Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Trump Plan

I have been reading some conservative criticism of Donald Trump recently and, without fail, any such criticism elicits at least one comment which reads as follows (almost every one is identical, so no point in linking to any specific instance):

President Trump has a great Agenda:
•Lower/simplify taxes, and eliminate the IRS asap
•Stop IL-LEGAL immigration, anchor-babies, and AMNESTY
•Replace ObamaCare with market-driven TrumpCare
•Balance the federal budget in 4 years
•Down-size the bloated, corrupt US government and USPS
•Re-negotiate all international-trade agreements
•Expand the US Supreme Court from 9 to 15 Justices
•Remove Ryan and McConnell from leadership of Congress
•Impose TERM-LIMITS on Congress and US Supreme Court
•De-fund PBS and the Dept. of Education and Common Core
•Make English the official language of the USA
•Audit the Federal Reserve banking system
•Thorough investigation of 9-11 and BenGhazi
Now, if you are of a relatively uncritical turn of mind, and accept certain populist ideas -- and maybe a few Truther ones given that last item -- this may sound good to you, but give it even a moment's thought, and there are quite a few problems with this platform, even ignoring the fact that the man promoting it was until recently a die hard Democrat and supporter of his now rival, Mrs. Clinton.

I must apologize to the original author, but I will not follow his erratic use of capitals and hyphens.

1. Lower/simplify taxes and eliminate the IRS

Given his efforts to pander to every imaginable group, I am surprised Trump has not come out for the FairTax as Huckabee did when he needed to shore up his campaign, but this is probably the next best thing, as promises to "eliminate the IRS" always attract a certain type of angry voter. Don't get me wrong, I am no fan of the IRS or the current tax system, but until we return to the original Constitutional scheme of direct state funding, there is simply no way we will eliminate the IRS. Oh, maybe "the IRS" will go away, but it will go away the way "The Department of Immigration" went away by becoming ICE. Maybe "the IRS" will be no more, but we will have a Bureau of Taxation or a Department of Revenue or something, which will, in the end, be just another IRS. Even the FairTaxers would have needed one, to figure who got prebates, to make sure states complied and make policy decisions about what was and was not taxable, despite their claims. So, as long as the federal government retains the power of taxation, any promise to "end the IRS" is just sophistry. A lot of hot air.

2. Illegal immigration et al.

Well, quite a bit here. First, no wall will stop illegal immigration. Oceans could not keep Asian, European and African immigrants away, how are a dozen feet of concrete going to do something thousands of miles of water can't? And will there be no entry or exit points? What is to stop a day worker from never going back? Or someone from forging a visa or day worker permit? Sorry, but the wall is smoke and mirrors, something that, again, sounds nice, but will do little and cost a lot.

On top of that, ending "anchor babies" is not exactly within the power of the president is it? Since it comes from the interpretation given the 14th Amendment, it would require a new amendment, or a drastic change in how the Supreme Court reads the existing one. And, even were that the case, I seem to recall citizenship being a congressional, not presidential power. So exactly what is he promising? To rule by decree? Isn't that why his supporters hate Obama? Sorry, makes no sense to me.

3. Trump-Care

So, nominal conservatives are supporting a federally mandated health insurance scheme if it is "market driven"? Sorry, no sale here. Eliminate Obamacare. Eliminate Medicare and Medicaid as well. Return healthcare to the market. Do not institute a nominally "market driven" plan, which will end up being nothing but another government boondoggle. The plans before Obamacare were nominally market driven, and they were fiasco as well. ("The Madness of Our Health Insurance Scheme") If you want "market driven" why not just let the market do it? Why do we need a government plan to let the free market work? And if "TrumpCare" is as successful as "Trump Steaks", "Trump University" and everything else with his imprimatur, I am thinking maybe I should stock up on medicine now, as sure won't be much of it in the future.

4. Balance the Budget

Well, again, is that not a Congressional issue? I recall the Constitution saying quite a lot about Congress drawing up a budget. And if he thinks he can face a stand off against Congress, he better check his history. Americans love a balanced budget, right up until someone tries to institute one, then the opposition and press all them obstructionists, the public hates them, and it all falls apart. Trump thinks he can do better? He can't face down Megyn Kelly. Sorry, no sale.

In any event, our system is designed to never have a balanced budget. With federal debt being used to back our currency, if we ever did balance the budget, our monetary system would collapse as soon as the last notes were retired. Since we no longer accept gold or silver as valid tender, government debt is the only possible means of backing Federal Reserve notes. As such, we must have debt, or else we cannot have money. I know, it sounds stupid. Why, it IS stupid, but that's the system. Don't blame me, blame Nixon, FDR and Wilson. (And Bryan too, for good measure.) (See "Monetary Issues Made Simple Part I", "Monetary Issues Made Simple Part II", "Inflation and Uncertainty", "Bad Economics Part 7", "Bad Economics Part 8", "What Is Money? ", "What Is A Dollar?", "The Gold Question, Not "Why?" But "When?"", "Bad Economics Part 19","Fiscal Discipline", "Putting the Bull in Bull Market", "Why Gold?", "A Timeline Part One", "A Timeline Part Two", "A Timeline Part Three".)

5. Downsize the Government and Postal Service

I have no objection to this, but again, Trump is going to have a tough time with it. Again, people love to say they want the government smaller, until the local base closes, or their nearest post office, or they lose their government job. It is the same reason everyone hates incumbents, but votes in their own incumbents time and again. Everyone else's incumbent is bad, just not ours. Similarly, every government job is wasteful except the ones that are convenient for you. And this NIMBY attitude makes it unlikely the government will shrink anytime soon. And certainly not under someone riding a populist wave like Trump. It is why populists typically run left rather than right, at least in terms of government power and size. It is easier to promise patronage jobs and deliver than really carry through on downsizing. Trump has the misfortune to be playing the Huey Long part in the wrong party and so he has to promise some things he will never, ever deliver.

6. Renegotiate trade agreements

Again, THIS is a conservative? Should we not try to simply create open trade agreements? I thought the idea of the government as controller of trade was a liberal dream, not a conservative one? Oh, I know there are nominal conservatives who are anti-trade. Paleocons have a lot of silly, non-conservative ideas (or rather ideas fitting well with 19th century conservatism -- See "The Political Spectrum") But to hear a supposed conservative gushing over getting government to make better deals for our businesses is just too mercantilist for me to see him as a conservative.

Also, should the government really be in the business of picking winners and losers? Should they be negotiating trade to favor this company or that? This industry or that? Again, I hate to repeat myself, but should not the goal be to simply remove trade barriers with foreign nations and then let commerce flow without the involvement of government? I thought mercantilism went out with powdered wigs and walking sticks.

6. Supreme Court Packing

I find it hard to believe conservatives are supporting an idea last floated by FDR. And then only because he could not break the resolve of the existing justices. First, while this may give whatever party does it a temporary advantage, you have to realize, no matter how many justices there are, the random timing of retirements and deaths mean that eventually we will be back to the same division we have now. Second, since it will give a tremendous advantage to the party of the president, I cannot see it ever happening unless one party had a super majority, and, if that were the case, then it would be rather unnecessary. In short, not going to happen. You could only do it if you had so much power you wouldn't need it. And, even if somehow, some fluke made it possible, say 30 sick Democrat senators or something, the opposition would still do everything they could to tie up hearings on the new justices, just to ensure some equal representation. So, this is a pipe dream, at best, and an oddly FDR-inspired move for a supposed conservative.

7. Congressional Leadership

Again, I did not know this was part of the president's job. I thought Congress chose their leaders. The more I read these points the more obvious it becomes Trump slept through Civics in high school. Even if it were the president's job, this just shows how trivial and petty are his concerns, and those of his supporters. They waste a platform item on striking a blow against "the establishment". Come now, can't you think of something a bit more important?

8.  Term Limits

Another Civics gaffe here. How can you impose term limits on the Supreme Court? They aren't elected and serve for life (assuming good behavior). Even a single term limit would be life long, so that seems a bit of another show of Mr Trump's Constitutional ignorance.

Concerning congress, I have never been a fan of term limits. (See "Why Term Limits Will Fail (And Should)", "The Problem of Professional Politicians, or, The Impossibility of a True "Ousider" Candidate", "Critique of a Congressional Reform") As I always argue, they may have saved us from the 3rd and 4th terms of FDR, but they gave us Bush instead of Reagan as well. And that is the problem with term limits, they keep us from keeping good people as often as they force out bad. And, in the end, should not the choice of representative be the will of the people? If we really WANT term limits it is easy, don't vote them back in. In other words, term limits mean either you do not trust yourself or you don't trust other people, and neither is a good foundation for laws. It is akin to either hiding your cigarettes to force yourself to quit smoking, or banning all cigarettes because you want to quit. One is silly and the other obnoxious.

Not to mention that, the less experience law makers have, the more authority will come to rest on staffers and career bureaucrats, neither of which is a desirable outcome. No, the solution is not term limits, but less government. Term limits is a silly supposed panacea we should all ignore.

9. Defund PBS, Dept of Ed, etc

I have no real objections to these, but, again, they seem kind of small potatoes for a position statement. They sound like catering to very narrow, specific groups. Much as I dislike patronage (eg "Patronage", "Patronage Versus Choice", "Free Market and Federalist Confusion"), and find government involvement in issues not related to police, courts or armies troubling, these are hardly tops of my list among things to eliminate. In any case, this is, again, a Congressional matter. If congress funds them, and legislation mandates them, he is going to have a hard time doing much about it. Again, do those who hate Obama's "rule by decree" think Trump should do the same?

10. Make English the official language

I have no objection to having a single national language used for all official acts and laws. Then again, that is the de facto situation in the US at present. I am afraid those who think this means they will never have to hear "Press 1 for Spanish" again are deluded. An official language means nothing more than the language in which government is conducted, and that is English right now. Making it a law would change absolutely nothing. And, despite their beliefs, it would not eliminate the use of translators in government offices, phone menus in Spanish or government brochures being printed in other languages. So, I am sure it appeals to the same people as his immigration position, but in effect it would do absolutely nothing.

11. Audit the Federal Reserve

I am not sure exactly what this means. I mean, the Federal Reserve creates money out of thin air. We are no longer on a metallic standard, so what are they auditing? The amount of currency created? The number of federal bonds held? And what will that do? Sorry, but with our current fiat currency system, the amount of money created is a purely arbitrary number. And if experts cannot agree on how much money there should be, or even what to count as money and what to count as some other sort of asset, how is this going to accomplish anything more than waste a massive amount of money?

12. Investigate 9/11 and Ben Ghazi

This is a strange combination. Ben Ghazi has been a rallying cry for conservatives who hate Clinton, 9/11 for nutty Truthers, most of whom hate Bush. I suppose a few rabid anti-government types might be in both camps, but in general this seems a very odd mix of promises.

Ignoring how odd it is and pressing on, I hate to tell everyone who is excited about this, but we ALREADY had investigations into both. And, even if we do it again, what will happen if the new findings are not to the liking of those screaming for new inquiries? Will they demand another? I a sorry, and will probably upset some conservatives, but the available evidence does not prove any malfeasance about Ben Ghazi. A lot of mistakes,  a fair amount of after the fact CYA, but nothing like what some imagine. Maybe some things were done wrong, maybe some errors were made, bad decisions, but proving culpable, criminal intent just is not possible. And 9/11 has even less evidence of anything other than what everyone sane knows. 19 men from various countries in the middle east, at the prompting of al Qaida, flew planes into the WTC and Pentagon. That is all. So, other than garnering a few fringe votes, what would promising investigations gain?


Of course, all of this is probably a waste of time. Those who hate Trump don't need to be told what a twit he is, and those who love him don't seem to respond to evidence, even when Trump himself clearly changes position or acts like a demented child. So, I am not sure why I bothered except that I simply cannot let a piece of nonsense as absurd as this pass without some comment.

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