We Haven’t Hit Bottom Yet

I want to talk about something Paul Waldman said yesterday — “…  that Trump got within 100 miles of the White House to begin with represents a massive failure of the system.” Yes, the entire system, public and private. And all political parties. Ain’t nobody innocent.

The system has been dysfunctional for a long time. The Obama Administration was like a coat of nice paint covering rotten wood; it was “normal” enough to help us all maintain the fiction that the system still worked, even if the Republican Party was obstructing getting anything done. I say we haven’t hit bottom yet because there are still too many people who think the system is fine and just needs some more paint. And a lot of those people are Democrats.

I’m not saying that both parties are just alike and just as guilty. Republicans have been wallowing in the rot, but Democrats have been entirely too accommodating to it. For the sake of civility, you know.

For example: A couple of days ago I ranted about white-collar crime. Later the same day Matt Yglesias published a post that covered the same points in more detail. And then Eric Levitz wrote,

In 1991 The New Yorker’s Mark Danner wrote the following elegy for the American republic:

Perhaps the most disquieting legacy of Iran-Contra, in which extremely serious political crimes were exposed and then left largely unexorcised, is a kind of pervasive moral lassitude, in which charges that the integrity of the 1980 Presidential election was compromised with the help of the Iranian government evoke an almost bored reaction. It now appears that the charges will be left to linger, unanswered and uninvestigated, because no one with any power sees it to be in his personal political interest to confront them. The dictum that we live in a nation of laws can also be understood ironically-that ours has become a nation only of laws. For laws without the will to enforce them and confront the consequences remain simply words on paper.

Trump’s immediate Republican predecessor reaffirmed Danner’s insight, by overseeing the systematic violation of both domestic and international laws against military torture — while Trump’s immediate Democratic predecessor did so by refusing to bring any of that criminal conspiracy’s masterminds to justice.

This culture of elite impunity has not been confined to the political realm. America’s economic elites avail themselves of its benefits even more routinely. The 2008 financial crisis revealed myriad acts of financial and foreclosure fraud — almost none of which was criminally prosecuted. Barack Obama’s Justice Department explicitly endorsed the principle that some individuals and institutions are simply too economically powerful to be bound by criminal law, when it decided not to prosecute HSBC for laundering hundreds of millions in drug money.

Meanwhile, America’s garden-variety plutocrats escape punishment for white-collar crimes on a daily basis, and pay only a small fraction of the taxes that they owe Uncle Sam. Our government has responded to this well-known phenomenon by spending orders of magnitude more on punishing misdemeanor immigration offenses than policing white-collar felonies, and making international cooperation on combating tax havens one of its lowest diplomatic priorities (far below, say, making life-saving pharmaceuticals more expensive for people in the developed world).

Few American voters fully grasp the extent of the rot, or understand how it happened, but they feel it instinctively. They know the system doesn’t work for them. They just don’t understand why, and neither party explains it, because both parties — to differing degrees — are in on it. So it was that the blatantly dishonest and corrupt Donald Trump, who should have been in jail years ago, got away with painting Hillary Clinton as “crooked.” While I do not believe she ever did anything indictable (although it wouldn’t shock me to learn otherwise), voters instinctively knew that Clinton would have protected the system and do nothing to clean it up. Because if you have power, you don’t have to do anything illegal to benefit from the corruption; the system will reward you for protecting it. And, unfortunately, she lacks Donald’s Trump talent for salesmanship. He got away with pitching himself as a reformer because the network television news (never mind Fox News or talk radio) lacked the guts to tell the truth about him. So here we are.

Democrats intend to use corruption as a midterm campaign issue. I question whether that will work for them, especially if the same old establishment faces (Pelosi, Schumer et al.) are delivering that message. And, again, I’m not putting Pelosi and Schumer in the same pot with Duncan Hunter. But they’ve both been in Washington a long time. They may not be in bed with the corruption, but they are certainly on a cordial first-name basis with it. Meanwhile, the urban professional class — the people not left behind by the global economy — continue blindly to defend the Democratic Party establishment and fervently believe that racism alone made Trump president.

That’s why I say we haven’t hit bottom yet.

As far as the Trump Administration goes, I don’t think it’s hit bottom yet, either. But it’s falling faster now.  What went on with Manafort and Cohen on Tuesday was just a start. (FYI, National Enquirer publisher David Pecker was just granted federal immunity. )

Trump isn’t going to be impeached and removed from office until the Republican Party wants him gone. If the GOP goes down in flames in the midterms, that could happen. But assuming the Dems at least take back the House, here are some more things they could do. Paul Waldman:

* Use their control of the Ways and Means Committee to obtain and release Trump’s tax returns so that we finally learn what he has been hiding.

*Hold hearings on the ways Trump is personally profiting off the presidency and potentially violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

*Mount a serious, comprehensive investigation into the Russian attack on the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s cooperation with that attack.

*Investigate accusations of wrongdoing that have been leveled at Cabinet officials such as Wilbur Ross and Ryan Zinke.

*Demand answers from the administration on the decision-making process and effects of controversial administration policies, such as adding a citizenship question to the census, relaxing rules for power plant emissions, making it easier for private “universities” to scam students, and tearing children from their parents’ arms at the border.

In other words, bleep civility. Bleep reaching across the aisle. They’ve got to be as hard on Trump as the GOP has been on Hillary Clinton and every other Democrat they’ve tried to destroy.

Beyond that, see also Charles Pierce, Elizabeth Warren Just Laid Out an Indictment of Our Political System in All Its Corruption and Sleaze.

17 thoughts on “We Haven’t Hit Bottom Yet

    • Mine doesn’t define “accommodating” as “accepting money and instructions from the same oligarchs that pay and lead the other group.”

      Major political donors generally favor one over the other, so usually it’s not the “same” oligarchs. See top contributors. I suspect it’s mostly the same for dark money contributors.

  1. "Few American voters fully grasp the extent of the rot, or understand how it happened, but they feel it instinctively."

    They do, and unfortunately many have settled into a can't-fight-city-hall apathy and acceptance of it.  After the "change" Obama promised didn't happen, many just gave up.  And then along came Trump.

    As I've asked before, when was the last time any significant legislation was crafted, by either party, solely for the benefit of the majority of the voters, that didn't include a significant benefit, financial or otherwise, for the wealthy?  Meanwhile, legislation is routinely crafted for the benefit of corporations and the wealthy, often at the expense of the vast majority of voters working for a living.  By both parties.

    My biggest fear is that people are increasingly becoming resigned  to the proposition that this is they way its supposed to be, and nothing can be done, not even voting, that will change the status quo so that government actually does work for the people and address the issues in their lives, as we are told government is supposed to in a democracy.

    How is this, by any definition, a democracy?


  2. How is it that someone who is genuinely poised to drain the swamp, is appropriately empowered, appropriately educated, has appropriate trophies and experience, and tells it like it is, ain't met with drain the swamp fever.

    Isn't there some way that EW could ham it up, and come across as violent and insincere?

  3. There's a chicken-egg aspect to the problem. Where will solutions come from? Congress, being the problem, is committed to corruption by an overwhelming and very bipartisan basis isn't likely to be the source. 

    I like Liz Warren and the party will stand on her reputation for honesty to promote themselves, but if the democrats had the House and the Senate, her proposals wouldn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of getting out of committee. Not unless there's a political advantage to castrating every significant clause and passing a toothless shell that has the title of the bill Liz proposed.

    The trick is getting a bi-partisan reformist majority in Congress and that requires voters to do an end-around both parties and elect rebels, some of them conservative republican rebels who agree on a  specific, single set of reforms to end big money in politics.

    Which loops me back to the original assertion. Where's the set of reforms going to come from? There are groups who have been working on different aspects of corruption. IMO, the leasers of those groups are quite distinguished. None of them retired mailmen. Some of them honest Republicans. Get them in a room with the objective of defining the set of reforms which would end corruption – a plan  that liberals and conservatives could live with. That's where a meaningful bipartisan plan might come from.

    Then on a nationwide basis, as part of a national plan, primary the establishment bums out honoring the gerrymandering that exists. Toss out the crooked Republican and replace him with an hones Republican reformist in a red district. The Tea Party bounced Eric Cantor that way. Do the same thing in a blue district. EVERY candidate is vulnerable in the primary. It's the Achilles' heel of the system that big money rules.

  4. Ronald Reagan was a corrupt, stupid racist who represented a new low for the political system when he was elected President in 1980. Every time a Democrat has been elected since Reagan, the hope was that the Reagan era would end but it never really did, it only got worse. Now we have Generations X, Y and Z who cannot remember any President before Reagan, and I'm afraid many of them subscribe to the idiotic notion that Reagan was a "great" president. I see that as part of the problem – after decades of dumbed-down propaganda from the two party system, a lot of American voters are too confused to vote rationally, even if they had a meaningful choice. If Reagan and his sponsors were able to lower the bar that effectively for close to forty years, I hate to consider the long-term effects of this jerk.

  5. Sorry if Reagan was off-topic – reference to the "disquieting legacy of Iran-Contra" triggered some kind of unpleasant flashback…

  6. ChrisB:  No, you were right to bring up Reagan, and your points are on target. The attitude you speak of is definitely there … but as we saw in the Bernie Sanders movement, it's not the only thing out there.

  7. I always try to tell newly adult children stories of the way things were when I was their age, then let them figure out the reasons why things have changed so much.  I suspect that all but the most brainwashed-ignorant will eventually get it.

    Robert Reich has some pretty good videos about how to reach others.

  8. OT – The recent statement by Lindsey Graham that he'd participate in replacing Sessions after the midterms is not a statement that Graham wants to replace Sessions. It's a desperate plea to Trump to hold off until after the mid-terms.

    Trump wants to end all the federal investigations NOW! After November may be too late. Lindsey knows it and so does Trump. The Senator would stab Trump in the back in a heartbeat if the Senator was sure the event wouldn't be traced back to him. All Lindsey wants is to retain a majority in the Senate. If Trump fires Sessions, that's possibly enough to give the entire Congress to the Democrats.

    Lindsey wants Trump to fail in a way that doesn't destroy the Republican party. If Trump will be discredited by Mueller before the new Congress is sworn in, Graham has none of Trump's blood on his hands.  IMO, the fear that grips the GOP is that Trump will go postal before the November elections when the entire GOP party has hitched their wagons to the Trump train and the train is going off the rails.

  9. Allen Weisselberg, Trump Organization CFO, Granted Immunity In Cohen Investigation

    Big wow! There's blood in the water and the sharks are circling. To put that headline in terms of naval warfare look at the story of the HMS Hood. She took a direct hit to the powder magazine.

    My understanding is that immunity is only granted if you're gonna sing for whatever audiences want to hear a tune, and that tune isn't limited to just one specific melody. Immunity deals give true meaning to the expression of being on the hook.

    Things aren't looking good for the Donald. You know, these immunity deals ought to be illegal.


    Truly a remarkable post, with echoes from strange places.  

    Fox news's Neil Cavuto said of Trump ″You are so darned focused on promoting a financial boom that you fail to see that you are the one creating this moral bust,” … “And we could all be the poorer for it.”  It is amazing this utterance came from that organization at all.  Will he be burned at the stake for heresy toward the gospel of greed?


  11. Btw – Today, the news came that John  McCain is close to passing away.

    And all morning, MSNBC has been adding to "The Maverick's" hagiography – especially noting his 2000 campaign. 


  12. Cund,

    Yes almost everyone looks better when they die? I've never heard someone say: yeah that dude that just died was a real asshole! McCain deserves praise for his military career but he lost any respect he had as a senator when he picked the great tundra grifter for VP, that and the way he treated President Obama was disgraceful!

  13. I was very glad to see a reminder of Iran-Contra, the collusion with the Iranian government to delay releasing the embassy hostages to give the Repulicans an advantage. It was almost as bad as Nixon and Kissinger colluding with the North Vietnamese to delay the peace talks. I don't understand why Russiagate makes people so hysterical — at least the Russians didn't keep people imprisoned or killed, which the Republicans did in their other conspiracies with foreign governments. Did Nixon and Reagan not receive aid from foreign governments to steal their elections?

    However, there was one mistake you made which absolutely infuriates me. We do not have laws against "military" torture. We have laws against torture. Specifically, U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 13c, §2340. The fact that Jay Bybee could distort that plain language to completely subvert its meaning and the Democrats let the Republicans get away with it is unforgivable.

  14.  but he lost any respect he had as a senator when he picked the great tundra grifter for VP,

    Yeah, but he acknowledged that mistake and he paid for that mistake. That's what happens when you don't do your homework. If McCain had just put a muzzle on her he might have won the election.

     At first glance Palin didn't appear to be a bad choice. A chance to capture the female vote and the christian vote in one shot. Once the ugliness of her personality started to come to the surface it became apparent that McCain made a huge blunder and he couldn't ditch her mid- stream.

     I forgive him for it…To err is human, to forgive is divine…wink


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