the poor while eliminating the net investment income tax, which benefits only the top 1 percent.

The Republican plan would further destabilize the social fabric for those at the bottom. Throwing perhaps 10 million people off the insurance rolls will increase fear, isolation, social tension, chronic illness, suicide and bankruptcy.

The Republican plan will fuel cynicism. It’s being pushed through in an elitist, anti-democratic, middle of the night rush. It seems purposely designed to fail. The penalties for those who don’t purchase insurance are so low they seem sure to guarantee Republican-caused death spirals in the weaker markets.

This thing probably won’t pass, but even if it passes it will probably lead to immense pain and disruption. That will discredit market-based social reform, cost the Republicans their congressional majorities and end what’s left of the Reagan-era party.

It will also point the way to a new era.

The central debate in the old era was big government versus small government, the market versus the state. But now you’ve got millions of people growing up in social and cultural chaos and not getting the skills they need to thrive in a technological society. This is not a problem you can solve with tax cuts.

And if you don’t solve this problem, voters around the world have demonstrated that they’re quite willing to destroy market mechanisms to get the security they crave. They will trash free trade, cut legal skilled immigration, attack modern finance and choose state-run corporatism over dynamic free market capitalism.

The core of the new era is this: If you want to preserve the market, you have to have a strong state that enables people to thrive in it. If you are pro-market, you have to be pro-state. You can come up with innovative ways to deliver state services, like affordable health care, but you can’t just leave people on their own. The social fabric, the safety net and the human capital sources just aren’t strong enough.

New social crises transform party philosophies. We’re in the middle of a transformation. But to get there we’ve got to live through this final health care debacle first.

Now here’s what “Larry Hedrick” from DC had to say about that:

“Mr. Brooks thinks it’s necessary to write that the Republican destruction of Obamacare will ‘fuel cynicism.’ As though it shouldn’t?

As for the Republican alternative (I use the word loosely) being ‘purposely designed to fail,’ I can’t see that it’s ‘purposely designed’ to either succeed or fail.

The only thing it’s designed to do is to shift more wealth from poorer people to richer people.

Beyond that, Republicans don’t care–which is why they’ve done such a sloppy job of creating this new self-contradictory jumble of words that they’re pleased to call a law.

I suppose it’s needful to review the basics just one more time.

David, the GOP to which you’ve devoted so much of your life has long been nothing more than an open conspiracy of the rich against the poor. That’s its sole purpose, beyond existing to feed its own bureaucracy.

Republican politicians are nothing more or less than hacks who are paid to keep the money flowing uphill while they clutter up the minds of the people with empty promises of perfecting the American commonwealth.

In Trump they’ve found their true champion, because he’s put them on the royal road to authoritarianism. It is in this darkness, which the pr*sident deepens with every lying tweet, that democracy dies.”

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

It has long been obvious to anyone following health policy that Republicans would never devise a workable replacement for Obamacare. But the bill unveiled this week is worse than even the cynics expected; its awfulness is almost surreal. And the process by which it came to be tells you a lot about the state of the G.O.P.

Given the rhetoric Republicans have used over the past seven years to attack health reform, you might have expected them to do away with the whole structure of the Affordable Care Act — deregulate, de-subsidize and let the magic of the free market do its thing. This would have been devastating for the 20 million Americans who gained coverage thanks to the act, but at least it would have been ideologically consistent.

But Republican leaders weren’t willing to bite that bullet. What they came up with instead was a dog’s breakfast that conservatives are, with some justice, calling Obamacare 2.0. But a better designation would be Obamacare 0.5, because it’s a half-baked plan that accepts the logic and broad outline of the Affordable Care Act while catastrophically weakening key provisions. If enacted, the bill would almost surely lead to a death spiral of soaring premiums and collapsing coverage. Which makes you wonder, what’s the point?

Obamacare rests on three main pillars. Insurance companies are regulated, prevented from denying coverage or charging higher prices to Americans with pre-existing conditions. Families receive subsidies linked to both income and premiums, to help them buy insurance. And there is a penalty for those who don’t buy insurance, to induce people to sign up even if they’re currently healthy.

Trumpcare — the White House insists that we not call it that, which means that we must — preserves some version of all three elements, but in drastically, probably fatally weakened form.

Insurers are still barred from excluding the sick, but they’re allowed to charge older Americans — who need insurance the most — much higher premiums.

Subsidies are still there, in the form of tax credits, but they’re no longer linked to either income (as long as it’s below $75,000) or the cost of insurance.

And the tax on those who don’t sign up becomes a small surcharge — paid to insurance companies, not the public — on people who sign up after previously letting coverage lapse.

Affluent young people might end up saving some money as a result of these changes. But the effect on those who are older and less affluent would be devastating. AARP has done the math: a 55-year-old making $25,000 a year would end up paying $3,600 a year more for coverage; that rises to $8,400 for a 64-year-old making $15,000 a year. And that’s before the death spiral.

For the combination of price hikes and weakened penalties would lead many healthy Americans to forego insurance. This would worsen the risk pool, causing premiums to rise sharply — and remember, subsidies would no longer adjust to offset this rise. The result would be even more people dropping out. Republicans have been claiming that Obamacare is collapsing, which isn’t true. But Trumpcare, if implemented, would collapse in a Mar-a-Lago minute.

How could House Republicans under the leadership of Paul Ryan, who the media keeps assuring us is a smart, serious policy wonk, have produced such a monstrosity? Two reasons.

First, the G.O.P.’s policy-making and policy analysis capacity has been downgraded to the point of worthlessness. There are real conservative policy experts, but the party doesn’t want them, perhaps because their very competence makes them ideologically unreliable — a proposition illustrated by the rush to enact this bill before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office can estimate either its costs or its effects. Basically, facts and serious analysis are the modern right’s enemies; policy is left to hacks who can’t get even the simplest things right.

Second, Republicans seem to have been undone by their reverse-Robin-Hood urges. You can’t make something like Obamacare work without giving lower-income families enough support that insurance becomes affordable. But the modern G.O.P. always wants to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted; so the bill ends up throwing away the taxes on the rich that help pay for subsidies, and redirects the subsidies themselves away from those who need them to those who don’t.

Given the sick joke of a health plan, you might ask what happened to all those proclamations that Obamacare was a terrible, no good system that Republicans would immediately replace with something far better — not to mention Donald Trump’s promises of “insurance for everybody” and “great health care.”

But the answer, of course, is that they were all lying, all along — and they still are. On this, at least, Republican unity remains impressively intact.

Brooks and Krugman

March 3, 2017

In “Trumpism at Its Best, Straight Up” Bobo tells us that the president’s speech to Congress offered a view of his movement without his distracting clownish behavior.  Bobo, they probably shot him with a tranquilizer dart before he went on…  Prof. Krugman, in “Goodbye Spin, Hello Raw Dishonesty,” says the first casualty of Trump is truth.  Here’s Bobo:

Donald Trump gave us Trumpism at its best on Tuesday night. And that was useful because it gave us a view of the political movement he represents, without the clownish behavior.

The first thing we learned was that Trumpism is an utter repudiation of modern conservatism. For the last 40 years, the Republican Party has been a coalition of three tendencies. On Tuesday, Trump rejected or ignored all of them.

There used to be Republican foreign policy hawks, people who believed that it was in America’s interest to serve as a global policeman, actively preserving a democratic world order. Trump explicitly repudiated this worldview, drawing instead a sharp distinction between what’s good for America and what’s good for the rest of the world.

There used to be social conservatives, who believed that the moral fabric of the country had been weakened by secularism and the breakdown of the family. On Tuesday, Trump acted as if this group didn’t exist. He didn’t mention a single social issue — abortion, religious liberty, marriage, anything.

Finally, there used to be fiscal hawks who worried about the national debt. Trump demolished these people, too, vowing a long list of spending programs and preservation of entitlement programs.

The Republicans who applauded Trump on Tuesday were applauding their own repudiation. They did it because partisanship is stronger than philosophy, but also because Reagan conservatism no longer applies to current reality.

The second thing we saw was how Trump’s ethnic nationalism emerges from the wreckage of the old G.O.P. Healthy American political philosophies balance individualism and collectivism, personal freedom and communal cohesion.

The old Reagan conservatism was economic individualism restrained by social and religious traditionalism. Conservatives could embrace the creative destruction of the free market because they believed that the communal order could be held together by traditional morals and the collective attachments of family, church and local organizations.

But in the 1990s conservatism devolved from a flexible balance to a crude anti-government philosophy, the Leave Us Alone coalition. Republicans talked as if Americans’ problem was they were burdened by too many restraints and the solution was to get government off their backs.

That may have been true of the businessmen who make up the G.O.P. donor class, but regular voters felt adrift and uprooted, untethered and exposed. Regular Republicans didn’t want more freedom and more risk in their lives. They wanted more protection and security. They wanted a father figure government that would protect them from the disruptions of technological change and globalization.

Donald Trump came along and offered them exactly that kind of strong government. He is not offering compassionate government, the way a Democrat might, but he is offering forceful government.

Trump would use big government to crack down on enemies foreign and domestic. He’d use government to create millions of jobs for infrastructure projects. He’d use government to force or bribe corporations to locate plants here — the guarded order of national corporatism over the wide-open riskiness of free-market capitalism.

The third thing we learned is that much of Trump’s policy agenda contradicts his core philosophy. Trumpism is all about protection, security and order. But many of Trump’s policies would introduce more risk into people’s lives, not less.

Trump’s health care plan — tax credits and health saving accounts — would increase choice, instability and risk for individual health care consumers. His school-choice ideas might make for more competitive education markets, but they would also increase risk and insecurity for individual consumers.

It’s likely that Republican voters will simply reject these proposals. They’ve got enough risk in their lives. It’s quite likely that large elements of the Trump agenda will go down in flames because they go against what the country wants and even against his own core brand.

Fourth, Trump’s speech on Tuesday offered those of us who want to replace him an occasion to ask the big question: How in the 21st century should government unleash initiative and dynamism while also preserving order? Trump’s answer: Nationalize intimidation but privatize compassion. Don’t look to government to offer a warm hand; look to it to confront your enemies with a hard fist.

Human development research offers a different formula: All of life is a series of daring adventures from a secure base. If government can create a framework in which people grow up amid healthy families, nurturing schools, thick communities and a secure safety net, then they will have the resources and audacity to thrive in a free global economy and a diversifying skills economy.

This is a response that is open to welfare state policies from the left and trade and macroeconomic policies from the free-market right — a single-payer health care system married to the flat tax.

The last thing Trump showed was this: We’re in a state of radical flux. Political parties can turn on a dime. At least that means it’s a time to think anew.

Buyer’s remorse much, Bobo?  Here’s what “zb” from BC had to say:

“In harking back to Reagan as time of legitimate conservativism you seem to have conveniently forgotten that he ran on a policy of pandering to southern hate; destroying government as the problem and not the solution; hyper phony patriotism; and nonsense economics.

What we have today is the natural result of Reagan and not a departure from it. Time to wake up to the fact that whatever you think you have been fighting for these decades is what helped get us to where we are.

That should have you feeling pretty sick right now.”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

The latest big buzz is about Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. It turns out that he lied during his confirmation hearings, denying that he had met with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. In fact, he met twice with the Russian ambassador, who is widely reported to also be a key spymaster.

Not incidentally, if this news hadn’t come to light, forcing Mr. Sessions to recuse himself, he would have supervised the investigation into Russian election meddling, possibly in collusion with the Trump campaign.

But let’s not focus too much on Mr. Sessions. After all, he is joined in the cabinet by Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, who lied to Congress about his use of a private email account; Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, who lied about a sweetheart deal to purchase stock in a biotechnology company at a discount; and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, who falsely told Congress that his financial firm didn’t engage in “robo-signing” of foreclosure documents, seizing homes without proper consideration.

And they would have served with Michael Flynn as national security adviser, but for the fact that Mr. Flynn was forced out after the press discovered that, like Mr. Sessions, he had lied about contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Critics of our political culture used to complain, with justification, about politicians’ addiction to spin — their inveterate habit of downplaying awkward facts and presenting their actions in a much better light than they deserved. But all indications are that the age of spin is over. It has been replaced by an era of raw, shameless dishonesty.

In part, of course, the pervasiveness of lies reflects the character of the man at the top: No president, or for that matter major U.S. political figure of any kind, has ever lied as freely and frequently as Donald Trump. But this isn’t just a Trump story. His ability to get away with it, at least so far, requires the support of many enablers: almost all of his party’s elected officials, a large bloc of voters and, all too often, much of the news media.

It’s important not to indulge in an easy cynicism, to say that politicians have always lied and always will. What we’re getting from Mr. Trump is simply on a different plane from anything we’ve seen before.

For one thing, politicians used to limit their outright lies to matters not easily checked — hidden affairs, under the table deals, and so on. But now we have the man who ran the Miss Universe competition in Moscow three years ago, and who declared just last year that “I know Russia well,” then last month said, “I haven’t called Russia in 10 years.”

On matters of policy, politicians used to limit their misrepresentations of facts and impacts to relatively hard-to-verify assertions. When George W. Bush insisted that his tax cuts mainly went to the middle class, this wasn’t true, but it took some number-crunching to show that. Mr. Trump, however, makes claims like his assertion that the murder rate — which ticked up in 2015 but is still barely half what it was in 1990 — is at a 45-year high. Furthermore, he just keeps repeating such claims after they’ve been debunked.

And the question is, who’s going to stop him?

The moral vacuity of Republicans in Congress, and the unlikelihood that they’ll act as any check on the president, becomes clearer with each passing day. Even the real possibility that we’re facing subversion by agents of a foreign power, and that top officials are part of the story, doesn’t seem to faze them as long as they can get tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor.

Meanwhile, Republican primary election voters, who are the real arbiters when polarized and/or gerrymandered districts make the general election irrelevant for many politicians, live in a Fox News bubble into which awkward truths never penetrate.

And what about the Fourth Estate? Will it let us down, too?

To be fair, the first weeks of the Trump administration have in important ways been glory days for journalism; one must honor the professionalism and courage of the reporters who have been ferreting out the secrets this authoritarian-minded clique is so determined to keep.

But then you watch something like the way much of the news media responded to Mr. Trump’s congressional address, and you feel despair. It was a speech filled with falsehoods and vile policy proposals, but read calmly off the teleprompter — and suddenly everyone was declaring the liar in chief “presidential.”

The point is that if that’s all it takes to exonerate the most dishonest man ever to hold high office in America, we’re doomed. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.

It will.

Bobo, solo

February 28, 2017

In “The Enlightenment Project” Bobo informs us that when anti-Enlightenment movements arose in the past, Enlightenment heroes rose to combat them.  This time “soxared, 04-07-13” from Crete, Illinois will take the rebuttal.  Here’s Bobo:

Being around a college classroom can really expand your perspective. For example, last week we were finishing off a seminar in grand strategy when one of my Yale colleagues, Charles Hill, drew a diagram on the board that put today’s events in a sweeping historical perspective.

Running through the center of the diagram was the long line of Enlightenment thought. The Enlightenment included thinkers like John Locke and Immanuel Kant who argued that people should stop deferring blindly to authority for how to live. Instead, they should think things through from the ground up, respect facts and skeptically re-examine their own assumptions and convictions.

Enlightenment thinkers turned their skeptical ideas into skeptical institutions, notably the U.S. Constitution. America’s founders didn’t trust the people or themselves, so they built a system of rules, providing checks and balances to pit interest against interest.

De Tocqueville came along and said that if a rules-based democratic government was going to work anywhere it was going to be the United States. America became the test case for the entire Enlightenment project. With his distrust of mob rule and his reverence for law, Abraham Lincoln was a classic Enlightenment man. His success in the Civil War seemed to vindicate faith in democracy and the entire Enlightenment cause.

In the 20th century, Enlightenment leaders extended the project globally, building rules-based multilateral institutions like the European Union and NATO to restrain threatening powers and preserve a balance of power.

The Enlightenment project gave us the modern world, but it has always had weaknesses. First, Enlightenment figures perpetually tell themselves that religion is dead (it isn’t) and that race is dead (it isn’t), and so they are always surprised by events. Second, it is thin on meaning. It treats people as bland rational egoists and tends to produce governments run by soulless technocrats. Third, Enlightenment governance fails from time to time.

At these moments anti-Enlightenment movements gain power. Amid the collapse of the old regimes during World War I, the Marxists attacked the notion of private property. That brought us Lenin, Stalin and Mao. After the failures of Versailles, the Nietzscheans attacked the separation of powers and argued that power should be centralized in the hands of society’s winners, the master race. This brought us Hitler and the Nazis.

Hill pointed out that the forces of the Enlightenment have always defeated the anti-Enlightenment threats. When the Cold War ended, the Enlightenment project seemed utterly triumphant.

But now we’re living in the wake of another set of failures: the financial crisis, the slow collapse of the European project, Iraq. What’s interesting, Hill noted, is that the anti-Enlightenment traditions are somehow back. Nietzschean thinking is back in the form of Vladimir Putin. Marxian thinking is back in the form of an aggressive China. Both Russia and China are trying to harvest the benefits of the Enlightenment order, but they also want to break the rules when they feel like it. They incorporate deep strains of anti-Enlightenment thinking and undermine the post-Enlightenment world order.

Hill didn’t say it, but I’d add that anti-Enlightenment thinking is also back in the form of Donald Trump, racial separatists and the world’s other populist ethnic nationalist movements.

Today’s anti-Enlightenment movements don’t think truth is to be found through skeptical inquiry and debate. They think wisdom and virtue are found in the instincts of the plain people, deep in the mystical core of the nation’s or race’s group consciousness.

Today’s anti-Enlightenment movements believe less in calm persuasion and evidence-based inquiry than in purity of will. They try to win debates through blunt force and silencing unacceptable speech.

They don’t see history as a gradual march toward cooperation. They see history as cataclysmic cycles — a zero-sum endeavor marked by conflict. Nations trying to screw other nations, races inherently trying to oppress other races.

These movements are hostile to rules-based systems, multilateral organizations, the messy compromises of democratic politics and what Steve Bannon calls the “administrative state.” They prefer the direct rule by one strongman who is the embodiment of the will of the people.

When Trump calls the media the “enemy of the people” he is going after the system of conversation, debate and inquiry that is the foundation for the entire Enlightenment project.

When anti-Enlightenment movements arose in the past, Enlightenment heroes rose to combat them. Lincoln was no soulless technocrat. He fought fanaticism by doubling down on Enlightenment methods, with charity, reason and patience. He worked tirelessly for unity over division. He was a hopeful pessimist who knew the struggle would be long but he had faith in providence and ultimate justice.

We live in a time when many people have lost faith in the Enlightenment habits and institutions. I wonder if there is a group of leaders who will rise up and unabashedly defend this project, or even realize that it is this fundamental thing that is now under attack.

Well, Bobo, if and when those leaders do arise I have no doubt at all that you’ll call them dirty, effing hippies.  And castigate them for being liberals.  Here’s what “soxared, 04-07-13” had to say:

“‘He fought fanaticism by doubling down on Enlightenment methods, with charity, reason and patience. He worked tirelessly for unity over division. He was a hopeful pessimist who knew the struggle would be long but he had faith in providence and ultimate justice.’

Mr. Brooks you precede this grand structure with “Lincoln,” but you could just as well have substituted “Obama.” You reach back into the past for shimmering examples of America’s best but ignore the recently-departed president, a man that you, on countless occasions, castigated as a failure, much like your GOP friends in (and out) of Congress.

It’s more than clear that the modern (American) anti-Enlightenment movement was begun in 1980, under your sainted Ronald Reagan, a man who never had an original thought. His intellectual antecedents were Strom Thurmond and George Wallace, and, before them, John Calhoun and Jefferson Davis. Reagan was, even more than Richard Nixon, the enemy of Enlightenment. “Government is the problem.” Recall that, Mr. Brooks?

And how about Newt Gingrich? Or Mitch McConnell? They’re the two most anti-Enlightenment serpents to have slithered through Congress, the former poisoning the dynamic between the legislative and the executive, the latter removing the checks and balances from the Senate and the presidency, all in the service of an America that McConnell and Stephen Bannon wish to be the permanent servant of a race-based culture, one determined to “pit interest against interest.”

Right?

Brooks and Krugman

February 24, 2017

In “The National Death Wish” Bobo tells us all about two senators with a recipe for American stagnation.  I’m slammed today and didn’t have time to read the comments, but I’ll bet they’re choice…  Prof. Krugman, in “Death and Tax Cuts,” explains what Republicans mean when they talk about freedom.  Here’s Bobo:

A few weeks ago, Tom Cotton and David Perdue, Republican senators from Arkansas and Georgia, introduced an immigration bill that would cut the number of legal immigrants to this country each year in half, from about a million to about 500,000.

In a press conference, Cotton offered a rationale for his bill. “There’s no denying this generation-long surge in low-skilled immigration has hurt blue-collar wages,” he said. If we can reduce the number of low-skill immigrants coming into the country, that will reduce the pool of labor, put upward pressure on wages and bring more Americans back into the labor force.

It seems like a plausible argument. That is, until you actually get out in the real world.

Cotton and Perdue’s position, which is now the mainstream Republican position, is based on the unconscious supposition that American society is like a lake, with a relatively fixed boundary. If you cut the supply of fish coming from outside, there will be more food for the ones born here.

The problem is that American society is actually more like a river. Sometimes the river is running high, with a lot of volume and flow, with lots of good stuff for everybody, and sometimes it’s running low.

Let’s illustrate the point by looking at one portion of the labor market. Right now construction is booming in many cities. This has created high demand for workers and pervasive labor shortages.

Nationwide, there are now about 200,000 unfilled construction jobs, according to the National Association of Home Builders. If America were as simple as a lake, builders would just raise wages, incomes would rise and the problem would be over.

But that hasn’t happened. Builders have gone recruiting in high schools and elsewhere, looking for people willing to learn building skills, but they’re not having much luck.

Construction is hard, many families demean physical labor and construction is highly cyclical. Hundreds of thousands of people lost construction jobs during the financial crisis and don’t want to come back. They want steadier work even at a lower salary.

Employers have apparently decided raising wages won’t work. Adjusting for inflation, wages are roughly where they were, at about $27 an hour on average in a place like Colorado. Instead, employers have had to cut back on output. One builder told Reuters that he could take on 10 percent more projects per year if he could find the crews.

In other words, the labor shortage hasn’t led to higher wages; it’s reduced and distorted the flow of the economic river. There’s less home buying, less furniture buying, less economic activity. People devote a larger share of their income to housing and less to everything else. When builders do have workers, they focus on high-end luxury homes, leaving affordable housing high and dry.

The essential point is that immigrants don’t take native jobs on any sort of one-to-one basis. They drive economic activity all the way down the river, creating new jobs in some areas and then pushing native workers into more complicated jobs in others. A comprehensive study of non-European Union immigrants into Denmark between 1991 and 2008 found that immigrants did not push down wages, but rather freed natives to do more pleasant work.

An exhaustive U.S. study by the National Academy of Sciences found that immigration didn’t drive down most wages, but it had a “very small” and temporary effect on native-born workers without a high school degree.

The way to help working families is not to cut immigration. It’s to help everybody flow to the job he or she wants to take.

The last time we cut immigration, in the 1920s, we were in the middle of a baby boom. Today, fertility rates have plummeted. If the Cotton-Perdue bill became law, the working-age population would shrink, the nation would age and America would decline.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why so many Republicans prefer a dying white America to a place like, say, Houston.

Houston has very light zoning regulations, and as a result it has affordable housing and a culture that welcomes immigrants. This has made it incredibly diverse, with 145 languages spoken in the city’s homes, and incredibly dynamic — the fastest-growing big city in America recently. (Personally, I wish it would do a bit more zoning — it’s pretty ugly.)

The large immigrant population has paradoxically given the city a very strong, very patriotic and cohesive culture, built around being welcoming to newcomers and embracing the future. As the Houston urban analyst Tory Gattis points out, the Houston Rodeo has so many volunteers it has recently limited their special privileges. In 2015 it had the healthiest philanthropic sector in the nation. The city is coming together to solve its pension problems better than just about any other big place.

Cotton and Perdue are the second coming of those static mind-set/slow-growth/zero-sum liberals one used to meet in the 1970s. They’ll dry up the river. I wish they had a little more faith in freedom, dynamism and human ingenuity.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Across the country, Republicans have been facing crowds demanding to know how they will protect the 20 million Americans who gained health insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act, and will lose it if the act is repealed. And after all that inveighing against the evils of Obamacare, it turns out that they’ve got nothing.

Instead, they’re talking about freedom — which these days is the real refuge of scoundrels.

Actually, many prominent Republicans haven’t even gotten to the point of trying to respond to criticism; they’re just whining about how mean their constituents are being, and invoking conspiracy theories. Talk about snowflakes who can dish it out but can’t take it!

Thus, Representative Jason Chaffetz insisted that the public outcry is just “a paid attempt to bully and intimidate”; Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, calls all anti-Trump demonstrations a “very paid, AstroTurf-type movement.” And the tweeter in chief angrily declared that protests have been “planned out by liberal activists” — because what could be worse than political action by the politically active?

But perhaps the saddest spectacle is that of Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, whom the media have for years portrayed as a serious, honest conservative, a deep thinker about how to reform America’s safety net. That reputation was never justified; still, even those of us who long ago recognized him as a flimflammer have been struck by his utter failure to rise to this occasion.

After years to prepare, Mr. Ryan finally unveiled what was supposedly the outline of a health care plan. It was basically a sick joke: flat tax credits, unrelated to income, that could be applied to the purchase of insurance.

These credits would be obviously inadequate for the lower- and even middle-income families that gained coverage under Obamacare, so it would cause a huge surge in the number of uninsured. Meanwhile, the affluent would receive a nice windfall. Funny how that seems to happen in every plan Mr. Ryan proposes.

That was last week. This week, perhaps realizing how flat his effort fell, he began tweeting about freedom, which he defined as “the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need.” Give me consumer sovereignty or give me death! And Obamacare, he declared, is bad because it deprives Americans of that freedom by doing things like establishing minimum standards for insurance policies.

I very much doubt that this is going to fly, now that ordinary Americans are starting to realize just how devastating loss of coverage would be. But for the record, let me remind everyone what we’ve been saying for years: Any plan that makes essential care available to everyone has to involve some restriction of choice.

Suppose you want to make insurance available to people with pre-existing conditions. You can’t just forbid insurance companies to discriminate based on medical history; if you do that, healthy people won’t sign up until they get sick. So you have to mandate the purchase of insurance; and you have to provide subsidies to lower-income families so that they can afford the policies. The end result of this logic is … Obamacare.

And one more thing: Insurance policies must meet a minimum standard. Otherwise, healthy people will buy cheap policies with paper-thin coverage and huge deductibles, which is basically the same as not buying insurance at all.

So yes, Obamacare somewhat restricts choice — not because meddling bureaucrats want to run your life, but because some restrictions are necessary as part of a package that in many ways sets Americans free.

For health reform has been a hugely liberating experience for millions. It means that workers don’t have to fear that quitting a job with a large company will mean loss of health coverage, and that entrepreneurs don’t have to fear striking out on their own. It means that those 20 million people who gained coverage don’t have to fear financial ruin if they get sick — or unnecessary death if they can’t afford treatment. For there is no real question that Obamacare is saving tens of thousands of lives every year.

So why do Republicans hate Obamacare so much? It’s not because they have better ideas; as we’ve seen over the past few weeks, they’re coming up empty-handed on the “replace” part of “repeal and replace.” It’s not, I’m sorry to say, because they are deeply committed to Americans’ right to buy the insurance policy of their choice.

No, mainly they hate Obamacare for two reasons: It demonstrates that the government can make people’s lives better, and it’s paid for in large part with taxes on the wealthy. Their overriding goal is to make those taxes go away. And if getting those taxes cut means that quite a few people end up dying, remember: freedom!

Brooks and Cohen

February 21, 2017

In “This Century Is Broken” Bobo says the decline of economic growth is at the bottom of ethnic nationalism’s rise, faith in democracy’s fall and world order’s dissipation.  And “gemli” from Boston will have won or too wurds to say to Bobo.  Mr. Cohen, in “The Russification of America,” says when it’s unclear whether America or Russia is more credible, the world is heading for trouble.  Here’s Bobo:

Most of us came of age in the last half of the 20th century and had our perceptions of “normal” formed in that era. It was, all things considered, an unusually happy period. No world wars, no Great Depressions, fewer civil wars, fewer plagues.

It’s looking like we’re not going to get to enjoy one of those times again. The 21st century is looking much nastier and bumpier: rising ethnic nationalism, falling faith in democracy, a dissolving world order.

At the bottom of all this, perhaps, is declining economic growth. As Nicholas Eberstadt points out in his powerful essay “Our Miserable 21st Century,” in the current issue of Commentary, between 1948 and 2000 the U.S. economy grew at a per-capita rate of about 2.3 percent a year.

But then around 2000, something shifted. In this century, per-capita growth has been less than 1 percent a year on average, and even since 2009 it’s been only 1.1 percent a year. If the U.S. had been able to maintain postwar 20th-century growth rates into this century, U.S. per-capita G.D.P. would be over 20 percent higher than it is today.

Slow growth strains everything else — meaning less opportunity, less optimism and more of the sort of zero-sum, grab-what-you-can thinking that Donald Trump specializes in. The slowdown has devastated American workers. Between 1985 and 2000, the total hours of paid work in America increased by 35 percent. Over the next 15 years, they increased by only 4 percent.

For every one American man aged 25 to 55 looking for work, there are three who have dropped out of the labor force. If Americans were working at the same rates they were when this century started, over 10 million more people would have jobs. As Eberstadt puts it, “The plain fact is that 21st-century America has witnessed a dreadful collapse of work.”

That means there’s an army of Americans semi-attached to their communities, who struggle to contribute, to realize their capacities and find their dignity. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics time-use studies, these labor force dropouts spend on average 2,000 hours a year watching some screen. That’s about the number of hours that usually go to a full-time job.

Fifty-seven percent of white males who have dropped out get by on some form of government disability check. About half of the men who have dropped out take pain medication on a daily basis. A survey in Ohio found that over one three-month period, 11 percent of Ohioans were prescribed opiates. One in eight American men now has a felony conviction on his record.

This is no way for our fellow citizens to live. The Eberstadt piece confirms one thought: The central task for many of us now is not to resist Donald Trump. He’ll seal his own fate. It’s to figure out how to replace him — how to respond to the slow growth and social disaffection that gave rise to him with some radically different policy mix.

The hard part is that America has to become more dynamic and more protective — both at the same time. In the past, American reformers could at least count on the fact that they were working with a dynamic society that was always generating the energy required to solve the nation’s woes. But as Tyler Cowen demonstrates in his compelling new book, “The Complacent Class,” contemporary Americans have lost their mojo.

Cowen shows that in sphere after sphere, Americans have become less adventurous and more static. For example, Americans used to move a lot to seize opportunities and transform their lives. But the rate of Americans who are migrating across state lines has plummeted by 51 percent from the levels of the 1950s and 1960s.

Americans used to be entrepreneurial, but there has been a decline in start-ups as a share of all business activity over the last generation. Millennials may be the least entrepreneurial generation in American history. The share of Americans under 30 who own a business has fallen 65 percent since the 1980s.

Americans tell themselves the old job-for-life model is over. But in fact Americans are switching jobs less than a generation ago, not more. The job reallocation rate — which measures employment turnover — is down by more than a quarter since 1990.

There are signs that America is less innovative. Accounting for population growth, Americans create 25 percent fewer major international patents than in 1999. There’s even less hunger to hit the open road. In 1983, 69 percent of 17-year-olds had driver’s licenses. Now only half of Americans get a license by age 18.

In different ways Eberstadt and Cowen are describing a country that is decelerating, detaching, losing hope, getting sadder. Economic slowdown, social disaffection and risk aversion reinforce one another.

Of course nothing is foreordained. But where is the social movement that is thinking about the fundamentals of this century’s bad start and envisions an alternate path? Who has a compelling plan to boost economic growth? If Trump is not the answer, what is?

Now here’s “gemli”:

“Underlying all of our problems is the fact that we is become more stupider in the last few years. We spends our time looking at stupid little screens, tweetin fake news, believin fake news and actin on fake news. Car recks are up because we would rather text that look at the rode.

As we become more stupider we also elected Republicans. In 2001 we did not have a space odyssey. We elected a spaced out oddity which was George doubleyou Bush. We gave our govamint over to people with money instead of people with ideas. Then we had a black president who was a muslin who was not a citizen of this country. For eight years govamint did nothing but fill a buster against a black president. You cant govurn by fill a buster.

Rich people got way richer, cause they was smart. They figured the minimum wage weren’t the minimum you could live on. It was the minimum you could git away with paying. Some folks sat down on wall street to protest but David Brooks said they was stupid hippies.

Opiods made people even supider. But all the opioids in Ohio was perscribed by doctors who was told to by drug companies. There was a downside when people got hooked but the upside was drug companies got rich, so call it even.

The good thing is, stupid don’t last forever. They elected one of there own to run the country and he got a secretary with no experience to run the schools. So it will all be over soon.”

And now we get to Mr. Cohen, writing from Munich:

This Munich Security Conference was different. A Frenchman defended NATO against the American president. The Russian foreign minister was here but the phantom American secretary of state was not. An ex-Swedish prime minister had to respond to the “last-night-in-Sweden affair” — an ominous incident in a placid Scandinavian state dreamed up in his refugee delirium by Donald Trump.

Surreal hardly begins to describe the proceedings at this annual gathering, the Davos of foreign policy. This is what happens when the United States is all over the place. Allies get nervous; they don’t know what to believe. “Trump’s uncontrolled communication is unsettling the world,” John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, told me. That is an understatement. The Trump doctrine is chaos.

Vice President Mike Pence came, communicated and exited without taking questions. He said the United States would be “unwavering” in its commitment to NATO, whose glories he extolled. (He never mentioned the European Union, whose fragmentation Trump encourages.)

If a question had been allowed, it might have been: “Mr. Pence, you defend NATO but your boss says it’s obsolete. So which is it?”

To which the answer could well have been: “This is an administration that says everything and the contrary of everything. I advise you to get used to it — and pay up.”

But getting used to an American president who responds through Twitter to the last guy in the room or what he’s just seen on TV, has no notion of or interest in European history, and has turned America’s word into junk, is not easy. Europeans are reeling.

Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French foreign minister, insisted that, “We certainly cannot say that NATO is obsolete.” (For a long time the French kind of wished it was.) Wolfgang Ischinger, the chairman of the Munich conference, told Deutsche Welle that if Trump continues to advocate against the European Union it would amount to a “nonmilitary declaration of war.” Those are extraordinary words from a distinguished former German ambassador about the American president.

For me, the most troubling thing was finding myself unsure who was more credible — Pence or Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. The Russification of America under Trump has proceeded apace. Vladimir Putin’s macho authoritarianism, disdain for the press, and mockery of the truth has installed itself on the Potomac.

Putin is only the latest exponent of what John le Carré called “the classic, timeless, all-Russian, barefaced, whopping lie” and what Joseph Conrad before him called Russian officialdom’s “almost sublime disdain for the truth.”

The Russian system under Putin is a false democracy based on a Potemkin village of props — political parties, media, judiciary — that are the fig leaf covering repression or elimination of opponents. Russia runs on lies. It’s alternative-fact central (you know, there are no Russian troops in Ukraine). But what happens when the United States begins to be infected with Russian disease?

Pence’s speech may not have been precisely a barefaced whopping lie, but it certainly showed barefaced whopping disdain for the intelligence of the audience (you know, nothing has changed with Trump, ha-ha.) By comparison, Lavrov was blunt. He announced the dawn of the “post-West world order.” That became a theme. Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, announced the “post-Western global order.”

I wonder what that means — perhaps a world of lies, repression, unreason and violence. It advances as America offers only incoherence. To counter the drift, what is needed? A functioning American State Department would be a start.

Right now, Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, cuts a lonely figure, his reasonable choice of deputy nixed by Trump, his authority (if any) unclear. America today has no foreign policy. It’s veering between empty reaffirmations of old bonds (Pence) and the scattershot anti-Muslim, Sweden-syndrome, anti-trade, bellicose, what’s-in-it-for-me mercantilism of Trump.

Month two of this presidency needs to produce a capacity to speak with one voice. It was interesting to see John Kelly, the secretary of Homeland Security, talk about a coming revised travel ban order for seven mainly Muslim countries and say that “this time” he’d be able to work on the rollout plan. Rough translation: last time he was cut out of the process and it was a real mess. Almost everything has been.

I’m skeptical of Trump ever running a disciplined administration. His feelings about Europe are already clear and won’t change. The European Union needs to step into the moral void by standing unequivocally for the values that must define the West: truth, facts, reason, science, tolerance, freedom, democracy and the rule of law. For now it’s unclear if the Trump administration is friend or foe in that fight.

Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, joked to me that the most terrifying aspect of Trump’s “incident” in Sweden was “the suppression of it by all the major Swedish newspapers, and even Swedish citizens.” We laughed. The unfunny moment will come when Trump lashes out based on nothing but fervid imaginings and the “post-West” order stumbles from confusion into conflagration.

Brooks and Krugman

February 17, 2017

Today Bobo has decided to tell us all about “What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like.”  He gurgles that without grown-ups in charge, the government could stop working.  “Don Shipp” from Homestead, FL will have something to say.  Prof. Krugman has a question in “The Silence of the Hacks:”  Is subversion in the defense of tax cuts no vice?  Here’s Bobo:

I still have trouble seeing how the Trump administration survives a full term. Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump’s mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.

Trump’s White House staff is at war with itself. His poll ratings are falling at unprecedented speed. His policy agenda is stalled. F.B.I. investigations are just beginning. This does not feel like a sustainable operation.

On the other hand, I have trouble seeing exactly how this administration ends. Many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist.

There are no longer moral arbiters in Congress like Howard Baker and Sam Ervin to lead a resignation or impeachment process. There is no longer a single media establishment that shapes how the country sees the president. This is no longer a country in which everybody experiences the same reality.

Everything about Trump that appalls 65 percent of America strengthens him with the other 35 percent, and he can ride that group for a while. Even after these horrible four weeks, Republicans on Capitol Hill are not close to abandoning their man.

The likelihood is this: We’re going to have an administration that has morally and politically collapsed, without actually going away.

What does that look like?

First, it means an administration that is passive, full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing. To get anything done, a president depends on the vast machinery of the U.S. government. But Trump doesn’t mesh with that machinery. He is personality-based while it is rule-based. Furthermore, he’s declared war on it. And when you declare war on the establishment, it declares war on you.

The Civil Service has a thousand ways to ignore or sit on any presidential order. The court system has given itself carte blanche to overturn any Trump initiative, even on the flimsiest legal grounds. The intelligence community has only just begun to undermine this president.

President Trump can push all the pretty buttons on the command deck of the Starship Enterprise, but don’t expect anything to actually happen, because they are not attached.

Second, this will probably become a more insular administration. Usually when administrations stumble, they fire a few people and bring in the grown-ups — the James Baker or the David Gergen types. But Trump is anti-grown-up, so it’s hard to imagine Chief of Staff Haley Barbour. Instead, the circle of trust seems to be shrinking to his daughter, her husband and Stephen Bannon.

Bannon has a coherent worldview, which is a huge advantage when all is chaos. It’s interesting how many of Bannon’s rivals have woken up with knives in their backs. Michael Flynn is gone. Reince Priebus has been unmanned by a thousand White House leaks. Rex Tillerson had the potential to be an effective secretary of state, but Bannon neutered him last week by denying him the ability to even select his own deputy.

In an administration in which “promoted beyond his capacity” takes on new meaning, Bannon looms. With each passing day, Trump talks more like Bannon without the background reading.

Third, we are about to enter a decentralized world. For the past 70 years most nations have instinctively looked to the U.S. for leadership, either to follow or oppose. But in capitals around the world, intelligence agencies are drafting memos with advice on how to play Donald Trump.

The first conclusion is obvious. This administration is more like a medieval monarchy than a modern nation-state. It’s more “The Madness of King George” than “The Missiles of October.” The key currency is not power, it’s flattery.

The corollary is that Trump is ripe to be played. Give the boy a lollipop and he won’t notice if you steal his lunch. The Japanese gave Trump a new jobs announcement he could take to the Midwest, and in return they got presidential attention and coddling that other governments would have died for.

If you want to roll the Trump administration, you’ve got to get in line. The Israelis got a possible one-state solution. The Chinese got Trump to flip-flop on the “One China” policy. The Europeans got him to do a 180 on undoing the Iran nuclear deal.

Vladimir Putin was born for a moment such as this. He is always pushing the envelope. After gifting Team Trump with a little campaign help, the Russian state media has suddenly turned on Trump and Russian planes are buzzing U.S. ships. The bear is going to grab what it can.

We’re about to enter a moment in which U.S. economic and military might is strong but U.S. political might is weak. Imagine the Roman Empire governed by Monaco.

That’s scary. The only saving thought is this: The human imagination is vast, but it is not nearly vast enough to encompass the infinitely multitudinous ways Donald Trump can find to get himself disgraced.

“The court system has given itself carte blanche to overturn any Trump initiative, even on the flimsiest legal grounds.”  What a pile of crap — give us a citation of some of those “flimsiest” legal grounds, you worthless hack.  Here’s what “Don Shipp” had to say:

“No one could watch yesterday’s Faulknerian, stream of consciousness, psycho drama, and not be concerned about the mental stability and solipsistic tendencies of Donald Trump. We all saw it. The existential problem is that the Republican Party could utilize it’s control of the Congressional committee system, subpoena power, and the creation of select committees to thoroughly investigate the Russian debacle and monitor any future Trump anomalies, but blind ambition and their position as parasites on the political host of Donald Trump, precludes them from putting the welfare of the nation ahead of their political agenda. Mitch McConnell oozes fetid partisanship to the point of squalid political immorality. Paul Ryan’s obsession with enacting his economic agenda renders him spineless and unwilling to confront the conservative radicals in the House whose co-operation he would need to investigate Trump.”

And now here’s Prof. Krugman:

The story so far: A foreign dictator intervened on behalf of a U.S. presidential candidate — and that candidate won. Close associates of the new president were in contact with the dictator’s espionage officials during the campaign, and his national security adviser was forced out over improper calls to that country’s ambassador — but not until the press reported it; the president learned about his actions weeks earlier, but took no action.

Meanwhile, the president seems oddly solicitous of the dictator’s interests, and rumors swirl about his personal financial connections to the country in question. Is there anything to those rumors? Nobody knows, in part because the president refuses to release his tax returns.

Maybe there’s nothing wrong here, and it’s all perfectly innocent. But if it’s not innocent, it’s very bad indeed. So what do Republicans in Congress, who have the power to investigate the situation, believe should be done?

Nothing.

Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, says that Michael Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador were “entirely appropriate.”

Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, angrily dismissed calls for a select committee to investigate contacts during the campaign: “There is absolutely not going to be one.”

Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House oversight committee — who hounded Hillary Clinton endlessly over Benghazi — declared that the “situation has taken care of itself.”

Just the other day Republicans were hot in pursuit of potential scandal, and posed as ultrapatriots. Now they’re indifferent to actual subversion and the real possibility that we are being governed by people who take their cues from Moscow. Why?

Well, Senator Rand Paul explained it all: “We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans.” Does anyone doubt that he was speaking for his whole party?

The point is that you can’t understand the mess we’re in without appreciating not just the potential corruption of the president, but the unmistakable corruption of his party — a party so intent on cutting taxes for the wealthy, deregulating banks and polluters and dismantling social programs that accepting foreign subversion is, apparently, a small price to pay.

Put it this way: I’ve been seeing comparisons between the emerging information on the Trump-Putin connection and the Watergate affair, which brought down a previous president. But while the potential scandal here is far worse than Watergate — Richard Nixon was sinister and scary, but nobody imagined that he might be taking instructions from a foreign power — it’s very hard to imagine today’s Republicans standing up for the Constitution the way their predecessors did.

It’s not simply that these days there are more moral midgets in Congress, although that, too. Watergate took place before Republicans began their long march to the political right, so Congress was far less polarized than it is now. There was widespread agreement between the parties on basic economic ideas, and a fair amount of ideological crossover; this meant that Republicans didn’t worry so much that holding a lawless president accountable would derail their hard-line agenda.

The polarization of the electorate also undermines Congress’s role as a check on the president: Most Republicans are in safe districts, where their main fear is of primary challengers to their right. And the Republican base has suddenly become remarkably pro-Russian. Funny how that works.

So how does this crisis end?

It’s not a constitutional crisis — yet. But Donald Trump is facing a clear crisis of legitimacy. His popular-vote-losing win was already suspect given the F.B.I.’s last-minute intervention on his behalf. Now we know that even as the F.B.I. was creating the false appearance of scandal around his opponent, it was sitting on evidence suggesting alarmingly close relations between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia. And nothing he has done since the inauguration allays fears that he is in effect a Putin puppet.

How can a leader under such a cloud send American soldiers to die? How can he be granted the right to shape the Supreme Court for a generation?

Again, a thorough, nonpartisan, unrestricted investigation could conceivably clear the air. But Republicans in Congress, who have the power to make such an investigation happen, are dead set against it.

The thing is, this nightmare could be ended by a handful of Republican legislators willing to make common cause with Democrats to demand the truth. And maybe there are enough people of conscience left in the G.O.P.

But there probably aren’t. And that’s a problem that’s even scarier than the Trump-Putin axis.

Solo Bobo

February 14, 2017

Bobo is now wringing his hands and has started pondering the question of “How Should One Resist the Trump Administration?”  He gurgles that depending on what kind of threat Donald Trump represents, there are historical models for resistance.  And, of course, in his last graf he winds up blaming the dirty hippies.  Today “Rw” from Canada will have something to say to him.  Here’s Bobo:

How should one resist the Trump administration? Well, that depends on what kind of threat Donald Trump represents.

It could be that the primary Trump threat is authoritarianism. It is hard to imagine America turning into full fascism, but it is possible to see it sliding into the sort of “repressive kleptocracy” that David Frum describes in the current Atlantic — like the regimes that now run Hungary, the Philippines, Venezuela and Poland.

In such a regime, democratic rights are slowly eroded. Government critics are harassed. Federal contracts go to politically connected autocrats. Congress, the media and the judiciary bend their knee to the vengeful strongman.

If that’s the threat, then Dietrich Bonhoeffer is the model for the resistance. Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who became an anti-Nazi dissident. Between 1933 and his capture in 1943, he condemned the Reich, protested the persecution of the Jews, organized underground seminaries and joined the German resistance. In the face of fascism, he wrote, it was not enough to simply “bandage the victims under the wheels of injustice, but jam a spoke into the wheel itself.”

If we are in a Bonhoeffer moment, then aggressive nonviolent action makes sense: marching in the streets, blocking traffic, disrupting town halls, vehement rhetoric to mobilize mass opposition.

On the other hand, it could be that the primary threat is stagnation and corruption. In this scenario, the Trump administration doesn’t create an authoritarian regime, but national politics turns into a vicious muck of tweet and countertweet, scandal and pseudoscandal, partisan attack and counterattack.

If that’s the threat, St. Benedict is the model for resistance. Benedict was a young Umbrian man who was sent to study in Rome after the fall of the empire. Disgusted by the corruption all around, he fled to the wilderness and founded monastic communities across Europe. If Rome was going to sink into barbarism, then Benedictines could lead healthy lives and construct new forms of community far from the decaying center.

If we are in a Benedict moment, the smart thing to do is to ignore the degradation in Washington and make your contribution at the state and local levels.

Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute notices that some of the interns in her think tank are thinking along Benedictine lines. In years past they were angling for career tracks that would land them in Washington, but now they are angling to go back to the places they came from.

The third possibility is that the primary threat in the Trump era is a combination of incompetence and anarchy. It could be that Trump is a chaotic clown incapable of conducting coherent policy. It could be that his staff members are a bunch of inexperienced second-raters.

Already the White House is back stabbing and dysfunctional. The National Security Council is in turmoil. Mussolini supposedly made the trains run on time, but this group couldn’t manage fascism in a phone booth.

It could be that Trumpism contains the seeds of its own destruction. The administration could be swallowed by some corruption scandal that destroys all credibility. Trump could flake out in the midst of some foreign policy crisis and the national security apparatus could have to flat out disobey him.

If the current reign of ineptitude continues, Republicans will eventually peel away. The Civil Service will begin to ignore the sloppy White House edicts. The national security apparatus will decide that to prevent a slide to global disorder, it has to run itself.

In this scenario, the crucial question is how to replace and repair. The model for the resistance is Gerald Ford, a decent, modest, experienced public servant who believed in the institutions of government, who restored faith in government, who had a plan to bind the nation’s wounds and restored normalcy and competence.

Personally, I don’t think we’re at a Bonhoeffer moment or a Benedict moment. I think we’re approaching a Ford moment. If the first three weeks are any guide, this administration will not sustain itself for a full term. We’ll need a Ford, or rather a generation of Fords to restore effective governance.

When this country was born, several of the founders wanted to feature Moses on the Great Seal of the United States. They didn’t want to do it because he liberated his people from tyranny. That was the easy part. They wanted to do it because he bound his people to law.

Now and after Trump, the great project is rebinding: rebinding the social fabric, rebinding the government to its people, and most of all, rebinding the heaping piles of wreckage that Trump will leave in his wake in Washington. Somebody will have to restore the party structures, rebuild Congress, revive a demoralized Civil Service.

These tasks aren’t magic. They are for experienced professionals. The baby boomer establishment polarized politics, lost touch with the voters and paved the way for Trump. We need a new establishment, one that works again.

Fuck you, Bobo.  Sideways, with a rusty rake.  Here’s what “Rw” has to say:

“‘The baby boomer establishment polarized politics, lost touch with the voters and paved the way for Trump. We need a new establishment, one that works again.’
Who, Mr. Brooks, proclaimed that government was the enemy, who proclaimed no compromise, who proclaimed shut the government down, who proclaimed, for all intents and purposes, that democrats have no legitimate right to govern, and on and on….I don’t recall it being the Baby Boomer Party, “establishment” or otherwise. Republicans own it all, Trump is their baby.”