Trump Backs Down Yet Again, This Time On Foreign Aid. Is He In Charge? Is Anyone?
08/24/2019
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Remember, there's no money for the wall. Instead, we must throw hundreds of millions of dollars at people who hate us. This is Who We Are. 

President Donald Trump has scrapped a plan to freeze more than $4 billion in foreign aid in a move that would have been another end run around Congress’ power of the purse.

The president’s decision Thursday to forgo a “rescission” comes after another internal tug of war between his budget advisers and Cabinet officials. But the fiscal hawks in Trump’s corner, failing again to sell him on spending restraint, blamed Congress for souring him on the idea...

The funding freeze would have been Trump’s first big show of fiscal restraint since signing a budget deal into law this month that increases spending limits by about $50 billion over current funding in each of the next two fiscal years. Behind the scenes, the president’s budget advisers railed against the size of that bill, even as Trump encouraged GOP lawmakers to “Go for it” in passing the measure, promising “there is always plenty of time to CUT!”

Those cuts have yet to materialize, however, and congressional leaders say any funding freezes would undermine the tenets of the bipartisan budget deal congressional leaders struck through negotiations with Mnuchin.

In a letter Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the foreign aid cuts Trump was considering would violate “the good faith” of that bipartisan deal-making.

[Trump kills plan to cut billions in foreign aidby John Bresnahan, Jennifer Scholtes, and Marianne Levine, Politico, August 22, 2019]

The spin of this article is interesting because it frames foreign aid cuts as "fiscal discipline." The federal deficit will exceed over a trillion dollars next year. [U.S. deficit expected to exceed $1 trillion next year, PBS, August 21, 2019] From the perspective of fiscal hawks, President Trump has been a disaster. Politically, this may work to the GOP's advantage in the long run. 

It’s a sign of how much Trump’s presidency has upended the traditional economic and political philosophies of the two major parties. Now it falls to Democratic candidates vying to oust Trump to explain to voters how their policies would curb the mounting deficit — or, in the alternative, why the deficit doesn’t matter. And it’s not enough to simply point their fingers at Republicans and say, “Why should we care if they don’t?”

The budget deficit is the gap between the amount the government collects in taxes and other sources of revenue and how much it spends in any given fiscal year. That’s different from, although it adds to, the national debt, which is the nation’s cumulative unpaid balance and currently exceeds $22 trillion. The last time the federal deficit exceeded $1 trillion was in 2012, when the economy was still shaking off the effects of the last recession.

Deficits aren’t a bad thing if they’re relatively small and don’t grow faster than the U.S. economy, or if the spending is needed to offset a downturn. But operating with the current level of red ink will arguably make it harder for Congress to respond when recession strikes again. Meanwhile, an ever-larger share of the budget is being eaten up by interest payments on the accumulated debt, a problem that will become nightmarish if interest rates shoot back up to the double-digit levels of the late-1970s.

[Editorial: The GOP has a political and economic death-grip over Democrats, Los Angeles Times, August 23, 2019]

This editorial has some truth to it. Democrats are the "tax and spend" party. Republicans are the "borrow and spend" party. The "fiscal discipline" of the GOP has always been a scam, particularly when you consider the endless wars most Republicans seem to be cheering on

Yet President Trump hasn't really upended the "traditional economic and political philosophies of the two major parties." Within 48 hours of his election, he staffed his Administration with the GOP Establishment types he had just defeated. He used up all his political capital on a disastrous health care plan and upper class tax cuts, the same kind of agenda we would have gotten from Jeb Bush.

(He does deserve some credit for not getting us into a major war, at least not yet. If "Sleepy Joe" Biden stumbles into the White House, the journos may get the war with Russia they want so badly.)

What President Trump could have done is provide something tangible to the working-class voters that voted for him, instead of rewarding the oligarchs that opposed him. He could have challenged the Chamber of Commerce types that rule the Republican Party. He didn’t.

He could have broken the corporate media he constantly whines about by confronting Big Tech. Instead, he rewarded his enemies. 

If the GOP was going to preside over these levels of spending anyway, why not use it to expand your political base? Instead, the country is being run into the ground, and one is hard pressed to say where all the money has gone. There's been no infrastructure program and of course, no wall. 

Does this mean "traditional conservatives" need to rally back to the sacred cause of fiscal discipline? Under the current system, that's frankly impossible. Most young people outright support socialism and the demand is for more programs, not cutbacks. In our managed democracy, where leaders are elected via universal suffrage by easily manipulated voters, it will never be politically popular to limit spending. 

There's a profound nihilism at the heart of American governance right now. No one knows why we are fighting these wars. Our "leaders" won't protect our borders. Fiscally, the country is on the road to collapse. The government/media complex is becoming increasingly open about using naked repression

Things that can't go on forever, don't. If America still existed as a functioning nation-state, buying Greenland would be a great idea. Instead, given our slow-motion collapse, we might have to start planning for America breaking up rather than expanding, as the American Conservative recently warned. 

People have long been concocting new schemes to expand the American Empire. In the early days, Washington conquered nearby territories; then it acquired more distant possessions. These days, outright aggression is frowned upon, so expansionists must be more nuanced. For instance, before the possibility of Canada dissolving was mooted, even Patrick Buchanan, who had long argued against America’s warfare state, listed the seceding pieces Washington should snag.

However, the U.S. already is too big. With nearly 330 million people, there is no “national family.” California is a fabulous place, but a majority of its citizens want to base policy on dirigiste economics and identity politics. Why not let them go their own way, rather than whine when the Electoral College prevents them from imposing their self-absorbed fantasies on everyone else?

Equally caustic judgments could be made against other sections of America, such as the South, Rust Belt, and New England. Books have been written about breaking the U.S. into pieces. In this case, secession, or “separation,” would have nothing to do with race and slavery. Rather it would be about community, commitment, family, communication, unity, compassion, responsibility, humanity, and scale. Americans from everywhere should live in peace. But there is no reason why everyone needs to be forced into the same massive political aggregation, with one faction or another constantly attempting to seize control of the whole.

[Forget Annexing Greenland, Start Breaking Up America, by Doug Bandow, August 22, 2019]

 
Could Trump turn it around? In theory. No one knows what he will do. 

In theory, he could start advocating popular programs today, impose a remittance tax, and force the Democrats on the defensive with a program of civic nationalism. Yet he could have done this at any point in his Administration, and he either can't or won't.

America continues toward an abyss. Everyone sees it coming, but no one will do anything about it. The failure is systemic, and moral panics about "Russia" or "white nationalism" or whatever else the corporate media pushes next won't change that fact. 

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