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Trump Governance

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I guess we can try to hang our hopes on the Trump administration being so utterly incompetent, so corrupt, and so concerned with purging internal enemies that maybe, just maybe, the damage will be limited. Well, good luck with that.

Mike Konczal on what the new era of Republican governance is going to look like. He makes three basic points. First, this doesn’t compare to 2009 because Republicans don’t even want Democratic votes, whereas Obama wanted Republican votes.

Obama did this all for many reasons, including the idea that his Presidency could overcome the strong partisan and ideological differences in the country. McConnell’s refusal to meet him anywhere was successful because President Obama, practically and ideologically, really wanted to make it work. Later in 2011, Obama would chase Republicans down rabbit holes to get any budget deal, offering 6-to-1 spending cuts to tax increases to secure a Grand Bargain, which Republicans rejected even though it was their own economics staff’s number. Obama wanting to win Republicans was often compared to Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football in an artifact of the time period called “the blogosphere.”

Here’s the flip side: the Ryan Agenda is designed in no way to appeal to, or rely on, liberals and Democrats. It’s been engineered to pass through reconciliation on a party line vote. All those times liberals made fun of Republicans for passing party-line bills that would get vetoed Republicans were simply doing test runs for what they would do with unified government, testing the boundaries of their members and the institutions themselves.

Second, the infrastructure program is going to be a huge grift.

As David Dayen writes in detail, the Trump infrastructure plan is engineered to be a crony, privatization nightmare. It’s not Hoover Dam and the WPA, it’s the toll road between Austin and San Antonio, Texas that is already falling apart and causing flooding while making outsized private profits. “Public-private partnerships” means poorly executed, cheap labor and big financial returns. It’s all tax credits, so it’s not even clear it counts as actual stimulus to get the economy going. The best ask if infrastructure goes forward is a strong Democrat to oversee and investigate the implementation, like Joe Biden did for the ARRA, but I bet that would be dead on arrival. The media is portraying this as Clinton’s infrastructure plan or the ARRA Part Two, but this is different in kind, not just degrees. It’s almost engineered to fail.

Third, all the different parts of Trump’s allies can work fine together. Ryan wants to decimate Medicare, Bannon wants to oppress black people. They won’t get in each other’s way.

Supporting even more aggressive policing of black communities exist perfectly fine next to privatizing Medicare and block-granting all income support programs. Rounding up three million undocumented people in a year is totally chill with eliminating progressive taxation. Creating a database of Muslims is like peanut butter and jelly with deregulating the financial derivatives market.

Do your homework on Hayek in Pinochet’s Chile, William F. Buckley in Franco’s Spain and the history of how punitive and carceral-minded classical liberals were, to see that the contradictions won’t fix anything. In general, hoping ideological contradictions will save us is a fool’s errand, but here there aren’t even the contradictions.

Konczal brings a little hope in the end because they are so far from being ready to actually govern effectively, not to mention dealing with the political impact of their actions. But really they are, which is massive voter suppression so they never face the consequences. It’s a lot to overcome.

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