Donald Trump Has Now Threatened To Harm Americans If He Doesn’t Get His Way. #MAGA?

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Via Jonathan Bernstein for Bloomberg

With the Republicans’ Plan C to vote for “repeal and delay” lasting about 12 hours or so before falling short of winning in the Senate, Donald Trump returned to his least attractive — and most foolish — position on health care: “We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail and then the Democrats are going to come to us.”

Let’s put aside for now the extent to which the Affordable Care Act would “fail” without active measures by the White House and the Republican Congress to undermine the state marketplaces; for that matter, ignore the extent to which active Republican resistance, such as the various lawsuits against the law and the decision by many Republican governors to not expand Medicaid, is responsible for a fair number of problems in the first place. Let’s just stipulate for the sake of argument that Trump is correct and the law is doomed if his administration and Republicans in Congress adopt a passive stance of watching and waiting.

The first point is just how monstrous Trump is bragging he will be. As Brendan Nyhan says:

Imagine if Ronald Reagan had said after Congress prohibited him from aiding anti-Communists in Nicaragua: “Fine. I’ll just surrender to the U.S.S.R. today. That’ll show ’em!” Or if Franklin Roosevelt, faced with sharp congressional resistance from isolationists, decided to disarm and allow the Axis to proceed at will. Or if George W. Bush had reacted to the first defeat of the Troubled Asset Relief Program in 2008 by publicly rooting for a worldwide economic meltdown.

This is worse because Trump has, in fact, undermined the health exchanges, and he has threatened to do so further; indeed, one estimate says that the bulk of projected 2018 premium increases are the result of Trump and other Republican actions, not a deterioration in the markets — in part because insurers are directly saying that’s why their rates are going up.

I certainly can’t think of any president who directly promised to harm the American people unless his political opponents let him have his way.

The closest analogy might be the Republican Congresses in 1995 and 2011, which shut down the government in (unsuccessful) efforts to win policy battles with Democratic presidents. At least those episodes were conceived of as short-term actions with fairly limited costs. A better parallel might be Obama-era Republican threats to default on the debt by refusing to raise the debt limit. That, like Trump’s boast on health care, was a threat to harm the American people if everyone didn’t do what one side — that didn’t have the votes — wanted. It’s a fundamental violation, in my view, of political ethics, far worse than (quite bad) sundry conflicts of interest or failures to disclose tax returns.

Trump is hardly the first politician to fall sadly short when it comes to ethics. So why aren’t there other examples of presidents who threatened to harm the American people?

Because it’s also self-defeating. Trump claims that voters will hold Barack Obama and the Democrats responsible for health care’s problems, but everything we know about retrospective voting says that outside of hard-core Republicans, who will back Trump no matter what, voters will blame the current president for anything that goes wrong, fairly or unfairly. Thus the many voters who blamed Obama and the Democrats in 2010 for the state of the economy. Thus the scattered studies of voters who turn against incumbents after totally unrelated events such as storms, losses by local sports teams and even shark attacks.

We could argue all day about who voters should hold responsible if they don’t like their health insurance, but the evidence says they will blame the incumbent president and his party.  

Fortunately, most politicians realize that and try hard to produce policies that will benefit their constituents. Sure, they’ll also make speeches in which they blame their predecessors for anything going wrong, but they’ll actively attempt to fix the problem, because they know that buck-passing rhetoric won’t work very well.

Of course, most politicians also entered public life at least in part to improve the conditions of the nation. But even those with nothing but raw ambition are smart enough to at least pretend (in their rhetoric) that they care about voters’ well-being, and smart enough to know that the way to satisfy that ambition involves keeping voters happy.

Most politicians. But evidently not this one.

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8 thoughts on “Donald Trump Has Now Threatened To Harm Americans If He Doesn’t Get His Way. #MAGA?

  1. Right on all counts. Especially about who gets held accountable for what happens on their watch, rightly or wrongly. The obama depression which is already underway will devastate all those up for re-election in 15 months time, when this mega-recession will just be starting to really bite (eventually much harder than the one ten years ago).

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    • @IRB: Agreed, but to refer to this depression as the “obama depression” is missing the bigger picture. We are in a depression because we hit 0% interest rates in 2009, and that popped the largest liquidity bubble of all time. It happened right in front of all of us, since 1981, when interest rates were at near 20% and began their epic 28-year plunge towards 0%.

      When interest rates fall: Money becomes cheaper to borrow, which incentives investment borrowing. For three decades that is all we even experienced, constantly falling rates and a mad flurry of investment capital. The world has never seen a liquidity bubble of that magnitude. $20 trillion dollars worth. But the falling stopped at 0%, like hitting a brick wall, collapsing a liquidity bubble the likes of which we may never see again.

      And this has always been about the Fed, which has sole control over changes in interest rates. In fact, no politician, including presidents, has control over any of the economic fundamentals, especially not changes in interest rates.

      When the global economy completely collapsed in 2009 the Fed panicked us into allowing QE, which was nothing more than the printing of $15 trillion in artificial liquidity, (in the U.S. alone). We have all been living off of that artificial liquidity for the past 8 years, and most of it went into artificially supported bubbles in stocks, bonds, and assets. And the effectiveness of QE is now coming to an end. What starts to happen this October, 2017 will be horrific.

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      • Fair enough. But obama called his recession the bush recession, so tit for tat. Truth is that the true economic outlook is nothing short of bleak, because socialism is reaching the point of failure as it has run out of others’ money to spend. Like running up a huge credit card bill you cannot possibly repay and the c/card is going to be taken away. In the end, the fault rests with ignorant voters who elect politicians making unrealistic promises that countries cannot afford in the long run. The chickens of that long run are finally coming home to roost. Prepare yourself as it will get nasty. Economic hardship, civil unrest, failing governments, war, destruction, disease, misery. Better leave the country while you still can like I already did.

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      • The next QE, after a brief trial of QT, will initially appear to help things bounce back a bit temporarily, but it will fail. Negative interest rates, helicopter money, and other monetary BS will serve to just make things worse ultimately. Trump is looking to fill the Fed with some creative (read bad) people like Goodfriend and Cohn.

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      • Fiat knows no ideology and no personalities. The wheels for Fiat were set into motion in 1965 with the passage of the Coinage Act (which took coins fiat). Was that Johnson’s fault, since he had to sign off on it? No, Johnson was playing the role of go-between for the Fed and the masses as any president or politician is supposed to do. Then we went full-blown Fiat in 1971. Was that Nixon’s fault? No.

        Interest rates immediately shot straight up to near 20%. Was that Ford’s and Carter’s fault. No, we had just gone Fiat is why. The rising rates peaked in 1981 and the Great Liquidity Bubble began (which is the whole point of creating a Fiat bubble. Was that Reagan’s fault? No.

        Is Fiat socialist? No. Is it capitalist? Sort of, but on steroids! Was it inevitable to collapse when the bubble hit 0%? Yes. Whose fault is all of this? First of all, Fiat gave us all of this wonderful technology that liquidity bubbles are meant to create, which was the whole point of going Fiat in the first place. It was lack of mass understanding of what Fiat really is that prevented us from being properly prepared. Including for what is about to happen as QE putters out and we all realize there was no recovery.

        The Fed architected all of this, but that is not where the real blame belongs. The lack of understanding, the lack of preparation, and the ridiculous us-versus-them mentality of the willfully ignorant masses is where the real fault belongs. Exactly as the Fed had wanted. Lots of people being completely distracted by thinking this is about personalities and ideologies. Divide and conquer. Our only hope this whole time is for enough people to start acting responsible about educating themselves on the big picture of what Fiat really is. And get completely away from this ignorant us-versus-them mentality.

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      • Yeah but that’s not going to happen. No where, no time. Not until human nature changes. Or, more likely, when the AI machines inherit the earth. I don’t care; I prefer machines to people. More logical & predictable.

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