An occasional blog about populist politics and popular music, not necessarily at the same time.
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Monday, July 22, 2019
We spent much of the past week arguing not about whether Donald Trump is a racist -- some might prefer not to discuss it, but hardly anyone doubts or denies such an abundantly settled fact. A week ago we faced what struck me as an artificially inflated schism between Party leaders like Nancy Pelosi and the more determined reformers in "the squad," but that division vanished instantly thanks to their common enemy -- Trump, for starters, and the racism he and his party so naturally indulge in. Pelosi may be jealous of the squad's popularity with the Democratic base, and she may be overly concerned with her reputation as a Washington power broker. But the fact is that since the 2018 election, the right-wing media has been most obsessed with raising alarms over the squad. Given that context, Trump's tweets strike me less as recurring racist bluster (to which he's certainly prone) than as confirmation that the Republicans' campaign strategy for 2020 will be to try to turn every local election into a referendum on Ilhan Omar. Pelosi knows that better than anyone, because Republicans have tried for years to make her the public face of Democratic-Socialist-Liberal dread.
Most important piece below is Matthew Yglesias's Trump's racism is part of his larger con. I didn't quote from it, but could have quoted the entire piece. Just read it.
Some scattered links this week:
Peter Beinart: By Republican standards, almost nothing is racist.
Jared Bernstein: What economists have gotten wrong for decades: "Four economic ideas disproven by reality." This starts with the so-called "natural rate of unemployment" ("NAIRU" to its fans):
By the way, not every economist bought into these ideas, even in their heyday. George P. Brockway (1915-2001) was especially critical of NAIRU (see his short collection Economics Can Be Bad for Your Health as well as his masterpiece, The End of Economic Man). John Quiggin wrote about much of this in Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among Us (2010). By the way, when Joe Biden became Vice President, he picked Bernstein as his economic adviser. I'm not a Biden fan, but that was a smart and gutsy pick at a time when Obama was hiring economists like Larry Summers. Back in 2008, before his appointment, Bernstein wrote an insightful book called Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed? (And Other Unsolved Economic Mysteries).
Jamelle Bouie: The joy of hatred: "Trump and 'his people' reach deep into the violent history of public spectacle in America."
Aleia Fernández Campbell: The House just passed a $15 minimum wage. It would be the first increase in a decade.
John Cassidy: There is nothing strategic about Trump's racism.
Jane Coaston: The Trump racism spin cycle.
Jelani Cobb: Donald Trump's idea of selective citizenship.
Tom Engelhardt: Planet of the surreal: Turning 75 in the Age of Trump.
Susan B Glasser: "I'm winning": Donald Trump's calculated racism.
Caroline Houck: Mark Esper, President Trump's pick for defense secretary, explained: Key point: "former top lobbyist from Raytheon."
Anna North: How 4 congresswomen came to be called "the Squad".
Jeremy W Peters/Annie Karni/Maggie Haberman: Trump sets the 2020 tone: like 2016, only this time 'the Squad' is here.
Charles P Pierce:
Jonah Raskin: Paul Krassner, 1932-2019: American satirist. I should note that I started reading The Realist shortly after I dropped out of high school, so Krassner played an outsized role in my discovery that there are other ways of understanding the world than had been drilled into my tiny brain by the official guardians of virtue.
Jeffrey D Sachs: America's economic blockades and international law: I'm not sure who Sachs thinks has been calling Trump an isolationist, but at least he rejects that label. What's different about Trump isn't the degree the US engages with other countries but the terms of alliance and intervention. From FDR through Obama, the US has generally tried to find agreement on areas of mutual interest, often trading economic help for joint security. Trump's intent is to put American (by which he often means his personal) interests first, reducing everyone else to paying tribute for some degree of privilege within the US-directed world order. If it seems like little has changed under Trump, that's mostly because the US position at the top of the informal world order has, at least since WWII, been rooted in the relative size and wealth of the American economy (although these days it has largely transformed itself into global financial networks, which nation states have little effective power to regulate). Where his predecessors preferred to build alliances based on mutual interest, all Trump sees is the power to extract profit. In the past, NATO was presented as a trade: member countries would open themselves up to global capitalism, and in turn would receive security guarantees. (Indeed, the "carrot" of capital investment was probably more decisive to expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe than fears of Russian aggression.) On the other hand, Trump views NATO as a protection racket, and wants to do what any gangster/boss would do: raise the tribute. As an authoritarian, Trump much prefers his sticks to carrots, much as he'd rather be feared than befriended (not that he minds having friends, as long as they are properly submissive). Short of risking his bloated military, the most powerful stick he has at his disposal is the economic blockade (sanctions), which he's employed more aggressively than ever before (e.g., North Korea, Iran, Venezuela). So far, nothing disastrous (for the US, anyway) has come of this. None of the targeted countries have submitted, but few (if any) nominal allies have yet decided to buck US authority and circumvent the sanctions, so Trump appears to be in control. However, you have to wonder how long China, Europe, Russia, India, Japan, etc., will continue to kowtow to a thin-skinned, thankless bully like Trump.
William Saletan: Is Trump a racist or a narcissist? Here's a puzzle even Saletan can solve: "He's both." But aren't those just facets of an even broader and deeper sociopathy?
Theodore Schleifer: A plan to fix inequality would target CEOs who make 100 times more than their employees: CEO pay has been a useful metric for measuring inequality for several decades now, but the most one can hope for by narrowly targeting it is to muddy the metric. CEO's represent a small sliver of the very rich, and as such a small sliver of the money that a more general program could tax. I think it's long been clear that the main reason boards have moved so strongly to increase CEO pay has been the desire to make CEO's act more like owners and less like managers: to focus more on short-term profitability, while allowing more risks to long-term stability.
Emily Stewart: Elizabeth Warren's latest Wall Street enemy: private equity.
Matt Taibbi: CNN's debate lottery draw is a new low in campaign media: "If you cover elections like reality shows, you will get reality stars as leaders."
Robin Wright: Iran's eye-for-an-eye strategy in the Gulf.