The Trump “Administration”. Sad.

The past year has brought many surprises to what I anticipated would be the Trump “Administration”, or lack thereof, and how it is viewed by others.   I was struck by how quickly the media was to break with the traditional expectations of a President of the United States (POTUS) and begin to believe Trump to be who he campaigned to be, as well as, the person about whom many articles have been written over the years.

Traditionally, a person running for elective office will express a particular, false, “plain-spoken” rhetoric and, if elected, will settle down to a certain level of diplomatic statesmanship in which the rules and expectations of political decorum will be followed.  The media seemed to expect this from Trump despite all the clear signs of his campaign that he was neither interested in or capable of doing so.

For the first few months, the media characterized the content of Trump’s Twitter feeds (“tweets”) and spoken comments as “untruths”.   But, faster than I thought would happen, “untruths” became “lies” (along with the obligatory debate about, “When does an ‘untruth’ become a ‘lie’?”).

At about the same time, people quickly became aware that Trump wasn’t aware…of much of anything.  He had no clue what it meant to be POTUS (he still doesn’t).  Nor did he have any awareness of any of the details of policy or procedures of the U.S. Government (he still doesn’t).  While Trump was running for POTUS he probably thought a POTUS is an Autocrat (someone who has or endeavors to gain absolute power and/or insists on complete obedience and loyalty from others).  And, in Trump’s mind, being an autocrat is an admirable and proper thing.  He sincerely didn’t (doesn’t) know a POTUS isn’t an Autocrat, such is his ignorance of U.S. civics.

And the third thing that surprised me was how quickly Trump’s mental state became a topic of discussion.  While there’s a general consensus that Trump has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), there are indications that Trump has some other learning or attention deficit disorder.  The discussion of these issues came to an end when there was no where else for it to go without a clinical assessment….which will not be forthcoming.

A year ago, I thought there would be an irrational insistence, by the media and politicians, to frame Trump as a “non-establishment politician” rather than a lying, ignorant, autocrat.  Events and quickly changing perceptions preempted a half-dozen posts I expected to write to define Trump’s true nature.  The decline and fall of Richard Nixon was a long, slow process and I thought the same would be true of Trump.  Given the Republican response to Barack Obama and the concomitant partisanship hostility of U.S. politics, I didn’t think the “Trump Train” (a collection of diverse interests absent the ability to do anything but follow a predetermined path) would be so quickly recognized, by most people, as the slow-motion train wreck it is.

Why is the “Trump Train” a slow-motion “train wreck”?  It is, thankfully, ineffective in achieving the basic goals for which Trump campaigned.

Primary among these ‘basic goals’ is to co-opt, render irrelevant, or dismantle the democratic institutions which would, Constitutionally, resist Trumps efforts to be an autocratic leader.  At the 2016 Republican National Convention (Cleveland, OH; July  18-21) Trump depicted the U.S. as a nation beset by so many problems, of such tragic consequence, that one could only assume he was saying, “Democracy has failed”.  He offered the only possible solution by saying, “I, alone, can fix it”.

In 2012, former Supreme Court Justice David Souter, speaking at an education conference in New Hampshire, warned:

“I don’t worry about our losing republican government in the United States because I’m afraid of a foreign invasion.  I don’t worry about it because I think there is going to be a coup by the military as has happened in some of other places.” 

“What I worry about is that when problems are not addressed, people will not know who is responsible.  And when the problems get bad enough, as they might do, for example, with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown, some one person will come forward and say, ‘Give me total power and I will solve this problem.’

“That is how the Roman republic fell.  Augustus became emperor, not because he arrested the Roman Senate.  He became emperor because he promised that he would solve problems that were not being solved.

“If we know who is responsible, I have enough faith in the American people to demand performance from those responsible.  If we don’t know, we will stay away from the polls. We will not demand it.  And the day will come when somebody will come forward and we and the government will in effect say, ‘Take the ball and run with it.  Do what you have to do.’

“That is the way democracy dies.  And if something is not done to improve the level of civic knowledge, that is what you should worry about at night.” 

Souter: Civic Ignorance

Note:  Quote double-checked against: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow

Another reason why the “Trump Train” is a “train wreck” is that Trump became the leader of the Republican (Grand Old) Party (GOP) when, as it’s nominee for POTUS, he won the election.  As the leader of the GOP, he, along with the Republican majority in both the House of Representatives and Senate, was in an enviable position to dictate, to the Democratics, reversal of all the policies of Barack Obama; chief among them: repeal of the Affordable Care Act (“Obama Care”).  Trump and the Republicans failed to do so.

The chaotic nature of the Trump Administration indicates a lack of administration.  Part of this chaotic nature is indicative by the number of vacancies and the 34% turnover rate [per NPR ]  of key positions within the Executive Branch and White House staff.  According to ourpublicservice.org , of the 640 key, Senate-confirmed positions, only 275 have been confirmed.  Altogether, there are over 1,200 Senate-confirmable positions.

One reason for these vacancies and high turnover rate can be explained by Trump’s comments to Fox News’ Laura Ingraham in November 2017:

“Let me tell you, the one that matters is me. I’m the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that’s what the policy is going to be.” 

The problem with this is Trump doesn’t have his own policy.  He doesn’t know the details of any particular issue and doesn’t know how to properly address the issues that catch his attention at any given moment.  White House Press Secretaries (there have been a couple) have confirmed, “Trump’s Tweets are White House policy” and “they speak for themselves”.  If you don’t already know about Trump’s Tweets, see Trump Twitter Archives .

 

 

 

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The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election has been unlike any that has occurred within the last 50 years and, in some ways, ever.  It is the first in which both of major political parties, the Republicans “Grand Old Party” (GOP) and the Democrats, ran preliminary candidates with little or no history with or loyalty for the party in which they ran.  Bernie Sanders, an Independent (not a member of a political party) and Donald Trump, one who has switched party affiliations throughout his adult life; including in the little known Reform Party, have both gained support from the U.S. populist attitudes, within each party, that have been impacting politics throughout the world.

There are a number of reasons for this world-wide populist trend but many, if not most reasons, are directly related to the recent world-wide “Great Recession” and the slow economic recovery in which the gap between the “have’s” (those with exceptional social, political, and economic resources) and the “have not’s” (those without much, if any, social, political, and economic resources) has continued to increase and done so with an increasing rate of disparity.

Donald Trump gained enough votes, during the various Republican Party state primaries, to gain the GOP endorsement, to run as that party’s candidate for President of the United States, at the Republican National Convention (Cleveland, OH  July 18-21).  Donald Trump received more delegate votes (1,427) than Ted Cruz  (549), Marco Rubio (168), or John Kasich (159).

Hillary Clinton did likewise, as the Democratic Party candidate for President of the United States, at the Democratic National Convention (Philadelphia, PA  July 25-28).  She received more delegate votes (2,775) than the progressive, “populist candidate”, Bernie Sanders (1,889).  Hillary Clinton represents the traditional, non-populist politics that has been the norm, as well as, the beneficiary of the Democratic Party’s blatant expression of political elitism (the reliance on winning elections via the politically and economically influential and powerful).

Donald Trump represents an increasingly conservative shift, within the Republican Party,  which began around 30 years ago and has become the basis of a populist movement which can be broadly characterized as anti-immigrant, anti-free trade, and anti-establishment.

The means by which Donald Trump has stated he would respond to (“fix”) these issues would tend to require the expansion of the power of the U.S. Executive Branch (the Presidency), assumes the U.S. Legislative Branch (the U.S. Congress, consisting of the House of Representatives and Senate) supports his policies or are by-passed altogether, and that many of his more controversial policies and procedures would not be subject to review by the U.S. Judicial Branch (the Supreme Court).

There are two additional characteristics that tend to define Donald Trump’s candidacy: the use of social media to 1) convey his narcissistic personality and 2) spread conspiracy theories and misinformation.  For these reasons, Donald Trump’s candidacy can be characterized as expressing significant neo-fascist rhetoric.

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election is not yet concluded (as of 02.12.16) in that the total electoral count, voting by the “Electoral College”,  hasn’t yet taken place though it appears Donald Trump will win with 306 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 232 out of 270 required despite Hillary Clinton receiving over 2,012,000 more in the popular vote.

[Update (3/15/2018): The electoral vote results were: Trump 304, Clinton 227]

Because the Trump presidency rose from a conservative populism, accompanied by neo-fascist rhetoric, and a refusal to follow the conventional wisdom inherent in successful political campaigning, there is a legitimate concern that the U.S. could enter a period of social, political, and economic transformation, of the worst kind, that could have ramifications long into the future of the country.

 

The Middle Class – Part 3 of 6

A little more light is shed on the implications of the US Census Bureau’s data if one considers the US Internal Revenue Service data. To its credit, the IRS acknowledges the adjusted gross income (AGI) it uses is defined as that from IRS Form 1040, Line 41. Therefore, we have a standard definition of income. The IRS also uses a more informative income bracket break-down that categorizes incomes greater than the US Census Bureau limit of $100,000.

Unfortunately, the IRS will only release its income data as a comparison of “Number of
Returns”, which includes returns filed singly and jointly; without stating how many of each were filed. And while the IRS uses income ranges of $5,000 for incomes below $30,000 or $60,000 (depending on which version of the data one has); the income ranges increase as incomes increase, thus giving a visually misleading inference of what the middle income might be.

Instead of thirty-five income brackets up to “$100,000 and over”, as used by the US
Census Bureau, the IRS uses twenty-two or nineteen income brackets (depending on the version of the data) up to “$10,000,000 or more”.  But, like the US Census Bureau, there are more income brackets at the low end of the income spectrum than at the high income end. While the middle bracket on the US Census Bureau table is “$40,000 to $42,499” the middle bracket on the IRS table is “$50,000 under $55,000” or “$50,000 under $75,000” (depending on version).

In both cases, one is led to the visual impression that the middle income bracket may be the middle of the middle class. And, one can be led to believe the following idea:

“Since the US Census Bureau median income is $26,197, any income over $26,197 is ‘above average’ and, since the US Census Bureau mean is $49,445, any income around $49,445 is middle class and the middle class is doing better than most”.

Both the US Census Bureau and the IRS tables support this inference. It’s almost as if the US Census Bureau data establishes expectations and the IRS data shows those expectations are surpassed.

But why did the IRS revise its earlier table?

IRS Individual Complete Report (Publication 1304), Table 1.1 Before & After

A possible answer might lie in what the ” # returns” column seemed to indicate in the earlier version. The first three AGI ranges show about 12,000,000 returns. Then the number of returns declined from the $15,000 to $60,000 AGI and then jumped up significantly for $60,000 to $200,000 AGI.

This makes it appear the “middle class” AGI returns are fewer in number while “low” and “high” income AGIs are greater in number. Therefore this table might imply a dramatic income inequality with a shrinking middle class.

The revised table divides the lowest AGI range, so it no longer has the second greatest number of returns, while combining several “middle income” brackets, so that nearly all AGI ranges have no less than 10,000,000 returns. Also, the visually middle AGI range (“$50,000 under $75,000”) has the greatest number of returns.

While this revision somewhat implies “middle class” is from $50,000 to $75,000 (contradicting the US Census Bureau by 250-300%) it also resolved the implication that there’s a great income disparity and a shrinking “middle class”.

It appears the IRS made a value choice of the ‘lesser of two evils’; in that, “yes, the middle class makes more than we’d prefer you to believe but, no, the middle class is not shrinking…in fact, they’re the largest group and they have better than expected incomes.”

The Middle Class – Part 2 of 6

Quick “Facts” About the 2010 Census:

308,745,539 – total population

$26,197 – median (middle) individual income (50% earned less; 50% earned more)$38,337 – mean (average) individual income (see below)

$49,445 – median household income                                                                      $67,530 – mean household income (see below)

1.797 – mean number of income earners per household

Normally, to get the mean (average) income, one would add all the incomes together and divide by the number of income earners. The government manipulates the data, to
achieve a low mean, in the following ways:

–      The US Census Bureau “plugs-in” $250,000 for all incomes greater than $250,000 for the sake of “privacy”; the higher income isn’t used to establish the mean
income,

–      Various US Census Bureau publications use different populations of earners (ie. All earners, full-time, year-round, part-time, seasonal, etc.) so that a consistent comparison among its various publications and data tables can’t be made,

–      Various US Census Bureau publications use different definitions for ‘income’, ‘income earner’, ‘wage’, ‘wage earner’, and ‘household’, again, preventing comparisons
among its publications and data tables.

In its Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social & Economic (ASEC) Supplement [PINC-1], the US Census Bureau breaks-down incomes under $100,000 into thirty-four ranges of $2,499 and combines the data for everyone making “$100,000 and over” into a single category.

2009 US Census CPS ASEC

The middle category is the range “$40,000 to $42,499”. The 2009 CPS ASEC survey states the median income to be $26,197 and the mean to be $38,337; almost 50% higher. Statistically, because of the nearly 212 – 250 million incomes used in the equation, the median and mean should be no more than the 2-3% margin of error plus the standard deviation. This 50% discrepancy should be unacceptable to anyone considering this data.

The total of all incomes is never given in US Census Bureau publications. The total
of all incomes within an individual income bracket is also never given. Statistically, such an omission is completely unacceptable. Instead a ‘weighted aggregate’ of $8,107,886,645 is given and this is due, in large part, to the plugging-in of $250,000 for all incomes over $250,000.

Also, it must be assumed, that because 33,000,000 people with no incomes are part of the data table they were used to figure the median though they contribute nothing to the aggregate total of all incomes; thus reducing the mean and median.

It is in the governments best interests, for the sake of ‘domestic tranquility’ and the public’s best interest, for the sake of personal pride, that everyone believes these artificially low median and mean incomes; which are often used to infer middle of middle class income levels.

The Middle Class – Part 1 of 6

The people and government of the US are co-conspirators in perpetuating the ambiguity, if not myth, of what is middle class. For most people there is no ambiguity. Middle class is what they are. Whether it’s by virtue of their income, education, or values and outlook; most people will say they are middle class. The government supports these assumptions and beliefs in a number of ways:

–      The US Census Bureau manipulates perception by manipulating the data it publishes: the way the data is organized to create the greatest amount of distraction from the wealthiest, by excluding data it knows but doesn’t want the public to know,
and by not being consistent  from one publication to the next

 –      The IRS and other government agencies manipulate perception, much like the US Census Bureau, in that the data used by one agency’s publication is inconsistent from that of other agencies, as well as, from itself from one publication to another

 –      Despite the frequent use of the term “middle class”; the people, the government, the media, economists, and everyone else refuses to clearly define to what ‘middle class’ refers.

Why the ambiguity?

The most obvious answer to this question is, “to ensure domestic tranquility”.

By not defining ‘middle class’ the government allows people, of nearly all incomes, to enjoy the misperception they are in it. An official definition would surely rob many of them of this fallacy and may cause discontent within and on both sides of the middle class income range.

An official definition would also preclude politicians from seeking broad support for legislation which clearly benefits only a particular class. For by defining ‘middle class’ the government would, by implication, be defining the others.

Some might argue that defining ‘middle class’ would be the first step toward restrictive social castes and the institutionalization of “untouchables”, the privileged, or a nobility. In response, one could point-out US history toward minorities, the handicapped, or the under-privileged. One could also consider the histories of South Africa, India, or any number of societies with or without legal discrimination and the move toward a more equal society. In making such comparisons it becomes obvious simply defining what already exists will not change the nature of it nor cause it to arise in a people not already predicated toward it.

By The People

For the people, of any nation, to increasingly neglect the unalienable responsibilities of self-government, they begin to forfeit their claims to it.

Among others, the will of self-sacrifice, the pursuit of wisdom, the cherishment of truth, and the fostering of creative intellect all are requisite ideals of a people rightfully worthy of self-government. Bereft of such ideals and a people relinquish not only their claims to self-government but their capacity for it.

Self-government can not be bestowed nor can it be taken. It is an evolution of instinctive awareness that can not be perpetually denied. And yet, its strongest impulse is in its repression. For once it is liberated, in celebratory full flower, the strength of the people’s convictions and faithful dedication to their hopeful purpose begins to wane.

Of Ignorance and Indifference

An informed and engaged electorate is a cornerstone of any democracy.

While it does not pre-empt prejudice or bias or corruption. While it does not guarantee compassion or wisdom. And it does not ensure political efficiency or fairness. It is, never the less, a cornerstone in that the choices of such an electorate tend to be more thoughtfully derived and contribute positively to the collective voice, from which informed perspective and values come.

An informed and engaged electorate is more likely to take ownership of their democracy to a greater degree and correctly recognize its laws as the consequence of their vote. They are more likely to acknowledge and applaud its successes and take responsibility for its failures as their collective own.

By acknowledging their government and its laws as a product of their collective participation, they are less likely to seek governmental reform, in response to a symptom, but to seek electorate reform, in response to the underlying cause of their dissatisfactions.

In the U.S., there is nothing so insurmountably counter-productive, dysfunctional, or undermining, in form or process, that an informed and engaged electorate can not redress. It is only in their ignorance, and their indifference toward that ignorance, that they, the electorate; the cornerstone of democracy, can surely bring about democracy’s demise.