It occurs to me that our current president has engaged in a rather large number of actions that are unprecedented by any other president, as well as some only rarely happening and not for a long time, many of which for nearly all other politicians would make them viewed as simply unacceptable for being a president. However, with him, there have been so many that people simply ignore most of them as being, “Oh well, there goes Trump again being himself.”
First of all, I do not have a full list of his norm-shattering precedents. In googling I saw an article that proclaimed he had violated 20 “presidential norms.” But it was behind a firewall. And even though these may have been norms, it may be that other presidents violated at least some of them. Anyway, here goes a partial list.
The first president to be accused of violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Actually, there are two such clauses, the more famous one involving foreigners buying off a president, and then a domestic one as well. He has been accused of violating both of them on numerous occasions, although never formally convicted of any, with a couple of law cases in court, mostly involving just the Trump Hotel in Washington. But the list of likely violations is long and involves many properties and forms, with at least 22 foreign nations reputedly involved. The funny thing is that just because something is forbidden in the Constitution does not immediately make it specifically against the law. In any case, it remains that somehow no other president has even been accused of violating either of these clauses, but Trump is pretty clearly massively guilty of actually violating both of them blatantly and numerous times, with only the mildest outcry even from his critics.
He is the first president to have been legally charged with engaging in racial discrimination. This would have been in 1973 right after he began working for his father’s real estate business. He was not found officially guilty but had an out of court settlement in which he was ordered to stop doing what he had been doing. As it was, the Justice Dept later accused him of doing exactly that, returning to his previous racially discriminatory practices, after which he seems to have more or less stopped. Of course there are past presidents with much worse race relations records than his, such as outright owning slaves as did most of the Founding Fathers from the South. But in those days what they did was legal, if immoral.
The first president to be sued for breach of contract. I do not have the exact number of times that he has been so sued, but it is a lot. As it is he has been involved in over 3500 lawsuits, although more often than not with him as the plaintiff. This is more than the combined lawsuits involving the top five construction businesses in New York City. Many presidents have been sued for a variety of things, such as defamation or policy actions they engaged in as president. Not a president, but Hillary Clinton has been sued about 900 times, mostly by people upset with policy actions by her, never for breach of contract, despite all her and Bill’s Whitewater shenanigans. Somehow I would think that repeatedly violating something so basic as simply keeping one’s word in a business contract would make one ineligible to be president, but I think many of his followers inaccurately think this is a sign of him being a “good businessman,” a reason many people voted for him in 2016 reportedly.
The only president to go bankrupt more than once, in his case six times, another matter suggesting he has not been as good a businessman as many think he has been. Four other presidents have gone bankrupt, each of them once and in all cases due to cosigning for loans where the person they cosigned with engaged in conduct that led to the financial problems that dragged the president into having to declare bankruptcy. Those four included some distinguished ones: Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Grant, and William McKinley. Of course, Jefferson was a profligate spender and poor money manager, dying deep in debt. Lincoln’s wife, Mary, was a notorious overspender. Grant generally had a poor experience in his business affairs, with his bankruptcy occurring after he left office, with some attributing his drinking to his poor business judgment.
The only president to suggest that those who died in military service for the US were “losers” and “suckers,” apparently the last straw that led John McCain’s wife, Cindy, to support Biden for president.
The only president to publicly lie in office more than 1000 times. The latest count for him now exceeds 23,000 times, and this is in a bit less than one term. Actually, I could not find an exact count for any other president basically because they did it so infrequently nobody seems to have kept count, so it is possible I am wrong on this. But certainly, nobody came remotely close to him in his lying rate. Digging around it seems that his closest rivals were actually a predecessor-successor pair: LBJ and Nixon. LBJ notoriously repeatedly lied about the Vietnam War, a very serious matter, with the Gulf of Tonkin incident at the top of the list. Of course, Nixon repeatedly lied about Watergate. Almost certainly every president lied while in office, with the lies ranging from serious to strategic (FDR in WW II) to political to sexual (Bill Clinton) to careless unawareness of facts (Reagan) to just frivolous. In digging into this I found an article excoriating Obama for supposedly lying 37 times about details of the ACA, with the article, written by a critic while he was in office, suggesting that this would ruin the entire rest of his presidency and nearly rose to the level of impeachability. Oh, how we have moved on.
Which brings us to refusing to concede defeat when an election was called against him by leading observers. We need to be clear here that a number of elections were not called for a long time and involved difficult and even extra-constitutional machinations, including 1800, 1824, 1876, and 2000. But in all those cases once the unusual delays ended in determining the winner, the loser conceded forthwith without further efforts to undo the outcome. As of almost a week ago Trump did finally allow the GSA to allow transition activities to begin, but only because he could still contest the election outcome, which he continues to do, with I gather a majority of his backers still supporting his efforts, even as nearly all his lawsuits have failed and enough states have formally certified their results to guarantee that indeed Biden will have more than 270 electoral college votes.
This leads us to the last item, not completely unprecedented and not yet done by him, but not done since 1869, and on twice before then, in 1801 and 1825 in connection with two of those dragged out contested elections, with this one a pretty clearly solid win for Biden. It would be if he refuses to attend and participate in the inaugural of his successor. Even Herbert Hoover did so in 1933 for FDR in what many have identified as the last really hostile and difficult transition, although Hoover did not contest the landslide outcome against him. Trump may yet change his mind, but current reports have him considering not only not attending but holding a rival event at the same time, a rally in which he would declare his candidacy for 2014, and if he does that, it would be another unprecedented action. John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and the also impeached Andrew Johnson did not do anything like that when they did not attend the inauguration of their respective successors. And if somehow Trump does, expect his fervent followers to be all impressed rather than duly shocked.
These ‘Little Land Mines’ Could Prevent a Summertime Boom
NY Times – Neil Irwin – December 1
A roaring recovery is in sight, but a lot depends
on what Congress does next for the winter economy.
For the first time since the pandemic shuttered the economy eight months ago, the end is in sight.
The development of vaccines that appear to be safe, effective and ready for wide distribution in the months ahead means it’s now possible to envision a post-Covid economy by summer.
There is a distinct possibility that the economy could roar back to full health quickly as soon as public health conditions allow. But for that to happen, the United States will need to make it through what might be a cold, dark winter in which damage could be done to the tissue of the economy that prevents that rapid healing.
With many service businesses having already depleted cash reserves and the government aid they received earlier in the year, another wave of failures looms. And that imperils not only individual shops and restaurants, but also the commercial landlords they pay rent to, and the state and local governments relying on their tax dollars.
The challenge is to keep everything going long enough to prevent irreparable damage to the ecosystem on which a huge share of American economic activity is built — office buildings filled with workers, hotels and airplanes that are full, vibrant street retail, and the public services that maintain it all — when so many individual elements of the ecosystem are under severe strain.
Boka Restaurant Group in Chicago had 2,000 employees working at 20 restaurants before the pandemic, and in the immediate aftermath of shutdowns in March furloughed more than 1,800 of them, said Kevin Boehm, a co-founder of the group.
But as the weather warmed and Chicago allowed extensive outdoor dining, the company’s restaurants were able to claw back. By midsummer, sales were down only 35 percent to 40 percent compared with normal. A refundable loan through the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program helped meet rent and payroll obligations.
Now, the federal loan is long gone, the weather has turned cold again, and a new wave of Covid-19 infections has put a pall on indoor dining. Sales are down 90 percent from normal levels.
“I’ve spent the last two days sitting in a room with employees who are being furloughed or having a salary reduction,” Mr. Boehm said in mid-November. “This is happening right now. One of our restaurants is one of the highest grossing in America, and last night we did $900 of sales. On a normal night, that restaurant would have done $50,000.”
For restaurants, many expenses move pretty much in line with sales, like ingredient costs and labor. But others, especially rent, do not; in a healthy restaurant, rent would amount to 6 percent to 10 percent of revenue. When revenue collapses but fixed costs do not, as is the case now, a restaurant cannot survive for long. At some of his restaurants, rent is now an untenable 50 percent of sales.
“If there’s no federal assistance, it will wipe out a very large portion of the independent restaurants in America,” said Mr. Boehm, who with dozens of other restaurateurs formed the Independent Restaurant Coalition to seek help from Congress. “We can’t make it to April or May.”
If there are widespread restaurant failures, as the coalition argues is inevitable without a major new federal rescue, it will create an ugly situation next summer. You would simultaneously see hungry diners eager to return to restaurants; vacant former restaurant spaces; unemployed restaurant workers; and restaurant entrepreneurs bankrupted and in no position to start over.
A related challenge could hold the national economy back even after a vaccine is widely available. There has been a slow-moving crisis in some commercial real estate sectors, as missed rent payments start to pile up.
When retailers and restaurants miss rent payments, or hotel rooms sit empty, property owners can typically endure for a while, but defaults are inevitable if those conditions persist. According to Trepp, a commercial real estate research firm, that is now starting to happen.
The delinquency rate for mortgage securities backed by retail real estate was 14.3 percent in October, up from 4.6 percent a year earlier. Delinquencies for lodging properties were 19.4 percent, up from 1.5 percent.
And that reflects missed loan payments before the latest surge in virus cases and renewed lockdowns. Moreover, the new wave of trouble comes after commercial property owners have already taken dire steps to keep making debt payments, such as hotel owners making loan payments out of reserves meant for upkeep.
In other words, brace for a wave of commercial foreclosures, which could create closings and other disruptions as new owners seize control of shopping malls, hotels and other properties.
“It’s already started,” said Manus Clancy, a senior managing director at Trepp, referring to foreclosures in retail real estate. “Borrowers are now cash-flow negative because of bankruptcies, so they’re throwing in the towel or looking to restructure. That part of the problem remains after we have a vaccine.”
That could mean more malls and shopping centers that are converted to other uses — shifts that would have happened eventually anyway, but are being accelerated. It’s hard to get back to shopping at your local mall — or maintain a job there as a store clerk — if the mall is closed while a new owner tries to figure out how to build a retirement community on the land.
“There are these little land mines across the economic landscape,” said Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM, an accounting firm that services midsize businesses. “Even if they don’t matter at the macro level, at the local level they can matter a lot.”
State and municipal governments face similar lagged effects, as the economic activity that has not occurred since March results in less money coming into tax collection offices — with the exact timing depending on how a given state funds itself.
Businesses must pay sales taxes relatively promptly, for example, so the contraction in activity has already showed up in those collections. But income tax payments arrive with a longer lag, which pushes some shortfalls into spring 2021. And while a fall in commercial real estate prices could affect property tax collections, that would play out over years.
“States and local governments are thinking of this as a multiyear problem,” said Tracy Gordon, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. “It’s mainly because of the way tax systems work. Most are inherently backward-looking.”
Projections vary widely depending on the severity of the virus in a state; the composition of its economy; and its tax system. But most states are expecting revenue to fall in the fiscal year ending in 2021, with several projecting 10 percent to 20 percent declines, according to data compiled by the Urban Institute.
The federal government, which unlike states is free to run a fiscal deficit, could close some or all of that gap. Democrats widely support such an action. In the absence of that, weak revenue collection would mean states and localities would probably need to cut deeper, adding to the 1.3 million jobs they have already slashed since February. Those job losses would arrive just as public health restrictions are loosening and the economy is otherwise surging ahead.
At the same time, the industries that have benefited most from the pandemic could see a reversal of fortune. As Americans have halted spending on services like travel and sports attendance, they have redirected much of that spending toward physical goods, with particularly strong numbers evident for food meant to be consumed at home, home improvement goods and exercise equipment.
In the third quarter, Americans’ spending on goods was up 6.9 percent from a year earlier, while services spending was down 7.2 percent. If those patterns were to fully reverse to pre-pandemic levels, goods-producing industries would experience a pullback in 2021 equivalent to what the services industry experienced in 2020.
The good news is that even as those goods sectors have increased production, they knew that the surge in demand might be temporary and have avoided long-term investments.
In a conference call, Jeffrey L. Harmening, the chief executive of the packaged food giant General Mills, told investors that the company was expanding its internal production capacity only for products for which there had been rising demand before the pandemic, like cereal and fruit snacks.
For other products that have had a temporary demand surge, they sought outside suppliers. “We’re going external, not due to lack of confidence, but primarily because it provides greater agility,” such that if demand doesn’t stay high, “it’s easier to get out and we don’t spend the capital doing it.”
Still, plenty of workers who have enjoyed lots of overtime because of the pandemic could see a reversal, with bicycle manufacturers and grocery store cashiers experiencing a loss of income just as flight attendants and bartenders regain theirs.
Combine all these forces, and the story is one of both hope and despair.
“We’re still in sight of both the good place and the bad place,” said Adam Ozimek, chief economist for Upwork, a platform for temporary labor. “If we pass another round of business relief and help for households, there is a really strong possibility we’re going to make it through to the vaccine with an economy that doesn’t have massive long-term damage. If we don’t do that, we could still end up in a situation as bad or worse than the Great Recession.
“It’s totally up for grabs.”
There is now a light at the end of the tunnel, in other words, but it is still an open question exactly how far the tunnel goes and how bright the light will shine when we arrive.
Don’t worry too much, there are so many capitalists sitting on windfall gains that some of them are bound to go after the inventory of distressed commercial properties and start things up again. Jeff Bezos and Procter & Gamble have made a boatload of profits from the pandemic. Also, there are a bunch of goodfellas that have a bundle of trafficking profits to launder and where better than commercial real estate?
We had plenty of unpresidented economic problems before Trump, but so far just kicking the can down the road has kept them from being significantly realized in the GDP. Once Trump in 2018 withdrew the communicable disease monitoring program in SE Asia put in place by GHW Bush, then pandemic preparedness was all but gutted. Then gutless Trump finished the job. However, the rapid development of vaccines has likely limited the damage. Despite how many people tell poll takers that they do not trust the new vaccines, then I would expect in the light of Britain’s early adoption and if all goes well with that most people will take the shot in the arm over the economic impacts of social distancing. Shuttered businesses will have their capital infrastructure and employees gobbled up by bargain shopping survivors and even more by those that prospered in some way either from the pandemic or those long run economic problems. The bottom line is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Nothing new there.
i think it was Adams senior who simply had a bus to catch, and a wife and farm waiting for his help. Adams was not rich. And not much interested in ceremonies.
I wish the present author had a sense of proportion. Trump has committed much worse crimes than the “unprecedented” listed here.
Both Adamses appear to have been not much intereted in things of the crowd, which makes them heroes in my book, but, of course, unpopular. Adams stopped Hamilton from dragging us into a war with France, but it’s Hamilton that gets the opera.
slavery was both legal and moral by the mores of the times, which is all even us enlightened souls have to go by.
Washington and even Jefferson were slightly ahead of the curve with feeling that slavery was wrong, but not being quite able to reduce themselves to poverty by freeing their slaves…to a life of poverty.
Being way ahead of my times of course I believe that slavery is immoral, but i also notice that many of those quite in tune with their times in saying slavery was immoral are not quite so enlightened yet about other matters that Jesus or some impartial Martian might shake their heads at.
I don’t think that the problem with Trump is so much that Trump is a lying criminal asshole so much nearly as it is that Trump is a defiant lying criminal asshole. Besides, it is fun to play with the new edit buttons.
i agree with all that except the edit buttons.
but the REAL problem with Trump is that he has the support of the Republican Party and about 75 million people. Which tells us the size of the problem we have always had in America…not exactly “racism” in every white heart, but stupidity in most brains of all colors, sexes, and orientations. The post New Deal democrats, and even the silent republicans have done a remarkably good job of containing that beast for most of the last ninety years, but we are losing our grip on national sanity.
Yes sir. I am sure though that the insane have no shortage of rationalizations even if they have lost all reason.