Thursday, June 08, 2017

The Potemkin Policies of Donald Trump

There are many who have stated that Donald Trump, a/k/a Der Trumpenführer, decided to withdraw America from the Paris climate accord for purely domestic political purposes: he has failed to deliver so far on any of his campaign promises and, therefore, was desperate to throw a political bone to his base of Christofascists and xenophobes.  With his plans for health care reform - using the term "reform" very loosely - and an overhaul of the tax code going nowhere in Congress, trashing the Paris accord was the easiest way to convince his less than intellectually brilliant and non-analytical base a bone.  Indeed, it is part and parcel with Trump's effort to construct a Potemkin village if you will for his base - for Fox News viewers, a "Potemkin village is is any construction (literal or figurative) built solely to deceive others into thinking that a situation is better than it really is - so that they will believe he is actually doing something for them as promised even when he is failing to do so in fact. A piece in The Atlantic looks at Trump's failing policies and his efforts to continue to dupe the gullible in the GOP base.  Here are excerpts:
It’s “Infrastructure Week” at the White House. Theoretically.
On Monday, the administration announced a plan to spend $200 billion on infrastructure and overhaul U.S. air traffic control. There was a high-profile signing in the East Wing before dozens of cheering lawmakers and industry titans. It was supposed to be the beginning of a weeklong push to fix America’s roads, bridges, and airports.
But in the next two days, Trump spent more energy burning metaphorical bridges than trying to build literal ones. He could have stayed on message for several hours, gathered Democrats and Republicans to discuss a bipartisan agreement, and announced a timeframe. Instead he quickly turned his attention to Twitter to accuse media companies of “Fake News” while undermining an alliance with Qatar based on what may be, fittingly, a fake news story.
It’s a microcosm of this administration’s approach to public policy. A high-profile announcement, coupled with an ambitious promise, subsumed by an unrelated, self-inflicted public-relations crisis, followed by … nothing.
The secret of the Trump infrastructure plan is: There is no infrastructure plan. Just like there is no White House tax plan. Just like there was no White House health care plan. More than 120 days into Trump’s term in a unified Republican government, Trump’s policy accomplishments have been more in the subtraction category (e.g., stripping away environmental regulations) than addition. The president has signed no major legislation and left significant portions of federal agencies unstaffed, as U.S. courts have blocked what would be his most significant policy achievement, the legally dubious immigration ban.
The simplest summary of White House economic policy to date is four words long: There is no policy.
Consider the purported focus of this week. An infrastructure plan ought to include actual proposals, like revenue-and-spending details and timetables. The Trump infrastructure plan has little of that. Even the president’s speech on Monday was devoid of specifics. . . . . The ceremonial signing on Monday was pure theater. . . . Meanwhile, Congress isn’t working on infrastructure at all, according to Politico, and Republicans have shown no interest in a $200 billion spending bill.
In short, this “plan” is not a plan, so much as a Potemkin policy, a presentation devised to show the press and the public that the president has an economic agenda. The show continued on Wednesday, as the president delivered an infrastructure speech in Cincinnati that criticized Obamacare, hailed his Middle East trip, and offered no new details on how his plan would work. Infrastructure Week is a series of scheduled performances to make it look as if the president is hard at work on a domestic agenda that cannot move forward because it does not exist.
Journalists are beginning to catch on.  The administration’s policy drought has so far been obscured by a formulaic bait-and-switch strategy one could call the Two-Week Two-Step. Bloomberg has compiled several examples of the president promising major proposals or decisions on everything from climate-change policy to infrastructure “in two weeks.” He has missed the fortnight deadline almost every time.
The starkest false promise has been taxes. . . . . . the simplest summary of White House tax policy is: There is no plan. There isn’t even a complete staff to compose one.
The story is slightly different for the White House budget, but no more favorable. The budget suffers, not from a lack of details, but from a failure of numeracy that speaks to the administration’s indifference toward serious public policy.
Trump and his party are alike—united in their antagonism toward Obama-era policies and united in their inability to articulate what should come next. Republicans are trapped by campaign promises that they cannot fulfill. The White House is trapped inside of the president’s perpetual campaign, a cavalcade of economic promises divorced from any effort to detail, advocate, or enact major economic legislation. With an administration that uses public policy as little more than a photo op, get ready for many sequels to this summer’s Infrastructure Week.

The only good news is that since Trump's and the GOP's policies would likely be so bad for the country that it is a benefit that nothing is actually happening. 

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