In Defense of Human Scum

President Donald Trump thinks we’re “human scum” for making our principled Republican arguments against some of his policies and pronouncements, which hurts our feelings something awful, but on the other hand he also thinks he’s building a border wall in Colorado, which makes us feel slightly better about not having to defend everything the man does and says.
There’s a lot to defend these days, and a lot of it requires a strenuous effort. Few Republican politicians dare to criticize the president, except on his most obviously egregious foreign policy mistakes, but fewer and fewer of them seem willing to defend him against the charges that seem hurling at an increasingly rapid rate toward his impeachment. The allegation that Trump withheld congressionally appropriated aid from Ukraine until he won help in his election campaign has been corroborated by the White House’s own rough transcript of a telephone call, the chief of staff’s bold assertion that “we do it all the time” and anyone bothered by it should just “get over it,” and testimony by the ambassador to the Ukraine appointed by the guy Trump appointed as Secretary of State, and so far “get over it” seems the president’s best defense.
Two dozen of Trump’s most loyal followers in the House of Representatives are arguing “shut up,” and attempted to force the Democrats to do just that when they walked uninvited to a House oversight committee’s questioning of another civil servant with first-hand knowledge of America’s dealings with Ukraine. They held up the proceedings for about five hours, during which they had a pizza party and a grand old time, but eventually the impeachment inquiry continued toward its inevitable conclusion. The Republicans were insisting that their party’s members be allowed to question witnesses, which they already were, and that all the testimony be made public, which it eventually will be to the Republicans’ ultimate chagrin.
Trump has famously boasted that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any supporters, and his lawyer was arguing with a lawyerly straight face in federal  court on Wednesday that even if he did he couldn’t even be investigated by any authorities, and we’re eager to hear what the loyalists say when Trump eventually gets around to doing that. Probably something along the lines of “get over it,” “shut up,” and “what about Hillary’s e-mails?”
This will give the talk radio talkers something to work with and suffice to rally much of the faithful, but all the polls indicate that it’s not winning any new converts to the faith, and each day slightly fewer Republican politicians and pundits are rushing to the president’s defense on each and every policy and pronouncement. Each day slightly more Republicans even sign up with we “human scum” who dare to voice any disagreement, and are less intimidated by Trump’s “tweets” and presidential rhetoric.
Two-thirds of the House Republicans voted to rebuke Trump’s retreat from Syria and abandonment of our Kurdish allies, and the usually loyal Senate Majority leader wrote a critical op-ed in the hated Washington Post, and even such an obsequious Republican as South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham has said he might support Trump’s impeachment and removal if confronted with indisputable proof of a quid pro quo with Ukraine, which is a perfectly reasonable position we expect he will have trouble wriggling his way out of when it comes to down to his impeachment trail vote.
When Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton called Trump’s supporters “deplorables” they gladly embraced the slur and started wearing it on their t-shirts, and lately they’ve been buying t-shirts emblazoned with “Get over it.” So far we haven’t seen any “human scum” t-shirts, but if we could only play three chords on an electric guitar we’d start up a punk rock band by that name and screech NeverTrump Republican protest songs all night at Kirby’s Beer Store.
This all comes at a time when polling by Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service shows that 67 percent of Americans fear the nation is heading to another civil war, which does not surprise us. Trump and his followers are clearly ready to rumble, and so are a lot of those damned Democrats. We’d like to think there are still enough of us “human scum” Republicans and those corporate sell-out centrist sorts Democrats to work things out according to facts of the matter of the Constitution and its divisive impeachment clauses, but if it comes to worst we’ll try to stay out of it and help rebuild in the aftermath.

— Bud Norman

The Border Battle Begins

The Republicans showed some fight on the issue of illegal immigration Wednesday, with a majority of the House of Representatives voting to withhold funding for the Department of Homeland Security to enact President Barack Obama’s executive orders granting amnesty to an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants, and we were glad to see it. Their efforts might yet prove futile, given the longer terms and weaker wills in the Senate and the full fury of the open borders lobby and the way Obama usually gets away with these things, but we’re heartened by the feistiness.
House Speaker John Boehner, long derided by the more robustly conservative members of his party as too accommodating to the president, even delivered a full-throated denunciation of Obama’s extra-constitutional attempts to re-write immigration that the most rabid right-wing radio talker would be hard-pressed to top. The speech cited the 22 separate occasions when Obama clearly stated that he did not have the legal authority to issue the executive orders being contested, noting that Obama has “ignored the people, ignored the constitution, and even his own past statements.” Although 26 Republicans helped the Democrats defeat an amendment that would have blocked an executive order deferring deportations of illegal immigrants who arrived here as children, and another seven bolted on an amendment to delay “immigration priorities,” the watered-down version got unified party support. There won’t be such unity in the Senate, where several Republicans have a long history of sharing the party’s big business wing’s preference for cheaper labor, but the House vote represents an overwhelming consensus among the grassroots that could jam the congressional phone lines and mailboxes and thus force a majority to go along.
Everyone expects the bill will be further watered down in the Senate, though, and even the weakest brew is likely to result in a veto that even the most improbably unified Republican party does not have the votes to override. The Republicans could still prevail by withholding funding for the Department of Homeland Security, but that would severely test any politician’s feistiness. Already The New York Times is describing the House vote as “approving legislation that would revoke legal protections for millions of unauthorized immigrants, including children, and put them at risk of deportation,” and the National Journal was making much of those “moderates” and “centrists” among the Republicans who voted against the amendments and worrying that the majority Republican position “could imperil their re-elections in 2016.” The Times cannot explain how an executive order to negate existing law is a “legal protection” for “unauthorized immigrants,” nor can The National Journal explain why the terms “moderate” and “centrist” enjoy such a positive connotation as they intend, and they don’t want to mention those dissenting Republicans would only imperil their re-election chances because they Represent majority-Latino districts that are never supposed to vote for Republicans in the first place, but it’s an indication of how a shut-down of the Department of Homeland Security would play out in the press.
The Republicans will happily cough up some generous amount to fund all of the department’s vital anti-terrorism functions, just not the parts that would invite millions more illegal immigrants and perhaps a few terrorists to happily traipse across the southern border, and this should prove a politically advantageous position. The Third World’s unfettered access to the United States of America is not widely popular, even in those Latino-majority districts that have unaccountably elected Republican representatives, and revanchist groups such as La Raza and the owners of companies reliant on cheap unskilled labor do not constitute a majority of the voting public. That tale about racist Republicans picking on poor brown children will be oft-told, however, and the president does have a way of getting away with these things.
This will all take weeks or maybe months to sort out, and we’ll keep attuned to the latest developments. In the meantime, we’re hoping for more Republican feistiness.

— Bud Norman

Fiscal Cliff Notes

After careful consideration of all the possible “fiscal cliff” outcomes we have concluded there is no way that President Obama can lose or the congressional Republicans can win.If your only rooting interest is for the country at large, well, that also doesn’t look good.
For those who have been blissfully unaware of the goings-on in Washington, the fiscal cliff is what the country will fall off of if the Bush-era tax rates are allowed to expire at the beginning of next year. This would mean a tax increase for nearly everyone who actually pays federal income taxes, which almost every conservative economist believes would result in a severe recession, and it would also cut $1.2 trillion from the federal budget over the next 10 years, which every liberal economist believes would not only cause a recession but also push the earth out of its orbit and send it hurtling into the sun.
With such near-unanimity of opinion that the fiscal cliff is not something any sane nation would want to go over one might expect a quick agreement on the matter, but alas, this nation is insane. The original sticking point was on taxes, with Republicans preferring to retain the current rates for everyone and Democrats absolutely hell-bent on a tax hike for the hated top 2 percent of earners, but now comes word that the president’s list of demands has grown to include $255 billion in “stimulus” spending and no more congressional authority over the government’s credit limit. Although the demands might seem outrageous, if you consider the president’s personality and political position it is more surprising he didn’t insist on an immediate repeal of the twenty-second amendment and a new constitutional arrangement along the lines of what his pal Mohamed Morsi has decreed for himself in Egypt.
Why not? If the Republicans capitulate, always a distinct possibility, Obama will enjoy unprecedented spending power to buy all the votes needed for that third term. If the Republicans resist even at the price of going over the fiscal cliff, they’ll be widely blamed for the dire economic consequences.
That the Republicans would lose in the court of public opinion is a foregone conclusion. Not because of Obama’s vaunted rhetorical powers, which have proved wildly overrated, but because the still-powerful Washington news media and their colleagues on the comedy shows will constantly reiterate that Republican intransigence forced the country into an avoidable recession. The newly unemployed will get louder and more sympathetic than at any time in the past four years, with every sob story conveying the familiar message that Republicans care only for the rich. What little there is of conservative media will argue on the Republicans’ behalf that it would have been irreparably disastrous to hand Obama an unlimited line of credit, but they made the same sensible argument during the election and the result is what has led the country to its current sorry condition.
Nor should the Republicans doubt that Obama is entirely willing to take the country over the fiscal cliff, a destination that looks quite acceptable from his unique perspective. Taking the fiscal cliff dive would allow Obama to raise taxes on everybody, a Democrat’s dream, and do so without political consequences, something beyond the Democrats’ wildest dream. The automatic budget cuts will come mainly from national defense, which Obama has always wanted to gut anyway, and the rest of the spending can quickly restored by the Democratic House that is installed 2014. Spending cuts can always be rectified, but the tax money will never be returned.
The estimable Charles Krauthammer has argued that Obama won’t want his second term marred by a deep recession, but we fear that on this rare occasion he gives the president too much credit. A lousy economy that persisted through his first term didn’t prove sufficiently harmful to Obama’s political standing to prevent his re-election, and he has no reason to believe that his uncanny luck will change now. What’s more, a second recession will give him the same opportunities that the first afforded to push pork-laden stimulus spending and extraordinary money-printing to pay off his loyal constituencies.
There are the millions of Americans who will suffer greatly from the loss of jobs and wealth if the fiscal cliff recession comes to pass, but we doubt their plight will trouble Obama much during his upcoming multi-million dollar vacation. If their suffering helps the president achieve his dream of expanding the welfare state even further he can always console himself that it was well worth the price. We realize this is a very harsh assessment of an American president, but four years of watching his actions, rather than just listening to his lofty speeches, have led us to this conclusion.
No matter the outcome of the current negotiations, the country will continue its headlong rush toward financial insolvency. If the government can’t stop short of this relatively shallow fiscal cliff, don’t expect it will avoid that grand canyon.

— Bud Norman

The Chicken Run to the Fiscal Cliff

Those who share our fondness for the cinema of long ago might recall a certain scene in “Rebel Without a Cause.” James Dean’s crazy mixed-up kid character was challenged by a snooty rich guy to a “chicken run,” a test of teenage bravado in which the contestants hurtle their parents’ automobiles toward a cliff at top speed and whichever driver hits the brakes or bails out first is deemed the lose, and the result was predictably tragic.
That harrowing contest is brought to mind whenever we read about the “fiscal cliff” that has lately dominated the economic news. The tax rates enacted during the George W. Bush administration are set to expire early next year, and barring action by the congress and the president the country will revert to higher rates for nearly every taxpayer while a slew of automatic budget cuts simultaneously go into effect. Although most economists agree that the results would be catastrophic an agreement is by no means a certainty, as the Republicans who control the House of Representatives are adamant that the tax cuts be retained for everyone while the Democratic president and his allies who control the Senate are just as determined that the top 2 percent of be hit with the old higher rates. Both sides have indicated they are willing to drive over the fiscal cliff rather than relent to the opposition.
The Republicans have the better argument. Sticking the top 2 percent with the higher rate will only add $22.35 billion to the federal coffers next year, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, and that’s a hopeful projection based on the assumption that the hike won’t have any effect on economic activity, so it won’t make a dent in the projected $1.1 trillion deficit, much less than $16 trillion of accumulated debt. Sucking that same amount of money out of the moribund private sector, especially through the investing class, will likely make a bigger dent in economic growth, and even if there were no economic consequences at all we would still prefer to start making cuts from an ever-expanding government that treads ever further upon the liberties of the people.
Alas, the better argument often has little to do with the way things are done in Washington. It certainly has little effect on the Democrats, who regard it as a matter of sacred principle that the government should take money away from rich people regardless of the economic consequences. Liberals we know are so embittered about the current tax rates for the rich, and the hated Bush administration that brought them about, that we have no doubt about their willingness to inflict a massive recession on the country rather than endure them further. There is no reason to believe that Obama and the Democrats in the Senate are any less reckless, and they have every reason to believe that they will not be held accountable if the country does go over the cliff.
Many conservative commentators have been urging that the House Republicans refuse to relent on the matter, but we prefer that at some point just before the fiscal cliff they be willing to hit the brakes. As much as we hate to see anybody’s taxes increased, even a wealthy class that for some reason or another voted mostly for Obama, tactical retreat is probably the best option. No matter how harmful the tax hikes on the rich might be, the effects of a tax increase for the rich and everybody else would certainly be far worse, and the Democrats’ intransigence does not permit the best solution. Worse still, the Republicans would be widely blamed for the resulting recession and less effective in staving off the inevitable further attempts for more taxation and spending.
Some pundits cite polls showing that a majority of Americans do not wish to impose taxes on any of their fellow citizens, even the rich ones, but those polls don’t reflect the choice most Americans would make between a severe recession and “asking the rich to give a little more.” That it is the Democrats who are forcing that choice will be overwhelmed by all the same media noise that has so successfully obscured their role in all of the nation’s economic woes, and any Republicans who doubt this would be advised to check the recent election results. What’s left of the establishment media will still be able to portray the Republicans as the snooty rich guy who wound up going over the cliff in “Rebel Without a Cause,” and Obama can be typecast as the crazy mixed-up kid who bailed out of the car just in time and became the epitome of cool.
Even if the inevitable debt crisis brings the American economy to its knees within the next four years, the Democrats and their media allies will argue that it was all the Republicans for hobbling the country with low tax rates and preventing Obama from spending even more. The Republican party will need to be standing strong enough to refute such nonsense, and they won’t be able to make that stand from the bottom of a cliff.

— Bud Norman