Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

President Chauncey Gardiner: ‘Being There’ at the Bait-and-Switch [Updated]

But one of Trump’s campaign advisers suggested Wednesday that Trump might indeed change Social Security and Medicare — but only after he has been in office for a while. “After the administration has been in place, then we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare,” Sam Clovis said during a public forum, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Has Donald Trump stolen Paul Ryan’s party out from under him?, David Fahrenthold, Washington Post, today

As the above quote illustrates, Donald Trump hasn’t stolen Paul Ryan’s party out from under him.  Fahrenthold didn’t write the headline; he just wrote the article, and the headline writer missed its point, reversing the puppet and the puppeteer.

Unlike Chance, Trump knows he’s being coopted by the Republican establishment and that he is perpetrating a coup-like bait-and-switch on a sizable swath of his primary voters.  The most dangerous thing about Trump isn’t even the breadth of his ignorance but instead the casualness with which he has decided to simply front the Club for Growth agenda.

But he does have this in common with President Chauncey Gardiner: the sheer depth of his dumbness.  And therefore the completeness of his manipulability.  He’s switched entertainment genres, from reality TV to puppet theater.


UPDATE: Last weekend after reading an article or two about Trump’s statement to Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that he would like to see the minimum wage increased but wanted it left up to the states, I recognized that Trump was parroting the leave-the-minimum-wage-up-to-the-states standard Republican line, which one of his campaign officials had fed him.  I assumed that he knew this was the standard Conservative Movement invocation of “federalism”—a.k.a., states’ rights!—in the service of the Chamber of Commerce/Club for Growth anti-regulatory agenda.  These folks, after all, don’t put Republican state legislators and governors into their elected positions for the fun of it.

But I was wrong.  The articles I read didn’t quote enough of Trump’s answer.

I just finished reading a post by Paul Waldman on the Washington Post’s Plum Line titled “Trump is waging an assault on the entire structure of our democracy. Now what?”, in which Waldman uses as an illustration Trump’s statements about the minimum wage last fall and his several statements about it within the last four days.   Waldman writes:

Speaking [to reporters after his meeting with Trump today, Paul] Ryan said, “It was important that we discussed our differences that we have, but it was also important that we discuss the core principles that tie us together,” and that “Going forward we’re going to go a little deeper in the policy weeds to make sure we have a better understanding of one another.”

This is a fool’s errand, not just for Ryan but for us in the media as well. And it poses a profound challenge to democracy itself.

Just in the last couple of days, something has changed. Perhaps it should have been evident to us before, but for whatever reason it was only partially clear. The pieces were there, but they didn’t fit together to show us how comprehensive Trump’s assault on the fundamentals of American politics truly is….

The foundation of democratic debate is policy, issues, the choices we make about what we as a nation should do. That’s what the government we create does on our behalf: it confronts problems, decides between alternatives, and pursues them. That’s also the foundation of how we in the press report on politics. Yes, we spend a lot of time talking about the personalities involved, but underneath that are competing ideas about what should be done. Should we raise taxes or lower them? Spend more or spend less? Make abortions easier or harder to get? Give more people health coverage or fewer? How do we combat ISIS? How should we address climate change? How can we improve the economy? How can we reduce crime? What sort of transportation system do we want? Which areas should government involve itself in, and which should it stay out of?

We all presume that these questions (and a thousand more) are important, and that the people who run for office should take them seriously. We assume they’ll tell us where they stand, we’ll decide what we think of what they’ve said, and eventually we’ll be able to make an informed choice about who should be the leader of our country.

Donald Trump has taken these presumptions and torn them to pieces, then spat on them and laughed. And so far we seem to have no idea what to do about it.

Let me briefly give an illustration. On the question of the minimum wage, Trump has previously said he would not raise it. Then Sunday he said he did want to raise it. Then in a separate interview on the very same day he said there should be no federal minimum wage at all, that instead we should “Let the states decide.” Then yesterday he said he does want to increase the federal minimum wage.

I clicked on one of the links, which was to the transcript of the Meet the Press interview.  Here’s the full exchange between Todd and Trump on the minimum wage:


Minimum wage. Minimum wage. At a debate, you know. You remember what you said. You thought you didn’t want to touch it. Now you’re open to it. What changed?


Let me just tell you, I’ve been traveling the country for many months. Since June 16th. I’m all over. Today I’m in the state of Washington, where the arena right behind me, you probably hear, is packed with thousands and thousands of people. I’m doing that right after I finish you.

I have seen what’s going on. And I don’t know how people make it on $7.25 an hour. Now, with that being said, I would like to see an increase of some magnitude. But I’d rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide. Because don’t forget, the states have to compete with each other. So you may have a governor —


Right. You want the fed– but should the federal government set a floor, and then you let the states–


No, I’d rather have the states go out and do what they have to do. And the states compete with each other, not only other countries, but they compete with each other, Chuck. So I like the idea of let the states decide. But I think people should get more. I think they’re out there. They’re working. It is a very low number. You know, with what’s happened to the economy, with what’s happened to the cost. I mean, it’s just– I don’t know how you live on $7.25 an hour. But I would say let the states decide.

Trump wants to leave minimum-wage legislation entirely up to the states so that the states could compete with each other on how low the wages of their fast-food workers, Walmart employees, hospitality industry workers and home-healthcare aides can go, folks.  This would be his aim as president.  Because he thinks these workers should get more because they can’t live on $7.25 an hour.  And because less is more.  And more is less.  More or less.

What’s happening here is that Trump hears terms, phrases, lines, clichés that people who talk about policy use, and since he doesn’t understand anything, he just says a memorized policy bottom line—the minimum wage should be left to the states, for example—fed to him from the Republican policy playbook.  And then, when asked to elaborate, he starts spewing terms, phrases, lines, clichés that he’s heard people who talk about policy use.  And—voila!—we have … non sequiturs.

Popcorn, anyone?

Update added 5/12 at 6:58 p.m.

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The ‘Brook Hill Dog’ Lithograph–With Update (albeit not on the subject of the original post)

Some of AB’s regular readers might have picked up on the fact that I’m obsessed with animal rescue.  (Dan Crawford sure has!)  And since AB is mostly an economics/fiscal-policy blog, it probably has readers who buy art and antiques.

Soooo …. I thought I’d pass this along.  The key sentence is near the end of the article: “The ‘Brook Hill Dog’ print will be auctioned on eBay from April 3rd to April 10th by Braden River Antiques.”

And let’s hear it for Maureen Flaherty of Summerfield, Florida!


UPDATE: Well, what I thought would be a sweet little post about a generous woman and animal rescue took a decidedly political turn in the Comments thread to the post, in the following comments:

Little John

March 31, 2015 5:33 pm

Would it be a cheap shot to ask you if this is an example of Southern-Brutality Culture?

Bruce Webb

April 1, 2015 2:35 am

Little John it is a picture of a dog looking through a hole in a fence. Or maybe half poking through that fence. I don’t think the implication is that somebody JAMMED the dog THROUGH that fence.

Then again people who know tell me I have little sense of humor.

Little John

April 1, 2015 10:21 am

Bruce you didn’t get the joke. Recently Ms. Mann had a post about an episode of animal abuse in Florida that she believed was emblematic of “Southern Brutality Culture”. But this post contradicts her stereotype of “Southern Brutality Culture”.

Bruce Webb

April 1, 2015 11:30 am

Well in all seriousness it doesn’t do that at all.

There would be nothing odd in knowing that some afficianado of dog fighting or cock fighting or bull baiting or fox hunting also loved their own horses and dogs. In fact that is more typical than not, I would suspect that most participants in ‘field sports’ are at least dog lovers.

This picture even in that context is about as ironic as one of Hitler giving candy to and accepting a flower from a little girl. In fact the very ability to separate pets from blood sport dogs in ones own mind is what is disturbing. No wonder I didn’t get the joke.

Beverly Mann

April 1, 2015 12:09 pm

Little John, my post about Southern Brutality Culture referred to a particular strain of Southern culture, not to all Southerners. People in other parts of the country don’t go around hanging black men, and never did, but it was commonplace in the Deep South for many decades and still occurs albeit rarely.

The woman who bought the lithograph lives in the Tampa Bay area and well may not be originally from the South. But obviously many, many people who are from the South are not part of the Brutality Culture. I know of a wonderful animal rescue organization based in a small, rural, very Republican north Florida county. I also know a woman in her late 40s who has lived her entire life in north central Florida and who until about a week ago, when one of her dogs died, had two rescue dogs and a rescue cat. The dog who died was elderly and had had a hugely enlarged mammary gland that this woman, who is decidedly non-upscale, could not pay to have surgically removed. The doggie always wore a coat in chilly weather and was carried from place to place when she couldn’t walk from, say, the curb back to her house, and was regularly petted and kissed. This woman’s other rescues are treated lovingly as well. Nor would this woman be caught dead harming animals, at all.

But there’s no question at all that a particular strain of Southern culture is in-your-face brutal, and that strain has gained control of the Republican Party, whose primary purpose is to destroy the social safety net. As Scott Walker demonstrates, it’s not limited to the South, but it does spring from a John Birch, KKK culture imported from the Deep South. Killing the social safety net is not an obsession that a majority of Americans, or, as the 47% thing showed, a majority of American voters in presidential elections, harbor, so I doubt that a Republican will be elected president any time soon. But most of the electoral votes that the Republican nominee will garner will be from the South.

Little John

April 1, 2015 3:55 pm

Yes it does Bruce. Go read her post. In that post she paints the South as a racist, violent, abusive place. There aren’t any qualifications regarding particular “strains” as she tries to explain in her recent comment. And there is no qualification that Southerners could actually love their pets but still love to hunt for example. The post is very black and white. Maybe I am being too literal but I thought words mattered.

As to Ms. Mann’s assertion that other parts of the country didn’t hang black people, well that’s patently false. And to say that the John Birch Society was imported from the South is also completely inaccurate. As for saying that Republicans primary purpose is “destroying the social safety net”, well that’s as ignorant as blanket statements about the South. I actually know some Republicans. They don’t want to destroy the social safety net. Of course they aren’t the entire GOP so maybe they are outliers.

Beverly Mann

April 1, 2015 4:44 pm

The John Birch Society was not founded in the South, and I did not mean to suggest that it was. It was, at least in the Midwest, where I grew up, well known to be virulently racist in the manner of the KKK (but without the physical assaults), and just as virulently anti-Semitic (as in, No dogs or Jews allowed). Its culture, again at least in the Midwest, was in essence a Southern transplant. It was very big in rural Indiana, for example, which has a large population of people whose family roots were in Kentucky and Tennessee.

And while I’m sure lynchings of black men weren’t unheard of in rural areas outside the South, it wasn’t anything remotely like accepted practice anywhere outside the states that comprised the Confederacy.

You do make an interesting point, though, when you say that Republicans you know don’t want to destroy the social safety net. That doesn’t surprise me; that seems to be an obsession of a small percentage of very active Republicans who, clearly, have gained a stranglehold on their party.

I read a day or two ago that Walker’s plan is to appeal to white men, some of them in key non-Southern states—Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania—where many, many white men have deep ties to labor.  Since Walker’s cri de coeurs are destroy labor and kill the social safety net, he apparently plans to gain the delegates he needs to win almost entirely in the South.  I don’t think Iowa has a lot of delegates, and most whites who are supportive of labor unions aren’t all that cray about the kill-the-social-safety-net thing, or at least don’t place a priority on it.  This positively awesome issues combo didn’t work all that well for Mitt Romney in the general election in those states, or even for him in the primaries in those states, if I recall correctly.  And four years later, more millennials and substantially fewer Reagan worshippers will be voting.  It isn’t the ‘80s any ore, although huge swaths of the Republican Party haven’t noticed.

Meanwhile, about two weeks ago Jeb Bush suggested to an interviewer that he does not support the federal minimum wage.  When this piqued the interest among political journalists (barely, but enough for him to realize that he needed to clarify, i.e., backtrack on this), Bush issued a statement explaining that he’s okay with the federal minimum wage as long as it’s never raised.  Seriously; that’s what he said.  I checked Wikipedia to see what the original Fair Labor Standards Act, enacted in 1938, had set as the minimum wage.  It was $.25.  I planned to post a post here at AB titled “Jeb Bush Says the Minimum Wage Should be $.25.  Seriously.”  Which I had done that, but I didn’t get around to it. Good thing its walker and not Bush who plans to appeal to white men.  Not all white men are the Koch brothers or Art Pope.

I don’t see how these people expect to actually win the general election. Sure, as Paul Krugman noted in his column yesterday, most of the public has no actual idea of critical facts about critical policy, because no one (e.g., our president) deigns to disabuse the public of the incessant false claims of fact about … well … not just the cost of Obamacare but about, like, most economic and fiscal policy.  And, yes, prominent and highly respected political journalists from major news outlets publish puff-piece articles about interviews they just had with, say, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, in which the interview subject generically—but only generically—trashes Democratic fiscal and regulatory policy as, um, causing the spiraling inequality, but doesn’t pause during the interview to, y’know, ask the subject, say, what specific regulations and fiscal policies he has in mind how exactly this causes increased inequality.

But we are heading into a presidential campaign in which progressive groups will be presenting television and web ads that will educate the public about what these Republican candidates have said and done. The candidates’ goal of destruction of collective bargaining, and their thoughts about the concept of a federal minimum wage might even be subjects of a few of the ads.  I mean, like, y’never know.  And some of this information might even make it to the television and computer screens of white men.  In Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. And, who knows, maybe elsewhere as well.

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Chris Christie Says We Should Not Treat Ebola Patients, Because No One Wants Their Kids to Get Ebola, and Anyway We’re Trying to Develop an Ebola Vaccine.

Okay, here’s what Christie actually said:

I’m tired of hearing about the minimum wage. I really am. I don’t think there’s a mother or father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, ‘You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God all of our dreams would be realized.’ Is that what parents aspire to?

That’s from a transcript posted yesterday on the New York Times website in a Taking Note blog post by Eleanor Randolph.  Christie said this during his already infamous luncheon speech to the Chamber of Commerce in Washington on Wednesday.  (Thanks, Governor!)  Randolph reported that “[e]ven that crowd had the decency not to applaud” Christie’s Marie Antoinette impersonation.

My guess is that the absence of applause was partly in reaction to the jarring non sequitur—and to the realization that this guy, who’s apparently planning to run for the Republican nomination for president, thinks we need to choose between addressing a current situation and trying to prevent the situation from reoccurring, or continuing to occur, in the years and decades to come.  Or maybe it occurred to them that Christie promises that there will be no such thing as low-paying jobs in America once the Republicans gain full control of the government.*

Ms. Randolph writes that there are nearly half a million people in New Jersey who earn less than $10.10 an hour, the rate that Democrats in New Jersey and elsewhere are proposing as the minimum wage.  There also are many thousands of Ebola cases in West Africa right now, and the possibility that the disease will spread at some point in this country beyond the three cases diagnosed here.  But there’s the potential to develop an Ebola vaccine—if the NIH receives sufficient funding to proceed—so there’s no reason to try to treat anyone who has the disease.

And anyway, I’m tired of hearing about Ebola.  I really am.

Christie for President!

*Paragraph typo-corrected and edited slightly for clarity. 10/24 at 10:11 p.m.


UPDATE: Ah.  I knew the Comments thread on this post would be fun.  Here’s the thread as of 6:14 p.m.:

Axt113/ October 24, 2014 3:10 pm

It’s not about the final aspiration, it’s about having enough to not only live on, but also to achieve said aspirations.

College ain’t cheap fatass.


Mark Jamison/ October 24, 2014 3:19 pm

There are more than a few people sitting around the kitchen table wondering about how they are going to make it on their minimum wage jobs. I wonder what the impact is on their kids as they sit and listen to Mom and Dad worry about making the rent or putting food on the table.

Christie and his ilk live in a fantasy land where everyone just magically pulls on their bootstraps and dreams come true.


Urban Legend/ October 24, 2014 3:26 pm

If he would stop fighting it and just listened to the American people — who by a strong majority want it — he wouldn’t hear as much about it. What a jerk!


 ME/ October 24, 2014 5:57 pm

Normally, I would say that all three of your comments are spot-on, guys. But on second thought, I think you all just have no foresight. Once Republicans control all branches of all levels of government, and we start taxing only people who make less than $10.10 an hour, we’ll be able to fund development of a vaccine for Ebola AND replace all those jobs at Walmart and McDonald’s with management positions at Koch Industries or entry-level trader positions on Wall Street.

Trickle-up economics is awesome.

Yup.  This is fun.

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Chickens vs. A Turkey

Okay, so most of you who don’t live in Iowa (and most of you don’t live in Iowa, since it’s not a populous state) probably are unaware that the outcome of the election to replace retiring progressive Iowa senator Tom Harkin—which in turn may determine party control of the Senate—may turn on a dispute between neighbors in a subdivision of homes near a lake in Brooklyn, Iowa.

I don’t live in Iowa either, but I’ve known about this for nearly a month.

The dispute is between Democratic nominee Bruce Braley and his wife and their neighbor, a woman named Pauline Hampton, who raises chickens on her property, which abuts the Braleys’ backyard.  Hampton’s chickens regularly escape from their coop and dirty the Braleys’ and other neighbors’ yards.  Braley’s wife had repeatedly asked Hampton to keep her chickens cooped rather than simply allowing them to roam freely and then come home to roost, but to no avail.

After a verbal spat between Hampton and Braley’s wife, Braley contacted the president of the homeowners’ association and asked that he intervene with Hampton.  He said he did not want to litigate the matter in court and hoped instead that the homeowners’ associate president could prevail upon Hampton to keep her chickens cooped.

Instead, though, the homeowners’ association president, a Republican activist, acted neighborly and reported the private conversation to Republican senate nominee Joni Ernst, a noted constitutional scholar and historian.  Mistaking himself for a court clerk, or believing that Braley had mistaken him for one, the homeowners’ association president apparently told Ernst, and in turn the news media, that Braley had contacted him in order to file a lawsuit.  Something like that, anyway; as I said, I’m not an Iowan, so I’m not familiar with the Iowa way and Iowa neighborliness and such, so I may have missed something here.

Anyway, the political news media of course reported Braley’s contact with the homeowners’ association president as NOT THE IOWA WAY, since Iowans do not resolve conflicts by asking homeowners’ association presidents to mediate conflicts.  Not homeowners’ association presidents who also are Republican activists, anyway.

Well, today, Greg Sargent posted a blog post at the Washington Post titled “Will Iowa Senate race be about issues, or about chickens?”  He reports on minimum-wage numbers-crunching included in a new report by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and says the report’s conclusions about the impact a wage hike would have in Iowa “contrast starkly with Ernst’s pronouncements about it.” Those pronouncements include statements that the minimum wage should be abolished or at least remain forever at its current federal hourly rate of $7.25, and that most minimum wage earners are in their teens or early 20s and in any event are not their family’s main breadwinner.

As the election nears, Ernst likely will continue to lay eggs.  But the ones already hatched expose her for the turkey that she is.

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Thom Tillis vs. Sam Walton and Ray Kroc

From an interview of North Carolina Republican Senate Candidate Thom Tillis by NBC’s Chuck Todd today:

Todd: Do you think [the minimum wage] should be raised in North Carolina?

Tillis: I think that’s a decision that the legislature needs to make with businesses.

Todd: Well, you’re the speaker. Would you make that decision?

Tillis: Right now what we’re trying to do is make the minimum wage – we’ve got a president and Kay Hagan that want to create a minimum wage economy. What I want to do is create jobs that make the minimum wage irrelevant.

Todd: Okay, so… you haven’t really said whether you’d be for raising it or not. Would you support raising it in North Carolina or not?

Tillis: … Instead of focusing on this sort of defeatist mentality where we’ve gotta up the minimum wage, why don’t we focus on creating better-paying jobs?

Okay, so now we know that (1) Tillis credits Barack Obama and Kay Hagan with founding Walmart and transforming McDonald’s–sorry, Sam Walton and Ray Kroc, you didn’t built that–and (2) he wants to force Walmart and McDonald’s to shut down for lack of ability to compete for labor with all those high-paying jobs he will help create once he’s a senator.

Obama and Hagan better start thinking about selling all their stock in these companies they built.

(Sorry; I couldn’t resist posting this. Tried hard, but couldn’t resist.)

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