Are We Headed for Fascism Under President Trump?

Posted on January 10th, 2017 in Capitalism,Climage Change,Culture by Robert Miller
Donald Trump

Donald Trump: who me?

Most of us are wondering what positions Donald Trump will offer next, to further remind us that the days of the Obama administration are dwindling down to a precious few!—-and we now have to worry about how far right we have to turn to placate Donald Trump’s White House ambitions. It looks like Obamacare is next on the chopping block, but delayed by a year or two. But let me paint a darker picture (if there is one) of what’s going on; I have said on numerous occasions said that I don’t blame the Trump voters for voting the way they did on November 8th. I blame the Republican (mostly) and Democratic parties (more than a little) and the financial institutions (a lot), for allowing the income disparity to be so grossly distorted that it now represents some form of evil—-we need more labor unions to begin fixing this problem. It is clear, at least to me, that there will be no peacemaking between the two parties; the are permanently divided without the possibility of a peaceful settlement between them. The increased worker productivity changes, that have occurred over the past thirty years, has not been rewarded by appropriate compensation in worker’s salaries, nor will their be, as long as the Republican party is in control. I expect that it will take many years and perhaps a few depressions before the Democrats are in control; and I hope by then it will be a completely different Democratic party.

But, what I do blame the voters that voted for Trump is their embarrassing naivete, because I fear that,  they will support Trumps’ turn to fascism which I fear is just around the corner, given what we have already seen from Donald Trump. I am not the only person worried about this coming reality; you have only to search the web with two words “Trump” and “Fascism” and you will be rewarded by an abundance of good articles. One cautionary note is provided by Robert O. Paxton which you can read about here. He claims that fascism is overused.

As Herman Goring [Hitler’s second in command] once said “Naturally, the common people don’t want war … but after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country. Trump has already picked his enemy, it’s ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] and he has already blown this all out of proportion to the threat. So Trump has already laid the groundwork for his underlying fascism. He only has to dress it up and call it by another name. How about “Global Market Nationalism.” After all the Hitler’s party was named National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Compared to that party the one I am proposing  sounds entirely innocent of any fascist-leaning moniker.

Fascism is an interesting term if you look it up in an ordinary dictionary, you might find fascism defined as an “authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.” One of the characters they name as the gold standard for  fascism is Benito  Mussolini, but I prefer another definition related more to Adolph Hitler, and that is the wedding of the state with major corporate interests. Krupp steel did very well under Hitler’s regime, because the weapons manufacturing relied on steel for tanks, guns, cannons, machine guns, trucks and so forth. And that is what I fear most of all about the Trump presidency; we already know that we have a military-industrial complex itching to go to war, because that’s when they make huge profits. At the end of WW II, one of FDR’s business advisers said that business was so good during the war, the country should be on a permanent war footing!  Well, we are almost there. I hope I’m wrong, I hope Trump will turn out to be an incompetent fool, so we can all get a good laugh at his colossal blunders.  But these days we do not do blunders very well; our blunders always seem to cost billions or trillions of dollars!

And that brings us to the subject of education. Hermann Goring also said that education is a very dangerous—-every educated person is a future enemy. While it is safe to say that most Trump supporters are uneducated,  If you think you can generalize about the people that voted for Trump, think again; USA Today has a fascinating summary of the Trump voters which you can see here. One thing you will note is that many of them start off by saying how much they dislike Hillary Clinton, and that too brings us to another point of discussion which is that Donald Trump very successfully painted a very negative portrait of Hillary Clinton for her private email server, something I find trivially absurd, and too much of the campaign was devoted to this trivial issue.

If fascism comes to America, it probably won’t be recognized as such, at least not at first. Robert Paxton has written an excellent book The Anatomy of Fascism wherein he provides an excellent example of what fascism will look like if one of the other forms of fascism comes knocking on our door. Fascism was an invention of the 20th century

Recently we have a report from the CIA, that claimed evidence for Russian election tampering favoring promoting the election of Donald Trump. Of course he has denied this, claiming that the CIA failed to find evidence for  Saddam Hussein, of Iraq, for having weapons of mass destruction. I have commented on many occasions of the deficiencies of the CIA, particularly their covert operations. They are secretive and too many of their operations have given American foreign policy a very bad name. One thing you can do to retrieve many of my objections to the CIA, is to go to my website (themillercircle.org) and in the search bar type in the word CIA and you will be rewarded with a never-ending long list of missives, but one of my favorites and be found here. Charles Blow has written a stinging criticism of Donald Trump which you can read here. It’s a very good read.

On another disturbing note about the Trump election, Rachel Maddow conducted a post-election poll and here are some of the results

  • The stock market under President Obama soared and went from 7,49.09 (Dow) to 19,614.91 yet 39% of Trump voters think the stock market went down under President Obama
  • Unemployment under Obama dropped from 7.8% to 4.6%, Clinton, Johnson, Stein and other voters were well of that fact. But 67% of the Trump voters believe that unemployment rate increased under Obama
  • 40% of Trump voters believe that Trump won the popular vote.
  • 60% of Trump voters believe that millions voted illegally for Clinton
  • 73% of Trump voters believe that George Soros paid Trump protesters
  • 29% of Trump voters believe that California voters should not be included in the popular vote

From these astonishing facts, we have to assume that the Trump voters live in a different reality compared to the rest of the world that most of us live in. This too is a bit frightening to contemplate, because if we assume that the voters who voted for Trump can be this blind to reality, then are we not already firmly planted with at least one foot in the fascist camp, just waiting for the other shoe to be inserted in the phantasmagorical mess? None of us have a crystal ball from which we can anticipate the future. But we must resist with every fiber of our being, the Senate needs to be firm and resist every cabinet appointment for Trump. By doing this, we must never let him never forget that we will all go down fighting to save our Democracy, even though today, we find ourselves in an oligarchy, but hope springs eternal! (in this case I define an oligarchy as one in which the vast majority of Americans favor retention or expansion of Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, in poll after poll, but we don’t see this expressed in congress because the lobbyists and congress itself will pursue polices against the will of the people.

I am not sure if we will recognize the transition from oligarchy to fascism; maybe the transition will be too subtle for detection. But armed with a good bullshit detector, like the one God gave to me, I will steadfastly report back to you once I smell the foul in the air.

We have yet to understand the impact of FBI director Jim Comey’s untoward intrusion into our Federal election. But it does not look good and he should be charged with electioneering fraud.

Donald Trump and the racist-conspiracy theorists, generals and billionaires around him inherited and exploited this condition, just as they have inherited and will exploit the destruction of civil liberties and collapse of democratic institutions. Trump did not create this political, moral and intellectual vacuum. It created him.

So if we look at the Republican party today, we see a prefascist party with no moral code whatsoever. They are endangering the lives of our children and grandchildren, due to their complete mistrust of  global climate change science, they have put profit before humanity, but right now the seem to have the power to do whatever they want!

We used to count on the European community for steadfast wisdom, but those days are gone and Europe is beginning to look a lot like Trumpville in America. So they’re out.

We must resist their malevolent actions, which is clearly aimed at subduing us and our neighbors. I have never felt so alone in my own country. Everything Donald Trump stands for I must reject as unconstitutional

RFM

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What Americans don’t know about the distribution of wealth in their own country

Posted on November 30th, 2016 in Capitalism,Culture,Economy,Education,Politics,Religion by Robert Miller

Originally Posted on August 17th, 2011 in Culture,Economy,Government,Politics by Robert Miller | Edit

Fig. 1 Quartile divisions of wealth accumulation: Country A is fictional, Country B is Sweden and Country C is the United States

I am reissuing this posting, all attributed to the election of Donal J. Trump. I expect his administration to be the most corrupt adminstration in history. I am sure we will see many clowns as members of his administration. Perhaps there is some sunshine that will illuminate his administration, because I expect that he will offer no rewards for the people that elected him, and if the Democrats are smart, they will make inroads into the people who elected Trump, by recognizing LABOR UNIONS, once the center point of FDR’s New Deal.

If you were hoping that Americans were well informed about the increasing disparity in wealth distribution in America, this posting will disappoint you. Perhaps you’ve heard the story already. A few nights ago on the PBS News Hour, financial correspondent Paul Solman gave a little quiz as he walked through Times Square, interviewing different people and asking them questions based on the pie chart illustrated in Fig. 1. The three pie charts are divided into quintile (5 x 20%) sectors based on the percentage of total wealth of the country by each quintile (see wealth definition below); yellow is the top 20%, blue the next 20% followed in order by red, green and orange at the bottom 20%). Three different countries are represented by the three different pie charts. The first of two different questions Solman posed was: suppose the country’s wealth was divided into the quintiles represented by the colors–in which country would you prefer to live? The majority pointed to either Country A, which is a fictitious country, with total wealth shared equally among the five different sectors, or the Country B, which is represented by Sweden. Among those interviewed, very few selected the bottom pie chart, Country C, which is in fact the wealth distribution for the United States, in which the top 20% of the wealthiest Americans own 84 percent of the total wealth. That question by itself suggests that the majority of Americans in Solman’s sample would prefer to live in a country that has a more equitable distribution of wealth, which for them, doesn’t exist. But then the more obvious question was put forward when Solman asked, which among these three countries do you live in–which one is America? The majority of those interviewed pointed to Country A or Country B and very few selected Country C. Yet when Solman presented the pie charts to nearby entry level workers, they had no difficulty identifying the United States as  Country C.                                                                                                                                                                                          

Solman’s little quiz would hardly stand the test of statistical scrutiny because his limited sample was certainly skewed, undersized and biased in many different ways. He was actually interviewing the crowd waiting to get into the Dave Letterman Show (except the entry level workers didn’t seem to be in that line). But in fact, he was merely echoing a more complete and extensive  study carried out by two academics, Michael I. Norton and Dan Ariely, professors from, respectively,  the Harvard Business School and the Psychology Department at Duke University. The title of their paper “Building a Better America–One Wealth Quintile at a Time” was published on-line in Perspectives on Psychological Science.They had carried out a larger study asking similar questions, but with a nationally representative  online sample size of 5522, with 51% female (mean age 44.4), randomly selected from a panel of more than 1 million Americans and completed in 2005. Median household income in their sample was $45,000, similar to that reported in the 2006 U.S. census data; in the 2004 election; 50.6% voted for Bush and 46% for Kerry, which was close to the actual outcome. All respondents had the same working definition of wealth which was read to them at the time: “wealth, also known as net worth is defined as the total value of everything someone owns minus the debt that he or she owes. A person’s net worth includes his or her banking account savings plus the value of other things such as property, stocks, bonds, art, collections, etc., minus the value of things like loans and mortgages.” Each respondent was told about Rawl’s expression of a just society: imagine if you joined this nation, you would be randomly assigned to a place in the distribution, so that you could end up anywhere in this distribution, from the very richest to the very poorest. So that instruction makes the study a little different than the simple interview that Solman carried out. Not surprisingly people overwhelmingly selected Country A or Country B. The actual numbers from their paper are shown in the shade covered pie charts of Fig. 2 ; equal distribution got 43%, Sweden got 47% and the U.S. got 10%; the comparisons between individual countries was Sweden 51/49 over equal; Sweden 92/8 over USA and equal was favored over the USA 77/23. These differences were robust across gender lines, political affiliations and personal income. The slight preference for Sweden over the equal distribution country implied that Americans wanted at least some inequality in the distribution of wealth. So the Norton & Ariely study was based on the idea that you had to decide which country you would join, when the economic strata you would occupy was randomized and you could be at the top or anywhere in between, but the decision would not be yours. When asked in this way, Americans chose a more equitable distribution than that found in the United States today.                                                                                                                                                                   

The next part of the survey will surprise no one. The general strategy is displayed in Fig. 3. The upper horizontal bar graph shows the actual distribution of wealth in America. Notice that on this scale, the fourth and fifth bottom quintiles (purple and light blue) are so small that they cannot be represented adequately using the graph scale.  If you find this shocking, then you should read Barbara Ehrenreich’s excellent book Nickel and Dimed: About (Not) Getting by in America to see how problematic it is for people who do not have sufficient stability in income to keep afloat in America. We do not pay enough for entry level positions, such as maids, janitors, waitresses and WallMart employees. Today, one in six Americans gets food stamps. But, back to the graph.

The middle bar shows the estimated wealth distribution in America, projected by averaging the results of all those surveyed, as they attempted to gauge the wealth distribution of America.  For this bar, each person had to estimate the relative wealth distribution for each of the quintiles. It is apparent that the group way underestimated the amount of wealth owned by top quintile  You will also notice that on this bar, all quintiles have representation, meaning that the average American doesn’t know that the lower 40 percent of Americans do not have enough wealth to have representation on the scale of the bar graph. The relative wealth of the lower 40 percent of Americans is invisible graphically as well as invisible to most Americans. The very bottom bar, shows what those polled would like to see in a “perfect America.” In that non-existent state “perfect America” looks very balanced, with a progressively smaller percentage of wealth assigned to lower quintiles of the wealth scale, but every quintile as a more robust presence. So, here too Americans want to see the “wealthy” better off, but compared to the society we currently have (top bar), they would like to see a far healthier America, with wealth distribution more equitable.

There were other small differences in the outcome Of Norton and Ariely’s study, depending on whether they looked at the results by groups, based on salary differences, gender, Republican vs Democrat, but these differences were small compared to average, indicating that most Americans had similar views when making these kinds of judgements. My conclusion from this  study is that American citizens don’t know how skewed the wealth curve distribution is in their own country, but if they could design a different country, they would generate a more equitable society. So, in terms of wealth distribution, social policies, including health care and social security, the formation of unions and the value of public education, Americans consistently support a view that is to the left of the current President or most members of Congress. The reason why this view does not dominate our political and social philosophy is because our political system is not based on an equitable distribution of representation (imagine how utterly skewed it is that California and Wyoming get the same number of Senators) and the financial costs of running an election are so great that every candidate at the national level needs support from a sugar daddy who is generally from from big business and is always far to the right of where most people are with respect to social policy and income equity. And, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling of three years ago, corporations can throw unlimited funds to sway our political system so that it subserves the interests of corporations–the bigger the better. Whether these problems can be politically solved or not, whether America can reach for a sense of economic justice remains to be seen, but so far the polarization in America, which is now being accelerated by paranoia and demagoguery, has yet to reveal any hint that we can avoid a train wreck in our future. The best we can do is keep plugging away, keep arguing as rationally as we can and hope that the quality of our drinking water improves so that a rational society can re-emerge some time in the near future. American business has failed the country. Perhaps we could rationalize their huge paychecks, if in return they met their responsibilities and provided good paying jobs for all Americans. But in fact the evidence is clear–the interests of big business is to remove more wealth from the middle and lower income classes and make additional profits for themselves. This cannot continue. Many have argued that the wealth distribution in America  was not created by the wealthy, but was in fact a transfer of wealth from the Middle Class and the poor through their failure to keep wages growing with prosperity.

RFM

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What is in our future with the election of Donald Trump?

Posted on November 11th, 2016 in Culture by Robert Miller

First of all, I strongly endorse the new article that appeared in the New Yorker written by David Remnik entitled An American Tragedy.

But let’s switch the subject……….Here is a fanciful notion. Right now the Republican party is conflicted: it consists of the white uneducated voters [Ninety-four percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton. Sixty-eight percent of Latina women did so. But 53 percent of the white female voters in this country voted for Donald Trump], and that factor alone put Donald Trump in the White House. But the Republican party still contains lots of rich folks and therein lies the problem: the uneducated white guys and white women, want to be a full time member of the club, meaning that they will demand improved wages and the trappings of a middle class life that they lived had many years ago [Did they really live a middle class life many years ago, or is that a lot of hogwash?] But the rich guys in the Republican party are probably not of a mind to let them have what they want; it’s not in their DNA.

Here is the new opportunity for the Democrats

What if we went back to the old days when the Democratic party sided with labor unions and we attempted to rebuild the Democratic party based on strong unions. Remember that it has only been since the election of the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, that we have failed to endorse labor unions. FDR built his entire New Deal on the force of labor unions, he referred to Detroit as the “Arsenal of Democracy.” Now look at the contrast: the Republican party is split due the recent election of Donald Trump. But that same Republican party is split down the middle [I don’t think we know the true differences in party membership since the election of Trump]. How difficult would it be to have the Democrats go back and foster labor unions? Every Democrat is somehow affiliated with labor unions. I did not know until I read Frank Thomas’s new book  Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? Until I read that book, I didn’t know, that as a Democrat, I was supposed to be against labor unions. In truth, I have always favored labor unions and I believe to this day that the entire basis of the Democratic  Party should center their party organization around strong labor unions, and because the Democrats, are at the very least opposed to them I wonder if we should start a new party that emphasizes labor unions and take the Trump votes away from the Republicans. Now I am not naive enough to know there are problems with this idea. Long ago the working class white guys got caught up in the idea that the cultural wars restricted the direction that the Democratic party was headed during these cultural wars. Things like abortion, religion and Terry Schiavo and all the other trappings that determined the cultural split between the union guys and the college educated white guys. But these cultural wars are beginning to fade and now is the time to strike while the iron is still hot. I have written several articles on this problem, the most recent of which is Crossing Over into Dover, Redux.

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