Sunday, October 8, 2017

MORNING PETE: The End of the Two-Part System

Today's NYTimes article, "The ‘Resistance,’ Raising Big Money, Upends Liberal Politics," while being a rather boring article about funding of left-leaning American political groups, brought to mind something I wrote last November in the week following Trump's election:
I believe there's a good chance that our two-party system with all of its electoral flaws is actually beginning to crumble and that by 2020, there will be at least six more-or-less viable political parties (3 on the right and 3 on the left) running candidates in local, state, and federal elections.
I think we will soon see that this election and its aftermath will lead to significant fractures in both major parties, thus making room for an electorally-viable third party (a progressive party that addresses the concerns of the working class, non-whites, immigrants, LGBT, etc.) and probably a fourth party, which, depending on which faction ends up with the Republican party mantle, would be either a business-friendly moderate-conservative party (Paul Ryan & John Kasich) or a nationalist/populist/evangelical fear mongering party (the Trump crew, Ted Cruz).
In addition, I believe there will be a number of small non-electorally-viable parties siphoning off popular votes in many states, making the third and fourth parties even more likely to pick up electoral votes with pluralities hovering around 30%: Libertarian, Green, Alt-Right, Socialist-Worker, and all kinds of local parties like Liberty Union in VT or Secessionist in Texas or Marijuana in states that haven’t legalized it, etc.
On the right, the current Republican Party with its truly strange strange bedfellows, will fracture into 4 parties as follows:
- Libertarians who voted for Trump and who in some cases may have supported Bernie in the Democratic primaries will return to their own activist Libertarian Party led by Rand Paul and sans psuedo-Libertarians Bill Weld and Gary Johnson; neither Republican nor Democratic, the Libertarian Party won’t be organized enough to win many elections even at local levels, but they could win enough of the popular vote in some states to affect the electoral college outcome (provided the electoral system remains as is with winner-take all in 48 out of 50 states).
- Nationalist/Populist/White Supremacist elements will coalesce around Steve Bannon in a Far/Alt Right alliance The USA Party?) that with hate-radio and Breitbart propaganda will win a substantial number of local and district races in the south and prairie states, but will make little headway in state-wide or national races.
- Evangelicals and other social conservatives (anti-abortion, anti-marriage equality, anti-LGBTQ) will coalesce into a strong Conservative Party; with President Mike Pence running for re-election (having succeeded Trump after he resigns in a huff), along with VP candidate Ted Cruz the Conservatives will do quite well in a number of Senate, House, Governor, and state legislatative races; nationally, they could also win quite a few electoral pluralities.
- What is left of the Republican Party is a fiscally conservative/socially moderate alliance led by Paul Ryan and John Kasich; this would be the strongest party in the country at the state level (Senate, House, Governor, Legislatures), but, ironically, one of the smaller of the national Republican splinters, winning fewer electoral pluralities than the evangelical/social conservative Party.
On the left, the soulless and corrupt Democratic party will continue to fragment as follows:
- Progressives (like me) will become totally fed up with the DNC and back a Progressive Party, led by Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, but with younger candidates; they will be supported by savvy progressive organizations like DFA and so win numerous senate, house, and legislative seats, but, being pragmatists, they will hold their noses and vote for the Democratic Party candidate for President (see last paragraph below).
- Totally disgusted young people, Black Lives Matter Activists, Immigrants, Workers/Family Party, Green Party members, Socialist Labor Party, anarchists, and other people on the farther-left will focus on local races and drop out of national politics altogether, causing far fewer young people and older independents to vote for the Democratic candidate for president.
- The largest and most successful national party will be the liberal/centrist/corporatist Democratic Party led by Clintonites and Obama-allies, funded by liberal hedge fund managers and Silicon Valley. They will win the Presidency narrowly by electoral votes, but their plurality will far outpace all other splinters from either former major party. They will do far worse in local and state elections (including House and Senate elections), so that President Cuomo (having beaten out Joe Biden and a dozen much younger liberals like Corey Booker in the Democratic Party primaries) will need to wheel and deal behind closed doors with other former Democrats (Sens. Warren and Sanders, for example), Progressive Party House members, and relatively moderate conservative Republicans (Collins, Murkowski, Graham, Grassley, Kasich). [He’ll be good at that… the behind closed doors part.]
I'd love to hear some reactions to this "prediction."

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

MORNING PETE: Can the Democratic Party save itself and, in so doing, save our country?

I just read the most encouraging/discouraging op-ed piece in the today's NYT, entitled 
The Real Civil War in the Democratic Party, written by Lee Drutman, author of a report done for the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, entitled Political Divisions in 2016 and Beyond: Tensions Between and Within the Two Parties.
I found it to be encouraging because, I thought it identified ways that the Democratic Party could change that would save it and, possibly our country. 
I found it to be discouraging because I am skeptical that the corporatist Clintonite Democrats who still rule the party will allow these needed changes to take place.
I recommend that you, at least, read the NYT piece and, if you're so inclined, you might want to read some or all of the much longer report, which includes a cogent analysis of both political parties and the hazards they (and our country) face.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

MORNING PETE: Reading Frederick Douglass's "The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro"

Therese and I just returned from the Worcester, VT 4th of July celebrations, which included a community reading of one of Frederick Douglass's most famous orations, The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro, a speech he delivered in Rochester, New York on July 5, 1852 and which is being read in 30 communities across Vermont over the first two weeks of this July, sponsored by the Vermont Humanities Council and a number of other civic organizations.

It was a moving and sobering experience reading this prescient speech aloud with dozens of white Vermonters. The most famous lines of this speech are, as follows:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.
If you haven't read or heard the speech read, here are some links that you might want to consult:
1. The text of the complete speech (we read a version that was shortened for commemorative readings like the one we did.)
2. A video of Morgan Freeman reading a short segment of the speech
3. Dear white people: Frederick Douglass explains the Trump resistance in "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? an essay by Chauncey DeVega (Includes a video of Trump famously appearing to think Frederick Douglass was still alive.)

Monday, July 3, 2017

MORNING PETE: Let them know we are watching the damage they are doing to the American people and will hold them accountable

...please, please do NOT let this sideshow [Trump's temper tantrums over the Russian investigation] distract you from the far more important damage being done by the Republicans in Congress and in local governments to our country ...
Now, let me add to this a plea to also be vigilant about the damage being done to the country by Trump's cabinet and other high-level appointees, particularly Scott Pruitt, Trump's dangerously effective head of the EPA and Jeff Sessions, Trump's heartless Attorney General. 

And let them all know (by phone, email, snail mail, and contributions to organizations fighting these actions in court and in congress) that we are watching everything they're doing and will hold them accountable at the ballot box and in the courts.

In order to track the damage these Trump appointees (as well as congress) are doing on a daily basis, I strongly recommend that you check in on Moyers & Company's thoroughly-researched, unbearably-revealing daily column While He Was Tweeting which is 
tracking the rule changes, rollbacks, executive orders, agency moves and the legislation that are underway as the president, his team (and often, the media) are distracted by the five ongoing Russia investigations and the various legal cases surrounding the Trump administration. 
As Moyers & Company adds,
Those are important, too — but we wanted to create a special series that looks at the changes being wrought in Washington that will affect us all, perhaps for decades.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

MORNING PETE: This is no time to let up on stopping TrumpCare

Although it seems to be getting clearer to all that the current TrumpCare/RyanCare/McConnellCare bills are not going to pass in their current forms, don't underestimate the deviousness of the congressional leadership or the cluelessness of Trump to come up with some kind of bill that will repeal the ACA and/or weaken it to the point where it will die and/or replace it with a "compromise" that will fool many voters into believing that it will preserve their health insurance and, so, get just enough Republican (and probably even some Democratic) votes to pass.
So here's a suggested action: send the story below (and any others like it that you come across), which movingly illustrates the potential human cost of repealing the ACA to the staffers of every person in congress (with a special note to your own congresspersons), urging them to read the article(s) and consult their consciences before repealing the ACA and replacing it with a substitute that do irreparable harm to the most vulnerable in our society.

Supplemental benefits for millions of recipients, many of them disabled, would be at risk under Republican proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

MORNING PETE: Think Global and National, Act Local

A number of people have asked me whether and, if so, when I’d get back to my Morning Pete Postings. So, let me answer that question and, in doing so, explain why I’ve been pretty silent since mid-March when we left for a month long trip to China, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Basically, over the past 2 months, I’ve been absorbed with time-consuming personal & family affairs and local political activity. The former, sometimes referred to as “life interferes,” is what prevents many people from devoting much time to the latter. It is also one of the main reasons that so few Americans vote or attend local meetings or have the time to devote to really understanding issues that may affect them.

For the working-poor, especially people who are struggling to get a college degree and/or job certification while supporting a family, this is especially true.  Yet, it is a fact that too many Republican politicians refuse to acknowledge and that too many populist Trump supporters have been blinded to by their fears of their own vulnerability to the myriad demands of life.

Here in Vermont, we are fortunate to have elected representatives (Senators Sanders and Leahy, Representative Welch, and a legislature both houses of which are controlled by Democrats and Progressives) who, by and large, are concerned with the well-being of the most vulnerable in our state. Even our Republican Governor and a number of other elected Republican officials (especially at the local town level) are moderates on most such issues .

Nevertheless, there is much that could be improved in Vermont, and because our state is so small, we have a unique opportunity to affect change here relatively quickly and, in doing so, perhaps act as an inspiration to people in other states.

Thus, over the past several months, my wife (Therese Mageau) and I have been directly involved in a number of actions with several different, but closely coordinated Vermont organizations, including Rights and Democracy (RAD), a Vermont and New Hampshire-based, multi-issue, grassroots organization, “building a political movement, based on the values of our communities.” Through RAD, we have been involved in the following activities:
  • Migrant Justice, marching 13 miles from the State House in Montpelier to Ben & Jerry's Headquarters for “Milk with Dignity,” a campaign being led by Vermont-based Migrant Justice, to hold Ben & Jerry’s accountable to implement the ground-breaking agreement they previously signed, requiring their suppliers to provide a living wage and humane living and work conditions for their dairy workers. The goal is that implementation of this agreement may, in turn, serve as a model for other migrant workers around the country in a wide range of agricultural sectors.
  • Health Care, supporting the Vermont Workers’ Center, Planned Parenthood, and Vermont Health Care for All in pressing for a single-payer health care system in Vermont, while at the same time opposing the national Republican effort to deprive tens of millions of the most vulnerable in our country to the right to have adequate health care.
  • Racial Justice, working with Vermont-based Justice for All to to address issues of systemic and institutional racism in Vermont with a specific focus on bias-free policing in Vermont through implementation of the recently signed bill (H. 308) establishing a Racial Justice Oversight Board. This may seem odd to anyone who knows that Vermont has a relatively small, non-white population, but, in fact, Vermont has one of the highest per-capita rates of police stops, arrests and incarceration of non-whites in the country.
  • Economic Justice, working as part of a broad-coalition of organizations, pressing for $15 minimum wage along with paid family and medical leave legislation, mobilizing against “Right to Work” union-busting legislation, and preventing worker misclassification (e.g., Walmart et al classifying people as part-time or outside contractors in order to avoid paying for benefits, unemployment taxes, and disability insurance).
  • Environmental Justice, a RAD initiative to develop “an open, democratic approach to creating sustainable, livable communities that give residents a greater say in determining their future.” In Vermont and New Hampshire, we are already experiencing the divisiveness of wind generator and solar farm installations by corporate energy companies, pitting neighbor against neighbor, while the large energy companies reap the profits.
  • Criminal Justice Reform, another RAD initiative, “to engage in political campaigns against elected DAs who send people to prison rather than utilizing community reparation and rehabilitation.” This, again, may serve as an inspiration to other states around our country, which has the highest rate of incarceration per capita in the world.

All politics is local.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


To all my Trump-hating, Trump-fearing friends: Look, I know how satisfying, delicious, and yes, even entertaining it is to see Trump getting what he deserves. 

BUT, please, please do NOT let this sideshow distract you from the far more important damage being done by the Republicans in Congress and in local governments to our country and tens of millions of people--- women, poor people, immigrants (including those who are here completely legally), people of color, Muslims and people who might "look like" Muslims, the middle-class, consumers, union members, pensioners, people on fixed incomes, and, of course, all of us who live in this country and around the world. 

Please put your time, energy, and emotions into real and effective efforts to address these clear and present dangers: 

If they are on the right side of an issues, thank them for all they're doing and urge them on to do more; if they're on the wrong side, tell them we're watching and will hold them accountable at the ballot box.

That means the DNC, DCCC and all the other Ds, as well as their disguises as ANTI-REPUBLICAN or ANTI-TRUMP NEWS FLASHES or PETITIONS or INDIVIDUAL CANDIDATES (including ones you might really like such as Elizabeth Warren or Al Franken who aren't even running now) or SUBGROUPS or phony POLLS), telling them to STOP asking you for MONEY, MONEY, MONEY and instead SHOW US IN WORDS AND DEEDS how they're going to:
- stop what the Republicans are doing
- back strong progressive candidates
- and get rid of the centrist cronies whose actions have brought us President Trump, a Republican majority in the Senate, continued lopsided majority in the House, and additional losses at all levels of state and local government. 


As Republicans plan to vote on a health care bill that they won’t even allow the public to see, one that reportedly will take away pre-existing condition protections for tens…

Finally, just so you understand how distracting the focus on Trump is: 

... about all the damage being done by Republicans at any and all levels of government. However many articles may be out there (and I doubt there are many) are being totally buried by TRUMP articles in the search engines of the web. 


Friday, May 5, 2017

MORNING PETE: Why the Republicans are Trying to Pass a Health Care bill that is Opposed by Almost Everyone

My wife, Therese Mageau, posted this question on her Facebook Page:

Someone please explain to me: Exactly "who" were the Republicans trying to please by passing this health care bill? If hospitals, consumer groups, doctors, AND insurers are against it, who is for it? 

She got two very informative answers. (See below.)

The House’s passage of the bill led to an outcry from the health care industry and consumer groups, which found an uncommon ally in some insurers.

From her Facebook Friend, Tom deBoor

Their base. They feared getting primaried from the right and/or that their base would not turn out for an election (2018) where they know the Democratic base will be energized. Also, because of other laws, they needed to pass it not only for the tax cuts it includes but so they can add much larger tax cuts (for their real base). Some may be counting on the Senate to block it (that worked well for the Dems who voted for the carbon tax in 2009) but likely the calculations are even more cynical than that. They include: 
(1) That although 61 percent of Americans currently believe Republicans own health care, hundreds of millions of dollars of dark money + the right wing media machine will be able to convince a majority that any bad things that happen are a result of Obamacare and they need time to fix it and/or the Democrats blocked them from passing all the measures needed to fix it (if their bill fails the Senate, you can also count on them to do everything they can to sabotage Obamacare, as they've been doing since the day it passed).
(2) That the bad effects won't really kick in enough in time to affect the 2018 elections, and may not kick in enough to determine 2020 either.
(3) The trillion dollar tax cut (read bribe) that passing this makes possible will make most of us so happy (directly or indirectly) that we'll decide we don't really give a s*** about the 24 million kicked off health insurance, most of them rural working class Trump zombies who will vote for them anyway, persuaded that somehow their pain is the Dems fault, since that's what they want to believe anyway. Scratch the surface of most Americans these days, and you'll find the struggles they've gone through have made them rather hard and mean, and more than a few believe that people who get sick or who don't have insurance have only themselves to blame. Of course they want pre-existing condition support to protect *themselves* of course, and the Republican bill promises that's still in place, with what sounds like a lot of money ($140 billion) to make it so. They'll only find out it's a mirage when they actually need those protections, at which point they'll just be part of the 20 million that the much larger happy healthy population doesn't give a s*** about. For all of the above reasons, Dems who assume this won't pass the Senate or that if it does, Republicans have signed their death warrant, are foolish. The only way to give the lie to the arguments above is to get out there and stay out there from now through 2018 and beyond. The only thing people find more persuasive than a right wing TV ad (they've got the best of Madison Avenue; we've got the mailroom) and right wing media is a human face in front of them that they know.

From her Facebook Friend, Joy Herr-Cardillo
Two reasons: tax cuts to billionaires and they needed a political win.

The monstrosity that is the American Health Care Act…

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

MORNING PETE: Time to Call Your Elected Representatives to Save ACA Protections of People with Serious Illnesses and Other Pre-existing conditions

According to a May 1 NYT article, entitled "Pushing for Vote on Health Care Bill, Trump Seems Unclear on Its Details", Congress is on the verge of passing a Repeal and Replace bill for the Affordable Care Act that would, among other major deficiencies, include a provision for the Federal government to grant waivers allowing insurers to consider "health status" as a factor in setting rates.

In a nifty bit of legislative sleight of hand, a crucial amendment to the original Ryancare bill on the one hand appears to promise that “Nothing in this act shall be construed as permitting health insurance issuers to limit access to health coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.” 

It is this clause that is allowing Trump to claim that people with pre-existing conditions are protected. However, as the NYT article points out:
But the amendment also says that the federal government can grant waivers allowing insurers to consider “health status” as a factor in setting rates. Rates for a person with cancer, diabetes or multiple sclerosis could be far higher than the standard rate, effectively pricing the sick out of the market without technically blocking coverage, critics say.
“Health status underwriting could effectively make coverage completely unaffordable to people with pre-existing conditions,” the American Medical Association said in a letter urging members of Congress to oppose the latest version of the repeal bill.
So, this may be a critical moment to pick up the phone and call your elected representatives to make sure they stand firm against such a cynical and cruel amendment. And, make sure that any Trump-supporters you might know are aware of this attempted sleight of hand on the part of the Republican congress. Again, from the article:

The possibility that Republicans would muster a majority for the repeal bill set off alarms among supporters of the Affordable Care Act. Topher Spiro, the vice president for health policy at the liberal Center for American Progress, declared a “red alert” on Sunday, saying on Twitter, “Only a TIDAL WAVE of calls tomorrow can stop them.” Particularly in districts represented by moderate Republicans, protest groups have organized emergency rallies outside congressional district offices and sent out action alerts asking people to “call, call, call” their representatives.

Monday, May 1, 2017

MORNING PETE: The Republican Rush to Deregulate

Now that we're back from our month long trip to Southeast Asia, there's so much to catch up on and write about, so I'll try taking on some important issues as briefly as I can.

Today's (May 1) NYT article "Trump Discards Obama Legacy, One Rule at a Time"
deserves reading and thought about what actions can be taken to slow the breathtaking pace and wide scope of Republican efforts to undo important regulations put in place by President Obama's use of Executive Orders.

At the very least, I think one should share this information with friends (no matter who they voted for), so they can be aware of what the Republican controlled government has been doing in this first 100 days that will Make America Worse.

And, it can never hurt to write and/or call your Senators and Representatives offices (even if they are Democrats) and urge them to do everything in their power to slow this harmful activity and, at least, publicly denounce for the media to cover and for Americans of all stripes to know about.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

MORNING PETE: From Debs to Sanders: Fighting for Change (A May Day Message)

Last night, I had the privilege of hearing Bernie Sanders give an intelligent and inspiring talk at the historic landmark Socialist Labor Party Hall in Barre, VT. The talk, part of a Primo Maggio (May Day) celebration, was "From Debs to Sanders: Fighting for Change."

Bernie's talk revealed clearly the many ways in which the ideas and actions of early 20th century socialist party leader, Eugene V. Debs, bettered the lives of workers, children, women, racial minorities, and the environment AND how important Debs' ideas remain, especially in the light of the past 30 years of massive transfer of wealth from working and middle class families to the wealthy and super-wealthy.

Bernie cited, as just one egregious example, the fact that the wealth of just one family, the Walton Walmart heirs, is greater than that of the entire bottom 42% of the US population and that Donald Trump was seeking to pass a new $50 Billion tax break for these SUPER-RICH people!

I would like to add to Bernie's statistic about the Walton family wealth, several related facts that show how this disparity is the result of a transfer of wealth to the Waltons from poor and working class families:
(1) the vast majority of Walmart's income and profits come from sales to poor and working class customers.
(2) the low-prices that Walmart uses to attract these poorer customers are largely made possible by paying extraordinarily low wages to their workers many of whom are kept below 20 hrs/week so that they won't qualify for health insurance or other worker benefits (like sick leave, personal days, or paid vacations)
(3) another critical way in which Walmart has historically achieved such low-prices has been to demand that its vendors continuously lower their prices, a factor that has probably led to the loss of more clothing and other manufacturing jobs in America than any other single factor (take note, Donald Trump, Mr. Shop American!)
(4) as a result of Walmart's market dominance and its locations generally outside of cities and towns, hundreds of thousands of small businesses have been forced to close and in many American towns "Main Street" has been transformed from the thriving center of commerce and community life to a blighted area of poverty and, often, crime.

It is high time we all join Eugene V. Debs in the kind of "solidarity" he cherished and do everything in our power to halt and perhaps even reverse such massive transfers of wealth, even as Donald Trump and the Republican's are seeking to make these disparities even greater with enormous tax cuts to the super-wealthy.

As Eugene V. Debs said at his sentencing hearing:

"Your honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

Thursday, March 30, 2017

MORNING PETE: MAJOR ISSUES #2 The Role of the Federal Government (Part 1: Trump’s Budget)

The March 18 release of President Trump’s budget proposal to Congress provides us with a clear view of how he (and his close advisors, particularly his budget director, Mick Mulvaney) intend to dramatically reduce the important role that the federal government has played in American life since 1933 when the first of the New Deal policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt began the transformation away from the conservative laissez-faire economic policies of Republican Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover that helped create the conditions for the Great Depression.

While Trump’s campaign rhetoric about “draining the swamp in Washington” should have prepared us for such a budget, not since the New Deal have we seen a budget that so clearly and dramatically alters the role of the federal government in place during a prior administration.

Our first glimpse of the ways in which the Trump/Bannon cabal intend to dismember the “administrative state,” as they have dubbed it, was the stream of Executive Orders from the White House during the first six weeks after the inauguration. This was closely paralleled by a flurry of barely-noticed deregulatory bills passed by the Senate that are indicative of how the McConnell-driven Senate might work hand-in-glove with the White House to remake the federal government to be unabashedly pro-big business or, at the very least, laissez-faire. Then, Paul Ryan’s March 6 release of his proposed  “American Health Care Act” showed clearly that he and a small group of House leaders also intend to greatly reduce the role of the federal government in addressing the basic needs of ordinary Americans, starting with access to affordable healthcare.

In order to understand the magnitude of this reduction in the role of the federal government, it may be instructive to consider the last 40 years of American politics, starting with the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976. By doing so, we may see that 2 major ideological struggles about the proper role of the federal government have been at the heart of American politics during this period:

1. The long standing tension between the powers of the states and those of the federal government, which has haunted the American Federalist system since the Founders  first debated this matter while creating the Constitution, and which has been a North/South divide, intertwined with issues of race, ever since. 

Consider the following race-related historical examples of the tension between States Rights and Federalism: slavery, abolition, the various free-state/slave-state compromises, secession of the Southern states, the Civil War, Radical Reconstruction, the KKK, Jim Crow Laws, lynchings, racially segregated schools in the South and the 1954 Supreme Court-ordered desegregation of those schools, the Civil Rights Movement of the early 1960’s and the murders of civil rights workers in the South, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the assassinations of Medgar Evers in 1963 and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968; and more recently: voter suppression, Stand Your Ground and similar state laws, Ferguson and other police shootings of Black men, the Black Lives Matter movement, and Confederate Flag controversies in the South.

2. The pendulum swings between Progressivism and Conservatism that have dominated social and economic policy responses to the growth of capitalism over the past century: from the Trust Busting presidency of Teddy Roosevelt to 20 or so years of Laissez-Faire economic policies by the next 5 presidents who followed him (including Democrat, Woodrow Wilson) then back to FDR’s ground-changing New Deal followed by Truman’s progressive Square Deal then a swing back to President Reagan’s anti-New Deal conservatism (exemplified by his famous statement “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem" and then back again to Obama’s progressive Affordable Care Act and Executive Orders regarding civil and human rights. 

The actions and intentions of Trump, Bannon, Ryan, McConnell et al to dismantle the “administrative state” and get rid of  “nanny” state policies can certainly be seen as being the latest and most extreme swing of this pendulum since the New Deal.

It may also be instructive to consider two somewhat smaller debates regarding the proper role of the federal government that seem to be at play at this time: 

1. The foreign policy debate between isolationism and interventionism, the former often (but not always) accompanied by nationalism and/or xenophobia and the latter often (but not always) resulting in protracted and unpopular wars. 

2. The constitutional debates on a wide range of social issues that grow out of a longstanding tension between libertarian insistence on individual liberties and liberal commitment to equal protection under the laws. 

This tension is often played out in federal court cases on issues such as racial discrimination in housing, abortion, affirmative action, capital punishment, marriage equality, gun control, religious freedom, free speech, and criminal justice. Moreover, over the past 40 years, these tensions have poisoned the process of appointing federal judges to the extent that there are virtual ideological “tests” of a president’s appointments to the Supreme Court.

So when you read Budget Director Mulvaney’s claims that elimination of certain programs (such as Meals on Wheels for seniors) and the drastic reduction in funding certain executive departments (like the Environmental Protection Agency) are being undertaken simply to reduce waste and inefficiency, don’t believe a word of it. 

While no one would deny that there is waste and inefficiency in government, the idea that this is really the goal of the budget is palpably false. First of all, this is nothing new: such efficiencies and reductions in waste have, in fact, been carried out in every administration since Jimmy Carter’s (1976-80). But, even more important: even if every remaining bit of waste were to be eliminated and every possible efficiency carried out, this would barely budge the needle of the likely $4 trillion budget, let alone the probably $500 million annual deficit, or our roughly $14 trillion national debt. 

So what’s really going on with this budget?

Even a cursory analysis of what is being eliminated or greatly reduced shows clearly that this is an unabashedly pro-business budget that seeks to do away with most government regulation of business and to privatize as much federal government activity as possible; i.e. reduce the size and scope of the federal government.

It is, moreover, a budget designed to achieve the longtime goal of Tea Party Congressional budget hawks (of whom Mulvaney was a key leader until he left the House to become Trump’s Budget Director): to dramatically reduce the absolute size of government in order to substantially reduce taxes (primarily on the wealthy, who have been falsely dubbed “job creators” by anti-Tax proponents like Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform). 

Indeed, it was Norquist who famously revealed (in a May 2001 NPR interview) the truth about the conservative Republican drive to greatly reduce the size of government: “I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

Thus, we should be very clear that the Trump administration and the Republican Congress intend to dramatically reduce the role of the government in American life.

How likely are they to succeed in this effort?

Unlike the Executive orders and the Senate deregulation bills---most of which were barely mentioned in the media and so were unnoticed by most Americans--- the Trump budget and the RyanCare bill have already been met with strong (mostly negative) reactions by politicians, media commentators, organizations, and ordinary citizens across the political spectrum. So, I think it fair to expect that the coming debates on these two measures in Congress (and in the media) will give us further insights into the very wide range of views in this country about the proper role of the federal government.

I believe we can also expect that, under the influence of lobbyists, the media, and “public opinion” and through the usual messy “sausage-making” of Congress, both the budget and the health care bill will be much altered before they are passed by Congress and signed by the President, so it remains to be seen exactly how the role of the federal government will be changed by Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress.

The Budget, itself

In the meantime, let us look beneath the covers of the Trump/Mulvaney budget to see what it is proposing to do, as reported in a couple of easy-to-follow graphic explanations:

And here is just one article, Trump Takes Gamble in Cutting Funding for Agencies That Aid His Base, which (1) lays out Mulvaney’s stated reasoning behind the budget, (2) describes just some of the opposition to various aspects of it by Democrats, Republicans, and even some conservatives, and (3) identifies some aspects of the budget that will negatively impact many who voted for Trump.

Here are my take-aways from these articles:

First of all, consider that the budget has been described by the White House as a “muscular” budget, an America First budget. This is clearly something Donald Trump wants and needs to feel powerful (Military Spending), to feel loved by his base (the Wall), and to succeed where he perceives that recent past presidents have failed (defeat Islamic terrorism and North Korea; stand up to China and Europe on trade, etc.)

Further, as Budget Director Mulvaney explained to the press: 
What did you expect? This budget reflects almost everything that Trump, the candidate, said he would do. In that sense, it is an aspirational declaration, not a practical one.

So, if this budget is merely aspirational, what might a budget that eventually passes look like?

In my opinion: 

1. It will probably be less draconian in order to get the support needed from moderate Republicans (yes, there are still a few).

2. That said, it will nevertheless likely be devastating to the poor, make life very difficult for the working poor, disappoint and frustrate the middle class, and be a totally unnecessary boon to the wealthy.

3. Moreover, it could cripple efforts to address such pressing problems as Climate Change, Poverty, and Healthcare.

4. However, in order to pass, the budget will need to include spending that may not now be in it for: programs that are popular with most Republicans like support for local law enforcement and the NIH; projects that allow Republican Congresspersons to “bring home the bacon” to their states and districts; pet projects of key Republican supporters; products and services that business lobbyists press for; widely popular entities like the National Park system, NPR & PBS, and the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities; as well as government agency activities that are simply too vital to be hamstrung by inadequate budgets (e.g., the CDC, FAA, NSF, IRS, etc.).
5. Probably, the biggest obstacle that Congress will face in trying to agree on some kind of compromise budget will be the challenge of resolving competing ideological positions among Republicans: fiscal conservative political leaders like Paul Ryan; uncompromising ultra-Conservative members in both houses of Congress; right-wing radio talk hosts and their listeners; moderate Republican elected officials like Senators Susan Collins and John McCain; Libertarians like Sen. Rand Paul; as well as conservative organizations like The Club for Growth, Americans for Tax Reform, and the various Koch brothers’ organizations. They may even need the support of Blue Dog Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin.

6. And then there’s the challenge to Congress of doing all of the above and yet passing a budget that Trump can “live with”, one that will satisfy his need for a “muscular” budget.

7. Finally,  here’s the scariest part, the part that most Americans probably don’t realize is coming. Listen to what Budget Director Mulvaney stated in a March 16 news conference: “The budget blueprint [aka the "skinny budget," which addresses only so-called discretionary spending], again, does not deal with the debt. It doesn’t even deal with the deficit. It is simply the first part of the appropriations process.” This is where conservatives can do real and lasting damage to the role of the federal government in American life: an all out attack on the safety nets of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Signing off for awhile.