Friday, March 22, 2019

Crazed Corpulent Commander-in-Chief Feuds with a Corpse

Is Trump the Commander-in-Chief? Check.

Is Trump corpulent? Check.

Is he obsessing over a dead hero? Check.

Is he just plain crazy? Circle the best answer: Yes or No.

New Yorker columnist John Cassidy , I suspect, would circle “Yes”. Let’s read on, shall we, to find out as Cassidy describes Donald Trump’s Unhinged Obsession with “a Man Named John McCain”. During a speech in Ohio, Donald Trump railed against the late Senator McCain, who died of brain cancer.

For the first ten minutes or so, the speech that Donald Trump delivered at the Lima Army Tank Plant in Fort Shawnee, Ohio, on Wednesday afternoon, was standard fare. Standing in front of several M1A1 tanks and a huge American flag, Trump told the assembled workers that they should love him because he had kept the plant open when its future had been in doubt. … Etc. Etc. Yada yada.

Then he jumped from tanks to John McCain.

“A lot of people are asking, because they love me, and they ask me about a man named John McCain,” he said. “And if you want, I could tell you about … should I or should I not?” A few people in the crowd, or perhaps in Trump’s entourage, shouted yes, and Trump went on. “So I have to be honest, I’ve never liked him much—hasn’t been for me.” He flicked his right wrist in a gesture of dismissal. “I’ve really, probably never will, but there are certain reasons for it, and I’ll tell you.”

With that, the forty-fifth President launched into a five-minute disquisition on why he so loathes McCain, who died seven months ago, and whom he has been attacking periodically ever since, including several times in the days before his trip to Ohio. The recent attacks have caused distress to McCain’s family and have irked some senior Republicans. On Wednesday afternoon, just a couple of hours before Trump spoke in Ohio, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, tweeted: “Today and every day I miss my good friend John McCain. It was a blessing to serve alongside a rare patriot and genuine American hero in the Senate.”

Perhaps McConnell’s tweet bothered Trump, and prompted him to escalate his assault on McCain’s legacy. His comments, however, were detailed enough that they appeared to have been prepared in advance. “Did you hear about the dossier?” he began, referring to the notorious Trump-Russia document put together by Christopher Steele, a former British spy. “It was paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton, and John McCain got it. What did he do? He didn’t call me. He turned it over to the F.B.I. hoping to put me in jeopardy, and that’s not the nicest thing to do.”

The next entry on the rap sheet was McCain’s late-night vote, in the summer of 2017, against a Republican bill targeting the Affordable Care Act. “He said two hours before he was voting to repeal and replace, then he went thumbs down,” Trump said, affecting a tone of disgust. He also claimed that McCain “didn’t get the job done” for military veterans. Finally, Trump turned to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, accusing McCain of pushing George W. Bush to enter conflicts that “have been a disaster for this, our, country.”

When the long wars started, Trump supported them along with McCain and most of the U.S. establishment, of course. The failure to disclose this fact was the least of his offenses on this occasion. Here was the Commander-in-Chief, who dodged the Vietnam draft with the assistance of a doctor who knew his rich father, denigrating and dismissing a former prisoner of war and five-term Republican senator who died from brain cancer. It wasn’t just unseemly. It was kind of demented.

As Trump’s diatribe continued, the members of the crowd, who had been chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.” when he took the stage, mostly fell silent. He didn’t take the hint. Instead, he brought up yet another beef with McCain that has been festering somewhere in his fragile psyche, one that he hadn’t mentioned in public before. “I gave him the kind of funeral he wanted, which as President I had to approve,” he said. “I don’t care about this—I didn’t get ‘Thank you,’ ” he said, referring to the elaborate memorial service last summer, to which he wasn’t invited. “That’s O.K. We sent him on the way, but I wasn’t a fan of John McCain… . Not my kind of guy, but some people like him and I think that’s great.”

That last statement was almost certainly not true, and neither was a lot else of what Trump said. A fact-checking piece published by the New York Times on Wednesday night concluded that his description of McCain’s role in handling the Trump-Russia dossier and his claim that veterans groups took his side against McCain were both “misleading.” The article also said that Trump “exaggerated” his role in authorizing McCain’s funeral. That was a gentle way of putting it.

It was Congress that allowed McCain’s body to lie in state at the Capitol, and the Episcopal Church runs the Washington National Cathedral, where the funeral service was held. For his part, Trump didn’t order the flag at the White House to be lowered to half staff until almost forty-eight hours after McCain’s death, and he “stubbornly refused repeated requests from officials as senior as Vice President Mike Pence and John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, to acknowledge Mr. McCain’s death with a formal and unifying statement,” the Times reported at the time.

It should never, ever be forgotten what a resentful, self-absorbed, petty, and insecure husk of a man is occupying the Oval Office, and it never, ever will be forgotten. As he demonstrated again on Wednesday, Donald Trump won’t allow it.

There’s one more vote being cast in favor of Trump having some mental problem, and that’s from George Conway, husband to Trump advisor KellyAnne Conway. (See my post The pathological products of a preening president.) Conway thinks Trump is afflicted with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Cassidy thinks Trump is “kind of demented.” The thing is, none of the three of us are psychiatrists or clinical psychologists so I’ll let Trump’s behavior go as “just plain crazy.” Only through that lens could we make sense of a president of the United States feuding with a corpse.

Finally, Michael Bryan at Blog for Arizona shows us how AZ Sen. Martha McSally Acts Like Trump’s Battered Wife Responding to McCain Attack.

Here’s what McSally tweeted.

**Martha McSally
@SenMcSallyAZ
John McCain is an American hero and I am thankful for his life of service and legacy to our country and Arizona. Everyone should give him and his family the respect, admiration, and peace they deserve.
11:13 AM - Mar 20, 2019

Why not call out Trump directly? Compare this example of what other notables have said.

Others who knew McCain, such as Arnold (yes, that one) were much more direct and vocal in their condemnation of Trump’s attack.

“He was just an unbelievable person,” Schwarzenegger said. “So an attack on him is absolutely unacceptable if he’s alive or dead—but even twice as unacceptable since he passed away a few months ago. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to do that. I just think it’s a shame that the president lets himself down to that kind of level. We will be lucky if everyone in Washington followed McCain’s example, because he represented courage.”

That’s how to defend a dead friend and mentor.

But that’s not what McSally did. Why not? The Huffington Post found the likely reason in [Senator Martha McSally Praises John McCain But Doesn’t Rebuke Trump For His Attacks][huff]. McSally, who holds McCain’s former U.S. Senate seat, stopped short of condemning Trump’s behavior directly.

An op-ed published in the Arizona Republic on Wednesday suggested that McSally’s decision not to directly condemn Trump is likely because she faces election in 2020 to maintain control of her seat.

“She’s afraid that if she speaks honestly about Trump, he’ll turn on her,” the op-ed accused, while further describing her response to Trump as disappointing. “She’s scared. Sad, but understandable.”

Sad, but understandable? Here’s what I understand. Because of her fear of Donald Trump, Martha McSally has traded off her political career against the interests of state and country.

ACTION ALERT - Senate committee scheduled for hearing on Interior nominee - McSally is on that committee

Here is another instance of Trump’s approach to governance - another instance of X/AntiX. He nominated David Bernhardt as Interior Department secretary. In brief, “Bernhardt has a long history of working to weaken protections for public lands and endangered species. He mastered his behind-the-scenes skills as a lobbyist and high-level official in the Interior Department.”

Please contact member Sen. Martha McSally and Chairwoman Sen. Lisa Murkowski of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that is scheduled for a March 28th hearing. The full membership is appended below.

Contact information
McSally, Martha - (R - AZ)
B40D Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
202–224–2235
Contact: www.mcsally.senate.gov/contact_martha

Murkowski, Lisa - (R - AK)
522 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
(202) 224–6665
Contact: www.murkowski.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact

You can cull talking points from the following two opinion pieces.

The Center for Biological Diversity shares a letter from 29 Retirees, With 737 Years of Service, who Oppose Confirmation of Trump’s Interior nominee: Retired Interior Department Employees Urge Senators to Block Bernhardt.

WASHINGTON— Retired employees with a combined 737 years of service at the U.S. Department of the Interior today urged senators Lisa Murkowski and Joe Manchin to oppose President Trump’s nominee David Bernhardt as Interior Department secretary. The senators are chairwoman and ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, respectively.

Bernhardt will face the committee in a confirmation hearing on March 28. In their letter the 29 retirees write that Bernhardt, in his current position as the agency’s deputy secretary, “has been at the center of a culture of corruption that has been the Interior Department’s hallmark under the Trump administration.”

“Confirming Bernhardt as Interior secretary would be like dropping a bomb on America’s national parks and imperiled wildlife,” said Chris Nagano, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity who spent 27 years at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protecting endangered species. “He’s already twisted the law so powerful corporations can pollute our environment and suck up water from our rivers for agribusiness. The Senate shouldn’t endorse this guy’s appalling efforts to wreck America’s beautiful public lands.”

The former Interior employees who signed the letter worked at positions as high-ranking as national park superintendent. They spent their careers at the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the Office of the Solicitor.

Bernhardt has a long history of working to weaken protections for public lands and endangered species. He mastered his behind-the-scenes skills as a lobbyist and high-level official in the Interior Department.

As a longtime lobbyist for the Westlands Water District in California, he fought hard to block wildlife safeguards. After moving to Interior, he recused himself from working on Westlands issues. But just days after the recusal expired, in the summer of 2018, he began work on a controversial plan to roll back environmental protections and send more water to Central Valley farmers, including those in the Westlands Water District. This plan, if executed, would decimate threatened Delta smelt, Sacramento River salmon runs and the entire Bay Delta ecosystem.

While Bernhardt was Interior’s top lawyer under George W. Bush, he authored policies that sharply limited protections for endangered species. Just last year, with Bernhardt as its deputy secretary, the Interior Department proposed sweeping regulatory changes that would severely undermine the Endangered Species Act. The Act is credited with successfully keeping 99 percent of listed species from going extinct, including grizzly bears, California condors and Florida panthers.

Bernhardt oversaw the assault on a previously approved plan to protect tens of millions of acres in the Great Basin that are critical for imperiled sage grouse. The new plan will strip protection from more than 30 million acres of the bird’s sagebrush habitat, while significantly expanding oil and gas drilling and other harmful activities.

One Bernhardt policy precluded species like polar bears from protection against greenhouse gases, the primary threat to their survival. Another of his directives resulted in a rushed environmental review to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling.

“The American people want an Interior secretary who will stand up for them, not big corporations representing the 1 percent,” said Gail Kobetich, who was one of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s first endangered species biologists during a 31-year career with the Interior Department. “The Senate should vote against the confirmation of Bernhardt and send a message to Donald Trump that he must protect our public lands, wildlife and endangered species, not exploit and kill them.”

Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) published this opinion piece, Trump’s choice for Interior Secretary is fox at hen house. Here it is in full.

From our deepest canyons to our distinctive rock formations and mountain ranges, Arizonans love their public lands and outdoor spaces. According to the 2019 Conservation in the West poll, nearly 70 percent of Arizona voters want more emphasis on protecting sources of clean water, air quality and wildlife habitat while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on our national public lands. Only 20 percent preferred that Congress place more emphasis on producing more domestic energy by maximizing the amount of national public lands available.

That is why the prospect of David Bernhardt – whose Senate confirmation hearing approaches on March 28 – as Secretary of the Interior should be cause for great alarm in the Grand Canyon State.

The record shows that Mr. Bernhardt could not be farther away from the balance Arizonans want, where wildlife protections, clean waterways and appropriate energy development work in concert. His record as a former lobbyist for fossil fuel companies and now a leader at the Interior Department driving policies to expand drilling and strip wildlife protections, reveals so many conflicts of interest that Bernhardt admits he carries around a card to remind him of what they are. Nevertheless, since Bernhardt rejoined the Interior Department in 2017, it has made at least 15 policy changes, decisions or proposals that would directly benefit Bernhardt’s former clients.

In Arizona, from 2011 to 2015, Bernhardt lobbied on behalf of Rosemont Copper Co. for a proposed open-pit copper mine 30 miles southeast of Tucson. The EPA warns that the mine will pollute surrounding air and water supplies with toxic metals, which would severely impact local economies dependent on outdoor recreation and tourism. The mine has faced more than 11 years of legal battles from understandably concerned environmentalists and tribal nations.

Regionally, in his role as Deputy and now Acting Secretary of Interior, he has among other things taken aim at weakening the Endangered Species Act, reversing protections for the imperiled sage grouse; offered oil and gas leases next to national parks, national monuments, and national historical sites; and played an important role in the reduction of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. In his tenure as DOI Solicitor in the Bush administration, he spearheaded the campaign for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Veterans, who often find that the great outdoors is a medicine that helps to heal the after effects of battle, have taken particular notice of the threat posed to the quality of outdoor experiences. In nature, veterans experience a sanctuary, free of stresses and uncertainties, a place with no worries where they can relax. Many returning from military duty to their favorite outdoor places find a release they haven’t known for a long time. It’s often a transformative experience and the first page in a new beginning.

With David Bernhardt defending energy interests for decades, it’s highly unlikely he will suddenly change his views overnight to become equally interested in land conservation and wildlife protection, let alone transformative experiences. The evidence shows he is far too skewed to lead Interior with any kind of balanced decision-making.

Arizonans across generations, faiths and political affiliations make it clear in numerous bipartisan polls they want their precious public lands and outdoor recreation access protected. We remember Interior Secretaries Stewart Udall and Bruce Babbitt, Arizona voices who genuinely cared about the lands they were charged with administering. With David Bernhardt leading Interior we will be confronted with the opposite: an appalling imbalance of energy development policy over sensible conservation. We ask members of the Senate to carefully examine his record of long-standing energy industry ties and seriously consider whether David Bernhardt is at all capable of fulfilling Interior’s mission: to conserve and manage the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people.

Kate Hoit is the California State Director for the Vet Voice Foundation.

Dan Shilling is former executive director of the Arizona Humanities Council, a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran and Arizona resident since 1980.

Here is the membership of the Senate committee scheduled for a hearing on the 28th.

Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
http://www.energy.senate.gov/
Total Members: 20

Majority Members (11)
Murkowski, Lisa (AK), Chairman; Barrasso, John (WY); Risch, James E. (ID); Lee, Mike (UT); Daines, Steve (MT); Cassidy, Bill (LA); Gardner, Cory (CO); Hyde-Smith, Cindy (MS); McSally, Martha (AZ); Alexander, Lamar (TN); Hoeven, John (ND)

Minority Members (9)
Manchin, Joe (WV), Ranking Member; Wyden, Ron (OR); Cantwell, Maria (WA); Sanders, Bernard (VT); Stabenow, Debbie (MI); Heinrich, Martin (NM); Hirono, Mazie K. (HI); King, Angus S. (ME); Cortez Masto, Catherine (NV)

Judging success in the age of Trumponomics - an example being Tax Cut Fever

Judd Legum (popular.info) looks at the economy, what Trump promised, and what he did not and cannot deliver. But Trump most likely will pronounce that Failure is the new success.

The only major legislative accomplishment of Trump’s presidency is the tax cut package passed in December 2017. That legislation featured very large cuts for corporations and the wealthy. But Americans were told that it would usher in an age of sustained economic growth – more than 3% each year for a decade or more – that would benefit everyone.

[You might recall that:]… Just before the tax bill became law in 2017, [Trump] predicted runaway growth. “I think we could go to 4, 5 or even 6 %, ultimately. We are back. We are really going to start to rock,” Trump said.

It’s been just over a year and the Trump administration has quietly acknowledged it was wrong.

The economy grew 2.9% last year – when the impact of the tax cut was at its apex. In a report released this week, the Trump administration now predicts economic growth will decline in 2019 and for years to come. …

The Trump administration’s prediction of growth just shy of 3% in 2019, while short of what was promised, is substantially more optimistic than other predictions. Jason Furman, Obama’s chief economic adviser, says growth will be far lower this year:

Given the large amount of fiscal stimulus in 2018 is unlikely to be repeated and the labor market has less room than it did a year ago, [it] is very likely this is a high water mark for the recent period. Growth in 2019 is tracking around 1% and potential growth is around 1.75%.

Other economists are predicting a recession in 2020.

And even that growth was financed by increased debt, an instance of voodoo economics that is not likely to recur.

Trump promised to balance the budget and pay down the national debt within 8 years. Instead, he’s racked up record deficits. It’s rising deficits that are spurring growth. Those deficits, however, won’t keep going up forever. Justin Fox of Bloomberg explains:

Last year’s growth was spurred in part by a federal deficit increase of $190.5 billion, which amounts to 0.9 % of 2018 GDP. While the deficit is expected to keep growing in coming years, it’s not expected to grow nearly that much on an annual basis. That means less stimulus, and presumably less chance of four-quarter growth cracking 3 % again.

Trump’s advisers have a solution to their projections of slow growth: more tax cuts. …

In other words, the failure of the tax cuts to deliver the promised economic growth is proof that more tax cuts are needed.

It looks like the administration has “got a fever and the only prescription is more tax cuts.”

(For this post Scriber rearranged and shortened some quotes.)

Speaking of fever, one of the smash hits of the late 50’s was Peggy Lee singing Fever. I’ve provided lyrics more suited to our economy under Donald Trump.

Never knew how much Trump loves me
Never knew how much he cares
When he wraps the flag around him
I get a fever that’s so hard to bear
He gives me fever from my tax cut
Fever when he promised more
Tax cuts in the offin’
Fever ever more

Everybody wants more money
That is somethin’ Pres’dents know
Tax cuts aren’t such a new thing
That fever started long ago

Reagan cut my taxes
Bush gave me even more
Trump put us all in debt
All to give us fever
Fever in the mornin’
Fever all through the night
Fever!
What a lovely way to burn

I’ll save Saturday Night Fever for another occasion … and there will be one.

Trump accomplishments - on track to score most advisors indicted

Indictments

Ari Melber (The Beat) reports “It’s common to compare Trump’s legal problems to Nixon’s, but that itself is a low legal bar. More broadly, Trump has now had more advisers indicted earlier in his term than any President in history.”

That’s something that one might trumpet. Or maybe not. If Trump looks at the numbers without reference to their meaning, he could claim success. On the other hand he may want to duck this one because that chart suggests that he is a lousy judge of character.

See my source, the Daily Kos post, This chart of Trump’s presidential ‘accomplishments’ is beautiful. “Glorious, isn’t it? And he’s just getting started! Stay tuned.”

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Trump vs. General Welfare Part 1 - The Unconstitutional President

Of the founding documents, none may be more important than the Preamble of the United States Constitution.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

You would think that those officials in our government, from the president on down the hierarchy, would behave in such a way as to do those things. Of course, given what we learn each passing day, our president and his courtiers have no intention of honoring their obligation , for example, to promote the general welfare.

In this series of posts, I’ll rely on reporting from Judd Legum at popular.info. In Part 2, Legum exposes the Trump administration’s relation to white nationalism; it’s not just that they are doing little to combat it, they are actively suppressing attempts to prevent attacks by domestic terrorists. In Part 3, Legum chronicles the rise and fall of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau; Trump rewards the payday lenders while making life much more difficult for those living on paycheck-to-paycheck.

Trump vs. General Welfare Part 2 - the threat of white nationalism

In General Welfare Part 2, Judd Legum at popular.info reports on the rise of white nationalism

Violent white nationalists think Trump is a white nationalist.

Fifty-one Muslims were murdered in New Zealand last week by a white nationalist. The suspect scrawled racist slogans on his semi-automatic rifles and streamed the attack live on Facebook.

In a lengthy manifesto, published online just before the attack, the alleged killer touts Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

Back at the White House, Trump was asked if he viewed white nationalism as a “rising threat”:

I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. I guess if you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s a case. I don’t know enough about it yet. They’re just learning about the person and the people involved. But it’s certainly a terrible thing — terrible thing.

Note that Trump not only denies that white nationalism is a growing threat but also casts doubt on whether the attack in New Zealand was even motivated by racial hatred.

At the same event, Trump vetoed a resolution from Congress that would have overturned the “national emergency” Trump declared to seize funds for a border wall. Trump justified the veto by citing the “invasion” of immigrants across the southern border, parroting the rhetoric of white nationalists globally.

The President of the United States is dismissing the threat of white nationalism, using white nationalist rhetoric, and aggressively pursuing policies favored by white nationalists.

Just the facts

First, let’s get our facts straight. Donald Trump says white nationalism is not a growing threat. He’s wrong.

Over the last ten years, according to data analyzed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), “73.3% of all domestic extremist-related killings have been perpetrated by right-wing extremists, compared to 23.4% perpetrated by terrorists motivated by Salafi-jihadism and 3.2% by left-wing extremism.”

Last year, domestic extremists killed at least 50 people in the United States and “every one of the perpetrators had ties to at least one right-wing extremist movement,” and “[w]hite supremacists were responsible for the great majority of the killings.” These attacks are on the rise. “The number of terrorist attacks by far-right perpetrators rose over the past decade, more than quadrupling between 2016 and 2017,” according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

So what is Trump and his administration doing to ward off these threats? Well, of course he tweets. This one was directed at Fox News.

Donald J. Trump
@realDonaldTrump
….must stay strong and fight back with vigor. Stop working soooo hard on being politically correct, which will only bring you down, and continue to fight for our Country. The losers all want what you have, don’t give it to them. Be strong & prosper, be weak & die! Stay true….
March 17th 2019 21,115 Retweets 79,628 Likes

It could be a coincidence, but “be strong and prosper” is a phrase featured in a text important to white supremacists. The 1683 Battle of Vienna is extremely significant to white nationalists because the victory of Christians over the Ottoman Empire is viewed as a prelude to the current “battle” against Islam. The New Zealand shooter even scrawled “Vienna 1683” over his weaponry and posted the photo on social media

There is a contemporaneous account of the Battle of Vienna, which has been translated into numerous languages. The first line of the text concludes: “[b]e strong and prosper in thy way on behalf of the Christian faith.”

Another thing they are doing is denying the obvious.

Appearing on Fox News, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was asked whether Trump would deliver a speech condemning white nationalism. “The president is not a white supremacist. I’m not sure how many times we have to say that,” Mulvaney replied, not answering the question.

“I don’t think anybody can say that the president is anti-Muslim,” Mulvaney added on CBS’ Face the Nation.

Mulvaney’s defensiveness is the result of working for a man who, from the outset of his presidential campaign, has sought to exploit racial grievances against Muslims and others.

In his first speech as a candidate, Trump referred to Mexican immigrants as rapists. In a September 15, 2015 townhall in New Hampshire, Trump told a member of the audience that he was looking at ways to “get rid” of Muslims in America.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims. We know our current president is one.
TRUMP: Right. We need this question!
AUDIENCE MEMBER: When can we get rid of ‘em?
TRUMP: We’re gonna be looking at a lot of different things. A lot of people are saying that.

What are those different things?

Defunding counter-extremism

The Trump administration has dismantled the modest efforts by the federal government to counter right-wing extremism. The Obama administration created a small pool of grant money to counter white nationalism and other extremist ideologies. The money went to fund Life After Hate, “one of the only programs in the U.S. devoted to helping people leave neo-Nazi and other white supremacy groups” and researchers “helping young people develop media campaigns aimed at preventing their peers from embracing white supremacy.” Trump immediately canceled both grants shortly after taking office.

The Office of Community Partnerships, which administered the grants, saw its budget slashed from $21 million to $3 million. An interagency task force “on Countering Violent Extremism, or CVE, that included officials detailed from the FBI, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services” was disbanded.

The Trump administration was open in its belief that white supremacists were not a problem. Former Deputy Assistant to President Trump Sebastian Gorka falsely claimed that in the United States “[t]here has never been a serious attack or a serious plot that was unconnected from ISIS or al Qaeda.”

Many people, citing Oklahoma City and other incidents, pointed out that he was wrong. Gorka was incensed. “It’s this constant, ‘Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem.’ No, it isn’t,” Gorka said on August 10, 2017.

Two days later, a protester was intentionally killed by a motor vehicle at a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump later declared that many of the people participating in the violent march were “very fine people.”

Trump vs. General Welfare Part 3 - payday heyday

Goodbye Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, Hello payday lenders. It looks very much like pay to play in the land of Trump.

Judd Legum at popular.info reports on the Payday Party.

This week, the payday lenders are gathering at Trump National Doral Miami for the Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA) annual conference.

They have plenty to celebrate. After years of lobbying and litigation, the Trump administration gutted an Obama-era rule that would have cracked down on the industry’s most abusive practices.

Although Trump’s resort is expensive, it’s the second year in a row the CFSA has selected Doral for its conference. Patronizing the president’s property turned out to be a pretty good investment. The decision to rollback payday lending regulations by Trump’s Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) will be worth $7.3 to $7.7 billion to the industry every year. (emphasis added)

That will pay for quite a few rounds of golf — even at Doral where it costs $450 to play 18 holes.

How payday lending works now

In a typical payday loan, a customer is expected to pay the money back in two weeks with his or her next paycheck. Payday lenders charge outrageous fees. For example, a “customer who borrows $500 would typically owe around $575, at an annual percentage rate of 391 percent.”

Obviously, no one with access to a credit card or a home equity line of credit would pay fees that high. It’s a product that preys on people who have no other choice. Every year, around 12 million people take out payday loans.

Payday lenders typically secure repayment by automatically debiting the amount owed from the borrower’s bank account. But that’s where the trouble really starts. Most people who take out payday loans can’t afford to repay them in two weeks and still keep up with their basic expenses. So they take out another payday loan to cover the first loan.

This cycle continues. “Over 60 percent of loans are made to borrowers in the course of loan sequences lasting seven or more loans in a row. Roughly half of all loans are made to borrowers in the course of loan sequences lasting ten or more loans in a row,” the CFPB reported during the Obama administration.

Many borrowers end up paying more in interest and fees than the original amount of the loan.

Some states have stepped into the void and effectively banned these kinds of abusive lending practices. But in the 36 states that haven’t, the payday lending industry is a thriving, multi-billion dollar business.

What the Obama administration wanted to do

The payday lending industry entices people to take out loans they can’t afford to pay back, trapping them in a cycle of high-interest debt. The CFPB under the Obama administration proposed to rein in the industry by making payday lenders verify a borrower’s income and basic expenses. The loan could only proceed if the lender made a “reasonable determination” that the borrower could pay back the loan when was due. (This is a common practice in traditional banking known as “underwriting.”)

[snip]

A 2018 poll showed the payday lending rule was broadly popular. It garnered support from 79% of Americans, including 82% of Republicans, 83% of Independents, and 77% of Democrats.

How the Trump administration is shafting paycheck-to-paycheck workers

But then …

Payday lenders, who viewed the proposed Obama regulations as an existential threat, were enthused about the possibilities under a Trump administration. They opened up their wallets. Payday lenders contributed over $1.2 million to Trump’s inauguration and over $1 million to his political committees.

Their investment was handsomely rewarded. The arch enemy of the CFPB, Mick Mulvaney, went after the agency’s rules.

Things started looking up for payday lenders after Richard Cordray, the director of the CFPB under Obama, resigned in November 2017,. Mick Mulvaney, currently Trump’s Chief of Staff, took over the agency on an interim basis. While in Congress, Mulvaney opposed the creation of the CFPB, calling it a “sick, sad joke,” and received over $65,000 in contributions from payday lenders.

And, under Mulvaney’s “leadership” the CFPB went to war against itself.

The payday lending industry filed suit to block the implementation of the Obama-era rule, which was supposed to take effect this year. In an extraordinary move, after Mulvaney took over, the CFPB joined the lawsuit on the side of the payday lenders, opposing its own rule. Mulvaney argued the rule should be delayed until the lawsuit was fully resolved. This was widely seen as an effort to “delay the restrictions long enough for the bureau’s new leadership to kill them before they take effect.”

In December, the Senate confirmed Kathleen Kraninger as the new CFPB director in a 50 to 49 vote. Kraninger had no experience in consumer protection or financial regulation. She worked with Mulvaney in the Office of Management and Budget, where she focused on the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

Kraninger was accused by Democrats during her confirmation of helping implement “a policy by Trump that had separated children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.” She refused to answer questions about her role.

Her first major act as CFPB director was to gut the Obama-era regulations on the payday loan industry. She eliminated the requirement for lenders to verify borrowers ability to repay and the limitation on the number of consecutive loans.