Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Response to Ask No Questions

(See: Just Above Sunset: Ask No Questions)

Frank Bruni reports on Trump’s visit to the New York Times editorial board:
The Trump who visited The Times was purged of any zeal to investigate Clinton’s emails or the Clinton Foundation, willing to hear out the scientists on global warming, skeptical of waterboarding and unhesitant to disavow white nationalists. He never mentioned the border wall.
Oh, snap! The guy’s not even in office yet, and he’s backtracking on his campaign vows already? This can’t be good.

I suppose there are some Democrats who actually look forward to making deals with him on those issues that we seem to agree on — such as, say, infrastructure programs — and I myself would be tempted, given that some of these things might never get done if we don’t do them with Trump, since the Republicans we’ve been working with for the last several years are so hard-assed that they refuse to allow Democrats take a part in any solutions because they refuse to allow them any credit.

There are a few reasons to be wary.

One is that we'll need to look closely at these programs that we supposedly agree on, to make sure we’re all on the same page. Here’s a warning from Obama aide Ronald A. Klain in the Washington Post:
As the White House official responsible for overseeing implementation of President Obama’s massive infrastructure initiative, the 2009 Recovery Act, I’ve got a simple message for Democrats who are embracing President-elect Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan: Don’t do it. It’s a trap.
Trump’s so-called infrastructure plan is apparently not what it pretends to be:
First, Trump’s plan is not really an infrastructure plan. It’s a tax-cut plan for utility-industry and construction-sector investors, and a massive corporate welfare plan for contractors. 
The Trump plan doesn’t directly fund new roads, bridges, water systems or airports, as did Hillary Clinton’s 2016 infrastructure proposal. Instead, Trump’s plan provides tax breaks to private-sector investors who back profitable construction projects. These projects (such as electrical grid modernization or energy pipeline expansion) might already be planned or even underway. 
There’s no requirement that the tax breaks be used for incremental or otherwise expanded construction efforts; they could all go just to fatten the pockets of investors in previously planned projects.
The problem is, the things the country needs done — "municipal water-system overhauls, repairs of existing roads, replacement of bridges that do not charge tolls” — are not the kinds of things that investors like to work on, which are projects they can later monetize, such as toll roads and toll bridges. Add to that, contractors are guaranteed a “10 percent pretax profit margin,” and then a tax break on top of that, a windfall on doing the stuff that was probably going to be done anyway even without the incentives.

And once you remember that one main reason for these projects is to create new jobs, which spends new money, and Trump’s plan doesn’t, you have to wonder if Trump even understands our nation's problems in the first place.

So we find ourselves back at the original question: Do we cooperate with this guy in hopes of at least getting some things done that need to be done, or do we freeze him out, like his party did to ours for the last eight years?

I still don’t know a good answer to that — I suppose it may depend on what deals he offers, once he’s president — but I can think of one other good reason to simply ignore any impression that he’s flipping to our side, and that is that, during the campaign, he’s already destroyed the process of how we pick our leaders, and we don’t want to encourage future candidates to demogogue their way into the White House — by making false promises to the peanut gallery, and then breaking them all once they get into office.

Yes, we want stuff done that we think needs to be done, but we also believe in self-government. Governing achieved through tricking the public into voting for you so you can do whatever you want is no better than governing by dictatorship, with some strongman telling the people what they will get, whether they like it or not.

Whether we choose to cooperate with him or not, assuming he’s actually pivoted to policies that are good for America, is almost beside the point, since he’s already screwed up the country, diverting away from its original promise, and toward something it wasn’t meant to be.

Is this the new thing that replaces democracy? Some populist conman or other taking advantage of a fed-up populous, tricking his way into power by posturing and telling them all exactly what they want to hear?

If Trumpism is the wave of the future, then I want my country back.

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