The Presidential Race to the Bottom

Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump granted an interview to The New York Times on Friday, and it included a most remarkable quote that succinctly sums up the race thus far. “She’s nasty,” Trump said, referring of course to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, “but I can be nastier than she ever can be.”
Trump tried his best to live up to the boast over the weekend, regaling a typically raucous crowd in Mannheim, Pennsylvania, with a conspiracy theory about his over-amplified microphone at last week’s debate, boasting of his presidential temperament while alleging that his opponent “could be crazy, she could actually be crazy,” leading cheers for her to be sent to prison, doing some physical comedy schtick about her recent health problems, intimating that she’d been disloyal to her husband and adding that “Why should she be?” He also warned the audience that any movie they go to see after a Trump rally was bound to be less entertaining, given how bad Hollywood is these days, then nostalgically reminisced about his long run on a reality television program, and eventually got around to being appalled by some recently released and supposedly disparaging remarks Clinton once made about the supporters of her vanquished Democratic rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom Trump referred to as “Crazy Bernie.”
By all accounts the crowd loved it, and we expect that Trump’s most loyal supporters elsewhere were similarly entertained, but one wonders what the rest of the country will make of it. Those basement-dwelling supporters of the self-described socialist Sanders are unlikely to switch a self-described billionaire, and the majority of Americans of who have expressed doubts about Trump’s presidential temperament probably won’t be impressed, nor do we see Trump improving his standings with that pesky woman portion of the country.
Clinton can be pretty darned nasty herself, as even Trump has acknowledged to The New York Times, and we expect she’s ready to hurl her own accusations of conspiracies and criminal behavior and physical unfitness and infidelity, and she’ll have plenty of material on had to do so. She also has a knack for baiting Trump into distracting feuds with the parents of fallen soldiers and slightly fattened beauty queens, and has the help of a ruthless press that’s lately been leaking some embarrassing tax information and various other business-related scandals about her opponent, and after so many years of politics she has a better knack for seem presidential while down in the muck. In any case, we’re sure her most loyal supporters will approve no matter how nasty she gets.
By now both of the candidates’ most loyal supporters regard their nastiness as a virtue. Trump supporters are so convinced that Clinton and her left-wing cabal are so low-down that lower-down tacts are needed to defeat them, while Clinton acolytes are equally convinced they’re fighting such a fascistic force that the most bare-knuckled tactics are required. That’s why Trump is bragging to the press than he’s the nastier of the two, and why Clinton will no doubt try to prove him wrong.
With apologies to Irving Berlin, we’ve already written the score for their next debate:
CLINTON: Anything you can do, I can worser. I can anything worser than you.
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I can.
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I can, yes I can.
TRUMP: No matter how mean you are, I can be meaner. Sooner or later I’m meaner than you.
CLINTON: No you’re not.
TRUMP: Yes I am.
CLINTON: No you’re not.
TRUMP: Yes I am, yes I am … I’ll evict a widow, just to park my limo.
CLINTON: I will be all gay-o, just to win the homos.
TRUMP: I just want a piece of ass.
CLINTON: And only that?
TRUMP: Yes.
CLINTON: Hah — my husband’s that crass.
TRUMP: Anywhere you can go, I can go lower.
CLINTON: I can go anywhere lower than you.
(Both descending lower rather than upwards, with further apologies to Irving Berlin.)
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I can.
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: (Sounding very butch at this point.) Yes I can, yes I can. (Back to normal shrill pitch.) Anything you can sell, I can sell cheaper than you.
TRUMP: Integrity?
CLINTON: What is that?
TRUMP: Your very soul?
CLINTON: What’s that for?
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I can, yes I can.
TRUMP: Any lie you can tell, I can tell better.
CLINTON: I can tell any lie better than you.
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I can.
TRUMP: I will mock a cripple, and ogle at a nipple.
CLINTON: I used to be a hippie, now I’m merely dippy.
TRUMP: I will say most anything.
CLINTON: And give it some zing?
TRUMP: Sure.
CLINTON: That’s what I thought, you thing.
TRUMP: Any grudge you can hold, I can holder longer.
CLINTON: I can hold any grudge longer than you.
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I cannnnnnnnn. Any law you can break, I can break better.
TRUMP: On your phone?
CLINTON: In my home.
TRUMP: Without pause?
CLINTON: Without cause.
TRUMP: Any stand you can take, I can change faster.
CLINTON: I can change any stand faster than you.
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I can.
TRUMP: Noyoucan’t.
CLINTON: YesIcan.
TRUMP: I’m the great un-nerver.
CLINTON: I can wipe a server.
TRUMP: I can be insulting.
CLINTON: My numbers are resulting.
TRUMP: I can make us great again.
CLINTON: Can you tell us why?
TRUMP: No.
CLINTON: Neither can I.
The number ends with the two going into professional wrestling mode, and the moderator taking a final swig of whisky before shooting himself in the head, and the audience leaving with no hope that the after-debate movie will prove as entertaining.

— Bud Norman

Fiscal Health, Mental Health

At least one side of the great federal budget debate has clearly gone stark raving mad. It might be us, a possibility one should always acknowledge, but we’re pretty sure it’s the Democrats.
Back in the dark days of the Bush administration the Democrats would become downright apoplectic about the half-trillion dollar deficits that the Republicans were racking up, with Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama going so far as to call it “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic,” but ever since they’ve been noticeably more insouciant about the trillion-dollar-plus deficits that have annually accrued. Lip service would still paid to notions of fiscal responsibility, always accompanied by a principled insistence on a “balanced” approach of mythical spending cuts and actual tax hikes, but without the same sense of urgency. There was reason to suspect that the Democrats believed the national debt wasn’t much of a problem at all, and wouldn’t be at almost any amount, but because they had simply dispensed with the budget process altogether it was never necessary for them to come right out and say so.
Democrats in the Senate have lately felt compelled to offer a detailed budget proposal for the first time in four years, however, and the document is jarringly candid even if the claims being made for it by the authors are not. The Democrats’ plan would never a balance any budget for the next 10 years, increase spending by 62 percent over that time, and add another $7 trillion to the national debt even as it raises taxes by $1.5 trillion. Those eye-popping numbers are almost certainly over-optimistic, too, as they are based on an assumption the nation’s gross domestic product will expand from 3.8 percent to 6.6 percent every year for a decade. Such robust growth exceeds the average performance of the American economy, and seems especially unlikely when another 62 percent of regulatory bureaucracy is added to the private sector and another $1.5 trillion is sucked out. Some Democratic Senators have been touting the budget’s spending cuts, which are mostly of the phony-baloney Washington accounting variety, but their own documents show they are fare outpaced by the added spending.
The president hasn’t yet submitted his budget proposal, being far too busy with international crises and golf to have met the legally-mandated February deadline, but that is of little matter considering that none of his previous budget proposals have yet to win a single vote in either chamber of Congress. Those past Obama budgets all included seas of red ink, and an interview with the ABC newsman George Stephanopolous the president signaled that the next one would do the same. Obama that “My goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance. My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that we are going to be bringing in more revenue,” and the reliably friendly former Clinton staffer did not challenge the point. He might have noted that financial solvency is not something that is desired merely for its own sake, or asked how higher taxes and further government intrusion into the private sector is going to grow the economy and put people back to work, or why anyone should believe that the government wouldn’t spend beyond any additional revenue even if it did occur, but such questions never seem to occur to Democrats.
Obama warned that “We’re not gonna balance the budget in ten years” because the Republican plan to do so proposed Rep. Paul Ryan includes such horrors as medical vouchers for seniors and a tax hike on the middle class. The vouchers are only horrible because they offer citizens a choice, and the middle class tax hikes aren’t in the Ryan plan at all, but Obama nonetheless echoes the constant Democratic chorus that the Republican’s budget is a demented documented favored only by the most extreme right-wing radicals. To hear the Democrats and their media allies tell it, the Ryan would unleash such horrors on the poor and downtrodden that not even Charles Dickens could do them justice. Others are aghast that Ryan would even be so rude as to propose anything, given that he was on a losing presidential ticket and that the country clearly chose another decade or so massive borrowing.
Extreme right-wing radicals such as ourselves find Ryan’s budget a rather modest proposal, however, and are grousing for far sterner stuff. The plan includes such attractive features as a repeal of the budget-busting, job-killing bureaucratic nightmare that is Obamacare, but it also continues the recent Obama tax hike on the rich, takes ten years to reach a balance budget without making a debt in the existing debt, and despite its supposedly draconian cuts allows for 3 percent annual growth in federal spending. A more thorough downsizing of the federal behemoth would be much preferred, but at least the Ryan plan acknowledges the reality that the government needs remain financially solvent for than “it’s own sake.”
On the other hand, maybe a government can just borrow another trillion dollars every nine months for ever and ever. Perhaps governmental micro-management will produce an economic boom for the first time in history, and the Democratic politicians elected by a grateful public won’t spend all the money that comes in and then borrow even more. Maybe we should rack up some debt of our own, and not worry about avoiding bankruptcy merely for its own sake. It’s possible that we’re being crazy to try and stay in the black, but we doubt it.

— Bud Norman