Proud to Live in a Nation of Holers

Let’s not mince words: Moldova is a hole. Modify with any four letters you wish.

I mention Moldova because it’s where my paternal grandfather was born in 1901. An anti-Semitic rampage in his hometown, Kishinev, soon forced his family to leave for New York, where my great-grandfather labored as a carpenter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for eight dollars a week. Low skills, low wages, minimal English, lots of children and probably not the best hygiene — that’s half of my pedigree. The other half consisted of refugees.

I’m not alone. America is a nation of holers. It is an improbable yet wildly successful experiment in the transformation — by means of hope, opportunity and ambition — of holers into doers, makers, thinkers and givers. Are you of Irish descent? Italian? Polish? Scottish? Chinese? Chances are, your ancestors did not get on a boat because life in the old country was placid and prosperous and grandpa owned a bank. With few exceptions, Americans are the dregs of the wine, the chaff of the wheat. If you don’t know this by now, it makes you the wax in the ear.

.. Liberals can be squeamish about calling poor countries bad names, while conservatives such as Mark Steyn chortle that “nobody voluntarily moves to Haiti.” Which, let’s be real, is basically right.

Yet that’s beside the point. We are not talking about Haiti, El Salvador, Nigeria or any other country on the president’s insult list. What counts are the people from these countries

.. But immigrants are more likely to be fleeing those dysfunctions and prejudices than they are to be bringing them

  • .. Dorsa Derakhshani, the international chess master from Iran who came to the United States last year because, as she wrote in an op-ed for The Times, the mullahs “cared more about the scarf covering my hair than the brain under it.”
  • Vietnamese boat people did not bring fratricidal hatreds with them to America.
  • Soviet refuseniks did not bring a Soviet work ethic.

.. They don’t bring crime to cities. They drive out crime by starting businesses and families in shrinking cities or underserved neighborhoods.

.. sub-Saharan Africans have “among the highest college-completion rates of any immigrant group.”

.. As for Haitians, MPI found they had a higher labor participation rate than the overall work force, and had median household incomes of $47,200 — lower than the overall U.S. median, but robust by any developed nation standard.

.. How can this be? It shouldn’t be a mystery. Immigrants self-select.

.. To really see it clearly, you must first rise up from a hole.

Donald Trump has not, to say the least, risen from a hole. But he is sinking into one.

.. It may be that it won’t damage him politically — Republican Party leaders, increasingly unshameable, will mumble mild disapproval until the news cycle turns — but it does damage the country. We have a president even more ignorant of America than he is of the rest of the world.

 

Dollars, Cents and Republican Sadism

G.O.P. opposition to programs helping the less fortunate, from food stamps to Medicaid, is usually framed in monetary terms. For example, Senator Orrin Hatch, challenged about Congress’s failure to take action on the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a part of Medicaid that covers nearly nine million children — and whose federal funding expired back in September — declared that “the reason CHIP’s having trouble is that we don’t have money anymore.”

.. the suffering imposed by Republican opposition to safety-net programs isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Inflicting pain is the point.

.. The federal government would initially pay the full cost, and even in the long run it would pay 90 percent, meanwhile bringing money and jobs into state economies.

Yet 18 states — all of them with Republican-controlled legislatures, governors or both — still haven’t expanded Medicaid. Why?

.. G.O.P. politicians simply don’t want lower-income families to have access to health care and are actually willing to hurt their own states’ economies to deny them that access.

..  the Trump administration declared that it would allow them to do so. But what was driving this demand?

.. The reality is that a vast majority of adult Medicaid recipients are in families where at least one adult is working. And a vast majority of those who aren’t working have very good reasons for not being in the labor force: They’re disabled, they’re caregivers to other family members or they’re students. The population of Medicaid recipients who “ought” to be working but aren’t is very small, and the money that states could save by denying them coverage is trivial.

.. most of the money they could save by kicking people off would be federal, not state, dollars. So what’s this about?

.. The answer, surely, is that it isn’t about saving money, it’s about stigmatizing those who receive government aid, forcing them to jump through hoops to prove their neediness. Again, the pain is the point.

.. In fact, a 10-year extension of CHIP funding would save the government $6 billion.

..  Making lower-income Americans worse off has become a goal in itself for the modern G.O.P., a goal the party is actually willing to spend money and increase deficits to achieve.

Trump Stories: Bannon

But after doing all this reporting, we think what Bannon does is often tactical. (40 min)

.. Bannon and the Mercers actively supported with publicity and money people tied to white supremacists. Like, maybe he doesn’t really agree with those white supremacists who helped with the rise of people like Milo Yiannopoulos, the rise of Breitbart News and the rise of Donald Trump. Maybe those people are just numbers to him. I mean, I guess if you’re down with white supremacists, you’re down with white supremacists and no one should care why you’re down with them. But if you are tactical, that means you can change.

.. You wanted to be the Leni Riefenstahl for George Bush, then you wanted to be the Leni Riefenstahl for the Republican Party. Now you want to blow up the Republican Party. The world moves fast. The attention span is not long. I mean, this is a guy who’s invested in Biosphere 2, nasal spray, the San Diego Chicken and “World Of Warcraft.” Like, maybe after he gets tired of hashtag #WAR, Steve Bannon will move on to something else.

Donald Trump Goes Full Fredo

But unlike the Godfather character, the president of the United States is backed by powerful people enabling him.

.. The Corleone family had the awareness and vigilance to exclude Fredo from power. The American political system did not do so well.

.. Until now, Trump’s worst moments have occurred behind closed doors, and have become known to the public only second-hand, leaked by worried officials, aides, and advisers. Yesterday and today, we have seen a Trump temper-tantrum in real time on Twitter

.. the most important moment in Wolff’s book are words attributed at second or third-hand to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the time of Donald Trump’s election. “He will sign anything we put in front of him.”

.. Who and what Donald Trump is has been known to everyone and anyone who cared to know for years and decades.

  • Before he was president, he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist.
  • Before he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist, he was a celebrity gameshow host.
  • Before he was a celebrity gameshow host, he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate.
  • Before he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate, he was the protege of Roy Cohn’s repeatedly accused of ties to organized crime.

.. Instead, since he announced his candidacy in mid-2015, Donald Trump has been enabled and protected.

The enabling and protecting not only continues. It accelerates.

.. The Senate Judiciary committee—the Senate Judiciary Committee! The committee that oversees the proper enforcement of the law!—formally filed a criminal referral with the Department of Justice against Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous dossier about Trump’s Russia connections. The referral was signed by the committee’s chairman, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, without even notice to Democrats on the committee, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said; a startling abuse of majority status and a sharp departure from the norms of the Senate, especially a 51-49 Senate.

.. It’s ominous, however, that on the very same day, the FBI obeyed Trump’s repeated demands and reopened a long-closed criminal investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

.. the important thing about Trump is not the man; it’s the system of power surrounding the man.

.. What sustains Trump now is the support of people who know what he is, but back him anyway.

Republican political elites who know him for what he is, but who back him because they believe they can control and use him;

conservative media elites who sense what he is, but who delight in the cultural wars he provokes;

rank-and-file conservatives who care more about their grievances and hatreds than the governance of the country.

.. he is indeed the “very stable genius” he claims to be: Trump understands how to mobilize hatred and resentment to his own advantage and profit. He has risen higher than Joe McCarthy or Charles Lindbergh or Theodore Bilbo—and he has lasted already nearly a full year in office, holding the approval of one-third of the country

.. without the complicity of other power-holders, Trump would drop from his central position like a tooth from a rotten gum. What we need to do now is widen the camera angle beyond Fredo Trump to the hard-faced men and women over his shoulders. Those are the people who put Trump where he is, and keep him there, corrupting the institutions of American democracy and troubling the peace and security of the world.