Monday, March 6, 2017

Overread at Table 1: Trump's Address to Congress

A student's paper on Donald Trump's address to Congress on February 28, 2017.  The assignment was to write about your impressions of the speech.   Here is what appears to be a first draft.

Trump February 28, 2017

Address to Joint Session of Congress.

For all intents and purposes it was a State of the Union address, but it can’t be called that because Donald Trump has only been President for about a month.  Next year it will be called the State of the Union, and hopefully he’ll have something more substantial to say.

There were several Congressmen who said beforehand that they would refuse to shake his hand.  These are widely considered to be “sore losers” by the conservatives in America.  As Trump walked down the aisle, I didn’t see any of that, but it did look like his wife, Melania, was very annoyed.  She looked like she didn’t want to be there.

Trump is making this first speech being a president with historically low approval ratings and an administration marked by controversy and scandal.

He started his speech by speaking out against the attacks against Jewish cemeteries and the shooting death of an Indian engineer in Kansas the previous week.  He says America “stands united against hate and evil.”  He didn’t mention that anti-Jewish attacks have increased in the weeks since he took office and that one of his new spokespersons was noted for going on television and using white-power symbols.  Also, Trump has the support of the KKK and his closest advisor, Steve Bannon, is an unapologetic White Supremacist.

Trump then spoke of Truth Liberty and Justice – torch is now in our hands, and we will use it light up the world.  He called for Unity and strength.  He said that there is greatness, national pride, surge of optimisim. A renewal of the American spirit.  He said that America is once again ready to lead.  He spoke then of 250 years since the day we declared our independence, and great milestones.

 Then he said that we have seen the Middle class shrink as America exported jobs and wealth to foreign shores.  He didn’t state that the middle class was created in the early 20th century as a product of the labor movement.   He also didn’t state that it was corporate CEOs who wanted greater profits who moved the jobs and wealth offshore.

Trump also mentioned the supposed calamity of inner cities of Chicago and Detroit, and that we have defended borders of other nations while leaving our own borders wide open.  We are replete with drugs, crime and a crumbling infrastructure.  This is something Trump has often said on the campaign trail and has been criticized widely for trying to liken the inner city crime, which is, by proxy,  equating African American communities with crime, as though people of color are either responsible for the crime or by their very nature allow the crime to occur.

 Then he mentioned that in 2016, the “earth shifted beneath our feet.”  He spoke of a quiet protest that became an earthquake, to America First, Make America Great.  He seemed to liken the “Trump Revolution” as a second American revolution.   Because of this, he made the point that dying industries will come roaring back to life, the veterans will be cared for, our military will grow, our infrastructure will grow, and our drug epidemic will end.

However, Trump did not give any details about how this all is going to happen

Trump said that in little over a month, the progress that he’s made includes Ford, Fiat, Chrysler, Lockheed, Intel, and Wal-Mart have announced that they will invest in America and create tens of thousands of new jobs.   However, most of these companies had already had these plans in place since 2015.  Lockheed specifically, regarding the Trump effect, stated that they would invest because they anticipate that fighter jets will be ordered by the US military in 2017.

Trump said that he has saved taxpayers hundreds of millions by negotiating  down the cost of the new F35 jet fighter.   Additionally, he has placed a hiring freeze on non-essential workers, and put a 5 year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials, and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government.  He spoke of reducing job-crushing regulations.  He has created a regulation task force inside every government agency.   Then, he said that for every new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated, which seems to follow the logic of: if we make a regulation to protect the water, does that mean we have to eliminate one that protects the air and another that protects the ground?

Trump said that he would also help the coal miners, even though what is really hurting coal production is the low price of natural gas, which Trump has not addressed.   He also said he would open up the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, two other projects that do not make economic sense given the low price of oil.  Trump also said it would make tens of thousands of jobs; in truth, those jobs will be only to build the pipelines.  After constructed, those pipelines will only need about 40 permanent workers to maintain them. 

 Trump reiterated what he has often said: that the new American pipelines will be made with American steel.  Economists have also stated that this will not only increase the price of construction drastically, but that American manufacturers will not start up the factories unless they have a guarantee of future contracts. 

About his withdrawing from the “job killing” TPP, this was mostly symbolic, because Congress never had the votes to ratify it. 

Then, Trump said that women will live out financial dreams under partnership with Trudeau.  Frankly, this aside was a little confusing, because he did not explain it at all.

Then, for his “law and order” platform, he talked of the Department of Justice making a task force to reduce violent crime to protect our women, instructing ICE to dismantle the criminal cartels.  Trump said “we will stop the drugs poisoning our youth and expand treatment” for addicts.   Again, no details.

Trump said he had heard American pleas for immigration and border security.  By making our borders safe, somehow this will magically raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions, make communities safer for everyone.   He spoke of lawlessness and chaos.  We must have integrity and rule of law at our borders.  By this, we will build a great wall along the Southern Border.    These are all familiar themes for the Trump Administration, and again, it speaks to a Nationalist fervor that is very short on reality and using “Alternative facts” which essentially is bad logic and propaganda.   There is zero economic evidence that removing 11 million undocumented immigrants will raise wages and reduce unemployment.  There is no rational argument to support such assertions.

 Trump said about “illegal” aliens, “the bad ones are going out as I speak.”  However, in the three days immediately following this pronouncement, ICE targeted a 26 year old college student waiting for renewal of her DACA status, a woman in a hospital with a brain tumor, and a woman who was filing a restraining order against an abusive boyfriend.   These are his examples of the “bad” immigrants.  But attacking women doesn’t really seem to be getting rid of “drug dealers and rapists” 

Trump then challenged “any Congress who believe we should not enforce our laws, what would you say to Americans who lose their jobs or loved ones to illegal immigrants.”   Then, he attacked “Radial Islamic Terrorism” and stated an undocumented source from the Department of Justice, that the vast majority of terrorist attackers sice 911 came here from outside our borders.  Again he called for proper vetting.

 Trump says he wants people who will support this county, love values, sanctuary for extremists, improved vetting procedures, and keep nation safe by keeping out those who will do us harm.  He has directed the Department of Defense to demolish and destroy ISIS who have slaughtered millions, ad we will “work to extinguish this vile enemy from our planet.”  Again, no details.  But it seems like we’ll soon have a lot of F35 fighter jets to help with this.

Trump is Pro-Israel and anti-Iran.  He has appointed a justice to appoint Justice who will defend the Constitution.   Blah blah blah.  He brought up Maureen Scalia in order to prove a point.  What point that is, we don’t know.  But it’s been done before.

Then he launched into the old disproven trope that 94 Million Americans out of labor force.   While technically true, it includes retirees, kids in school, people who are disabled and cannot work.  So basically it’s a dog whistle that feeds into the false narrative that 1/3 of the population is either too lazy to get off their butts and get a job or that Obama was so unbelievably terrible that people are suffering.

Guess which path Trump took?

You guessed it!  Blame Obama!

He cited 45 Million people are suffering from the “worst financial recovery in 45 years.” Also, Obama “Put on more debt than all other president combined.”   First, we had the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression, so it naturally follows that the recovery would be the worst as well.   If you broke your leg, then that recovery would be much longer than if you got a paper cut on your finger.  You simply can’t compare.   I don’t know about the debt, but in all his other misleadings and falsehoods, I am skeptical of that statement as well.

Trade deficit 800B.  Again, fact checking needed.
Overseas a series of tragic foreign policy disaster.
Work past the differences of party more blah blah blah
Tap into the American spirit that has overcome every challenge <= appeal to patriotism
Restart the engine of American economy <=appeal to our false idea of self
Make it easier to do business in us and harder to leave <= rehash of campaign trail.

Reduce tax rate, big big cut
Tax relief for middle class
Harley Davidson parked some bikes on the White House lawn, wanted Trump to ride them to this address.
Free and fair trade
Quoted Lincoln for trade policy <=appeal to authority.
Bring back millions of jobs more blah blah
Reforming system of legal immigration <= again no details

Trump said that current immigration is an outdated system that depresses wages and puts pressure on taxpayers, again without producing one shred of evidence to support this claim.  He said that other countries have a merit based system.  Yes, and we have the H1B1 system, which IS our merit-based immigration and which, incidentally, Trump suspended five days after this address

Trump mentioned the Eisenhower interstate highway system (another appeal to authority and the illusory “American greatness”).  Wants a new program of national rebuilding, and asked for a 1 Trillion spending package, the same amount that Democrats asked for two years ago but got laughed at by Republicans.  Trump calls for a mixture of Public and private capital, which is tricky.  Most economists agree that when you bring in private capital only the profit-making projects get built, which almost never coincides with the projects that are necessary to the public good.   Can you say, “Bridge to Nowhere”?

Trump then talked about Millions of new jobs and “Buy American and hire American.”  Both of which are lies.  They are not “True but misleading” as the CNN Trump-butt kissers want you to think.  These are construction jobs, and as such, they are “gigs” not “jobs” because each worker will have a 6month to a 1year contract.   When the stuff is built, these guys are on to a different “job” - Trump loves to tout a six month project as a “job.”  Additionally, he says he wants to buy American, but later in the week it was revealed that the steel for the pipeline was being supplied by a firm that builds in Canada but owned by the Russians.  So essentially, we’re supporting the Russian steel industry.

Done with lying about infrastructure, Trump went on to cry the call of “Repeal and replace Obamacare”

He stated that mandating Americans to buy government approved health insurance was never the right choice.  We must lower cost of healthcare.  He said that Arizona and Kentucky told him that we are in the middle of an imploding Obamacare disaster, which is odd, considering that the Democratic rebuttal just after the speech was given by the Democratic governor of Kentucky who said that Obamacare has saved lives.

Trump’s principals for better healthcare include:
1. Pre-existing conditions
2 stable transition for Americans currently enrolled in the exchanges.  Americans  purchase their own coverage by the use of tax credits and expanded Health Savings Accounts
Must be the plan they want not plan forced on them by our government
3 state government the resources and flexibility they need

While these sound good, it would take too much time here to cover how ignorant or simply incorrect he is in the assumptions implicit in points 2 and 3.

Trump wants to implement labor reforms to protect doctors, whatever the hell that means.  He wants to bring down the artificially high price of drugs immediately; how, he never said.  Maybe a magic wand.  Finally time has come to give Americans freedom to purchase health insurance across state lines, creating a truly competitive marketplace bring costs way down

 Now that everyone’s head was spinning from the whirlpool of bs flying around the room, Trump hit on some soundbites:

"Everything broken can be fixed
Every problem can be solved.
Every hurting family can have healing and hope
Join forces and get the job done right.”

On this and so many other things, Democrats and Republicans should unite for the good of the country and the good of the American people.  Make child care accessible and affordable to ensure parents that they have paid family leave.  Invest in women’s health.  Everyone deserves clean air and clean water and now is the time to rebuild military and infrastructure.

To advance the common good and to cooperate on behalf of every American child who deserves a much brighter future.

Trump then, for some reason, talked about Rare Disease Day, then trotted out Megan Crowley.  A 20 year old female who would have died had her dad not founded a company to look for a cure.  He experimented on Megan with his drug, which has prolonged her life.  Trump inferred that she wouldn’t be alive with the slow process of the FDA.   The inference is that the FDA takes too long to approve medicines and people die.   Or else it means if your kid has a rare disease then you will be a hero if you found a company that will create a drug that you can experiment on your kid.

Then he talked about African American and Latino children, and that they should have the choice of Charter Schools.  The “Freedom to Choose” argument.   He talked about Danisha Meriwether, who struggled in school, failing 3rd grade twice.  Then, with tax credits and scholarships, she is the first to graduate from college. “We want all children to be able to break the cycle of poverty just like Danisha.”

Then, of course, if Trump is talking about one successful African American, he has to remind us of the cycle of violence, including his favorite statistic: Chicago, which experienced the “Largest single year increase in homicides.”  While true, still makes no mention that murders are still down compared to the seventies and the eighties.   Then Trump spoke of supporting law enforcement, but doesn’t mention his executive order that basically outlaws even looking at a police officer with a “stink-eye”
Then he mentioned VOICE, possibly his most disgusting pathetic dog whistle yet.  Some database of every person who has been the victim of a crime committed by an “illegal” immigrant.   Both insidious and malicious, this database is meant to demonize immigrants, especially Latino immigrants.   Trump declares it as the “Voice of those ignored by the media.”   Then he pointed out that he had invited tonight four people, victims of crime by an illegal immigrant gang member.

One cannot even begin to explain how this panders to the most basic fear and anxiety in the heart of the majority of ignorant Americans.

Then, again, he mentioned a military buildup.  He wants the largest increases in national defense spending.  He praises the military.    This, of course, flies in the face of the fact that the US already spends more on our military than any other country in the world, and most of the countries combined. 

Then he dares to apply a Bible quote to discuss the soldier killed in an ill-planned military raid in Yemen.  He said, “Bible teaches us that there is no greater act of love than to lay down his life for his friends.”  But when Jesus laid down his life, He didn’t also take out 30 civilians, including women and children.

On Foreign policy, Trump wants “direct, robust and meaningful engagement.”  By this, he explains that he strongly supports NATO, but partners must meet their financial obligation.  Trump said that now that he is in control, the “money is pouring in.”   Basically, Trump sees NATO a shakedown.  If you do not pay, you do not get American protection.  It’s like, “Hey, you got a nice Eastern European country heah.  It’d be a shame if we let the Russians, oh, I dunno, burn it to the ground.”

“We will respect them as long as they respect us.”  Hm.  For a man who just quoted the Bible, he certainly just peed all over the Golden Rule and the lesson of the Samaritan.   Trump went on to say that “Free nations are the best vehicle for the will of the people,” and “My job is not to represent the world, it is to represent the USA.”   While this is true, it still neglects the fundamental role that America has played in the world, for good or bad, for peace or for war.  America does have the ability to stop wars more than starting them, but Trump is merely echoing the Nationalist theme that his the cornerstone of his regime.

Then, Trump threw out some more soundbites:
“America is willing to find new friends for shared interests.”
“Peace wherever peace can be found.”  <= whatever THAT really means.

By this time, the mind was beginning to melt from all his banalities and lack of real substance.  Then, Trump the centennial and the great inventions demonstrated in 1876.   He then looked forward to 2026, which I presume he believes he will still be President.  He said we should imagine the wonders we can know in our 250th year: Footprints on different worlds, schools where children learn in peace, streets where mothers are safe.  “It’s not too much to ask.  When we have all of this we will have made America greater than ever before.”

“We can only get there together.
We all bleed the same blood.
We are made by the same God.
When we fulfill this vision …
Time for small thinking is over
Time for trivial fights is over.”

Trivial fights?  Hell, three days later Trump was whining on Twitter that the Apprentice was being killed by low ratings.

Trump ended that we should be guided by a vision, not blinded by our doubts.   The trouble is, Trump has no vision, so all that America has is doubts:  doubt about Trump’s sanity, doubts about his Nationalist aspirations to create an authoritarian state, and doubts about the future of our country and the Constitution upon which it was founded.

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