It takes only two things to keep people in chains:
The ignorance of the oppressed
and the treachery of their leaders.
Normal people shake their heads in bewilderment when they see Donald Trump’s poll numbers. “How,” they ask, “could (approximately) 1/3 of Americans still approve of Trump’s minimal “accomplishments” and outrageous actions?
Ask a Trump follower this question and you will receive several answers, all of which seem to be a part of three basic answers.
1. The “whatabout” defense that excuses everything. Mention any of Trump’s misdeeds, no matter how awful, and his backers will say, “What about Hillary (or Obama, or Bill Clinton, or the Democrats)?
The idea is that unless the Democrats are 100% perfect, and other Democrats have not seemed to be sufficiently critical, Trump is given leave to do anything, no matter how awful.
Attacking women is OK if Bill Clinton also attacked women. Lying is OK if Obama ever lied. Being a crook is OK if Hillary also did something questionable. The child’s excuse for being naughty is that some other child was naughty, too.
2. The “fake news” defense, which claims that any news critical of Trump is fake, and unless news comes from Brietbart or FOX, it has no credibility. No need to think or provide any facts. Merely close your eyes and shout “Fake News.”
3. The “He tells it like it is,” defense, which means Trump “mirrors his backers’ own hatreds — hatreds of blacks, browns, Mexicans, foreigners, Muslims, women, gays, and the poor. So long as Trump is tough on any hated group, all his actions are endorsed. Hitler taught this.
The “whatabout” defense is illogical because no amount of evil done by others should excuse the evil done by the President of the United States. (“Your honor, I killed him, but it’s OK because others have killed people.”)
The “fake news” defense is illogical because not everything negative can be fake news, though Trump claims it is. (“If it comes from CNN or the NY Times, it’s always a lie. If it comes from Breitbart or FOX it’s the truth.”)
The purpose of this post is to focus on the “He tells it like it is” defense. Does Trump really “tell it like it is,” or are his followers adding their own meanings to Trump’s ramblings.
Here is Trump’s famous answer to a question about the Iran nuclear deal, as reprinted in a This Week article (“The case for reading Trump”) by Bonnie Kristian:
“Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, okay, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart — you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, okay, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world — it’s true! — but when you’re a conservative Republican they try — oh, do they do a number — that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune — you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged — but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me — it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right — who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners — now it used to be three, now it’s four — but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years — but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.”
I suspect that no thinking person would consider that response to be “telling it like it is.” So what is going on, here?
Trump’s followers mentally edit what Trump actually says. They fill in the blanks so the context means what they want it to mean. For instance:
“Look, having nuclear. . . my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, okay, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart” – – –
This was random, rambling gobbledegook, having nothing to do with the Iranian nuclear agreement. But, to a Trump follower, it translates to: “I was born a very smart man who knows all about nuclear issues, so trust me.”
” . . . you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, okay, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world — it’s true! —
Here, he tells his audience he not only has smart genes, but he is one of the smartest people in the world. Oh, really? No thinking person believes that, but thinking isn’t necessary. Thinking is discouraged. Belief is necessary.
” . . . but when you’re a conservative Republican they try — oh, do they do a number — that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune — you know I have to give my like credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged. . . “
In his mind, and in the minds of his followers, “‘they’” (Democrats) don’t respect ‘our’ (your and my) intelligence so I have to brag to prove it to them.”
” . . . but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me — it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right — who would have thought?) . . . “
This last is incomprehensible. “Not as important as lives”? What does that mean? And, imagine someone saying he knows nuclear is powerful because his uncle told him so, 35 years ago — and his uncle was right. This bit of ignorance comes to you from “one of the smartest people in the whole world.”
But his followers understand it as great wisdom. They hear something like: “I have my uncle’s brains, and I am so smart I easily could have done a better deal.”
What is the better deal? How does Trump know what he claims? No need to answer. Just trust him.
” . . . but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners — now it used to be three, now it’s four — but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger; fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so, you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years . . .”
“Used to be three, now it’s four . . . “ means, “Our people were so confused about details, they could not negotiate well.”
“. . . it’s all in the messenger . . .” probably implies that our people were weak, while Trump would have been strong.
“. . . the women are smarter right now than the men,” means that Muslims are backward, and so we should have been able to out-negotiate them, but . . .
” . . . but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us.”
His climax: You were let down by Obama because he let even these backward Muslims get the best of us.
Trump’s followers, having heard a con man’s double-talk, came away with the feeling that they had heard common sense wisdom from one of the smartest people in the world.
Like so many dictators, Trump is a great speechifier. He can harangue an audience with the best of them. His people don’t really care what he says so much as “what he means.” And “what he means” is what they mean, what they believe, and what they want.
Because what Trump actually says is rank nonsense, his White House handlers repeatedly feel the need to explain what Trump “really meant” in his last speech.
That also is why the “whatabout” defense and the “fake news” defense are used so often. It is almost impossible to defend what Trump says and does, so all one can do is attack imagined enemies. (“If he said something stupid, it’s because Hillary is crooked.”)
If you can meet every negative with variations on “What about Hillary,” and “That’s just fake news,” you don’t really need to think about facts.
This is the source of frustration for the 2/3 of Americans who recognize Trump’s massive failings. They wonder why the other 1/3 doesn’t get it. But the other 1/3 does get “it,” and the “it” they get is that: “Trump is great, and despite any defects you people claim he has, he is fighting against my enemies and for me.”
The “Whatabout” and “fake news” and “He tells it like it is,” defenses are impenetrable. They cannot be overcome with facts. Reality means nothing. Trump can do no wrong. All evil is excused.
The Trump defenses are a first cousin to covering your ears and screaming, “I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you.”
Think of it: Trump has cheated poor employees and students, cheated rich investors and lenders, cheated on his wives, cheated on his foundation and his taxes; he lies and brags incessantly, and does not attend any church — yet those of the so-called “religious” right — the righteous right who demand “law & order” for others — they love him.
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Twitter: @rodgermitchell; Search #monetarysovereignty
Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
The most important problems in economics involve the excessive income/wealth/power Gaps between the have-mores and the have-less.
Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics.
Implementation of The Ten Steps To Prosperity can narrow the Gaps:
Ten Steps To Prosperity:
1. ELIMINATE FICA (Ten Reasons to Eliminate FICA )
Although the article lists 10 reasons to eliminate FICA, there are two fundamental reasons:
*FICA is the most regressive tax in American history, widening the Gap by punishing the low and middle-income groups, while leaving the rich untouched, and
*The federal government, being Monetarily Sovereign, neither needs nor uses FICA to support Social Security and Medicare.
2. FEDERALLY FUNDED MEDICARE — PARTS A, B & D, PLUS LONG TERM CARE — FOR EVERYONE (H.R. 676, Medicare for All )
This article addresses the questions:
*Does the economy benefit when the rich can afford better health care than can the rest of Americans?
*Aside from improved health care, what are the other economic effects of “Medicare for everyone?”
*How much would it cost taxpayers?
*Who opposes it?”
3. PROVIDE A MONTHLY ECONOMIC BONUS TO EVERY MAN, WOMAN AND CHILD IN AMERICA (similar to Social Security for All) (The JG (Jobs Guarantee) vs the GI (Guaranteed Income) vs the EB (Economic Bonus)) Or institute a reverse income tax.
This article is the fifth in a series about direct financial assistance to Americans:
Why Modern Monetary Theory’s Employer of Last Resort is a bad idea. Sunday, Jan 1 2012
MMT’s Job Guarantee (JG) — “Another crazy, rightwing, Austrian nutjob?” Thursday, Jan 12 2012
Why Modern Monetary Theory’s Jobs Guarantee is like the EU’s euro: A beloved solution to the wrong problem. Tuesday, May 29 2012
“You can’t fire me. I’m on JG” Saturday, Jun 2 2012
Economic growth should include the “bottom” 99.9%, not just the .1%, the only question being, how best to accomplish that. Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) favors giving everyone a job. Monetary Sovereignty (MS) favors giving everyone money. The five articles describe the pros and cons of each approach.
4. FREE EDUCATION (INCLUDING POST-GRAD) FOR EVERYONE Five reasons why we should eliminate school loans
Monetarily non-sovereign State and local governments, despite their limited finances, support grades K-12. That level of education may have been sufficient for a largely agrarian economy, but not for our currently more technical economy that demands greater numbers of highly educated workers.
Because state and local funding is so limited, grades K-12 receive short shrift, especially those schools whose populations come from the lowest economic groups. And college is too costly for most families.
An educated populace benefits a nation, and benefitting the nation is the purpose of the federal government, which has the unlimited ability to pay for K-16 and beyond.
5. SALARY FOR ATTENDING SCHOOL
Even were schooling to be completely free, many young people cannot attend, because they and their families cannot afford to support non-workers. In a foundering boat, everyone needs to bail, and no one can take time off for study.
If a young person’s “job” is to learn and be productive, he/she should be paid to do that job, especially since that job is one of America’s most important.
6. ELIMINATE FEDERAL TAXES ON BUSINESS
Businesses are dollar-transferring machines. They transfer dollars from customers to employees, suppliers, shareholders and the federal government (the later having no use for those dollars). Any tax on businesses reduces the amount going to employees, suppliers and shareholders, which diminishes the economy. Ultimately, all business taxes reduce your personal income.
7. INCREASE THE STANDARD INCOME TAX DEDUCTION, ANNUALLY. (Refer to this.) Federal taxes punish taxpayers and harm the economy. The federal government has no need for those punishing and harmful tax dollars. There are several ways to reduce taxes, and we should evaluate and choose the most progressive approaches.
Cutting FICA and business taxes would be a good early step, as both dramatically affect the 99%. Annual increases in the standard income tax deduction, and a reverse income tax also would provide benefits from the bottom up. Both would narrow the Gap.
8. TAX THE VERY RICH (THE “.1%) MORE, WITH HIGHER PROGRESSIVE TAX RATES ON ALL FORMS OF INCOME. (TROPHIC CASCADE)
There was a time when I argued against increasing anyone’s federal taxes. After all, the federal government has no need for tax dollars, and all taxes reduce Gross Domestic Product, thereby negatively affecting the entire economy, including the 99.9%.
But I have come to realize that narrowing the Gap requires trimming the top. It simply would not be possible to provide the 99.9% with enough benefits to narrow the Gap in any meaningful way. Bill Gates reportedly owns $70 billion. To get to that level, he must have been earning $10 billion a year. Pick any acceptable Gap (1000 to 1?), and the lowest paid American would have to receive $10 million a year. Unreasonable.
9. FEDERAL OWNERSHIP OF ALL BANKS (Click The end of private banking and How should America decide “who-gets-money”?)
Banks have created all the dollars that exist. Even dollars created at the direction of the federal government, actually come into being when banks increase the numbers in checking accounts. This gives the banks enormous financial power, and as we all know, power corrupts — especially when multiplied by a profit motive.
Although the federal government also is powerful and corrupted, it does not suffer from a profit motive, the world’s most corrupting influence.
10. INCREASE FEDERAL SPENDING ON THE MYRIAD INITIATIVES THAT BENEFIT AMERICA’S 99.9% (Federal agencies)Browse the agencies. See how many agencies benefit the lower- and middle-income/wealth/ power groups, by adding dollars to the economy and/or by actions more beneficial to the 99.9% than to the .1%.
Save this reference as your primer to current economics. Sadly, much of the material is not being taught in American schools, which is all the more reason for you to use it.
The Ten Steps will grow the economy, and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and you.