Author Archives: Stephen

Trump Facts & Tariffs – Revisited

Published / by Stephen

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A prior post, March 2018, addressed this topic, Trump Facts and Tariffs. Since then Trump has learned nothing. He does not read or listen. He just plays to his base and uniformed gut.

A tariff on Chinese goods is pure and simple a tax. Likewise a tariff on US goods  is a tax. The question is who pays the taxes and by extension are tariffs a good policy?

Krugman has two recent editorials that address these question,  one published May 7 and another March 3, How Goes the Trade War?

The bottom line: Consumers, not foreigners, are paying the Trump tariffs. Read the editorials. Below are selected quotes:

Trump’s tweets over the past few days may well be featured in future economics textbooks as perfect illustrations of how people misunderstand the basics of international trade and trade policy. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee it, since I’m the co-author of two textbooks.

… enough time has passed for economists to look at the actual results of Trump’s trade policy so far, and the Chinese are not, in fact, paying the tariffs. As I wrote a couple of months ago, “to a first approximation, foreigners paid none of the bill, U.S. companies and consumers paid all of it.”

So if you’re trying to make sense of what’s happening on trade, you should start with the basic point that Trump has no idea what he’s doing, that there isn’t any coherent U.S. policy goal.

About The Mueller Report

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Frank Bruni, NYT’s Opinion Columnist, April 17, 2019. Well Said:

Do you — does anyone — really need the work of Mueller and his team to come to a conclusion about …  [Donald Trump’s presidency]? How important is evidence not yet revealed when so much of what Trump does is conspicuous, when the essence of his character is proudly unhidden? You know it from his words, spoken and tweeted and intemperate to the point of viciousness. You know it from his aides, current and former, whose nagging senses of patriotism and propriety lead them to leak about the extreme requests that he has made and that they have thwarted.

You know it in your bones.

And that’s the problem with the Mueller obsession. It implies that Trump is defined by whether he actively conspired with Russian officials to attain power. It suggests that the jury on his integrity is out, that the puzzle of his full nature is unsolved.

Are there missing pieces, without which exact degrees of malfeasance can’t be determined? Yes. And some of them will probably be missing forever.

But they’re not necessary, not to appraise him morally as opposed to criminally.

News Flash (April 1)

Published / by Stephen

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Trump’s Remorse (on April 1)

From the Rose Garden:

Then, nearly breaking down, Mr. Trump expressed remorse “for sowing hate and division” in America.” He said “I have put a cloud over this presidency and disgraced this great country, for which I will feel ashamed for the rest of my life.” He then announced he was resigning the presidency effective immediately. “I hope my decision begins a process of healing,” he said, brushing away tears. “I hope April 1, 2019 will be remembered as the day I came clean.”


The Real Donald Trump

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We may never know for sure if Trump may have colluded with Vladimir Putin or obstructed justice. But we know a lot. Robert Reich tells a compelling story, The Real Scandal of Donald Trump. Here is my summary (some direct quotes and some paraphrased):

“An American president is not just the chief executive of the United States, and the office he (eventually she) holds is not just a bully pulpit to advance policy ideas. He is also a moral leader, and the office is a moral pulpit invested with meaning about the common good.”

As George Washington’s biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman, explained, the first president believed he had been entrusted with something of immense intrinsic worth, and that his duty was to uphold it for its own sake and over the long term. He led by moral example.

Few of our subsequent presidents have come close to the example Washington set, but none to date has been as far from that standard as Trump.

A president’s most fundamental responsibility is to protect our system of government. Trump has weakened that system

  • His income tax comment (when accused of failing to pay his income taxes, Trump responded “that makes me smart.” ) conveyed a message to millions of Americans: that paying taxes in full is not an obligation of citizenship.
  • His comments about buying politicians conveyed a message that it’s perfectly OK for business leaders to pay off politicians, regardless of the effect on our democracy.
  • He undermined the common good by reducing the public trust in the office of the president (refusing to reveal his tax returns or to put his businesses into a blind trust and by his overt willingness to make money off his presidency by having foreign diplomats stay at his Washington hotel, and promoting his various golf clubs)
  • He attacked the impartiality of America’s legal system and insulted a member of the judiciary  when he said a particular federal judge shouldn’t be hearing a case against him because the judge’s parents were Mexican,
  • He threatened the freedom and integrity of the press when he threatened to “loosen” federal libel laws so he could sue news organizations that were critical of him and, later, to revoke the licenses of networks critical of him,
  • He undermining equal rights and condoned white supremacists when He equated neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members with counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia
  • By pardoning Joe Arpaio, he signaled that it is OK for the police to to engage in civil rights violations and In the act he also subverted the rule of law by impairing the judiciary’s power to force public officials to abide by court decisions.
  • He disrespected kneeling NFL players and indirectly, everyone’s freedom of speech.

The essence of The Real Donald Trump is that he has sacrificed the processes and institutions of American democracy



Trump’s – I’m Clean Ethos

Published / by Stephen

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Political Cartoon – SF Chronicle, March 28

Barr’s Summary of Mueller Report

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David Leonhardt – NYT Op-Ed Columnist, on the Barr summary of the Mueller Report

William Barr did a skillful job of managing the news media this weekend. He released a four-page letter summarizing Robert Mueller’s investigation, which rightly received blanket coverage

[but] it was very much a political document.

Barr … made clear that he felt some disdain for the Mueller investigation — especially about whether Trump obstructed justice.

“The Barr summary did its job: control the narrative and turn ‘not enough to charge on this’ into ‘no issues with Russia ever,’” as Tom Nichols, a national security expert, wrote.

Susan Hennessey of Lawfare put it this way: “It is possible that the report really does say that there is no evidence. It’s also possible there’s a mountain of evidence just short of the criminal standard. Or something in between. Any of that would be consistent with Barr’s summary.”

Read the full article which includes details and 10 key question that remain to be answered.

Also see the arguments behind Three Takeaways From the Barr Letter:

  1. Barr should release much more information.
  2. Trump critics should keep an open mind on Russia.
  3. Trump is unfit for office.



A Monument To Stupidity

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In a press conference today Gov. Gaven Newsom said that California is planning to sue the Trump administration over its declaration of a national emergency on the southern border.

To view the news conference go to this Fox News video. Newson lays out the real issues on the southern border and describes how wasting money on the “border wall” will make the problems worse not better.

The Los Angles Times reported on the press conference. The LA Times article has great quotes.  Here are a few:

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that California is planning to sue the Trump administration over its declaration of a national emergency on the southern border with Mexico, delivering on a promise state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra made last week “to reject this foolish proposal in court the moment it touches the ground.”

Newsom and Becerra announced they are developing plans for the legal action at a Capitol news conference just hours after President Trump declared a national emergency in an attempt to divert up to $6.6 billion from other projects, including military construction jobs, to build or reinforce as many as 234 miles of border barriers.

Fortunately, Donald Trump is not the last word,” Newsom said. “The courts will be the last word.”

Newsom called the wall “a vanity project, a monument to stupidity,” and said the real emergency is the wildfire disaster that needs federal funds.

“No other state is going to be impacted by this declaration of emergency more than the state of California,” the governor said.

Becerra said attorneys are reviewing the declaration and will develop the legal argument to take to court in the near future.

In his Spanish-language response to the president’s State of the Union address last week, Becerra said that he was prepared to go to court. Newsom and Becerra repeated their warning of legal action on Thursday, saying in a joint statement that “the President’s ‘national emergency’ is nothing more than a fabrication while real emergencies are awaiting his action. If the President tries to use a made up emergency to pay for his border wall, then California will see him in court.”



“Presidential Untruths”

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One of the better ideas I have heard for exposing Trump’s Lies – from the San Francisco Chronicle, Letters, January 31, 2019:

Find the lies
The president simply cannot resist telling lies about nearly everything; he either believes it or does it to stay in the news or both. I suggest the newspaper relegate such stories to an inner section under “Presidential Untruths,” stating the item, the rebuttal and where to find out factual information on the statement.

This will remove his idiocy from the spotlight and enumerate his lies, while still covering a presidential communication.
Steven Tracy, Davis

We Have a Second Chance – Let’s Not Blow It

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A NYT’s Opinion by Frank Bruni:

Selected Items:

“Pocahontas” won’t be lonely for long.

As other Democrats join Elizabeth Warren in the contest for the party’s presidential nomination, President Trump will assign them their own nicknames, different from hers but just as derisive. There’s no doubt.

But how much heed will we in the media pay to this stupidity? Will we sprint to Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker or Mike Bloomberg for a reaction to what Trump just called one of them and then rush back to him for his response to that response? Or will we note Trump’s latest nonsense only briefly and pivot to matters more consequential?

That’s a specific question but also an overarching one — about the degree to which we’ll let him set the terms of the 2020 presidential campaign, about our appetite for antics versus substance, and about whether we’ll repeat the mistakes that we made in 2016 and continued to make during the first stages of his presidency. There were plenty

Read on …

Trump’s 50 Most Unthinkable Moments

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Halfway through Donald Trump’s term in the Oval Office, The Atlantic has cataloged 50 norm-shattering moments from his presidency, analyzed by 50 Atlantic writers and contributors. This project, titled Unthinkable, ranks the incidents—from the outlandish to the dangerous—that would have been considered improbable during any prior administration, of either party

Donald Trump’s 50 Most Unthinkable Moments

Jeffrey Goldberg Editor in chief of The Atlantic