Donald Trump’s Washington is paralyzed


July 4, 2017

THE ECONOMIST

American Politics

Donald Trump’s Washington is paralyzed

And the man in the Oval Office is making a bad situation worse

Image result for Trump's 4th of JUly

JULY 4th ought to bring Americans together. It is a day to celebrate how 13 young colonies united against British rule to begin their great experiment in popular government. But this July 4th Americans are riven by mutual incomprehension: between Republicans and Democrats, yes, but also between factory workers and university students, country folk and city-dwellers. And then there is President Donald Trump, not only a symptom of America’s divisions but a cause of them, too.

Image result for Trump's 4th of JUly

Mr Trump won power partly because he spoke for voters who feel that the system is working against them, as our special report this week sets out. He promised that, by dredging Washington of the elites and lobbyists too stupid or self-serving to act for the whole nation, he would fix America’s politics.

His approach is not working. Five months into his first term, Mr Trump presides over a political culture that is even more poisonous than when he took office. His core voters are remarkably loyal. Many business people still believe that he will bring tax cuts and deregulation. But their optimism stands on ever-shakier ground. The Trump presidency has been plagued by poor judgment and missed opportunities. The federal government is already showing the strain. Sooner or later, the harm will spread beyond the beltway and into the economy.

From sea to shining sea

America’s loss of faith in politics did not start with Mr Trump. For decades, voters have complained about the gridlock in Washington and the growing influence of lobbyists, often those with the deepest pockets. Francis Fukuyama, a political theorist, blamed the decay on the “vetocracy”, a tangle of competing interests and responsibilities that can block almost any ambitious reform. When the world changes and the federal government cannot rise to the challenge, he argued, voters’ disillusion only grows.

Mr Trump has also fuelled the mistrust. He has correctly identified areas where America needs reform, but botched his response—partly because of his own incontinent ego. Take tax. No one doubts that America’s tax code is a mess, stuffed full of loopholes and complexity. But Mr Trump’s reform plans show every sign of turning into a cut for the rich that leaves the code as baffling as ever. So, too, health care. Instead of reforming Obamacare, Republicans are in knots over a bill that would leave millions of Mr Trump’s own voters sicker and poorer.

Institutions are vulnerable. The White House is right to complain about America’s overlapping and competing agencies, which spun too much red tape under President Barack Obama. Yet its attempt to reform this “administrative state” is wrecking the machinery the government needs to function. Mr Trump’s hostility has already undermined the courts, the intelligence services, the state department and America’s environmental watchdog. He wants deep budget cuts and has failed to fill presidential appointments. Of 562 key positions identified by the Washington Post, 390 remain without a nominee.

As harmful as what Mr Trump does is the way he does it. In the campaign he vowed to fight special interests. But his solution—to employ businesspeople too rich for lobbyists to buy—is no solution at all. Just look at Mr Trump himself: despite his half-hearted attempts to disentangle the presidency and the family business, nobody knows where one ends and the other begins. He promised to be a dealmaker, but his impulse to belittle his opponents and the miasma of scandal and leaks surrounding Russia’s role in the campaign have made the chances of cross-party co-operation even more remote. The lack of respect for expertise, such as the attacks on the Congressional Budget Office over its dismal scoring of health-care reform, only makes Washington more partisan. Most important, Mr Trump’s disregard for the truth cuts into what remains of the basis for cross-party agreement. If you cannot agree on the facts, all you have left is a benighted clash of rival tribes.

Til selfish gain no longer stain

Optimists say that America, with its immense diversity, wealth and reserves of human ingenuity and resilience can take all this in its stride. Mr Trump is hardly its first bad president. He may be around for only four years—if that. In a federal system, the states and big cities can be islands of competence amid the dysfunction. America’s economy is seemingly in rude health, with stock markets near their all-time highs. The country dominates global tech and finance, and its oil and gas producers have more clout than at any time since the 1970s.

Those are huge strengths. But they only mitigate the damage being done in Washington. Health-care reform affects a sixth of the economy. Suspicion and mistrust corrode all they touch. If the ablest Americans shun a career in public service, the bureaucracy will bear the scars. Besides, a bad president also imposes opportunity costs. The rising monopoly power of companies has gone unchallenged. Schools and training fall short even as automation and artificial intelligence are about to transform the nature of work. If Mr Trump serves a full eight years—which, despite attacks from his critics, is possible—the price of paralysis and incompetence could be huge.

Danger in Foreign Policy

The dangers are already clear in foreign policy. By pandering to the belief that Washington elites sell America short, Mr Trump is doing enduring harm to American leadership. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would have entrenched America’s concept of free markets in Asia and shored up its military alliances. He walked away from it. His rejection of the Paris climate accord showed that he sees the world not as a forum where countries work together to solve problems, but as an arena where they compete for advantage. His erratic decision-making and his chumminess with autocrats lead his allies to wonder if they can depend on him in a crisis.

July 4th is a time to remember that America has renewed itself in the past; think of Theodore Roosevelt’s creation of a modern, professional state, FDR’s New Deal, and the Reagan revolution. In principle it is not too late for Mr Trump to embrace bipartisanship and address the real issues. In practice, it is ever clearer that he is incapable of bringing about such a renaissance. That will fall to his successor.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “A divided country”

15 thoughts on “Donald Trump’s Washington is paralyzed

  1. Dear blog readers,

    If you have an interest in health policy, here is a free e-book I have written

    1. Go to:
    phuakl.tripod.com
    2. Click on (at the lower end of the webpage):
    Leading Issues in Health Policy

    The Trumpist effort to repeal Obamacare is going to hurt a lot of people in the
    USA (if it succeeds). Including people from his own political “base”.

  2. Many pundits like that above are still not yet recovering from the Nov 8 loss, and will find ways to convince others including those in this blog that the sky is falling. If you own US stocks, it is probably time to sell them.

    And I plan to buy what you sell when the prices are low enough.

    Many Americans start to realize President Trump is what the United States need now: get back closer to US Constitution and away from socialistic aspect of the modern world contaminated with Europeans’ old world cultures. Americans need to chart their own path just like they always have done including Internet, computers, and iPhone that you use to read this page. The world out there believe in economic equality but the Americans believe in individual liberty. The two are not to be reconciled, but could co-exist in areas demarcated with distinct national borders.

    Here is how an intelligent American patriot celebrates the 4th of July – with historical perspective, solemnly, and resolutely:

    Having a constitutional originalist justice Gorsuch in the supreme court is a step in saving the United States from falling precipitately. Others accomplishment can be also found here:

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/29/politics/president-trump-legislation/

  3. July 4th serves as a yearly beacon of summer, with many Americans looking forward to spending time at backyard barbecues or fireworks displays, while celebrating the nation’s red, white and blue heritage. This Independence Day is a measure of our diminishment how much America is left off it – how many outrages and disappointments have already faded from memory. Six months into his term, Trump’s policy achievements are few and thin, but he has coarsened our politics, shown the power of shamelessness, undermined our faith in each other and ourselves, modeled behavior we would punish children for exhibiting, and implicated all of us in the running fiasco of his presidency. He routinely praises authoritarian rulers abroad while dismissing and undermining democratic results at home. He fired the director of the FBI to squash a troublesome investigation and then bragged about it on television. His demands for loyalty pledges, and his resistance to the idea that political appointees serve the country rather than him, have rendered the US government untrustworthy.

    Trump often is the target of fierce criticism from his detractors, and he uses social media to spread his message or defend himself, especially when it comes to what he perceives as “fake news” bias from the mainstream media. Those who fight Donald Trump on Donald Trump’s terms end up diminished. He sprays insults with abundant, mocking everything from his critics’ intelligence to their popularity to their ethics to their plastic surgery, but those who engage with Trump on his own level make themselves look smaller and meaner, and they’re never able to go as low for as long as Trump. Unlike normal people, whose behavior is bounded by shame and thus amenable to criticism, Trump is truly shameless, and thus criticizing his behavior is useless. He takes such glee in conflict, and cares so little for standards of decency or compassion, that his assailants often diminish themselves by betraying their own values out of desperation. But this isn’t just true of Trump’s assailants. It’s true of all of us – to consistently engage with Trump is to be diminished by him. And we’ve all been diminished by his presidency.

    We’re diminished when our president has little respect for the institutions and norms that have protected our country. Trump has done his best to sow doubt about the legitimacy of America’s electoral system, of its civil servants, of its courts, and of its media. He has created an enemies list to explain away his failures and misdeeds – in his telling, he is beset by “so-called judges,” the deep state, illegal voters, and fake news.

    We’re diminished when our president lies, and even more so when we begin taking his habitual lying for granted. Trump has not gone a full day without saying something flatly untrue. The absence of public dishonesty, for Trump, is usually driven by an absence of opportunity to be publicly dishonest. On days without an untrue statement, he is often absent from Twitter, vacationing at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, or busy golfing.

    We’re diminished when our president spends his time and energy – and thus the nation’s time and energy – on the wrong issues. Political capital is finite, and our future is harmed when it is squandered. Instead of running the country, Trump uses cyberbullying as a communications strategy, spending his mornings picking childish fights on Twitter and coming up with insulting nicknames for his enemies and mocking a television anchor’s plastic surgery. And the White House press officers justify the president’s insults by saying he “fights fire with fire.” Trump is teaching our children that bullies win so long as they never, ever back down.

    We’re diminished when our president knows nothing about the issues he faces, and does not try to learn more. It’s embarrassing that the president’s staffers have taken to writing his name as often as possible in briefing documents for fear that he’ll lose interest otherwise, that they fill his press clips with sycophantic praise in an effort to distract him from Twitter, that they fight to appear on Fox & Friends because they know he takes advice from the television better than from his own advisers. We’ve a president who was not humble enough to realize health care and North Korea are complex problems, and who has not responded to that realization by seriously studying the issues.

    We’re diminished when the people who need America’s mercy and protection most are harmed in service of lies and bigotry. The refugees Trump has sought to bar from our shores have never attacked this country, and are in desperate need of its help. The immigrants Trump has called rapists and murderers commit crimes at a much, much lower rate than native-born citizens – they’re overwhelmingly here to feed their families, not terrorize anyone else’s. The men, women, and children who will lose health insurance under the legislation Trump has endorsed are the same people he promised to help.

    We’re diminished when the rest of the world comes to doubt our leadership and reliability. A Pew poll of 37 countries ranging from Sweden to India to Brazil to Ghana shows attitudes toward the US have collapsed since Trump took office. At the end of Obama’s presidency, 64% of people in these countries said they were confident in the US president. Today, that has fallen to 22%. Opinions of America overall have fallen by 15 points. The chancellor of Germany warned that Europe could no longer depend on the US.

    We’re diminished when our political leaders excuse or ignore behavior they know is wrong. House Speaker Paul Ryan excused Trump on Comey case that he was “new at government”. Senator Mike Lee of Utah, a conservative Republican who just wrote a book about the Founding Fathers, was asked to evaluate Trump’s behavior “based on your view of the standards the founders set for virtue.” Lee took a hard pass. “It’s not going to do any good for me or anyone else to come in and just comment on things we might not like about his Twitter behavior,” he said. Lee’s position has become standard fare for Republican politicians who are appalled by their president but wary of criticizing him daily. Thus, the party that tried to impeach Bill Clinton to protect family values has embraced the position that it does no good to publicly discuss the president’s routine violations of basic decency. Unable to defend Trump’s behavior, Republicans have decided the only viable path forward is to declare him exempt from moral judgment.

    Since his inauguration in January, Donald Trump has been a polarizing figure in Washington. He has diminished the country he promised to make great. What Trump has wrought is a diminished America.

  4. Here’s what i think of the Fourth of July, for my buddies in Texas, California, Ohio, Boston, Mass and New York-Jersey – all of whom are democrats, for obvious reasons:

    • Even the song you choose is as cynical as the cynicism you wrote nearing sarcastic. I guess you’re simply born a cynical person, bro. LOL

    • Yup buddy, i’m the resident cynic – but i do it with deliberation – sometimes to goad, but most often just for the heck of it. Take it with some humor. Here’s an anecdote:

      Many years ago, sometime in early ’88, my better half was in D.C negotiating some stuff with the U.S Treasury. One morning, after she had been shown around the White House by her American colleagues, she ended up in the entrance of the Treasury. Every time she passed through the Metal Detector, she would trip it and had to go through it again despite having taken out all her rings, faux gold necklace with a piece of jade, bracelet, keys and coins.

      After several attempts, the flummoxed Marine said: “Ma’am, i know you are a VIP, cuz you’ve got all these powerful folk with you. (She wasn’t, but her job title got sorta messed up in translation.) If you don’t mind, i’d like ask where did you just visit?”

      So she answered straight faced: “The White House.”

      The Marine: “Oh.. There ain’t nobody important over there. The ones who really matter are over here.”

      That morning, she ‘accidentally’ sat on James Baker III’s (Sec of Treasury then, but who wasn’t in) chair encouraged by her Ang-mo friends who laughed so hard to see a Chink lady sitting on the utmost of the highest!

      How not to be cynical? Haha..

  5. Trumpanzee Shiou is hallucinating again. The ape is simply trumpeting Trump shamelessly claiming of Obama success.

    Since almost immediately after his inauguration as 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump has been claiming credit for what he sees as a miraculous recovery in the nation’s economy. Barely a day goes by without a tweet trumpeting a new jobs deal or the strength of the US stock market. But how much credit is actually due to his administration? Any Economics 1A student knows it takes time for any policy changes to work their way through the system. Trump is shamelessly claiming merit for post-electoral improvements in the economy and to blame his predecessor for worsening conditions which is flatly a lie.

    “Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
    Since November 8th, Election Day, the Stock Market has posted $3.2 trillion in GAINS and consumer confidence is at a 15 year high. Jobs!
    3:00 AM – 2 Mar 2017”

    In the above tweet Trump is referring to the S&P 500 Index and the February 2017 Consumer Confidence Survey. The S&P 500 has gone up by 3.8 percent since Trump took office. And that’s great – but the S&P 500 has been rising since before the November 8 election and, notably, was also rising when polls were favoring Hillary Clinton as the next US president. The data on the very same index Trump quoted also shows that it is moving downwards – after peaking at 2395.96 on March 1 it fell over the following days, closing at 2362.98 on March 8. Given its volatility, it is difficult to extract from this a clear signal of performance.

    “Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
    LinkedIn Workforce Report: January and February were the strongest consecutive months for hiring since August and September 2015
    4:11 AM – 8 Mar 2017”

    In this tweet Trump is referring to the March 2017 LinkedIn workforce report, showing that the “hiring rate” across the U.S. was 1.4 percent higher in February 2017 than in February 2016. The report also shows that this “hiring rate” has been on the rise since December – but it has fallen since January, and, considering the past two years, it has exhibited higher peaks during Obama’s term. If we consider the Business Confidence Index (BCI) provided by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and based on enterprises’ assessment of production, orders and stocks, as well as its current position and expectations for the immediate future, it’s clear that business confidence has been on the rise since the beginning of 2016.

    http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/01/news/economy/trump-1-million-private-sector-jobs-paris-speech/index.html

    I don’t know from what monkey institution Shiou has studied his economics. I thought after a freshman class any student can understand that economic policy is subject to different types of lags: recognition lags, decision lags and implementation lags. These refer to the time necessary to learn about economic conditions, the time it takes to decide on an appropriate policy response, and the implementation period once the policy is chosen. Empirical evidence suggests that it takes policymakers and legislatures more than a quarter from learning about the economic conditions to deciding what fiscal measures are appropriate, passing them through legislature and actually implementing them.

    Then there is the impact lag – the length of time from the implementation of an economic policy decision to when it has an observable effect on the economy. This is generally measured in terms of output. The magnitude of policy multipliers – that is, the effects of monetary or fiscal policy on output – and the time required to observe the effects of a policy is still an open question for economists. But there seems to be an agreement that the multipliers peak after a considerable amount of time.

    Shiou, the increasing level of dopamine in your brain is triggering hallucinations and delusions. I can send you some free Risperidone and Olanzapine if you want. But as a decent, compassionate and professional pharmaceutical scientist I must warn you that these two drugs may carry a greater risk for aggravating Parkinson’s symptoms. So, I suggest that you take Pimavanserin or Clozapine or Quetiapine, instead. You’re just as sick as Trump.

  6. By now,people should wake up to the fact that what Trump is doing,is all about his filling up his,his children’s and his son in law’s and son in law’s family’s pockets.It is not about the American people.It is all about his relatives.Do Donald Trump’s voters got it?.If not better go get a life.

  7. Donald Trump had time and time again shown that he is mentally unfit for the office of the POTUS.He had a fake Newsweek cover of himself framed and hanging by the wall at his club.When hosts of talk show Morning Joe,were mocking him,he showed his true self.A seven year old in a 71 years old man’s body.Attacking the hosts with bare knuckles,like a man scorned.

    He lied about Mika’s facelift and face bleeding like theres no tomorrow.He then lied that the hosts kept calling him for an interview,when it was the other way around.The first time Joe Scarborough turn up,while Mika didn’t want to go.Trump kept asking Joe to ask Mika to interview his wife and attend the New Year’s eve party.The next day Mika showed up in jeans,interviewed Melania and Trump,and left 15 minutes later,when the party guests were arriving.

    The couple (engaged and to be married soon) then revealed that Trump’s son in law Jarod Kushner and Trump’s surrogates kept calling them up,and told them to be extra nice to Trump on their Morning Joe talk show.And to call Trump up and apologize for making fun of him.Or else,Trump’s friend,the owner of the supermarket tabloid,Enquirer,is going to publish the sexual lives of the lovebirds.Call Donald and apologize,and the Enquirer story will go away.The couple refused to be blackmail into backing down.

    Now,everyone knows that Donald is not only a groper,statutory raper,stiffed contractors,waiters,waitresses,suppliers and students of his phony Trump U.He and his son in law are also blackmailers.Maybe his supporters deserved him,but do all Americans deserve this sewage bound garbage.

    • Has it occurred to you that Trump’s tweets beneath the dignity of the office of a president are all by design trying to divert our attention from all his failures? Notice how the HealthCare (WealthCare?) meltdown is almost completely absent from the headlines since he started tweeting about Joe and Mika? Trump knows how to create “fake news” all too well, throwing one ball after another for us to chase after. Like any authoritarians or dictators, Trump knows himself well that he cannot “leave fragrance for a hundred generations” (流芳百世), therefore, he decides to “leave a stink for ten thousand years” (遺臭萬年).

      The man is one very sick bastard. I believe he started politics just because it was a fun thing for him to do at the time, never thought he could win and never having the country and its people in his mind. He’s absolutely no clue how to run a country. He’s no economic policy and no foreign policy, simply playing along and making things up on the way accordingly to his poor instincts. For heaven sake, to date there’re still 392 vital governmental positions he refuses to fill!

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