Archive for March, 2017

Cruel and Unusual: Trump’s Budget Proposal

By Dan Rather

“Cruel and unusual,” the phrase rings in my head as I read the press reports of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.

But to even talk about it as a budget is to miss the point. It is not a budget. It is a philosophy, and one that may come as a surprise to many of the people who voted for Mr. Trump. They will hurt in real ways. Meanwhile it confirms the worst existential fears of those who see his presidency as a threat to the very being of the United States they know and love.

This is a man who made a lot of promises on the campaign about helping those struggling in society, about leading the United States to greatness in such things as fighting disease. If anyone had any doubt about the hollowness of his words, this philosophy is all the evidence one would need.

This is a philosophy that doesn’t believe in helping the poor, rural or urban, or the power of diplomacy or the importance of science. It is a philosophy that doesn’t want to protect the environment. It doesn’t believe in the arts. This is about putting a noose around much of the United States federal government and hanging it until it shakes with life no more. In the name of reining in waste, it rains pain and suffering amongst the Americans who already are the most vulnerable. It must be remarked that many of these programs are really small budget items in the greater scheme of things, rounding errors in the federal budget. The purpose is to send a message, not to save money.

Rather than investing in what truly will make America great, this philosophy pounds its chest with false bravado. People will die because of this budget. People will suffer. Diseases will spread, and cures will not be found (really? slash science research?) Our nation will be darker and more dangerous. You know it’s a philosophy because the budget has few details really in it. And here is where I see its saving grace.

This philosophy is not the United States I think a majority of Americans would recognize. I believe that we are not so cruel, so shortsighted, so dark. It’s easy to rail against the federal government on the campaign stump, but cutting programs that people rely on, that is the kind of thing that can break through the fake news into reality very soon. We have already seen the mess that has become of the health care efforts.

This philosophy is no longer theoretical and it will be a rallying cry for a reverse philosophy. Those who champion an empathetic America, an America prepared for the challenges of the modern world, will have plenty of evidence to point to. Mr. Trump has already put many Republicans in Congress on a defensive footing, on Russia and on healthcare. Wait until the constituents start calling about how they won’t be able to heat their homes in the winter or the agricultural programs that were slashed.

“The administration’s budget isn’t going to be the budget,” Senator Marco Rubio told the Washington Post. “We do the budget here. The administration makes recommendations, but Congress does budgets.” You can expect to hear a lot more of that kind of rhetoric.

Mr. Trump’s philosophy is an opening salvo in a battle for the soul of America that is only beginning. This will be a battle fought trench by trench. But I think it is winnable and America will reconfirm a governing philosophy that is hopeful, compassionate, and wise about the role of government in making our world a safer, fairer, and more just place to live.”

Advertisements

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Trump’s Scapegoating of Immigrants and Refugees

CNS-HumanRightsCaravanEverytime Fascist-In-Chief Trump refers to refugees or immigrants for that matter, he calls them bad, evil people who must be stopped.

Every single tweet! Every single speech.

All refugees are bad people and terrorists.

In reality, of course, these are families escaping war and violence (most of it which we created) and who have lost everything. These are the most vulnerable human beings that he is going after.

It is absolutely appalling, but also sadly and effective and  time-honored practice by all tyrants.

Notice how there is a remarkable similarity between the treatment of Muslims today and the treatment of Jews in Germany in the 30s  It is obviously the case that the point of the Muslim ban is to instruct Americans that Muslims are an enemy: a small, well-assimilated minority that we are supposed to see not as our neighbors or as fellow citizens but as elements of an international threat that needs to be contained and quashed in order to keep  Americans safe. More than that, Trump’s policy is a provocation and distraction. It is meant to provoke and instigate fear and hate while at the same time distracting us from the real criminals we all need to be afraid of, namely him an his administration.

But the Third Reich is only one example. History, especially  our own, is rife with this kind of dog whistle/provoke and distract politics. And it always plays out the same.

Remember in 1971, when Richard Nixon pronounced drugs to be “public enemy number one”? That was an odd choice, to put it mildly, in a nation wrecked by poverty, racial tension, injustice, civil strife, ecological disaster, corporate domination, a hated Vietnam War and much more.

Similarity, it seems rather odd  – at least to a decent person astutely aware of the realities of our times – that Fuehrer Trump and Republicans are choosing to focus on illegal immigration when there are hundreds of other things that should take precedence given our state of affairs. After all, immigrants didn’t cause the problems of this nation, but they are the easiest targets to malign and bully and vilify, just as all poor people who have nothing are.

Nixon’s war on drugs was never about drugs but about the Drug War’s primary targets: Blacks and young voters. Once the Vietnam war was over, the “war on drugs” focused on destroying the lives of people of color and poor whites and those very people were scapegoated for ills they never even caused in the first place while those very criminals that caused those ills were running the show, writing policy and in the process scapegoating the victims, the targets of those sinister policies.

In an article in Harper’s Magazine, author Dan Baum reveals that in reviewing notes of his conversation with John Ehrlichman, who had served as Nixon’s domestic policy advisory, Baum came across a bombshell admission from Nixon’s senior adviser.

Ehrlichman conceded that, in his own words:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. […]  We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

It is eerily similar to what is happening now. The anti Muslim/refugee propaganda, much like the war on drugs, is designed as a tool to win votes. It has never been, and never will be, about the safety of Americans and all that other jingoistic bullshit our fascist administration will have you believe,  just as the war on drugs was never about drugs and keeping Americans safe, but about the exploitation of racial resentment and fear for political gain and power.

As such, it has succeeded more than any other political scheme of the last half of the twentieth century and this is the exact same route Trump is taking this nation on once again.

I want to point out that  anti-immigrant sentiments and deportations have been huge under Obama. ICE itself keeps public data on who it removed from the country during the Obama years. Even as it got better at focusing on convicted criminals, a very substantial number were noncriminals. In Fiscal Year 2015, 139,368 convicted criminals were removed by ICE; the same year, 96,045 noncriminals were removed.

That’s just the ICE deportations, which are focused on the interior of the country. Elliot Young, a history professor at Lewis & Clark College who studies immigration, tallied the numbers using government data that includes deportations by the Border Patrol and other agencies that do removals closer to the border. He concluded that 56 percent of immigrants who were removed from the country between 2009 and 2015 were noncriminals.

Obama was more believable than Trump and it wasn’t true when he said it,” Young said of both presidents’ supposed focus on criminals. Even if the government is truly trying to target criminals, “the reality on the ground is that they are picking up lots of people who either don’t have any criminal convictions or they have low level misdemeanors or have crossed the border more than once and have been deported which then becomes a criminal offense.

And the Trump administration has already expanded its focus beyond criminals. In the executive order he signed on January 25, Trump laid out “enforcement priorities” for removals by the Department of Homeland Security that include immigrants who have “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense” or who have “abused any program related to receipt of public benefits.” These immigrants have the exact same priority as those who have been charged for criminal offenses.

The ACLU’s Joanne Lin explained that the executive order basically makes all undocumented immigrants a “priority” for removal. “So, like, jaywalking, have you ever driven without your wallet because you left your wallet at home? That begs the question whether any of us could actually meet that standard, in all candor,” she said.

“Because it doesn’t say that you’ve been arrested, you’ve been charged, you’ve been booked, it just says you ‘committed,’” she said. “It’s very wide berth. It’s written that way because under this administration they want every undocumented immigrant to be a potential priority.”

In fact, under Obama’s watch a record number of people have been deported out of the country. As of 2015, more than 2.5 million undocumented people had been deported by immigration authorities since President Obama took office in 2009, a total which is record-setting. During the two terms of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, just over 2 million people were deported.

Stating that they are only doing it to criminals is nothing but a manipulative tool designed to get the masses behind this callous and inhumane undertaking, becasue when you say you are doing it to criminals, images of dark and brown men with knives raping and murdering and stealing from the precious white man are conjured up in peoples’ minds and they begin to wonder if maybe there isn’t some value to ridding the country of these dark elements. After all, who wants rapists and sinister criminals in their midst.

But nothing could be further from the truth and the targets of deportation and anti immigrant policy are not the evil people our administration will have you believe.

The only criminals in this country harming Americans aand posing a threat to their health and safety as well as security are Fuehrer Trump and his white supremacist, fascist administration of billionaires and bigots. And dog whistling about minorities, refugees and the poor and scapegoating them is a time honored tradition among authoritarians and charlatans such as him and his administration.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment