Class Warfare Blog

April 11, 2017

You May Want the Federal Government Run Like a Business But Do You Want It Run Like One of His Businesses?

A common GOP trope now is that the federal government, all governments really, should be run like businesses. This idea is quite silly but has caught on because of the general dissatisfaction with government, something brought about by a propaganda campaign against the government by the GOP. Interesting gambit that: drum up general discontent creating a climate for the solution you favor. (Can you spell Nazis, boys and girls?) Their solution, by the way, is not running government as a business but running government for business.

As a little experiment, list all of Mr. Trump’s executive orders and then force each of them into one of two categories: 1) good for the people (makes the government better or stronger) or 2) good for business owners. This, of course, is a false dichotomy as many of these things will ultimately prove to be bad for both, but just doing this will take the temperature of the current administrations actions. (Actually, most of the EOs are symbolic in nature and at the beginning of long paths to implementation of anything, but that is another topic.)

Back to my main topic. Mr. Trump runs his businesses by squeezing labor by employing undocumented immigrants, avoiding union contracts, etc. and by squeezing those who are in agreements with him: local governments all the way down to the vendors serving his businesses. He also uses the courts to create advantages for himself: for every bankruptcy he has actually begun, he has threatened many more. He has threatened to sue people so many times that he could be the senior partner in a law firm. When one has considerable capital and can hire lawyers, nuisance lawsuits provide a lot of leverage over people for whom the legal costs are ruinous or at least damaging. And, I do not think he could threaten bankruptcy for the federal government, but he could create economic chaos through government shutdowns, debt defaults, etc. All of these are the high drama, high profile scenarios Mr. Trump favors as his business style.

Businesses owners are often casual at best toward the externalities of their businesses. Externalities are the physical “commons” we all share responsibility for. So, historically, businesses have dumped their wastes into the air, into the water, and onto the land with no thought of taking responsibility for the problems those waste “disposal” processes create. Did businesses lead the charge to clean up our waterways? our air? our waste disposal sites? If you are old enough, you remember that the “business community” fought these actions tooth and nail and are still doing this. It was government that lead the charge. (I remind you the our governments are effectively “us” for the purpose of collective actions.)

It was government, especially the federal government, that passed things like the Clear Air Act and other sets of government regulations that have made our air quality far better than it used to be. When I was in the fifth grade on the San Francisco peninsula, I was sent home from school one day because of smog. LA was far worse as the SF peninsula was surrounded by water and had clearing winds. Such smog alerts no longer happen, thanks to government regulations. Then there was the regulation for unleaded gasoline to prevent lead poisoning (opposed by business), the regulation for unleaded paint to prevent lead poisoning, especially of children (opposed by business), the gas mileage standards (opposed by business), the acid rain regulations (opposed by business), … need I go on?

So, has Mr. Trump made us safer or healthier by his diktats? Let’s see, he has made it okay for coal companies to go back to dumping their toxic waster (laced with heavy metals, like mercury, etc.) back into streams, he has set aside higher gas mileage standards, he produced an EO that asks agencies to review any regulations that could “potentially burden the development or use” of oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources so that action could be taken to eliminate regulations. So much for wind and solar, who needs them and what’s a little pollution from coal power plants or nuclear ones; we can safely store radioactive waste, somewhere, we’ll figure it out. Doesn’t sound like a promising start, but then he did promise to “do away with burdensome federal regulations,” but not at any time being specific as to whom or what they are a burden.

So, if Mr. Trump’s Administration is being run like a business, who are the workers and who are the customers? If you are a worker, you will continue to be squeezed as that’s what Mr. Trump and his minions do in their businesses. Customers “buy” from a business, that is services or goods. If you pay taxes, then you are a customer. Do you expect better service? Mr. Trump has promised less of it (except military services and Homeland Security services). He has promised better service, but his budget proposal (actually Mr. Trump had almost nothing to do with the current budget proposal but it is traditional to attach the “ultimate cause” label to all presidents, so …), his budget proposal slashes services to “customers” right and left and then slashes the budgets of the agencies that are providing what remaining services there will be. How this equates to “better” is very hard to see.

So, do you think Mr. Trump is running the federal government as a business or for business? What do you think?

March 5, 2017

The Man Who Cried Wolf

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:14 am
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I read yesterday that Donald Trump had accused Barack Obama of “wire tapping” his offices in New York City before the presidential election in November last year, claiming the former president had overseen a “Nixon/Watergate”-style caper.

The idea is not particularly absurd but with some thought, no, it is absurd. Since Mr. Trump bleats out everything he is thinking on line, why go to the trouble of tapping his phones?

What this brought to mind more importantly was the fairy tale of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” These “children’s stories” were designed as training aids to teach kids the kinds of behaviors that will get them into trouble and which will get them out. If you can recall this one, a mischievous child cries “Wolf, wolf” a number of times just to get a reaction. The adults who respond each time with axes and pitchforks soon came to ignore the child’s cries as being bogus, and when a real wolf showed up, well it didn’t end well. The moral of the story, kids, is to not make false claims and thus lose credibility. If you do, no one will believe when you make a true claim.the-boy-who-cried-wolf

Fast forward to Mr. Trump and you can see my concern. He has made such a number of false claims, the reasons for which I will leave up to others, that a time will come when he will be frequently ignored or patronized (Oh, that’s just Donald being Donald.”). But we play the part of the alarmed villagers in the fairy tale, not the childish shepherd. And rather than the child being at risk from a single wolf, we all may be at risk from a rather larger predator.

Many are noticing that Mr. Trump’s penchant for making false claims and the Republican’s ideological disdain for facts that do not fit their narratives undermines the foundations of the American Democratic Experiment. As Sam Harris says, “We either have conversation or violence.” And conversation is impossible if neither side in an argument can accept the “facts” of the other. One can only converse productively when looking at the same facts, which can be interpreted differently but not made to disappear.

We can now add to this a concern that Mr. Trump may soon become “unbelievable” to a large fraction of the populace and not in a good, yuge way.

February 3, 2017

Ignore Trump

Filed under: Politics,The News — Steve Ruis @ 12:37 pm
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Yes, I am advocating that we do just this, at a time when people are running around with their hair on fire screaming “Trump wants to do this … Trump wants to do that.”

Ignore him I say.

There are two good reason for doings this. The first is that Trump doesn’t have an ideological or policy-driven mind. He has no ideas. He takes other people’s ideas that seem to resonant and attract attention and runs with them himself, but the ideas are not his.

We need to be laser-focused on what members of Mr. Trump’s administration are doing, though. (How that term ever got promoted is beyond me, lasers can’t be focused.) Mr. Trump himself is the embodiment of distraction. If we watch him, we miss how the magic trick is done. Ever second we watch him, is a second things are done out of out sight.

Pay him no attention.

This is the second of my two points: Mr. Trump seems to need attention … more than anything else and that includes money. If we withhold our attention, then maybe … maybe … we can get him to do something for us, rather than his current work for his puppet masters.

It is a long shot, but it might work. If not, you will have the satisfaction of denying him his heart’s desire.

So, from now on, do not use his name. Talk about “this current administration,” or “this official” or “that agency,” do not use his name and pay no attention to his antics. If you do, we lose.

January 31, 2017

Trump’s Advisors Strategies

Why all of the furor? Why all of the teeth gnashing? Most of President Trump’s executive orders are toothless, but the immigration ban is not only equipped with teeth, but it is patently illegal, violating not only our own laws but international agreements that are very fundamental to who we are as a people (Geneva Conventions, etc.). So, is the new administration that incompetent or is there another game being played?

Ah, this makes sense. If you combine the slowness with which the new administration is placing people into positions in the government, they are now, by their immigration actions, smoking out those who will act to oppose their will later, so they can be culled. Keeping many agencies short on manpower and/or short on leadership will weaken those agencies, a longstanding goal of the GOP being to create “smaller government.” Finding out the identity of potential opponents in government positions for culling … priceless!

Oh, why do I imply that this strategy is of Mr. Trump’s advisors? Simple. Mr. Trump is not bright enough to have pulled this off himself.

January 25, 2017

Why Lies Matter

Apparently our “intelligence agencies” are concerned with the frequency with which President Trump tells obvious lies, you know the kind of lie that is so obviously a lie that even Fox (sic) News admits it. The reason that the intelligence agencies (Fedburin, CIA, NSA, etc.) are concerned is that they need us to believe their lies when they have the President deliver them. What good is a president to them when a majority of people in the U.S. have no faith in whatever he says. They need presidential credibility to sell their future lies and that has to be built up over time.

January 23, 2017

The Constitution and American Foreign Affairs

Filed under: History,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 10:36 am
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There is almost a constant cry about what the U.S. should “do” about China, or ISIS/ISIL, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or … or …. Quickly, what does the Constitution say about conducting “foreign affairs”? Go ahead, look, I’ll wait <waiting …>.

So, you found out it says very little. According to one source:
The Constitution., has certain explicit passages dealing with the foreign affairs power. Specifically, the President is given authority to make treaties, to which the Senate is given the authority to advise and consent (Article 11, Section 2). The President is made Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy (Article II, Section 2); but the Congress is given the authority to raise and support armies, and to provide and maintain a Navy (Article 1, Section 8, Clauses 12 and 13). The Congress alone is given the power to declare war* and—in a much overlooked provision—the Congress is given authority to define offenses against the law of nations and to set punishments for them (Article I, Section 8, Clause 10).
Source Thomas J. “An Understanding of Constitution’s Foreign Affairs Power” (here)

So, the Constitution says very little about foreign affairs. In fact, the founders wanted us to have very little interaction with other countries except in the form of trade. They saw Europe’s intermingling alliances and treaties as a source of almost continuous conflict and war. They felt that if we were “neutral” and treated with one and all the same in trade (no “special nation” scheme status for them), that we would escape the trap of “foreign entanglements.”

Mr. J. continues:
In addition to these explicit provisions, there are also certain powers that flow merely from the fact that the United States is a sovereign nation. Justice Sutherland, writing in United States v. Curtiss-Wright E2Mort Corp., 29 U.S. 304, in 1937, observed that “The investment of the federal government with the powers of external sovereignty did not depend upon the affirmative grants of the Constitution.”

Uh, oh.

In essence the “law” gives the President the power to meddle in “foreign affairs” to their heart’s content as long as he doesn’t start a war or enter into a treaty without Congressional approval. And the Congress passed the War Powers Act and then looks the other way when it is violated. Oh, and President Bush declared a War on Terror (never authorized by Congress except in that it keeps allocating funds for it) and President Obama didn’t change that “policy” with the minor fact that the battlefield is the entire globe.

And … Trump.


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