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“Donald Trump Is Dead Wrong”: America Is A Fabulously Rich And Great Nation

America isn’t broke. Nor is it on the verge of a government debt crisis (whatever “crisis” even means for a nation whose debt is printed in a currency that is both its own and the world’s reserve). America is not in decay, and the last thing the U.S. should do is rashly withdraw from a dangerous world because of those mistaken beliefs.

This should be especially clear after the Belgium terror attacks.

Yet retreat is just what Donald Trump seems to be proposing. In an interview with The Washington Post editorial board Monday, Trump questioned the U.S. role in NATO and presence in Asia due to the financial burden they require:

I mean, we pay billions — hundreds of billions of dollars to supporting other countries that are in theory wealthier than we are. … When you look at the kind of money that our country is losing, we can’t afford to do this. Certainly we can’t afford to do it anymore…. I think we were a very powerful, very wealthy country. And we’re a poor country now. [Trump]

Looks like we finally found something Trump is in favor of off-shoring: America’s security.

Now, it’s certainly legitimate to evaluate the mission and cost of America’s overseas military commitments and posture. But that’s a different thing than scrapping our military alliances — or threatening to do so as some ham-handed budget negotiating tactic. Leading the free world, reassuring allies, and deterring aggression have little overlap with the skills needed to drive a hard bargain with a potential tenant in Trump Tower.

And yet, Republicans might give Trump’s defense policy ideas more of a hearing than they deserve because of their persistent debt fears. After all, it’s mainstream GOP economic thought that U.S. finances are precarious. How could they not be given the $19 trillion federal debt — $22 trillion if you include state and local government? These are figures Trump always mentions, as do many Republican politicians. They provide handy justification for arguing we can’t afford to invest in science, repair and upgrade our infrastructure, or bolster wages for low-income workers.

But here’s the thing: The U.S. is far from a poor nation. American households entered 2016 with a net worth of nearly $87 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve. To put that ginormous number in some context, China’s private wealth has been estimated at $23 trillion. Even if you factor in America’s debt-laden public sector and China’s large state-owned companies, the U.S. still has a $45 trillion wealth edge.

There are other ways of looking at national wealth that also show America’s riches. The value of U.S. intellectual capital has been estimated at around $9 trillion, with the value of the intangible assets — such as patents, copyrights, and general business methods — at nearly $15 trillion. And given Trump’s appreciation of brands — he generously values his own at $3 billion — you would think the businessman would appreciate America’s, which has been valued at close to $20 trillion.

Maybe all this wealth is one reason global financial markets don’t seem so worried about the U.S. debt. Well, that and the U.S. tax burden being one of the lowest in the developed world. The dollar is strong, and interest rates are low, as are inflation expectations. None of this is to say the U.S. should be a spendthrift in either defense or social spending. Without entitlement reform, Medicare and Social Security will require massive tax increases to keep their promises. Yet Trump would leave them untouched, vowing implausibly to fix their fiscal problems through higher economic growth alone.

The U.S. isn’t bankrupt. Our pockets aren’t empty. We aren’t a pauper nation.

But, of course, you can’t promise to make America great again without arguing that it currently isn’t.

 

By: James Pethokoukis, The Week, March 23, 2016

March 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Economic Policy, Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Internet Woman-Haters Flock To Daddy Trump”: Donald Trump’s Heidi Cruz Attack Excites Men’s Rights Activists

Once again, Donald Trump is amplifying the voices of people who have been marginalized for good reason, electrifying the angry who have felt shut out of the mainsteam conversation.

He’s done it for white supremacists by sharing bogus, racist crime statistics, and having black students barred from his events. And now he’s doing it for misogynists.

A little before midnight on Wednesday, Trump manually retweeted an image juxtaposing an unfortunate picture of Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi, with a clearly posed image of Trump’s own wife, Melania, who happens to be an internationally recognized model. “A picture is worth a thousands words,” it reads, with a caption on the image saying “No need to Spill the Beans,” referencing a threat Trump had made the night before on Twitter, his 24/7 live feed to cable news.

So-called men’s rights activists applauded, praising Trump for his virility and the attractiveness of his wife, and cheering that their ideas were at last getting a wider hearing. Daryush “Roosh” Valizadeh, leader of the “pro-rape” organization Return of Kings, told The Daily Beast that the tweet was warranted.

“Trump’s actions are justified self-defense,” he said. “Cruz got one of his Super PAC’s to denigrate Melania and so Trump did the appropriate thing in defending his wife’s honor by retweeting an image made by a supporter. If a man goes after your wife, I hope you have the balls to defend her by attacking back.”

When informed that Cruz had nothing to do with the ad in question and told The Daily Beast on Wednesday that he condemned it, Valizadeh would not be moved.

“That doesn’t appear to be a proven fact,” he said. “Even if it is, for Cruz to be completely unaware of the actions of his campaign network shows incompetence and a lack of awareness that is not at all presidential. The last thing we need is a president who passes the buck when something goes wrong on his watch.”

This sort of implausible deniability is a common trait in some Trump supporters. When it comes to inciting violence, encouraging racist narratives and—in this case—demeaning women, it’s never Trump’s fault. It’s the politically correct left-wing media that misinterprets his actions. And for them, Trump is the mainstream funnel for ideas that have long been relegated to private computers in American basements.

“So, is it really an ‘attack’?” a spokesman for Men Going Their Own Way—a group that preaches the preservation of male sovereignty at all costs, including by staying away from women entirely—asked rhetorically. The spokesman, who didn’t give his name, continued:

“If someone feels ‘attacked’ by a tweet… they should probably get off the Internet.”

As to Trump’s initial threat to “spill the beans,” he said he presumed it was in reference to a 2005 incident in which Heidi Cruz, struggling with depression, was found on the side of a Texas highway, which he referred to as her “nutcase meltdown.”

He also, unprompted, brought up an online campaign from women threatening to withhold sex from Trump supporters, and shrugged: “As if vagina is more important than America.”

Others tied to the loosely organized MRA movement seemed similarly excited by Trump.

“People who have ugly wives should not comment on other men’s wives,” one user in a private chat room for MRAs said in response to a question from The Daily Beast.

The group hosting the conservation, in which The Daily Beast participated, is meant for believers in The Red Pill, an Internet-generated ideology that purports that men are oppressed and women are not.

“For what it’s worth, I think Trump handled it wrong,” another user chimed in. “His response was defensive, whereas I think the much better response would have been ‘sorry my wife is attractive’ or something along those lines in Trump language.”

“Looks like a good first lady to me, Clinton wouldn’t have been getting blowies by secretaries,” said one.

“She always looks like a dog ready to be put down,” another said of Heidi Cruz.

These are people hiding behind usernames who have never seen their ideas validated by a major political figure until now. There’s an entire section of the The Red Pill subreddit that seeks to explain how Trump’s ideas align with theirs.

It uses Trump’s attack lines against Megyn Kelly, viewed by many as abhorrent and disgusting, to explain the group’s life philosophies.

“Let’s say you are flirting with a hot girl at a party. Maybe you say something uncalibrated and she takes offense. She then calls you out on it. Ask yourself, ‘what would Donald Trump do?’ would he apologize? Nope! Even if you make a mistake, NEVER apologize to a girl. Especially when you’re in public. Sometimes you need to welcome the incoming conflict that develops. Don’t run away from it with the excuse of ‘I don’t want to rock the boat’ or ‘I will look like an asshole.’ This is EXACTLY what the girl wants you to do and think.”

But what more could one expect of a guy who once wrote in his 2007 book Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life: “The women I have dated over the years could have any man they want; they are the top models and most beautiful women in the world. I have been able to date (screw) them all because I have something that many men do not have. I don’t know what it is but women have always liked it.”

Trump, who says things about women like “you have to treat ’em like shit,” and does things like pouring wine on female reporters or bearing witness as his campaign manager physically grabs them, sounds a lot like the Internet commenters in their basements.

It’s just that he’s the leading Republican presidential candidate.

 

By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Best, March 26, 2016

March 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Misogynists, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Republicans Don’t Care What Works”: Speaking To The Heart Of What Has Gone Wrong With The Republican Party

What little attention the right wing media machine isn’t devoting to the sordid mudslinging between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump is focused on a statement President Obama made about practicalities and ideologies:

I guess to make a broader point, so often in the past there’s been a sharp division between left and right, between capitalist and communist or socialist. And especially in the Americas, that’s been a big debate, right? Oh, you know, you’re a capitalist Yankee dog, and oh, you know, you’re some crazy communist that’s going to take away everybody’s property. And I mean, those are interesting intellectual arguments, but I think for your generation, you should be practical and just choose from what works. You don’t have to worry about whether it neatly fits into socialist theory or capitalist theory — you should just decide what works.

For Republicans this is tantamount to heresy and treason. The Washington Times is raving about it, as is Michelle Malkin, the Daily Caller and other conservative outlets.

This isn’t terribly surprising, of course, but it speaks to the heart of what has gone wrong with the Republican Party and conservatism itself. While the neoliberal and progressive wings of the Democratic Party are often at loggerheads, the arguments aren’t about pure ideology but about practicality. Clinton’s supporters see her as more electable, more able to work with Congress to implement policy, and more experienced with the policy nuances that will allow incremental progress to be made alongside a GOP Congress. Sanders’ supporters see the economic and political system as fundamentally broken, believe that a more aggressive approach to the bully pulpit and policy negotiation will be necessary to fix what’s wrong, and feel that more holistic and universal government approaches to problems will work better than means-tested half measures. But both sides are making practical arguments about what will actually work from an electoral and political standpoint.

Not so with Republicans. The GOP has devolved into a party that no longer cares about what works. The GOP is now divided between the Trumpists who (like Sanders’ supporters) believe that the system is broken and working against them while also (unlike Sanders’ supporters) raging against a complex multicultural and tolerant modernity, and the Cruzites who are wedded in an almost cult-like fashion to economically objectivist and Christian fundamentalist orthodoxy.

The result of the conservative movement’s failure to acknowledge policy realities can be seen most prominently in Kansas and Louisiana, where the red-state model of governance is failing catastrophically even as blue states like California are booming. In a functional political ecosystem that would be a cause for reckoning and introspection, but no acknowledgement of failure has been forthcoming from the GOP. Instead its candidates are doubling down on more of the same. For them, conservative orthodoxy cannot fail; it can only be failed.

In the days of the Cold War when capitalism and communism vied for supremacy, there was an understanding that one’s preferred system of governance had to actually deliver results or the people would revolt and make a change. The openness of democracies and market economies allowed them to soften the sharp edges and mitigate the flaws of capitalism with a healthy dose of compensatory socialism, while the closed systems of state communism led to brutal totalitarian outcomes. So capitalism won the war of ideas and appropriately so–but that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect system. Modern Republicans have totally lost sight of that fact. For them, markets don’t exist to serve people. Rather, people exist to serve markets.

The obvious human shortcomings of that belief system are what is allowing Trump to run a successful counterinsurgency within the GOP that tosses aside donors’ dearly held shibboleths about trade and taxation. Even David Brooks acknowledges that the GOP has to ideologically change course to account for capitalism’s failure to address rising inequality.

But for now, the leadership and media organs of the conservative movement remain obsessed with promoting ideology over practicality so much that a simple statement from the President that economies should simply pick solutions that work, somehow becomes a fundamental betrayal.

That lack of flexibility and cultish devotion to ideological purity (in addition to an intentional reliance on racial and cultural resentment) is what ruined the Republican Party in the first place. Now it’s paying the price.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 26, 2016

March 27, 2016 Posted by | Conservatism, Conservative Media, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Tantalizing Option”: The Vice-Presidential Nomination Could Be A Key Bargaining Chip At A Contested Convention

In examining the many possibilities of a “contested” or “open” Republican convention without a locked-down nominee, it makes sense to look at the last time this happened: the 1976 Republican convention, where President Gerald Ford had a plurality but not a firm majority of delegates in his camp when the festivities began, in Kansas City. Today’s Reagan-worshiping Republicans should take particular note of how Ronnie (or, more specifically, his Svengali, the veteran political consultant John Sears) decided to deal with the situation: using the vice-presidential nomination to attract uncommitted delegates and force a rules showdown.

Keep in mind that prior to 1976 the ancient tradition in major-party politics was that vice-presidential choices were made at the convention itself, usually after the presidential balloting. But Reagan announced about three weeks before the confab that if he were nominated his running mate would be Pennsylvania senator Richard Schweiker. This shocked the political world, since Schweiker was, on most issues, one of the most liberal Republicans in the Senate (with a then-recent 100 percent rating from the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education, among other indicators toxic to conservatives). But more to the point, there was a bloc of uncommitted delegates in the Keystone State that Sears thought the maneuver might pull across the line, perhaps even bringing with them some delegates previously committed to Ford.

In the end, most of the Pennsylvania delegation was unmoved, and the ploy probably cost Reagan a shot at winning over a closely divided Mississippi delegation that was voting as a bloc via a unit rule (it annoyed Reagan partisan Jesse Helms so grievously he briefly toyed with an effort to draft New York senator James Buckley as a dark-horse alternative to both Reagan and Ford). But Team Reagan also used the vice-presidency as the basis for a rules challenge that tested Ford’s grip on the convention: a motion to require all candidates to disclose their preferred running mates prior to the presidential balloting. The idea here was that any name he came up with might alienate some Ford delegates (his earlier choice of Nelson Rockefeller as the actual vice-president offended conservatives greatly; Rocky had to disclaim interest in renomination in 1976 to avoid becoming a huge handicap in the primaries). That, too, failed, and demonstrated that Ford had the nomination in hand once and for all.

But the precedent of using a preemptive vice-presidential choice to help win a presidential nomination has lingered in the air as a tantalizing option ever since. And if it were ever going to happen again, this could be the year.

Let’s say Donald Trump is in Ford’s position of leading with a plurality but not quite a majority of delegates, and Cruz is in Reagan’s position of playing catch-up, going into Cleveland — not at all a remote possibility. There would be a pool of “unbound” delegates from an assortment of states, mostly in the West, where state parties have deliberately chosen to keep their options open. If either candidate thought a particular ticket would attract a critical mass of such delegates, would he hesitate to make it? Probably not. More generally, at a time when nervous Republicans will be extremely worried about party unity, purported “unity tickets” will be all the rage. Promising one could be the way Trump nails down the last few delegates he needs for the nomination, or, alternatively, could be the path to a Cruz nomination on a second ballot when most of the delegates become unbound. For those who believe party elites can get away with nominating someone other than Trump or Cruz in Cleveland, a proposed “unity ticket” that would poll well among both Republicans and general-election voters is an absolute must. Moreover, something exactly like the Reagan-Schweiker rules challenge in 1976 to force disclosure of running-mate preferences could happen again in Cleveland, since the presidential candidates will not control all of “their” delegates on procedural matters like convention rules.

Even if Donald Trump nails down a majority of delegates on June 7 with a solid showing in California and New Jersey, naming a running mate whose characteristics show a conciliatory attitude toward the rest of the GOP could be just what the doctor ordered to head off some party coup to deny him the nomination, via a rules change or some other devilish device. Being able to cite chapter and verse from the Gospel of Ronald Reagan as precedent would make a preemptive choice that much more likely. And there will always be some opportunist like Schweiker willing to be used as a key to pick the nomination lock. You can count on it.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, March 24, 2016

March 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Convention, GOP Vice Presidential Nominee | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Mantle Of Sanctimony”: Christian Fundamentalism Is Weakening Force In Politics

In the waning days of March, a scandal has engulfed the Alabama State Capitol as Gov. Robert Bentley fired his top cop, who then turned around and accused the governor of having had an extramarital affair. The controversy engines hit high gear with the release of a salacious audiotape, in which the governor is overheard telling his listener how much he loves her and enjoys touching her breasts.

For all the inevitable handwringing and headlines, though, the accusations of Bentley’s romantic dalliance with a staffer — long-rumored in Alabama political circles and seemingly confirmed when his wife of 50 years filed for divorce in 2015 — are unlikely to damage his political standing. Nothing to see here, folks.

Except this: The disgrace of Bentley — a churchgoing, Bible-thumping moralist — is just one more gaping hole in the mantle of sanctimony that has afforded the Christian right a special place in American politics for the last 40 years. Though you will still occasionally hear rhetoric from the campaign trail that purports to espouse Christian values, fundamentalist Christianity — at least as a potent voting bloc — is pretty much a spent force in GOP politics.

If you have any doubt about that, just survey the current GOP presidential field, which is led by the narcissistic, non-Scriptural, thrice-married hedonist Donald Trump. Ted Cruz bet his presidential run on his bona fides as a true believer in the fundamentalist strain of Christianity, which emphasizes church attendance, public prayer and a narrow-minded moral code (at least for public consumption). But in primary contests so far, Trump has at least held his own with conservative churchgoers.

That’s the only thing about Trump’s baffling rise that prompts me to say a couple of hallelujahs. I don’t mourn the passing of fundamentalist Christianity as a commanding force; its adherents have done little to advance moral or ethical values.

With a precious few exceptions, they don’t promote social justice, or work to eliminate poverty, or campaign for compassion toward the “stranger” — immigrants. Instead, they have tried to impose their mean and rigid religious beliefs on public policy, misinterpreting the U.S. Constitution and misunderstanding the civic underpinnings of a pluralistic democracy.

Their enthusiasm for Trump underscores what has always been true about that group: They have strong nationalist and authoritarian impulses; they’re xenophobes; they’re averse to social change. There is also, among some white fundamentalist Christians, a strong whiff of racism.

It helps to remember the early days of the late Jerry Falwell, who founded the Moral Majority in 1979 and arranged a marriage of convenience with the Republican Party. As pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, he railed against the 1954 Supreme Court decision that desegregated public schools and denounced the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a “Communist subversive.”

Falwell abandoned that rhetoric after he became a nationally prominent figure, but he didn’t abandon his right-wing views on race. His foray into national politics began when the federal government moved to revoke the tax-exempt status of the white-only private schools — “seg academies” — that sprang up in the wake of public school desegregation. Falwell had started his own seg academy in Virginia.

Given the animating passions of Falwell’s followers, it’s no surprise that so many conservative Christians have made a seamless transition to Trump. They had already shown themselves to be flexible on their principles, so long as their politicians continued to support the policies that were really important to them. Those include contempt for the poor, suspicion of Muslims, and a nationalist rhetoric that insists on dominance on the world stage.

Bentley has hewed closely enough to that line to make it unlikely he’ll pay any price for his alleged affair. (For the record, Bentley has stated, unconvincingly, that he has not had any “physical” relationship with the staffer.)

For example, the governor supported the state’s extremely harsh law aimed at illegal workers, even though it originally included a provision (since struck down by a federal court) making it a crime to “transport” an undocumented immigrant. Some critics pointed out that could punish a good Christian who offers an immigrant a ride to church.

Neither Bentley nor his supporters minded a bit.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, March 26, 2015

March 27, 2016 Posted by | Christian Right, Donald Trump, Robert Bentley | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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