It’s our first Christmas with the infantile Donald J. Trump in the White House, and if some of Melania Trump’s holiday decorations failed to convince you that this is a very strange time, the record of this administration just might do the trick.
Imagine working for the Centers for Disease Control and being ordered to eliminate words from your professional vocabulary on budget documents – words like fetus, science-based, evidence-based, transgender, and diversity. The only possible explanation is that Trump and his people seem determined not to let actual descriptions of progress stand in the way of their defiant ignorance.
Elsewhere there are signs of a conspiracy between Republicans and their in-house news agency, Pravda, er, Fux News, which was first to report a story about Trump transition lawyers claiming that special counsel Robert Mueller illegally obtained emails from the transition team in his ongoing investigation of Russia’s influence in last year’s election. A theory is that the conspirators are trying to lay down a cover story so Trump can fire Mueller, if he wishes. Trump, for his part, says he has no plans to do that, but since when can we take the guy at his word? Trump could be lying when he says ‘good morning.’ He probably lies in his dreams.
As for those emails, a spokesman for Mueller was careful to point out they were acquired lawfully. One possibility for the mix-up is that the transitioners failed to comprehend that the communications infrastructure of the General Services Administration, the government agency that aided the team, is considered public rather than private, so when Mueller’s people requested the emails they were simply handed over.
One thing seems certain in this first year of the New Trump Order – the little guy is getting screwed. Analyses of the tax bill continue to suggest that the rich will get richer from tax cuts–a departure from repeated claims by Trump and top officials that the bill would not benefit the rich–and there will be huge cuts for corporations. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times Opinion section that a last-minute addition gives huge breaks to elected officials who own a lot of income-producing real estate — officials like Donald Trump and Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who vehemently opposed the tax bill until suddenly he didn’t, with little in the way of an explanation. The web site Vox, which points out that we’re currently witnessing the “wholesale looting of America,” also explains that the bill raises taxes on 53 percent of Americans in its last year, a year in which nearly 83 percent of the bill’s benefit would go to the top one percent of earners.
And now it’s time to discuss Net Neutrality. Just about the time many of us began to understand what it actually was, we learned that it’s going away. Trump’s FCC has decided to eliminate it. So what does that mean? Well, there has been plenty of speculation, very little of it good. The leading scenario is this, according to a site called Save the Internet: “Companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon will be able to call all the shots and decide which websites, content and applications succeed. These companies can now slow down their competitors’ content or block political opinions they disagree with. They can charge extra fees to the few content companies that can afford to pay for preferential treatment — relegating everyone else to a slower tier of service. So much for the internet as a utility.” Many developed countries around the world practice uphold Net Neutrality. Among the nations that don’t: North Korea, Burma, China, Iran, Syria, Russia and Turkmenistan. That’s quite a roll call.
While President Numb Nuts continues to blow up Twitter over slights real and imagined, a recipe for chaos he has been using effectively for quite some time, quiet revolutions are underway across a couple of fronts. Let’s start with the judiciary. Trump has won appointments for a number of federal and appellate nominees as well as a Supreme Court nominee, and while the administration has suffered embarrassments from several candidates recently, suggesting some incomplete vetting, the net effect is that a substantial reshaping of the federal bench is underway. The new judges are young, have strong academic credentials, and have clerked for well-known conservative judges. And they’re appointed for life, which means, of course, that they’ll be ruling on cases long after Trump’s departure. And observers warn of an ever greater danger, as explained in the New York Times: “when Democrats regain power, if they follow the same playbook and systematically appoint outspoken liberal judges, the appeals courts will end up as ideologically split as Congress is today.”
The other revolution is in the regulatory world. The recent decision on Net Neutrality was a rare well-publicized example. Many, many other regulations have been lifted quietly or soon will be, decisions that figure to primarily benefit big business and/or Trump cronies. Trump recently claimed that for every new regulation within the federal government, his administration has removed a staggering 22. A look at just the environmental side is distressing. National Geographic is keeping a running list of environmental actions and policy changes, including the recent removal of climate change from a list of national security threats. The running list has several dozen items.
Trump’s biggest “gift” to America may be that he’s making an already-polarized country even more divided. His job-approval ratings have scraped along at historically low levels, but there is a huge partisan gap within those numbers. While he has retained strong support from many Republicans, he is almost universally reviled by Democrats. In Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling, some 80 percent of Republicans consistently say they approve of the president’s performance, a historically high figure. But fewer than 10 percent of Democrats approve of Trump’s performance. That 70-point gap is as big as any seen in modern polling. It is more than double the partisan gap created by another infamous president, Richard Nixon, more than 40 years ago.
While it’s basically true that this year’s holiday bundle from Trump isn’t looking good for many of us, there’s hope on the horizon – there is always hope. Recent polling indicates that a majority of Americans favor a Congress controlled by Democrats, which at the very least would clip Trump’s wings and perhaps even send him packing, and that would be a thoroughly delightful gift in 2018. But there’s a long way to go between now and November – 11 months might as well be several geological ages when it comes to politics. So hold on, everybody; hold on to your wallets.