The Donald - the Good and the Bad of It

America will need the Almighty’s unstinting favor if Donald Trump becomes our 45th President. Still, blessed be The Donald for running a demolition derby in the Republican primaries.

There is no hope for the future of capitalist prosperity and a free society at home and world peace abroad unless the Republican Party is destroyed. And, by golly, Trump may well accomplish the deed.

We need to be clear. There is no longer a Republican Party rooted in the main street highways and byways of America. What’s left of it is not really even the xenophobic, nativist, crypto-racist flotsam and jetsam of the populist right that Trump is successfully calling to political arms.

The fact is, the GOP has mutated into the Warfare State party. Nestled comfortably in the Imperial City, it operates a plethora of special interest rackets which underwrite its incumbents’ bi-annual electoral campaigns out in the provinces.

In the interim, GOP politicians idle their time in the capital and on foreign junkets conjuring and embellishing scary stories about terrorist threats and hostile regimes. So doing, they perceive enemies of the American Imperium to be stalking the planet everywhere and even creeping onto these exceptional shores.

In a word, as the party of the Warfare State, the GOP’s main business has become promoting the agenda, campaigns, machinations and glory of the Imperial City. Whenever its pro forma rhetoric about small government and fiscal prudence becomes inconvenient to the needs of the military/industrial/surveillance complex or the fund-raising requirements of its special interest rackets, the GOP’s putative conservative economics platform quickly becomes “inoperative” in the Nixonian vernacular.

There is no better prototype for the new GOP than Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain. Their agenda consists exclusively of promoting and superintending Washington’s foreign projects, occupations, alliances and maneuvers. Cycling through Tel Aviv on a regular basis, showing up on the battlements of Kiev and lecturing the Chinese about maritime law in international waters, for example, they comically imitate the first century Roman Senators they fancy themselves to actually be.

Yet after decades in Washington they and most of their Senate colleagues have accomplished nothing that resembles the old Republican verities. In fact, during 2000-2006 when Republicans controlled the Congress and the White House, not a single welfare state program or agency was eliminated or even reformed, while vast new expansions of education, Medicare, agriculture, alternative energy subsides and much more were piled on the pre-existing heap of state.

Accordingly, the Federal spending share of GDP grew faster than at any time in history; and the $4 trillion worth of new national debt incurred during the eight Bush years smashed all prior peacetime records.

Even when the likes of Graham and McCain occasionally took time from their foreign adventures, it was not to lead a charge on shrinking the Welfare State or balancing the budget. McCain famously embraced the Wall Street bailouts in the fall of 2008, thereby ending once and for all GOP credibility on the sanctity of free markets and opposition to crony capitalism.

Graham was worse. He embraced the dubious science of global warming, the carbon tax and the vast expansion of the regulatory state that policy implies.

In all, the GOP establishment has become an integral part of the  Washington ruling class. It has no passion——only lip service—–for the anti-Washington predicate on which the party was founded.

Once upon a time, by contrast, the GOP actually stood for free markets, fiscal rectitude, hard money and minimalist government. Calvin Coolidge did a pretty good job of it. And even the unfairly besmirched Warren G. Harding got us out of the foreign intervention business—-a path that the great Dwight D. Eisenhower pretty consistently hewed to under the far more challenging conditions of the cold war.

But these were sons of America’s old school interior—–Massachusetts, Ohio and Kansas. As temporary sojourners in Washington, they remained incredulous and chary of grand state missions either at home or abroad.

Harding called it returning to “normalcy”.  Coolidge said Washington’s business was to get out of the way. And Ike actually shrank the Warfare state by one-third, ended Truman’s wars and started no new ones, resisted much of the Dulles’ brother’s interventionist agenda, balanced the budget and froze the New Deal as hard in place at he had the votes to achieve.

Today’s Republican crowd bears no resemblance. They live in the capital, fully embrace its projects and pretensions and visit the provinces as sparingly as possible. And that’s why The Donald has them so rattled, even petrified.

To be sure, there is much that is ugly, superficial and stupid about Donald Trump’s campaign platform, if you can call it that, or loose cannon oratory to be more exact. More on that below, but at the heart of his appeal are two propositions which strike terror in the hearts of the Imperial City’s GOP operatives.

To wit, he is loudly self-funding his own campaign and bombastically insisting that America is getting a bad deal everywhere in the world.

The first of these propositions explicitly tells the legions of K-Street lobbies to take a hike, thereby posing a mortal threat to the fund raising rackets which are the GOPs lifeblood. And while the “bad deal” abroad is superficially about NAFTA and our $500 billion trade deficit with China, it is really an attack on the American Imperium.

The American people are sick and tired of the Lindsay Graham/John McCain/George Bush/neocon wars of intervention and occupation; and they resent the massive fiscal burdens of our outmoded but still far-flung alliances, forward bases and apparatus of security assistance and economic aid. They especially have no patience for the continued huge cost of our commitments to cold war relics like NATO, the stationing of troops in South Korea and the defense treaty with the incorrigible Japanese, who still  blatantly rig their trade rules against American exports.

In short, The Donald is tapping a nationalist/isolationist impulse that runs deep among a weary and economically precarious main street public. He is clever enough to articulate it in the bombast of what sounds like a crude trade protectionism. Yet if Pat Buchanan were to re-write his speech, it would be more erudite and explicit about the folly of the American Imperium, but the message would be the same.

That’s why the War Party is so desperate, and why its last great hope is the bantam weight Senator from Florida. In truth, Marco Rubio is an obnoxious kid who wants to be President so he can play with guns, planes, ships and bombs. He is a pure creature of the Imperial City, even if at his young age he has idled there only since 2010.

Yet down to the last nuance of his insipid neocon worldview and monotonous recitation of the American Exceptionalism catechism, he might as well have been born in Washington of GS-16 parents, not Cuban refugees, raised as a Congressional page, and apprenticed to the Speaker of the US House rather than serving as the same in the backwaters of Tallahassee.

What Marco Rubio is all about is Warfare State republicanism. When he talks about restoring American Greatness it is through the agency of Imperial Washington. He has no kinship with Harding, Coolidge or Eisenhower. None of them were intent on searching the earth for monsters to destroy, as does Rubio in every single speech.

And make no mistake. Every time this naïve smart aleck chastises Obama for weak leadership and alleged failure to get the job forcefully done in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and countless elsewheres, the ghost of John Quincy Adams should be hollering in his grave. Stalking the globe for monsters to destroy is exactly what this wanna be little Napoléon is all about.

Likewise, none of the Republican greats would have vowed to tear-up the hard-won nuclear and trade deal with Iran on day one in office, as Rubio never stops declaiming. His hard core opposition to that breakthrough for peace and sanity, in fact, is a damning indictment.

The War Party in Washington and Tel Aviv has spent the last 30-years constructing a tissue of lies about the Iranian regime because both need an enemy in order to mobilize their domestic constituencies. The truth is that despite its theocratic rebuke of Imperial Washington after the bloody and thieving reign of the Shah was peacefully ended, the Iranians have never aspired to nuclear weapons, do not conduct a remote fraction of the terrorism inflicted by Washington’s drones, bombs and cruise missiles, and have never threatened the safety and security of the American people.

In denouncing the Iranian accord, Rubio is loudly embracing Washington’s 30-year tissue of lies about Iran and the destructive neocon foreign policy of which it is but one baleful extension.

So the good in The Donald at this juncture is that only he can stop Senator Marco Rubio. Only Trump’s brash bombast can finally displace the toxic neocon ideology that has mutated the GOP into the handmaiden of the Warfare State.

Indeed, Rubio is the very worst bag carrier for the Washington neocon establishment yet. Even George Bush could not be persuaded to bomb Tehran owing the thinness of the evidence and the awful implications of launching an outright genocide against an innocent Persian nation of 80 million.

Yet the strutting know-it-all boy Senator from Florida, who never even learned his way around the Senate but oozes with Napoleonic pretensions and delusions of grandeur, could readily do far worse.

That brings us to the bad of The Donald and what I called the Hairy Deal a few weeks back. Even as The Donald talks up a populist-sounding storm and rebukes Imperial Washington with the insolence it richly deserves, his predicate is fundamentally wrong. He insists that the nation’s ills stem from incompetent politicians making bad deals.

But that’s not right. The problem is bad policies and destructive ideas in the hands of Washington’s career politicians who are extremely competent at orchestrating the machinery of the state against the liberty and prosperity of its citizens.

Thus, in the hierarchy of things screaming out for radical change, the Donald’s favorite whipping boys——-NAFTA, China’s trade practices, illegal aliens and the danger of Muslim refugees——-don’t even rank. Nor do safeguarding the Second Amendment or building a horizontal version of Trump Towers on the Rio Grande.

The fact is, Trump has fashioned his platform by opportunistically scratching the most fearful and bigoted itches roiling the electorate. He has absolutely no semblance of a coherent program——or even an incoherent one for that matter.

Instead, his pitch is comprised of pure bombast and bile. It’s based on the exceedingly dangerous proposition that what Washington needs is a smart deal maker who can make the government agencies and bureaus run better at home and foreign leaders run for cover abroad.

You could call it the Man-on-the-White Horse syndrome, and pity the horse.

But don’t pity the nation. Sadly, the people are getting what they deserve. They have allowed both political parties, the agencies of their democratic right to rule, to betray them with impunity.

And that’s just as true of the Democrat party as the GOP. There is a dearth of new jobs in America today, for example, because the Democratic Party protects like a junkyard dog the single biggest agency of job destruction in the land.

To wit, the so-called foundation labor law in the form of the social security payroll tax, minimum wage and the NLRB. These relics of the 1930s New Deal remain the litmus tests for the Democrats’ own brand of special interest racketeering——that is, kowtowing to the unions.

But in a global market that can mobilize labor from every rice paddy and remote hamlet on the planet, the protectionism afforded US industrial unions by the NLRB imperils the few manufacturing jobs that remain. At the same time, the minimum wage stops new service sector jobs from being born, while the myth of social insurance—including its second generation off-spring in Obamacare——always and everywhere pushes employers to artificially conserve labor and substitute capital and technology.

Stated differently, the stupidest thing that Washington can do to a $40,000 per year job in an economy where labor is drastically over-priced and uncompetitive with much of the world is to extract upwards of $17,000 worth of payroll taxes and Obamacare employer mandates before workers get a red cent of take home pay.

And, no, the solution is not to abolish social security and dump grandma in the snow. Instead, if the community organizer who stumbled into the White House on the strength of his anti-war rhetoric had not been wedded to the Democrat’s mindless ideology of “social insurance”, he could have abolished the $1.2 trillion per year payroll tax entirely—–the sledge hammer that beats down upon worker living standards day in and day out—— and replaced it with a 10% consumption tax.

Needless to say, in a nation where only 123 million of an adult population of 252 million work full time, we could do with less consumption and more labor hours and production—-so we should tax the former, not the latter. Indeed, a nation which is getting older, fatter and dumber while watching television or trolling the internet eight hours per day, must do less shopping and keeping up with the Kardashians and more work——or it will end up in social and fiscal bankruptcy within a decade or so.

By that token, the giant wedge on labor imposed by social insurance could be further alleviated by the imposition of a stringent means test. Precious few retirees has actually earned through lifetime tax contributions anything close to their combined $450,000 average package of social security and medicare, anyway.

In fact, taxing the wealthy duffers who live on Florida’s golf courses and collect $50,000 per year in medicare and social security benefits should have been a no brainer for the big thinker now incumbent in the White House. But when it comes to feeding the organized labor rackets, thinking has nothing to do with it.

At the end of the day, America is on a slippery slope toward failure because the Warfare State and the Welfare State are suffocating what was once a prosperous capitalism and a resilient free society lightly intruded upon by the machinery of state.

But now both parties have become handmaidens of the state. Domiciled in the Imperial City, they have long ago betrayed their founding principles in favor of incumbency, self-importance and operating the special interest rackets that keep them in office.

Maybe The Donald’s startling but palpable momentum toward the White House will have one saving grace. His relentless campaign against the “politicians” and the Washington money rackets may end up knocking the hypocritical stuffings out of both parties.

There could be worse fates among the present alternatives.

Regards,

David Stockman
for The Daily Reckoning

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