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The Caligula Presidency: a Weekly Ovi Column - Week 8
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-08-05 10:55:47
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Week 8 - Columns 50-56 (30 July-5 August 2017)
(Columns written on a daily basis April 2-8 2017)
On: tax reforms, health reform, Pinocchio’s nose, promises on the economy, Russia’s probe and Inspector Clouseau, Noam Chomsky and the environment, government by twitter.


Column 50

The Up-coming GOP Tax Reforms will make Health Reforms Look
like a Tremendous Success in Comparison


After the failure to enact a health reform bill that would have discarded some 24 million people from their insurance over a period of 10 years, raised premiums for seniors, and cost states billions (California alone estimated that it would lose some 24.3 billion annually by 2027), Trump is now moving on and getting ready to sell his tax-reform proposal. It provides for tax benefits for the wealthiest Americans, a whopping 270 billions, in a period of 10 years. As per such a plan, the top 0.1%, the wealthiest Americans, would receive  a windfall tax reduction averaging $207,000.

So much for relief for neglected ordinary Americans whose wages have stagnated for the last thirty years or so, a promise that Trump went around peddling during his presidential campaign. It looks more like the philosophy of savage social Darwinism and survival of the fittest and the elites. Ayn Rand could be a reliable predictor of what to ultimately expect. She is the well-known social philosopher that a Republican such as Paul Ryan grew-up with, as he himself has proudly declared. One of Rand’s essays which Ryan has surely read, is titled “The Virtue of Selfishness.” Aristotle, the promotor of “virtue ethics,” must surely be turning in his grave.


Column 51

Trump’s Pinocchio Nose Growing Longer and Longer


Every time Trump blurts out another outrageous lie, his aides run out to spin it and even defend it. I call them “the White House’s pooper scoopers.” It has become the new normal routine.  It must not be a pleasant task for the scoopers, even metaphorically speaking, given that most of the times those lies cannot be rationally defended and Trump remains unwilling to retreat from them, on principle. But few have quit the job over it, so far. They must be quite desperate for the job and cannot possibly have a great opinion of their selves.

I’m talking about the White House, but the same critique can be applied to the Republicans in Congress. So far they have gotten in line with Trump’s almost daily flights of fantasy as communicated via Tweet. Sometimes they run from reporters who ask inopportune questions about those tweets. They have begun to suspect that they too will get dirty, and that eventually it will cost them at the polls.

Trumps sometimes attempts a rationalization such as “what I said is not mine, it was somebody else, it was in quotes.” In other words, he borrowed the lie from somebody else. When pressed and asked whether the country will be able to believe him when he asks for their trust in a future crisis, his idiotic response was that “The country believes me. Hey. I went to Kentucky two nights ago, we had 25,000 people in a massive basketball arena.” Which is to say, people can trust what I say because my fans still come out in droves to see me.

Hard to grasp the logic in such a statement. There isn’t any, even if the one who uttered it allegedly went to the Warton School of Business, but there it is, for one of his aides to go and scoop. But, after all, some of those aides also go around peddling lies like voter fraud, although they are more circumspect about putting a number and a place on it. Many of them are complicit in the substitution of ideology for truth and facts.

Some lies are quite personal to Trump himself, like the deranged idea that he had the largest inauguration crowd in history and that the pictures lie, not him. Then there are more dangerous lies, like those of the ever widening Russia scandal. Here it might be necessary for the scoopers to come to Trump’s defense in order to cover up the scandal.

So far there have been few Republicans even acknowledging that there may be something terribly troubling about a hostile foreign dictator manipulating an American election, or that the former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had a $10 million per year contract with a Russian oligarch to advance Putin’s political interests.

Those are alarming questions for the servile sycophants, but they cannot easily distance themselves from them, for any threat to Trump’s presidency may also mean a threat to their own agenda. A president mired in a major scandal may be far less likely to deliver on tax cuts for the wealthy, or deregulation for corporations. After all, that was the reason why Republicans of all persuasions lined up behind Trump in the first place: he’d help them do the things they have been yearning to do for eight years now.

So, some Republicans are more reluctant, and others are more sycophantic and enthusiastic toward Trump. But they have all fallen in line and rationalized his lies about himself and his imbroglios with Russia. But of course, the devil’s bargains remains on the table and the stain and ignominy of cooperation will ultimately stay with them and will not be so easily expungable.


Column 52

A Preliminary Assessment of Trump’s Promises
on the Overall US Economy


During his presidential campaign in 2016 Trump promised a 3 to 4 percent  economic growth to be accomplished through steep corporate and individual tax cuts and spending on the country’s infrastructure, i.e., constructions such as roads, airports, and tunnels.

That’s the rosy envisioned scenario. The sad reality of the situation, like much envisioned in Trump’s alternate reality (based on his “the art of the deal”) is much more sobering.  According to 50 economists surveyed by the National Association of Business Economics, the economy will grow only 2.3 percent this year under Trump’s presidency.

So much for the claim of having a savvy reassuring businessman, a risk taker entrepreneur at the helm of the ship of state. Actually, the only two businessmen we have had as presidents of the US were Hoover and George Bush. They both plunged the nations into economic woes; one with the great Depression, and the other with the great Recession. Not exactly a reassuring track record. Given that track record on “smart businessmen” entering politics, let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

Seventy percent of all economists working in academia, trade association and companies, believe that financial markets are currently too optimistic about the impact of Trump’s proposals; and that’s assuming that they get enacted. The first of these proposals  dealing with health-care reform can hardly be characterized as a great success. Nevertheless economists in general remain optimistic about hiring: they expect an average of 183,000 jobs added per month this year. But they do not expect an infrastructure package, even if it passes this year, to boost the economy until 2018.

Economists also predict that Trump’s tax proposals will face serious challenges before they become law, if the health care bill is any indication. Will Trump confront those stubborn economic facts or will he continue his pursuit of delusions which allegedly will make America great again?  Stay tuned for an answer dictated by the facts and by truth. For the moment it’s enough to say that the stubbornness of facts has a way of catching up with those who consistently ignore them and proclaim their illusions and delusions.


Column 53

More Pinocchios  from Donald Trump


While ongoing probes about the involvement of his associates with Russian officials during the presidential campaign continue to sound alarms, Donald Trump, true to form, attempted, once again, to create distractions by forwarding a series of misleading tweets.

In one of them he questions the probe of the House Intelligence Committee asking why it isn’t investigating the former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her husband, the former president, who allowed big Uranium to go to Russia, Russian speech money, the Russian reset, praise of Russia by Hillary, the Podesta Russian Company. He also blames Hillary Clinton for a deal between Russia’s nuclear power agency and a Canadian company, a claim that upon fact checking by Politifact proved to be mostly false.

He concludes that the Trump Russia story is a big hoax, just fake news, while of course his tweet’s pompous pronouncements are the pure unadulterated truth based on fact. Is this a case of “the lady doth protest too much”? Most probably. In any case, the Pinocchio nose keeps growing by the day.

This latest spade of tweets do not even spare the conservative House Freedom Caucus for its efforts to prevent the passage of the new American Health Care Act, Trump’s first legislative failure. As usual, Trump, rather than assuming responsibility for the debacle, is now looking for scapegoats to blame, or throw under the bus, as the case may be.

In his bombastic style Trump tweets that the Freedom Caucus snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, when they should have won. In any case he prefers Obamacare to remain as is so that it can implode and explode. Then the Democrats will make a deal with him: “that will not be long. Do not worry, we are in very good shape!” he tweeted. Indeed, we are all in very good shape.

Let us all remember that Pinocchio, like George Washington, never, never, never tells a lie! That’s a presidential guarantee.


Column 54

While Russia’s Probe Gets Closer to the Truth, Inspector Clouseau
Continues the Inept Bungling


The latest attempt to obstruct justice and to damage the inquiry of Congress by the White House is the blocking of former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in the House investigation of links between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

It has surfaced in the Washington Post that the Trump administration considers much of the testimony of Yates barred from discussion in congressional hearings because the topics have been declared covered by presidential communication privilege. If that assessment, together with water being carried for the White House by Rep. Devin Nunes, does not strike the average observer as interference with the probe or throw dust on behalf of Trump, nothing does. Calls for Nunes’ recusal are increasing by the day.

Senator John McCain, a republican senator, has already expressed his consternation and declared that there needs to be a lot of explaining to do, or the Congressional committee will lose its credibility. As it is, another shoe drops every few days. He has advised that due to the seriousness of the allegations, an independent select committee be organized that forces Nunes to reveal his source.

Meanwhile Trump’s approval rating is down to 35% while support for an independent commission keeps rising (66% want an independent commission, almost two thirds of all the people). This is necessary, otherwise, as Sen. Lindsey Graham has observed, we’ll have Nunes going on a lark by himself, not too dissimilar from Inspector Clouseau investigating himself.


Column 55

Noam Chomsky Declares in Time Magazine that Trump is
Sabotaging the World’s Last Chances for Survival


Presidential Meltdown

Franklyn D. Roosevelt managed to reshape the US government’s role in the first 100 days of his presidency. Since then, the first 100 days have been the benchmark for the total presidential performance. Following that precedent, there is no other recent US president that has shown such dismal and shameless ignorance about governing as the White House’s current occupant. He mistakes business deals for governing.

So far, Trump has shown himself incapable of behavior that is even remotely conventional in government and politics. He may be conducting a clever entertaining reality show, Apprentice like, from the White House, as his supporters claim, but that may be a cover for his real motives which have more to do with business interests than with the common good.

What about his admiration for Putin? Is it a sign of a major shift in policy or simply admiration, almost an infatuation with a strongman who has become the richest man in Russia, something that he is surely envious of? Hard to fathom, for there is no predictable rationality in the antics we have been witnessing in the White House for some seventy days now.

In a recent interview in Time Noam Chomsky had this to say on the matter: “I don't pretend to have any special insight into the mind of this strange person, though the people around him have been fairly coherent, in particular Steve Bannon, who seems to be the shadowed figure behind the throne. What is happening before our eyes appears to be a two-pronged operation, I presume planned. Bannon/Trump (and the pathetic Sean Spicer, who has to defend the latest shenanigans in public) have the task of dominating TV and headlines with one wild performance after another, the assumption apparently being that his fabrications will quickly be forgotten as the next episode displaces them and the base will be satisfied for a time, believing that their champion is standing up for them.

So, who remembers the millions of undocumented immigrants who ‘voted for Clinton’ or the charge that that really bad guy Obama (‘sad!’) literally wiretapped poor Trump—a claim now downgraded to irrelevance, but not withdrawn—and so on? Look how well the birther tales played for many years, ending hilariously with Trump blaming Clinton for initiating the farce.”

Chomsky then goes on to describe how somebody like Trump will have no compunction in sacrificing to money the chances the world has to survive an environmental catastrophe.

Time for impeachment? Some 51% of all women in America already think so. Among them there must surely be some who voted for Trump, so there must be a certain amount of buyers’ remorse at work. In any case, better late than never. Meanwhile those who continue to wait for the check in the mail are still waiting for its delivery. They may have a long wait.


Column 56

Government by Twitter in the Era of Post Truth: One More Twitter
Tantrum Could Shut Down a Fake Dishonest Government


Unless agreement on a new spending bill is finally reached a government shutdown is all but assured. It began when House Speaker Paul Ryan broadcasted an interview with CBS where he expressed concerns that the failure of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act might drive Trump into compromise with the Democrats in attempting to change Obamacare.

At that point the Tweeter-in-chief stepped into the center ring of the circus that the US government seems to have become nowadays, and lashed out at both the Democrats and the House Freedom Caucus, the hard right of the House of Representatives who were instrumental in defeating the American Health Care Act. In effect this was a call to fight Trump’s own party in the 2018 elections. That prompted some right-wing Republicans to suggest, via tweeter, that Trump had already been corrupted by the D.C. Establishment.

The war of the tweeters has begun. It all sounds like another entertaining episode of the Apprentice being conducted from the White House with Trump deluding himself that he is the CEO in charge of the corporation called USA and finding out the hard way that governing is a bit more complex than managing a business, and the consequences are much more dire.

In order to pass a spending bill Trump and Ryan will need the cooperation of the Freedom Caucus or a significant number of House Democrats, the very two factions that they have managed to alienate.

The Freedom Caucus certainly have enough votes to block a funding bill, if they choose to do so. Now that Trump has vowed to work against them in the next Congressional election, it’s hard to see how sparing the president another embarrassment will be much of a concern to them. That leaves the Democrats to help the Speaker get a majority on a spending bill that can pass the Senate thus somehow salvaging the situation.

Legislation to fund the government invariably creates a choke point in the legislative process, because when federal agencies have to shut their doors, not much else gets done in Washington. Will a shut-down be averted? Hard to predict; but stay tuned. The worst of an incompetent, dishonest, and fake administration, flourishing in the era of post-truth, may still be in the offing, and it may not be so entertaining as it has been so far.


End of Week 8



Week 1 -Week 2 - Week 3 - Week 4 - Week 5 - Week 6 - Week 7 - Week 8


Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
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