Saturday, 21 January 2017

Donald Trump Is The 45th President Of America. What Happens Now?

Donald Trump cartoon
Yesterday Donald Trump became the 45th president of the USA. Unpopular before he even starts, and already working on rolling back the Affordable Care Act, he's hit the ground running. Let's take a look at what's happening now.

Executive Orders

As much as right-wing morons like to argue that it's possible to rule America by decree via executive orders, I should point out that a) constitutional balance of powers makes that nigh impossible and b) there's a limit to what you can actually do with them. With Trump in office this is actually a good thing. Fun fact: President Obama issued very few compared to other presidents. If you're going to argue about this kind of thing, know your facts, people. What about Trump, then? Well he's got both Houses and as long as he does what the majority wants he'll have the power to do what he wants. However, if he issues an executive order that contradicts the will of Congress he can expect a revolt in which his order is challenge in court. Bearing that in mind, this is what he's done so far with his presidential powers.

Repeal and replace "Obamacare"

The Affordable Care Act began as a plan by the right wing Heritage Foundation and was implemented in Massachusetts by former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. During President Obama's tenure it was re-titled "Obamacare" by the GOP (Republican party) and vigorously opposed as they fought to deny him any policy victories. Trump has already signed an executive order to "ease the economic and regulatory burdens" on individuals, providers, and the states imposed by the act. Expect to find people being thrown off insurance policies for pre-existing conditions; that's a regulatory burden, right there. Well, that's the first part of repealing the ACA; the law itself has yet to be repealed. What will they replace it with? Financial magazine Barrons asks the following question as it such a thing is actually possible:
Can anyone create a national health-insurance system that is market-based, actuarially sound, covers every citizen for every important health problem at an affordable price for all, without threatening to bankrupt the country by the cost of its subsidies, without creating shortages, and without forcing health-care providers to accept price controls? - Plow the Health-Care Ground Again, by Thomas G. Donlan for Barron's
To be fair they acknowledge that Obamacare's two out of nine hits were hard to achieve at the time and that every American already leans on federal help for healthcare. Good luck with getting anyone on the right to actually admit to this. The flaw in the plan is the idea that healthcare is a commodity in which people have options. No, it's an essential utility like roads and bridges because we don't get a choice over which diseases we get. I didn't choose arthritis. Now you might wonder why an Irish woman living in the UK is taking such a close interest in this. It's because Our Glorious Leaders are planning to dismantle our beloved — and essential — NHS and replace it with whatever Paul Ryan has got festering in his benighted noggin. This appears to be "Pay or die; you can always beg on crowdfunding platforms for the money you need." Americans are about to discover just how free the healthcare market really is when they repeal the laws that forced providers to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

Screw low-income home buyers

Silly poor people! Trailer parks exist. Houses are for rich people, not the likes of you, so get your deadbeat rump over there and out of our sight. Yes indeed, the modest reduction in fees from the Federal Housing Administration on mortgage interest has been indefinitely shelved, courtesy of Trump's other executive order. What, did you really think he was going to help "the middle classes*"? No, he's filling the swamp and ignoring poor America's needs while telling them what they want to hear. Try to enjoy it till it's over, then pick up your torn and bleeding form, wash the foul secretions of your abusers off as best you can, then forget it and move on. There's no justice, there's just us.

Increasing opposition

While cheering crowds (and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) did indeed attend his inauguration (it wasn't the washout liberals, progressives, and leftists were praying for), opposition movements have been making their presence felt. Let's take a look at some of them.

California is having none of it

When Obama won his second term, some individuals set up petitions for their states to peacefully secede from the United States. While California is not quite in that league it seems they're not exactly in the "one nation" camp either. Their Democrat leadership is determined to continue its liberal progressive policies even if it means losing federal funding. Since California is actually a net donor it's unlikely it'd hurt them that much. Whether or not Trump intends to force his will upon them one way or another remains to be seen. He may elect to leave them alone and let them have their own way. If that's the case (due to states' rights ideologies it may well be) the split between red and blue states will become more pronounced, particularly if the net donor states stop donating to the federal fund; further impoverishing those states that "the free market" has left behind.

The crunch point: the market V the state

The ideological considerations (which I've always described as neoliberalism) driving policy can basically be broken down into a two-horse race between the market and the state. The partisan pattycake Blue Team V Red Team binary thinking game reduces people to thinking in terms of blind devotion to the state or to the market as provider and allocator of resources, forgetting that it's not as simple as that — and never will be. We actually need both, as the Texans are discovering; for all their bragging that their state is the best at providing for the rugged individual hoping to make good on the American Dream, the facts are a mixed bag of "Okay, fair enough, it's true that there are more jobs that pay well there" and "taxes that hit the poor the hardest are higher there."

In theory and in practice

While, in theory, Americans on the right of liberal progressivism tend to insist, "The market will take care of it," the fact is that they all rely on some kind of state intervention in some way, shape, or form, and will invariably change the subject when this is pointed out to them. If their employers elect to raise their wages to attract more workers, great, but if the government imposes a national minimum wage, that's wealth redistribution, that is. This ignores the fact that low-paid zero hours and gig economy jobs redistribute wealth upwards by forcing people to make themselves available for whatever they can get, denying them the opportunity to apply for and interview for jobs with more security and benefits.

The perils of populism

Trump is caught between a rock and a hard place: he is obliged to enact the religious zealotry and market-first policies preferred by the right wing anarchists and their glove puppets who currently occupy many of the the GOP seats in Congress (I'm looking at you, Paul Ryan, you Ayn Rand-loving little creep). These policies will be vigorously opposed by liberals and progressives alike. If he attempts to introduce or uphold social programs for the weak or vulnerable, the cry will ring out, "You must be a liberal socialist!" in which case his own party and their supporters will turn on him. Even the most devoutly religious ones believe that if God will provide, He will use the market to do so. Idealists like Brat can't or won't accept that it's not that Americans don't want social programs, they don't want social programs for "those people." This is the problem I have with the right. They're such epic hypocrites.

Can the Trump administration succeed?

If Trump is going to remain at the helm with any level of measurable success, he's going to have to try to get as many of the members of Congress — in both Houses — on board with his policies as he can. Democrats will vote with the Republicans if they agree with the policies for the good of the nation, but the question is, will Trump's policies be good for the nation? If they're not, will his party and its media mouthpieces be able to convince the American public that the only people doing the complaining are the kind of mewling, puking morons that can and should be ignored? This remains to be seen.

Where do Americans go from here?

As far as this blogger is concerned America has turned into a cartoonish Seth McFarlane/Matt Groening parody of itself because the people allowed themselves to be divided between two parties that don't actually represent them. There's only one way out: learn to love one another, discuss your differences, and agree on policies based on whether or not they work in practice rather than on principle alone. America needs good governance, not the kind of ruinous anarcho-capitalism that will surely usher in corporate tyranny while we watch from between our fingers. At least they won't be foisting any more horrible ISDS-ridden "trade agreements" on us. Methinks they're leaving that to the Canadians.

*This appears to mean, "People who have steady jobs." The bar keeps dropping as the definition shifts. It's one of the reasons why the word "class" annoys me.

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