I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration

I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

.. The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.
.. To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.
.. But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.
That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.
The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.
.. Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives:
  • free minds,
  • free markets and
  • free people.
At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.
.. In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture:

  • effective deregulation,
  • historic tax reform, a
  • more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is

  • impetuous,
  • adversarial,
  • petty and
  • ineffective.

From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

.. Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

.. On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

.. This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

.. The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

.. Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.

.. We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

.. There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.

David Frum: Trumpocracy & The State of Western Democracy

The donors believe that Trump would be the vehicle for getting what they want and that the price would be bearable.

People drawn to authoritarians as a way to achieve and punish what/who they want.

It was not Trump’s cunning that allowed him to achieve ..  it was the complicity

 

They got the:

  • tax deal,
  • reduction of environmental restrictions,
  • Obamacare relief/stabotage,
  • Financial Regulation dismantalment,
  • Stop Financial Protection,
  • Neil Gorsuch is more important to the rank and file than donor class.

It has long been a debate about who pays the corporate income tax.  The rise of the stock prices shows that the market thinks the corporations will benefit most.

In the cold war, the presidency was respected and partisanship restrained.

Big Legislation: Tax Cuts and Health Care repeal were passed/attempted without hearings.

Autoimmune disorders: military leaders might be tempted to protect the country by escaping civilian control

How informative do you think the President’s Daily briefing is, knowing that the president is not very curious and gets most of his information from Fox and Friends?

John Kelly: If you have not served, you have no right to ask me questions. (Un-American)

Modern Authoritarianism is not 1933, it attempts to stop 5-6% of people to take power.

Quote: A Democracy only lasts so long as the people realize they can vote themselves benefits.

Reality: Asset holders are fearful and contemplate radicalism.

Americans don’t realize how out of date they are — the plans they have are solutions to different problems.  (not inflation: 1970s).  You can’t fetishize policy.

Conservatives will not abandon conservatism, they will abandon democracy. (43 min)

Women’s suffrage was enabled by the conservative idea that the women would suppress drunkenness, etc

You address broad-based radicalism by repressing the few and making concession to address the factors which make people sympathetic. (48-49 min)

 

He’s taking everything you out to be working on and putting it to a dead end.

The dissolusioned young men facing declining wages need a bigger answer than they’ve got to address their privilege.

Facebook has a business model that is very sensitive to government pressure: if they were ruled to be a “publisher”, they would have to hire human editors.  They have

Après Cohn, le Deluge?

Trump’s top economic adviser departs, and the administration’s grown-ups worry.

Mr. Trump’s washing-machine and solar-panel salvo was to be followed by a focus on China’s unfair trade practices, namely intellectual-property theft. The president would announce narrowly targeted trade actions against that country, while holding aluminum and steel tariffs in reserve. All this would be choreographed around renegotiation of the North American and Korea-U.S. free trade agreements.

.. Mr. Ross took advantage of the situation last week to get the president’s ear, and back we were to the days of Mr. Trump spinning out on the advice of the last person in the room.

.. few know that he spent this past weekend talking the president down from an even more Planet Mars idea from Team Ross —to set tariffs closer to 50%.

.. Mr. Ross (a former steel executive) and the nativist Peter Navarro have driven out their biggest free-market opponent, increasing their ability to wreak harm on the economy.

The voices of those who actually understand economic policy are greatly diminished, as evidenced this week by the administration’s endless loop of fact-free and near fantastical claims about the effects of the tariffs.

His shabby treatment has more than a few of the grown-ups now actively considering their own exit plans. It’s one thing to do battle daily; it’s another to watch months of work get flushed on a whim, and get publicly branded a “globalist” to boot. Mr. Cohn’s top deputy, Jeremy Katz, departed just as soon as the tax deal passed, and watch for other Cohn staffers—many of them important free-market voices—to follow.

.. Imagine a Trump presidency without Mr. Kelly, H.R. McMaster, Jim Mattis, Don McGahn, Mick Mulvaney, Kevin Hassett. Consider, too, that no one as good is likely to replace them—now having seen how the White House works.

And don’t forget congressional Republicans, whom Mr. Trump has potentially set up for a midterm rout.

Many are furious that he has forced them to call him out, splitting the party. But they are also legitimately fearful the tariffs will spark trade war and destroy tens or hundreds of thousands of jobs, neutralizing the benefits of the hard-won tax reform.

The economy is the best thing Republicans have going for them in November, and the Trump-Ross-Navarro trio just embraced the only policy that could kill it.

Just how bad it is will depend hugely on Mr. Cohn’s successor.

.. Besides, who in his right mind would even want the job?

Shocker: Democrats’ predictions about the GOP tax cut are coming true

its centerpiece was a gigantic corporate tax cut, lowering the statutory corporate rate from 35 percent down to 21 percent. This cut accounted for about $1 trillion of the bill’s total $1.5 trillion cost, but Republicans said it really wasn’t about helping corporations at all.

.. No, the real target was the workers: Corporations would take the money and use it to create new jobs and raise the wages of those working for them, as trickle-down economics did its magical work.

Democrats, on the other hand, said it was a scam. They charged that workers would see only a fraction of the benefits, and instead corporations would use most of their windfall for things like stock buybacks, which increase share prices and benefit the wealthy people who own the vast majority of stocks.

.. even before the tax cut, corporations were making near-record profits and sitting on mountains of cash; if they wanted to invest, create jobs and raise wages, they already had the means to do it.

.. even before the tax cut passed, corporations were saying publicly that they intended to use the money for stock buybacks.

.. It’s true that some companies did give workers one-time bonuses. But it was essentially a PR move.

.. Walmart, for instance. It made a splashy announcement that it would be giving bonuses of up to $1,000 to workers, which sounded great. But then it turned out that you’d only get that much if you’d been working there for 20 years, and the average worker would get around $190.

.. the total value of Walmart’s bonuses was $400 million, which seems like a lot until you learn that over 10 years the value of the tax cut to the corporation will be $18 billion. In other words, about 2 percent of its tax cut is going to workers

.. Republicans make absurd claims in the knowledge that even if they get debunked in the occasional “news analysis” piece, on the whole they’ll be treated with complete seriousness, no matter how ridiculous they are.

.. lies about the future — and that’s what they are when you know that what you’re saying is utterly bogus — will not be policed with nearly the same vigor as lies about the past.

.. When Republicans said that their tax cut wouldn’t increase the deficit because it would create so much economic growth that revenue would actually increase, it was treated as a questionable claim, not an assertion on par with “If I flap my arms, I can fly to the moon”

.. Sure, Democrats will squawk, and all their criticisms and predictions will turn out to be right. But it hasn’t stopped you in the past, and it won’t in the future.

What’s Behind Trump’s Rising Popularity?

Three theories as to why the poll numbers are improving for the president and his party.

  • First, the president’s personal standing has rebounded.
  • .. Second, the formidable Democratic advantage on the generic ballot for Congress has narrowed.

Let’s call them the economy, exhaustion, and equilibrium.

.. based on the strength of the economy, one would predict more favorable views of Trump.

.. The rise in Republican numbers has also coincided with the tax bill passed in December.

.. “There’s no question that Trump benefits when a critique of his tax and health care policies is not front and center—especially when voters are hearing Trump’s side of the story on the economy,”

.. another product is fatigue: When there are so many scandals, they all start to blend together and fade. One retort to the anti-Trump slogan “This is not normal” is to point out that by now cataclysmic scandals are in fact the new normal. Trump’s improvement may reflect exhaustion with scandals and diminished anger at the president as a result.

.. Democrats would need a strong slate of wins to take back the House and a near-miracle to take back the Senate.

.. Democrats still don’t have a unified message.

How Big a Bang for Trump’s Buck? (Wonkish)

I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly how big a stimulus we’re looking at, but it seems to be around 2 percent of GDP for fiscal 2019. With a multiplier of 0.5, that would add 1 percent to growth.

That said, I’d suggest that this is a bit high. For one thing, it’s not clear how much impact corporate tax cuts, which are the biggest item, will really have on spending. Meanwhile, unemployment is only 4 percent; given Okun’s Law, the usual relationship between growth and changes in unemployment, an extra 1 percent growth would bring unemployment down to 3.5%, which is really low by historical standards, so that the Fed would probably lean especially hard against this stimulus.

Tax Incentive Puts More Robots on Factory Floors

Recent changes in the tax code are encouraging many U.S. manufacturers to install robots and replace aging machines

The revised tax code allows companies to immediately deduct the entire cost of equipment purchases from their taxable income for the next five years. Previously, companies generally were allowed to write off only a portion of the cost in a single year.

The change is encouraging manufacturers to install robots and replace aging machines sooner than planned.

.. By effectively reducing the cost of automation, the tax overhaul puts “another arrow in the quiver of companies that want to go that route,”

.. Rick Toth, whose 66 employees at Toth Industries Inc. in Toledo, Ohio, make parts for heavy trucks and construction equipment, said the depreciation benefit has encouraged him to buy at least three computerized metal-fabrication machines this year for up to $400,000 each. Before the legislation passed, he planned to buy just one machine to handle the 10% to 15% boost in business he expects this year.

.. The benefit led executives at diaper- and tissue-maker Kimberly-Clark Corp. to move up plans to spend as much as $200 million to make one U.S. factory more productive. The plan, which awaits board approval, comes as the Kimberly-Clark plans to close 10 factories and lay off thousands of workers.

.. The continuing trend toward automation has pushed down manufacturing employment overall since the financial crisis but also has created some well-paying jobs that require years of training or an engineering degree.

.. Still, wages aren’t keeping up with the upswing in production. Even as U.S. unemployment lingers at a 17-year low of 4.1%, factory wages rose 2.2% annually last year, down from a 3% annual bump in 2016.