Putting Trump’s Actions Into Context.

To fully appreciate the lawlessness of the Trump administration, it’s helpful to look at the five GOP administrations that preceded him. As you will see, there is a pattern of disdain for the Constitution and the opposition party. But none of them have taken it to such extremes as Trump.

Nixon – In 1968, before the election, he sent an envoy to undermine the Paris peace talks with North Vietnam leading to hundreds of thousands more deaths in the war. Though his administration did some remarkable things (created EPA and OSHA and opened relations with China), he tried to corrupt our democracy by ordering the break-in of the DNC’s Watergate offices. As a result, 40 Nixon administration officials were indicted or jailed. Separately, Nixon’s vice-president Spiro Agnew was forced to resign amid a corruption scandal and pled guilty to tax evasion.

Ford – Before his forced resignation, Nixon chose Gerald Ford to fill the vacancy as vice-president. When Nixon resigned, Ford assumed the position of president and immediately pardoned Nixon of any crimes. His term in office was largely unremarkable, except for the annual deficits created by his policies.

Reagan – Though charming and inspirational, Reagan’s administration had a very dark underbelly. Before the 1980 election, he undermined a proposed agreement with Iran to release the hostages, convincing Iran to delay their release until after the election. His domestic policies included attacks on labor unions, Reagonomics (aka trickle-down economics) which cut taxes for the wealthy resulting in large deficits, an attempt to relax the Voting Rights Act, attempting to push prayer in schools, creating the War on Drugs and ignoring the AIDs epidemic.

His foreign policies consisted of escalating the Cold War, sending US troops to intervene in the Lebanese civil war resulting in the deaths of 241 US soldiers, invading Grenada, bombing Libya, and opposing the disinvestment from apartheid South Africa. Though the Cold War was ended during his second term, it was the result of an initiative by Gorbachev. The lowlight of his tenure was the Iran-Contra scandal, which consisted of illegally selling arms to Iran and using the proceeds to prop-up the Nicaraguan Contras in their fight against the Sandinistas who were fighting to overthrow a dictator. In effect, the administration was running a shadow government hidden from congressional oversight that destabilized the entire region.

Bush I – George H.W. Bush’s domestic policies were unremarkable. But there were many questions about his foreign policy. He ordered the invasion of Panama. His administration provided weapons to Iraq and led Saddam Hussein to believe that the US would not intervene in Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait. Then he led a coalition to attack Iraq and free Kuwait. Following the Gulf War, he closed numerous US military bases, which thrust the economy into recession. And he ended his term by pardoning those convicted in Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal.

Perhaps the most lasting action by his administration was the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine which held broadcast media accountable for telling the truth.

Bush II – Having lost the popular vote, George W. entered office only as a result of his brother’s meddling in Florida elections and a decision by a conservative-led Supreme Court. (A media consortium that recounted the entire Florida vote, found numerous improprieties and concluded that a significant majority of Floridians intended to vote for Gore.)

Once in office, Bush revived the discredited trickle-down economic theory to reward the big money and oil interests that powered his campaign. His tax cuts sent deficits soaring. He advanced oil interests at the expense of the environment. His administration botched the rescue and recovery from Hurricane Katrina. He ignored the threat of al-Qaeda and advice from the Clinton administration resulting in the attacks on 9/11. He responded with the war on terrorism. And he allowed vice-president Cheney to start the War in Iraq on false pretenses. His administration ended with the collapse of the world financial system as the result of his belief that free markets would self-regulate.

Trump – As bad as they were, the failures of the previous GOP presidents pale in comparison to the man who currently occupies the Oval Office. Donald J. Trump will be chronicled in history books as the worst president in history. He announced his campaign by making racist attacks on Mexicans. He encouraged interference in the election by Russia spawning a Special Counsel investigation which found extensive collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives that likely swayed the election in his favor.

Despite being the second Republican in 16 years to gain the office while losing the popular vote, he claimed a mandate. With the help of a GOP-led Congress he quickly set about undoing his predecessor’s legacy through executive order. He withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear treaty, withdrew from the Paris Climate Accords, repealed DACA, and made cuts to Obamacare. From the beginning, his policies have been marked by greed, cruelty and fealty to Russia. He banned entry from Muslim countries. He gave hope and encouragement to white nationalists with his response to Charlottesville. He has funneled millions into his own properties through weekly golf outings. Foreign leaders have been encouraged to stay at his hotels and resorts in order to gain access. And he ordered the CPB and ICE to place refugees into horribly overcrowded facilities and to separate families.

Trump has exposed the flaws in our current system of government by acting as a monarch. He has refused to cooperate with any congressional oversight. He has ordered anyone connected to his administration to ignore subpoenas and claim presidential privilege and trampled over the separation of powers. Worse, with the help of Mitch McConnell, he has stuffed the judicial system with dozens of unqualified and ideological judges.

On top of all that, he and the GOP exploded the deficits and federal debt by cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy with the intent of eventually ending Social Security and Medicare on the pretense of cutting the budget.

Finally, and worst of all, he has repeatedly acted on behalf of Vladimir Putin and Russia. He has refused to acknowledge Russia’s role in his election, he publicly kowtowed to Putin while attacking our most loyal allies, and he delayed congressionally-ordered sanctions on Russia. Finally, he held military aid to Ukraine hostage in order to elicit Ukraine’s help in his re-election. In doing so, he adhered to a Putin narrative that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered with our election.

No president in history has been removed from office through impeachment. But Trump has richly earned the right to be first.

It’s worth noting that no Democratic president in recent history has been so disdainful of the Constitution and the rule of law. That fact alone should make voters look more carefully at candidates whose names precede the R on a ballot.

Who’s Really Responsible For Our National Debt?

It’s popular for the Republican Party to blame our $16.7 trillion debt on President Obama. Certainly, like all presidents, he has some responsibility for it. But a much larger share of the responsibility goes to President Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and, most especially, President George W. Bush.

You see, the increase in spending in 2009 following the economic collapse of 2008 should rightfully be attributed to the Bush administration. That’s because the 2009 deficit was the result of a spending bill, including the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), authorized by Congress in October of 2008 and signed by President Bush months before Obama took office. In fact, spending in the first year of any administration is always the result of the previous administration. Properly credit 2009 spending to Republicans, and you’ll discover that President Obama has been responsible for the lowest spending increases since Eisenhower. Similarly, he is responsible for the most rapid cuts to our deficit in more than 50 years!

While it’s true that the debt has increased 18.5 percent since Obama became president, as discussed, he should not be held responsible for most of that increase. Even so, it’s still less than the 20.7 percent increase in national debt that accrued during George W. Bush’s second term. And it’s only marginally greater than the 13 percent increase during Bush Sr’s term, and the 11.3 percent increase during Reagan’s first term.

A better measure of Obama’s spending comes courtesy of Rick Ungar, a contributor to Forbes Magazine (hardly a bastion of liberalism). According to Ungar, in President Obama’s first term, overall government spending grew just 1.4 percent as compared to 7.3 percent in George W. Bush’s first term and 8.1 percent in Bush’s second term!

So why do Republicans continue to place the blame on Obama? First, it’s a matter of political convenience to portray Obama as a “tax and spend” liberal. Second, the narrative is relatively believable since government spending skyrocketed during the first year of the Obama administration. Third, the media has done a very poor job of countering Republican misinformation.

In order to truly understand the federal debt, you have to look at the history of US borrowing.

Following the Revolutionary War, the US debt stood at roughly 35 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It again reached that level following the Civil War. In both instances, the debt was brought down by a combination of increased revenues and spending restraint. During WW I, the US debt again rose to approximately 35 percent of GDP. Before it could be paid down, our economy collapsed leading to the Great Depression. That was quickly followed by WWII. The two events caused the debt to soar to more than 117 percent of GDP. But, through a combination of post-war prosperity and income tax rates of up to 91 percent during the Eisenhower administration, the debt was again brought under control.

By the end of the Carter administration, the national debt had been reduced to 32.5 percent of GDP.

President Reagan’s expansive military spending during the Cold War once again caused the debt to soar, reaching more than 66.1 percent GDP. Under Clinton, it was reduced to 56.4 percent of GDP. Then, under George W. Bush, two wars (one of which was a war of choice) and lax government oversight led to the Great Recession – the worst economic calamity in nearly 80 years. At the same time, a Republican-led Congress cut taxes (and, therefore, revenue), particularly for the wealthy.

President Obama inherited a debt of more than 84 percent of GDP, along with a worldwide economic collapse, double-digit unemployment, spiraling health care costs, two wars estimated to have cost more than $6 trillion, a Congress that refused to rescind the Bush tax cuts, and a uniquely obstructionist Republican Party.

All of this was roughly the equivalent of combining the costs of World War II and the Great Depression without the primary mechanism needed to reduce the debt – taxes!

President Obama was left with few choices. He had to stimulate the economy through loans and tax cuts in order to put people back to work. This led to reduced revenue. He had to wind down the war of choice in Iraq as quickly as possible. He needed to stabilize the war in Afghanistan that had been allowed to languish under Bush at a cost of $1 million per soldier per year. Moreover, since few Americans had been asked to sacrifice for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, unlike World War II, they felt no need to pay for the wars through increased taxes. Indeed, even though federal income taxes were at a 50-year low, extremists funded by billionaires created the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party.

All of this led to the growth of our debt, which now equals nearly 102 percent of GDP.

Certainly, this debt is of great concern. But it’s not the short-term crisis Teapublicans would have you believe. (It’s the equivalent of a family earning $100,000/year holding a $102,000 mortgage.) And, without modest tax increases, there are few ways to reduce the debt.

One is to grow the economy, and according to most economists, including Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, the economy is on the verge of significant, sustained growth if the nitwits in Congress would just get out of the way and stop dragging us from one self-inflicted crisis to another.

Two is to make cuts without adding to unemployment. (For example, we squander tens of billions each year on weapons systems that our military doesn’t even want, but Congress refuses to defund them because doing so would cost jobs.) And, once the economy shows sustained growth, programs such as food stamps can be cut – especially if we raise the minimum wage to reduce the large number of working poor who have little choice but to rely on government assistance.

In summary, contrary to what Teapublicans would have you believe, our national debt is not Obama’s debt. It’s the result of decades of wars, tax cuts, regulatory indifference, a struggling worldwide economy, out-of-control health care costs, greedy corporations that off-shore both jobs and profits, and a dysfunctional Congress that not only fails to help the economy. It makes decisions that are actually preventing economic recovery!

As a matter of fact, the Tea Party seems determined to force our nation into default. And, like the debt, they would have you believe that it’s all Obama’s fault.