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“Donald The Dangerous”: Heartbreaking Prospect That America’s Next Commander In Chief May Be A Global Joke

Is there any scarier nightmare than President Donald J. Trump in a tense international crisis, indignant and impatient, with his sweaty finger on the nuclear trigger?

“Trump is a danger to our national security,” John B. Bellinger III, legal adviser to the State Department under President George W. Bush, bluntly warned.

Most of the discussion about Trump focuses on domestic policy. But checks and balances mean that there are limits to what a president can achieve domestically, while the Constitution gives a commander in chief a much freer hand abroad.

That’s what horrifies America-watchers overseas. Der Spiegel, the German magazine, has called Trump the most dangerous man in the world. Even the leader of a Swedish nationalist party that started as a neo-Nazi white supremacist group has disavowed Trump. J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, reflected the views of many Britons when she tweeted that Trump is worse than Voldemort.

Leading American conservative thinkers on foreign policy issued an open letter a few days ago warning that they could not support Trump. The signatories include Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of homeland security, Robert Zoellick, the former deputy secretary of state, and more than 100 others.

“Mr. Trump’s own statements lead us to conclude that as president, he would use the authority of his office to act in ways that make America less safe,” the letter declared.

A starting point is Trump’s remarkable ignorance about international affairs. And every time he tries to reassure, he digs the hole deeper. Asked in the latest debate to name people whose foreign policy ideas he respects, Trump offered Gen. Jack Keane, and mispronounced his name.

Asked about Syria, Trump said last year that he would unleash ISIS to destroy Syria’s government. That is insane: ISIS is already murdering or enslaving Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities; executing gays; destroying antiquities; oppressing women. And Trump wants ISIS to capture Damascus?

A second major concern is that Trump would start a trade war, or a real war. Trump told The New York Times in January that he favored a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods, then denied ever having said such a thing. The Times produced the audio (that part of the conversation was on the record) in which Trump clearly backed the 45 percent tariff, risking a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Trump has also called for more U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, and raised the prospect of bombing North Korean nuclear sites. A poorly informed, impatient and pugnacious leader can cause devastation, and that’s true of either Kim Jong-un or Donald Trump.

The third risk is to America’s reputation and soft power. Both Bush and President Obama worked hard to reassure the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims that the U.S. is not at war with Islam. Trump has pretty much declared war on all Muslims.

The damage to America’s image is already done, even if Trump is never elected. Simply as a blowhard who gains headlines around the world, he reinforces caricatures of the United States and tarnishes our global reputation. He turns America into an object of derision. He is America’s Ahmadinejad.

On Twitter, I suggested that Trump was pugnacious, pugilistic, preening and puerile, and asked for other P words to describe him. The result was a deluge: petulant, pandering, pathetic, peevish, prickly, pernicious, patronizing, Pantagruelian, prevaricating, phony, presumptuous, potty-mouthed, provocative, pompous, predatory and so many more, including the troubling “probably president.”

There’s something heartbreaking about the prospect that America’s next commander in chief may be a global joke, a man regarded in most foreign capitals as a buffoon, and a dangerous one.

Trump is not particularly ideological, and it’s possible that as president he would surround himself with experts and would back off extreme positions. It was a good sign that on Friday he appeared to reverse himself and pledged that he would not order the U.S. military to commit war crimes, yet that’s such an astonishingly low bar that I can’t believe I just wrote this sentence!

In any case, Trump is nothing if not unpredictable, and it seems equally plausible that he would start new wars. It’s a risk that few sensible people want to take. As Mitt Romney notes, “This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.”

Peter Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who was a national security official in the Bush White House, noted that most Republicans are united in believing that President Obama and Hillary Clinton have damaged the United States and added to the burdens of the next president.

“Yet what Trump promises to do would in some important ways make all of the problems we face dramatically worse,” he told me. “Why, at a moment when the country desperately needs our A-team, would we send in the clowns?”

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 5, 2016

March 7, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, National Security | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“The Same Priorities She’s Emphasizing Now”: What Hillary Said About Paid Leave, Child Care, Inequality — Yesterday And 20 Years Ago

Following Hillary Clinton’s first major campaign speech on Saturday, purveyors of conventional wisdom have assured us again that she is tacking toward the left to deflect her challengers and mollify her party’s liberal base. Such assertions usually hint that Clinton is not progressive herself, but merely swayed that way by polls and consultants.

On the evening before her big event in Four Freedoms Park, New York’s memorial to its favorite son, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I picked up a copy of her 1996 bestseller, It Takes A Village. (While many journalists once thumbed through it, few seem to remember its contents.) Published during an era when the nation showed few signs of turning leftward, Clinton’s first book offered pithy arguments for the same priorities she is emphasizing now. Consider the views she expressed on family leave — and, in particular, the limitations of the law signed by her husband in 1993:

As I have mentioned, the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees unpaid leave to employees in firms with more than fifty workers. That is a good beginning. Many parents, however, cannot afford to forgo pay for even a few weeks, and very few employers in America offer paid maternity and paternity leave….

Other countries have figured out that honoring the family by giving it adequate time for caregiving is not only right for the family and smart for society but good for employers, who reap the benefits of workers’ increased loyalty and peace of mind. The Germans, for example, guarantee working mothers fourteen weeks’ maternity leave (six weeks before and eight weeks after delivery) at full salary…

Other European countries provide similarly generous leave, some of them to fathers as well as mothers. In Sweden, for example, couples receive fifteen months of job-guaranteed, paid leave to share between them…

As First Lady, Clinton obviously was in no position to demand that her husband’s administration (or the Republican-dominated Congress) institute paid family leave, but her own opinion was clear enough. So was her view of early childhood education, another current issue that she highlighted on Saturday:

Imagine a country in which nearly all children between the ages of three and five attend preschool in sparkling classrooms, with teachers recruited and trained as child care professionals. Imagine a country that conceives of child care as a program to “welcome” children into the larger community and “awaken” their potential for learning and growing.

It may sound too good to be true, but it’s not….More than 90 percent of French children between ages three and five attend free or inexpensive preschools called écoles maternelles…

While I was in France, I had conversations with a number of political leaders, from Socialists to Conservatives. “How,” I asked, “can you transcend your political differences and come to an agreement on the issue of government-subsidized child care?” One after another of them looked at me in astonishment. “How can you not invest in children and expect to have a healthy country?” was the reply I heard over and over again.

Finally, Clinton drew sharp attention to the social instabilities of the post-industrial American economy and the role of government in redressing what she called a “crisis.” Observing that “long-established expectations about doing business have given way under the pressures of the modern economy,” she warned bluntly:

Too many companies, especially large ones, are driven more and more narrowly by the need to ensure that investors get good quarterly returns and to justify executives’ high salaries. Too often, this means that they view most employees as costs, not investments, and that they expend less and less concern on job training, employee profit sharing, family-friendly policies…or even fair pay raises that share with workers – not to mention their families and communities – gains from productivity and profits…

Despite record profits for many companies, the gap in income between top executives and the average worker has widened dramatically….This growing inequality of incomes has serious implications for our children.

She went on to again praise Germany, where “there is a general consensus that government and business should play a role in evening out inequities in the free market system” — and where higher base wages, universal health care, and superb job training guaranteed “a distribution of income that is not so skewed as ours is.”

Writing 20 years ago, when President Clinton was running for re-election against the odds, Hillary hedged her message — and yet she was prescient in addressing the harms of an increasingly unfair economy. What she said then undergirds what she is still saying, more and more forcefully, in this campaign.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, June 15, 2015

June 16, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Economic Inequality, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Doesn’t Remotely Comport With The Evidence”: Why The GOP’s War Against Welfare Programs Is Both Cruel And Pointless

Why do people work?

That question is at the center of the conservative case against anti-poverty programs. Republicans like Rand Paul conclude that policies like disability insurance or the Earned Income Tax Credit take away a key motivation — putting food on the table — that propels people to look for work. Thus these policies must be reducing labor supply and economic growth.

Liberals often don’t confront this point head-on, arguing instead that it’s unjust for people to starve because they’re out of work. It’s an inevitability, given that conventional understandings of market capitalism require around one out of 20 people to be unemployed at all times.

This is a good point, but the conservative argument is worth confronting on the merits. While there is an inherent trade-off between work and economic output, the story is not so simple as conservatives make out. Austerity — which often requires cutting anti-poverty programs — also kills labor supply.

For an example of the conservative position, let’s go to Daniel Mitchell, who wrote up some new findings from the National Bureau of Economic Research:

The mid-1990s welfare reform apparently helped labor supply by pushing recipients to get a job. Disability programs, by contrast, strongly discourage productive behavior, while wage subsidies such as the earned-income credit ostensibly encourage work but also can discourage workforce participation for secondary earners in a household. [The Federalist]

There is some surface plausibility to this argument. Social Security reduced poverty among the elderly by 71 percent, but in so doing probably also reduced the number of old people working. On some margin, there is a trade-off between work and poverty reduction, because a lot of jobs suck and people will quit them if they can.

However, it leaves a great deal out. Most critically, it doesn’t consider the business cycle. At the bottom of the Great Recession, for instance, the ratio of job seekers to job openings was nearly seven to one. That means it was mechanically impossible for six out of seven unemployed people to get jobs then. In order for “pro-work” welfare reform to have a prayer of working, the jobs you’re pushing people into actually have to exist.

In other words, when there is a recession, fiscal and monetary stimulus is the way to preserve labor supply, and austerity is the way to destroy it. But if you refuse to accept the logic of aggregate demand, as Mitchell did back in the very pit of the Great Recession, you’re stuck arguing that soup kitchens caused the Great Depression.

The international context presents an even more obvious problem. The conservative account of anti-poverty programs straightforwardly implies that the larger the welfare state, the lower the labor force participation rate (that is, the fraction of people who are working or actively looking for a job). If people don’t have to work due to generous government benefits, then they won’t work.

This doesn’t remotely comport with the evidence. In point of fact, by developed world standards, the U.S. welfare state is extremely stingy and our labor force participation rate is quite low. Take Sweden, for instance. It boasts the welfare benefits of Ayn Rand’s deepest nightmares: universal health and dental insurance, 480 days of paid parental leave per child, a monthly child benefit of about $120 up through age 16, two weeks sick leave, government pension at age 65, and so on.

Overall, if we look just at market incomes, then Sweden has about the same market poverty rate as the U.S. — but its welfare benefits cut the actual poverty rate down to half that of the U.S. That’s the scale of transfers we’re talking about, and other Nordic nations do even better. Yet Sweden’s labor force participation rate was 64.1 percent as of two years ago, more than a percentage point better than the U.S. rate, which has been hovering below 63 percent for the last couple years.

Again, at some point there has to be a trade-off between work and output. In decades previous, the U.S. beat European nations in labor force participation, because those nations chose relatively more free time as they became richer, instead of maniacally ratcheting up GDP for its own sake.

But correct macroeconomic policy also matters a great deal. If there is a catastrophic collapse in aggregate demand that is not fixed for years and years, that’s also going to burn up labor supply — in a way that is both cruel and pointless.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, April 28, 2015

April 29, 2015 Posted by | Austerity, Conservatives, Poverty | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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