Why Iran Is Protesting

.. The current unrest looks different. So far, the middle class and the highly educated have been more witnesses than participants. Nonviolence is not a sacred principle. The protests first intensified in small religious towns all over the country, where the government used to take its support for granted. Metropolitan areas have so far lagged behind.

.. they all mention unemployment, inflation and the looting of national wealth: A woman asks President Hassan Rouhani to live on only her salary of $300 a month

..  The chants are also different this time. “Where is my vote?” and “Free political prisoners!” dominated in 2009. Today they have been replaced with “No to inflation!” and “Down with embezzlers!” and “Leave the country alone, mullahs.”

.. emerged as a resonant, nationwide cry for justice and equality.

Trump Raises an Army

When asked about pardoning former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio as Harvey was making landfall, Trump responded:

“Actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally.”

.. Trump and the people who either shield or support him are locked in a relationship of reciprocation, like a ball of snakes. Everyone is using everyone else.

The oligarchs see Trump as a pathway to slashing regulations and cutting taxes for the rich. According to a July analysis by the Tax Policy Center, “Nearly 40 percent of the tax cut would flow to households in the top 1 percent of the income distribution, giving those earners an average annual tax cut of around $270,000.”

  • Establishment Republicans see him as a path to reversing the New Deal.
  • Steve Bannon-ists see him as a path to the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”
  • All Republicans, but particularly the religious right, see him as a securer of conservative Supreme Court justices.
  • The blue-collar Trump voters view him as a last chance to breathe life into the dying dream that waning industries and government-supported white cultural assurances can be revived.
  • And the white nationalists, white supremacists, racists and Nazis — to the degree that they can be separated from the others — see him as a tool of vengeance and as an instrument of their defense.

Trump sees all these people who want to use him, and he’s using them right back. Trump made an industry out of selling conspicuous consumption. He sold the ideas that greed was good, luxury was aspirational and indulgence was innocent.

Trump’s supporters see him as vector; he sees them as market.

.. Marketing is how he has made his money and attained his infamy. That is why he is so obsessed with the media and crowds and polls (at least when he was doing well in them): He sees people, in his die-hard base at least, who have thoroughly bought into the product of Trumpism and he is doing everything to please them and make them repeat customers.

.. But in addition, and perhaps more sinisterly, I think that Trump is raising an army, whether or not he would describe it as such, and whether or not those being involved recognize their own conscription. This is not a traditional army, but it is an army no less.

.. How do you raise an army?

You do that by dividing America into tribes and, as “president,” aligning yourself with the most extreme tribe, all the while promoting militarization among people who support you.

You do it by worshiping military figures and talking in militaristic terms.

.. You cozy up to police unions and encourage police brutality.

.. You do this by rescinding Obama-era limits on the militarization of police departments

.. You do this by defending armed white nationalists and Nazis in Charlottesville.

You do this by defending monuments of Confederates who fought to preserve the noxious institution of slavery, and you do it by tweeting the coded language of white supremacists: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.”

.. You do this by pardoning Arpaio, a man who joked about an Arizona jail being a “concentration camp,” signaling to people that racist brutality is permissible.

You also do this by attempting to reduce or marginalize populations of people opposed to you: Build a wall, return to failed drug policies that helped fuel mass incarceration, ban Muslims, curb even legal immigrationincrease immigration arrests.

And why raise this army?

.. Should something emerge from the Robert Mueller investigation

.. Trump wants to position any attempt to remove him as a political coup. His efforts to delegitimize the press are all part of this because one day the press may have to deliver ruinous news.

.. Trump is playing an endgame. In the best-case scenario, these die-hards are future customers; in the worst, they are future confederates.

.. Trump is playing an endgame. In the best-case scenario, these die-hards are future customers; in the worst, they are future confederates.


I too believe that Trump would not accept being removed from office — or even voted out. If he could brazenly declare Clinton’s popular victory of nearly 3 million votes to be mere fraud, then he will certainly brush aside any effort to neutralize him in 2018 or replace him out in 2020. I often (masochistically) survey right wing sites, and some post about the very scenario that Mr. Blow fears: they revere Trump with a near-religious loyalty that includes using their weapons in his service. As they frequently boast, they “outgun the liberals” and, with the military training that they also tout, the anti-Trump forces wouldn’t stand a chance, they declare. Some seem eager for armed conflict. They seem to think that the military itself would back Trump in such a struggle. They consider Trump adversaries to be so dangerous that they must be “militarily” conquered in order to save the country. It’s a concern when people speak this openly and fearlessly.

Why Rich People Make the French Squirm

This ambivalence goes back centuries. Aristocrats were guillotined during the French Revolution, and new taxes were based on how wealthy people appeared — measured in part by the number of doors and windows in their homes. The well-off learned to be discreet.

.. But there are still rules against showing it off. Parisiennes rarely walk around wearing the giant diamonds that are de rigueur in certain New York neighborhoods. “It’s more in a private dinner that you see the wealth,” a French friend explained.

.. And they’re revolted when money seems to trump all. Last summer, locals made a stink when the Saudi king and his entourage were allowed to cordon off a public beach on the Riviera. “The point we wish to make is that not everything can be bought,” a politician leading the protest explained.

.. The typical “French dream” (or at least the one people admit to) isn’t of great wealth, it’s of great security, including a steady income and pension. When you apply for a mortgage here, banks don’t care what stocks you own, because stocks can go down; they want to see a monthly salary and a permanent work contract.

.. Brexit also offers a cautionary tale about what happens when the superrich dominate a city, pricing out practically everyone else. In London recently, I visited friends at the peak of middle-class careers who are living crammed with their children in a one-bedroom rental.

Why Don’t Americans Save More Money?

Maybe the only way to make people richer in the long run is to take their money away from them.

In 2008, several researchers studied the stereotype that minorities spend more than whites on “visible goods”—like clothes, shoes, jewelry, watches, salons, health clubs, and car parts. They discovered that, even after controlling for income, minorities save less than whites and spend more on such conspicuous consumption goods. But the story wasn’t just about race. White people in poor U.S. states spent more of their income on visible goods than whites in higher income states.

.. One possible explanation is that people spend more to signal that they’re not poor, Megan McArdle suggested. “If you’re a member of an identifiable demographic with low average incomes (southern, racial minority, rural) you are likely to be treated as if you are poor,” which makes it harder to get both social respect and work, she wrote. In a perfectly homogenous country with all white people, there would be less reason for the poor to signal their wealth with expensive visual cues, since they already look just like the rich. But in a diverse country where some demographic groups are stereotyped as poor, lower-income people might be more likely to pay for clothes and cars that say “I’m not who you think I am.”

.. They even discovered a positive relationship between the income of the state’s richest households and the number of personal bankruptcies in that state.

.. The American middle class made up for decades of flat wages with debt. But the last two studies offer a cultural explanation. Minorities and poor whites have spent more to signal that they are not poor, while Americans in general have spent more to signal that they are just like the rich.

.. A college graduate at 29 is 30 percent more likely to be married than a peer who never finished high school. That helps to explain why nearly 60 percent of first births in lower-middle-class households are now to unmarried women.

.. The lottery is a $70 billion government-financing initiative disproportionately funded by the poor.

.. But it’s not clear that higher earnings will necessarily lead to wealth creation for the poor. In the 1990s, after all, rising incomes were plowed into homes that eventually destroyed the savings of many poor and middle class families.

.. In a world obsessed with the wizardry of behavioral nudges, perhaps policymakers should consider putting away the magic wand and just do the paternalistic thing: Force people to save more, by expanding Social Security or by creating new forced savings policies.