The Empire Strikes Back

There are plenty of frightening things about Trump’s campaign.

What is most frightening is his xenophobic appeal to nativism. It has given voice to an ugly white bigoted segment of society that has always been there, but was not discussed in polite company. These are the neo-nazi white supremacist racists who have enjoyed resurgence over the past eight years because a black man was in the White House. They were able to scream their bigotry in the public square because conservative Republicans claimed it was all politics. The worst stuff imaginable was suddenly fashionable among those who opposed the President because of his politics AND his race.

While they weren’t looking, however, conservatives have discovered that Trump is not just a racist, which they understand. He is also a populist. Worse yet, he is a rich populist, which seems an oxymoron, but doesn’t seem to disturb his followers. Even more terrifying to the conservative Republican establishment, his populism hasn’t just targeting illegal immigrants. It has also targeted bloated corporations who have had their way for too long and CEO’s who have been packing it in at the expense of their workers.

This is a very interesting turn of events. Ever since Reagan coopted the evangelical political movement awakened by Carter, Republican candidates have run on a whole platform of social issues. Once elected, however, they only delivered on the fiscal issues that were most important to their big money backers. Over the years everyone assumed that social conservatives actually cared about all of these fiscal issues too. Turns out that those supporting Trump don’t really care about the reducing taxes, expanding federal programs, and state’s rights. They understand the impact that big money has had on politics and are just as unhappy about large corporations and high income CEO’s as they are about illegal immigrants. Trump, running as a conservative Republican, hates free trade deals, loves Medicare and Social Security, wants to punish big companies that ship their jobs overseas, wants to tax CEO’s with cushy comp packages, and pledges to hold boards more accountable for their crony capitalism. In that regard Trump is MUCH closer to Bernie Sanders than he is any other candidate on the Republican ticket.

As Paul Krugman points out

The influence of big-money donors meant that nobody could make a serious play for the G.O.P. nomination without pledging allegiance to supply-side doctrine, and this allowed the establishment to imagine that ordinary voters shared its antipopulist creed.

But Mr. Trump, who is self-financing, didn’t need to genuflect to the big money, and it turns out that the base doesn’t mind his heresies. This is a real revelation, which may have a lasting impact on our politics.

The empire has inevitably begun to strike back.

The Club for Growth, that mainline supply side shill for political big money, is raising money to start running ads against Trump because of his tax policy.

Their hope is that they are going to be able to convince enough conservative Republicans that Trump is not their friend. This is going to be really interesting because the moment those ads begin to run I predict his poll numbers will improve. Rather than vilify Trump, these attacks from the conservative Republican establishment will validate what Trump has been saying all along. Those that have been sitting on the sidelines not sure that Trump is the real deal will realize that the Republican establishment, whom they also don’t trust, DOES take him seriously. They believe that he is dangerous. They recognize that he isn’t going to succumb to their influence. And finally, the establishment is terrified of what will happen to them if Trump is elected. This attack will be the sort of endorsement some of those on the sidelines have been waiting for. Trump will use these attacks to double down on his message of change. He will say, “If you really want to see changes, rather than the same old three card Monty that the Republican Party has been running, vote for me”.

If Trump is able to prove that these sorts of attacks will backfire and that organizations like the Club for Growth no longer have the weapon they claimed, the Republican Party will enter a brave new world. They will be required to really debate fiscal policy on the basis of what is best for the voters rather than what is best for their big money interests. If that occurs, we could really see a Presidential election where Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump both agree that the wealthy should pay more taxes, corporations should be penalized when they ship jobs offshore, trade pacts should benefit US workers, the social safety net should be strengthened because it benefits those that depend on it, and healthcare should be available to all at a cost that all can afford.

Compare this to the tax plans of the rest of the clowns on the Republican candidate bus.

Cruz, Paul, and Carson all favor a flat tax. Easy math says that the flat tax has to be somewhere around 25% in order to fund the government at current spending levels. Paul is at 14.5%. Carson at is 10%. Cruz hasn’t said. Beyond that, the flat tax is a huge give away to the wealthy who are paying significantly more in taxes today.

Huckabee is proposing a consumption tax. This federal sales tax would add $.23 to ever $1 spent on anything or an effective rate of 30%. The problem is that economic think tanks across the political spectrum say that it wouldn’t even come close to funding the government at its current level of spending.

Bush’s tax plan is the most interesting just because it is so weird. He has already promised that supply side economics will produce 4% growth for as far as the eye can see. But the details of the plan make that naïve prediction seem rational. Here are some quotes from a good article on the subject from

Bush’s plan offers an unlikely combination of solutions to the problem of slow growth.

He wants to cut the income tax rate and eliminate the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax — all policies that would benefit mostly the wealthiest Americans. At other times, he sounds like a populist, calling for the closing of loopholes that benefit corporations and hedge fund managers. And at others, he sounds like a policy wonk, arguing to shift tax policy in a way that encourages companies to build rather than borrow.

There’s no way to calculate yet what impact Bush’s proposals would have on the federal deficit, for example, or exactly how much more or less specific groups would pay in taxes. He hasn’t identified the corporate loopholes he would close or said whether closing them would fully offset his proposed cut to the headline corporate income tax rate.

The summary is that this is a politically motivated plan that borrows something from every other candidate including Clinton and Sanders, bundles it all up in a big confusing bag, and then wraps it in a bow of promised 4% growth. The reality once you strip everything away is that it is the same old voodoo economics that Reagan was forced to abandon, Bush I rescinded, and Bush II used to turn a surplus into a deficit.

The reality, at least for the moment, is that there are a lot of angry white voters out there who are unhappy with the Republican establishment. There are also a lot of frustrated progressive voters out there who are eager for a candidate willing to mount a full throated defense of progressive principles. Trump and Sanders are riding these respective waves. It is unclear whether those waves will propel both candidates to their party’s nomination, but the political establishment is becoming very uneasy with this populist uprising.

14 Responses to “The Empire Strikes Back”

  1. Keith says:

    Jeff, you need to tone down that racist white man talk… It isn’t helpful.

    Maybe I influenced your position above. I’ve said for ever the republicans no longer represent me. That I’m tired of every sentence in an election cycle ending with “and lowering taxes.” If you’ll remember I have no problem with Bill Clintons tax rates.

    You paint with a brush far to large my friend. Democrats on the street have very little in common with the national party either. I have many Chrisitan friends who do not support homosexual marriage and abortion yet support democrats. Must large black intercity church’s do not favor these two things either. Many of friends there too.

    Please humor me and turn you focus on the hypocrisy on your side also then you and I can get somewhere. Both the Dems and Repubs have failed us.

    Have you hear anyone on your side ask for Hillary to step aside? Until they do so there is no credibility to say anything about any other candidate.

  2. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Your quoting a National Review article about a survey (not a poll) done by a GOP pollster?

    When you dig into the survey, you find that he only surveyed 800 people. The political split was 12% Republican and 53% Democratic. In the 2012 election exit polling, the split was 67% Democratic and 20% Republican. So this survey seemed to overcount the independents, undercount the dems by 14% and undercount the repubs by 8%.

    You also find significant opposition to much of the Republican immigration agenda in the survey that just wasn’t reported by the National . Sorry, I’m not buying.

    Second, I’m not suggesting anyone step aside. I find all of this immensely interesting.

    Back in 1968 I was peripherally part of the whole process of candidate selection reform. If you recall, Humphrey got the nomination even though he virtually ignored the primary process. McCarthy won most of them and wasn’t even considered. The reforms put in place allowed George McGovern to win the nomination in 1972.

    Big money has since perverted the process, but the fact remains that neither party establishment can just pick the candidate that they would prefer anymore.

    The result is that even though Bush and Clinton have raised the most money and have the most endorsements, they still have to go out and win primaries in order win the nomination. If the both lose the first two contests, Iowa and NH, they will have to demonstrate that they can win the first open primary in SC in February. If Bush, for example, loses in SC too, he’s pretty much done. If Bernie is able to overcome Hillary’s big lead in SC, she is going to be done too.

    Finally, I’m commenting on Republicans because of your beliefs. I just find them interesting.

    The difference between liberals and conservatives, though, is that liberals can deal with conflicting points of view. Conservatives can’t. Not a value judgement, just the results of some the moral foundation research I’ve posted earlier.

    I don’t believe that both parties have failed. I believe that the primary system that I helped (in a very small way) create has given undo influence to the zealots of both parties. That’s because those are the only people who come out and vote in the primaries. The result is that the Republican party lost all of its moderates (they were beaten by Democrats), and the Democrats got far too pragmatic in their politics and lost the ability to defend their principles.

    That’s why all of the Republican candidates are crazy.

    It’s also why there is only one Democratic candidate willing to stand up for progressive principles and that guy calls himself a socialist.

  3. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Again, I’m not impressed by MRCtv. They are dedicated to , among other things, exposing the media’s liberal bias. The survey was online by Yougov and based on 800 responses.

    Here is a MUCH more credible poll from the Washington Post and ABC news on this same subject of immigration.

    It shows that Republicans have the most negative views on illegal immigration and the only demographic segment where more than 50% oppose a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers. More than 90% of Hispanics support some sort of pathway to citizenship.

    Republicans are also the most distrustful of Hispanics.

    When you break that down even further (Pew Poll), the Republican Party is overwhelmingly white (49% – 40%), male with no college degree(54% -33%), southern (55%-34%), old (47%-43%), and Mormon (70%-22%) or evangelical Protestant (68%-22%). The later makes sense because both the Mormon and Evangelical Protestant religions are male dominated.
    By comparison 80% of blacks are democrats, 65% of Asians, 61% religiously unaffiliated, 64% post-graduate women, 61% Jewish, 56% Hispanic, and 51% young.

    The largest segment of Trump’s Republican supporters did not graduate from college (32%).

    Finally from another ABC Poll,

    79% of non-whites polled see Trump negatively. Whites split 48-49.

    Republicans received 6% of the black vote in 2012.

    So suggesting that Republicans are a predominantly white, predominantly male, predominantly old party is just the facts. As far as hate-filled as a description, that’s my own interpretation of Trump’s remarks on mexican immigrants, Huckabee’s suggestion that Obama was leading Isreal to the gas chambers, and Cruz claiming that Obama was trying to destroy the constitution. If you want to hear more hate, just tune in the debates tonight.

  4. Keith says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Consider this statement you made.

    “It shows republicans have the most negative views on illegal immigration.”

    Simply put, if we are to be a society of LAWS, then we all ought to be equally concerned about anything illegal. So your statement is confirmation that 1 republicans care more about the law then all other groups and 2 Hispanics care the least. So if there is such a disregard for the law by one group and such a high regard by another what does that say if you statement, taken in another context? Lawful or lawless?

    How can a socialist run for president in the democratic ticket? My 91 year old life long democrat father asked me… How can a socialist run for anything I the USA and get any level of support I’d like to know. Do you think it has anything to do with a growing sentiment that also struggles with lawful verse lawless concepts?

    Are the Dems even going to hold a process for nomination this time around?

    Meanwhile Putin is going to go try and take out Isis

  5. Jeff Beamsley says:

    This is all moral foundations, and we appear to struck another one with you.

    Conservatives believe the it is more important to punish those who break the law than it is to protect those who are innocent. Liberals believe that it more important to protect the innocent that it is to punish those who break the law.

    The question wasn’t whether those who enter this country illegally have broken the law. That is obvious. No one is suggesting that illegal immigrants have not broken the law.

    The questions asked had more to do whether those who enter the country should be feared. Whether they should have an opportunity, after a long period of time living peacefully and productively in this country, to earn their citizenship. Republicans are the least generous and the most fearful of illegal immigrants in particular and immigrants in general than any other segment of the population. So please don’t try to spin this off in some other direction.

    As far as socialism is concerned, why couldn’t a socialist run for the Democratic nomination?

    We’ve had a libertarian running for the Republican nomination for a decade or more.

    Socialists (including Bernie) believe in using government policy to redress the inherent inequities in the free market economy. Bernie is a democratic socialist. He believes in representative government. He does not believe that the government should own everything. But he does believe that the government should protect people from the excesses of the free market.

    This has nothing to do with your lawful versus lawless meme. That is something that only bothers conservatives. They assume because liberals are concerned with innocence that they are supportive of lawlessness. No we’re not. What we are concerned about is equal justice for all. I don’t expect you to get that. What I hope you will consider if you can extract yourself from the right wing bubble for a moment, is that right wing news sources spend an INORDINATE amount of time talking about people who in one way or another are “getting away with something”. Why do you think that is?

    My suggestion is that it suggests that we are on the cusp of some sort of social collapse, a quick slide in chaos, some impending LAWLESS Armageddon. It’s not true, but it has been the constant drumbeat of Fox since their first broadcasts 1996. Remember who was President in 1996? Funniest thing.

    What has happened since then? 8 years of Bush II. 9/11. Two invasions. The WAR ON TERROR (not terrorists). Government sponsored torture. Government sponsored domestic spying. All in the name of keeping us safe. Safe from what? Why that fear and anxiety that is spewing out of the TV every day. Unfortunately playing on the worst fears and anxieties of conservatives makes Fox money. There is nothing that the government is EVER going to be able to do to make at least Fox viewers feel any safer.

    BTW, while they were claiming to keep everyone safe from the boogeyman of terrorism, they let their buddies on wall street run the economy off the cliff. That turned out to be WAY worse than any terrorist attack. But somehow Fox missed that one.

    Certainly the Dems are going to hold a process for nomination. We just don’t need as much time because there are just a few candidates.

    Finally, Putin is concerned about ISIS. He is MUCH more interested in propping up his ally in Syria AND blunting the rapprochement between the US and Iran.

  6. Keith says:

    A little more concern….
    No clue how this plays out and it’s still way early in the game.

  7. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Can’t trust an opinion piece from the WSJ that predicts yet again the collapse of Obamacare.

    Forecasts were lowered last year too, but the numbers at the end of the enrollment period as well as the mix of old and young people were fine. I suspect that the same thing will happen this year.

  8. Keith says:

    More commentary. Bloomberg

    My point it’s still way to early in the game. However some things are beginning to move.

  9. Keith says:

    Just another small piece of the puzzle.

  10. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Regarding the two Bloomberg articles. Both seemed to be relatively fair bits of journalism. The first documenting that the cost of healthcare insurance is going up, but at a slower rate than before Obamacare come on line.

    The second documenting how those opposed to Obamacare managed to kill the coop plans who were the only non-industry competition out there. Also curbing the government’s ability to protect insurance companies from the sorts of losses that they might incur if they became more competitive resulted in insurance companies raising their rates.

    So Republicans managed in some small way to alter the original rules of the marketplace that Obamacare put into place. Those rules fostered the sort of competition that had kept rates low. As those competitive pressures eased and the government’s ability to mitigate some of the financial risks of competition was decreased; rates went up.

    Sounds like a plan to me.

  11. Jeff Beamsley says:

    I agree that there are certainly opportunities to improve Obamacare based on better understanding of what works and what doesn’t work.

    The biggest segment of uninsured, however, are the poor in Republican controlled states which rejected the Federal government’s incentive to expand Medicaid. Obamacare was structured with the assumption that states would adopt this expansion. As a result, there is a gap for those too poor to qualify for incentives but with too much income to qualify for traditional Medicare.

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