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Why does Trump keep hiring hard-money hacks?
U.S. political discussion has been dominated by the issue of Donald Trump’s wall — an issue on which Trump’s irrationality keeps surprising even his critics. So I don’t imagine that many people have heard about Trump’s nomination of David Malpass, currently an under secretary at the Treasury Department, to lead the World Bank. But it’s a story worth following.
For one thing, while the U.S. traditionally gets to choose the World Bank’s president (Europe gets the International Monetary Fund), there will be a lot of opposition to Malpass, who has a history of being hostile to international institutions. Furthermore, the Malpass nomination highlights the remarkable character of Trump’s economic appointments.
Remarkable in what way? Well, remarkably bad. Every economist, yours truly very much included, gets it wrong sometimes. But Trump only seems to choose men who have been wrong about everything.
The fact that the president may have the authority to throw away billions on a foolish campaign promise is itself scandalous.
President Trump has declared a national emergency — purely in order to fund his wall. The courts may — or may not — reject his gambit.
But the fact that he may actually possess the legal authority to require agencies to waste billions of dollars simply to fulfill a foolish campaign promise he thinks won him the election is itself scandalous. The theatrics surrounding his petulant threat to do so obscure a vital question for our democracy going far beyond this (non)crisis, a question to which Congress should immediately turn: Who decides what constitutes a national emergency?
In hundreds of laws, Congress has given the president the power to decide. (The Brennan Center for Justice has compiled an exhaustive list.) But by failing to define crucial terms, legal standards and accountability rules, Congress has handed presidents an all-too-handy tool of tyranny commonly used by autocrats to amass more power, crush dissent and eviscerate democratic institutions. In Mr. Trump’s case, it has handed an unguided missile to an ignorant, impetuous man-child.
follow Eugene Robinson: We have a national emergency, all right. Its name is Donald Trump.
We have a national emergency, all right. Its name is Donald Trump, and it is a force of mindless, pointless disruption.
The president’s decision to officially declare an emergency — to pretend to build an unbuildable border wall — is not only an act of constitutional vandalism. It is also an act of cowardice, a way to avoid the wrath of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the far-right commentariat.
It is an end run around Congress and, as such, constitutes a violation of his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” — which gives Congress, not the president, the authority to decide how public money is spent. It does not give Trump the right to fund projects that Congress will not approve. Authoritarian leaders do that sort of thing. The puffed-up wannabe strongman now living in the White House is giving it a try. [..]
One of the most strident Republican criticisms of Obama was that he took executive actions that should have been the purview of Congress. But this action by Trump goes much further and sets a dangerous precedent.
What would keep the next Democratic president from declaring an emergency, in the wake of some mass shooting, and imposing a ban on assault weapons? Is that what McConnell wants as his legacy?
Trump cares only that his base is mollified. And that nobody remembers how Mexico was supposed to foot the bill.
Huge incentive packages are a burden for taxpayers. Other cities should follow New York’s lead.
It’s an extraordinary moment. Amazon just said, “Goodbye, New York,” announcing that it was pulling out of its plans to open a headquarters in New York City, in exchange for which the city and state had promised as much as $3 billion in incentives.
These kinds of economic incentive deals are typically struck with little public oversight and get support from voters who seem satisfied that their leaders have at least tried to create jobs. But New York’s rage at Amazon’s sweetheart deal may finally signal a sea change in how the public reacts to these billion-dollar boondoggles.
In an age of rising rents and stagnating wages, after corporations just got a big handout from the Republican tax bill with much less relief for struggling families, as income inequality continues to ensure that the profit of our economic productivity is skimmed off by those at the top, the era of such incentive deals may be coming to an end.
And in any case, Democrats are not planning to seize the means of production anytime soon.
Only a handful of Democrats in Congress (and just one Democrat-adjacent presidential contender) identify as “socialist,” but they appear to be the chief targets of President Trump as he faces a confident Democratic opposition in the House of Representatives. “We are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” he said in his State of the Union address two weeks ago, declaring that “America will never be a socialist country.”
The White House actually presaged this strategy last October, just before the midterm elections, in a report from its Council of Economic Advisers. They cite calls for single-payer health care and higher tax rates as evidence that “socialism is making a comeback in American political discourse,” with, they argue, dire consequences for the American economy. Next came the president’s address to Congress. And this week at a rally in El Paso, Tex., Trump went after the “radical left,” blasting a caricature of progressive climate policies. “I really don’t like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane flights, of ‘Let’s hop a train to California,’” he said, bizarrely adding that under the Green New Deal resolution introduced by liberal Democrats, “You’re not allowed to own cows anymore.”
The clear expectation is that many or most Americans will recoil at any hint of “socialism,” either on principle or because of its association with Venezuela, which the administration has tried to elevate as a major adversary. That might have been true in Trump’s cultural and political touchstone, the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan’s hard-line anti-Communism defined American foreign and domestic policy. But in 2019, the Cold War is long over. The Soviet Union is a memory. And there is no comparable global ideological struggle over economic systems that might give weight to Trump’s rhetoric. There’s not much fear to monger. Instead, the president’s decision to make “socialism” his opponent might have the opposite effect, potentially bolstering the movement and its ideals.