Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A tale of two con men

The Arizona Daily Star carried two stories about two con men, one state and one national.

Doug Ducey’s con

Howard Fischer reports that In State of the State, Ducey vows to help Arizona schools, cut taxes, fight opioid epidemic.

We can stop right there. How is he going to help Arizona schools while cutting tax revenue?

Gov. Doug Ducey promised more money on Monday for education.

But the Republican governor’s State of the State speech was short on details. …

… House Minority Leader Rebecca Rios called what she heard “short on substance.”

“I’m hearing that he’s going to do these things for education without any clear idea of how,” she said.

The governor’s bigger problem could be with the broader community of education advocates and some business leaders who say state aid to schools has been cut by a combined $1 billion-plus in the past decade.

Ducey boasted overall school spending is up 10 percent in the past three years, even adjusted for inflation. The governor did not say, though, that even when inflation is taken into account, Arizona spends less now per student than it did in 2007.

The governor provided no specifics about how much more he wants lawmakers to provide, steering the conversation away from dollars and cents.

But he was willing to talk dollars and cents when it comes to cutting taxes - again.

While the governor is not saying how much more he will put into education, he is proposing what would reduce state income tax collections by $15 million.

Current law exempts the first $2,500 of military pensions from state taxes, a figure the governor said has not been updated since 1989. He proposes increasing that in steps to $10,000, putting the average savings to a military retiree at $280 a year.

Rios is withholding judgment, saying cutting revenues can’t be enacted in isolation.

“You have to look at everything collectively,” she said. “If we continue to go down the same route of tax cuts every year at the expense of true investment in public education, then we continue to sit where we are now, which is dead last in the country for public education.”

Now which AZ state legislators will be on board with Ducey’s con: promising more money for K–12 while reducing revenues? Hint: probably no Republicans so we need to elect a different governor this year, one that will free up monies now in the form of tax breaks for special interests.

Donald Trump’s con

Robert Reich explains why Trump may be dumb, but he’s a talented con man.

For more than a year now, I’ve been hearing from people in the inner circles of official Washington — GOP lobbyists, Republican pundits, even a few Republican members of Congress — that Donald Trump is remarkably stupid.

I figured they couldn’t be right, because really stupid people don’t become presidents of the United States. …

But hold on. It would be dangerous to underestimate this man. Even if Trump doesn’t read, can’t follow a logical argument and has the attention span of a fruit fly, it still doesn’t follow that he’s stupid.

There’s another form of intelligence: “emotional intelligence.”

… emotional intelligence [is defined] as the ability to do two things — “understand and manage our own emotions,” and “recognize and influence the emotions of others.” Granted, Trump hasn’t displayed much capacity for the first. He’s thin-skinned, narcissistic, and vindictive. As dozens of Republican foreign-policy experts put it, “He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate criticism.”

OK, but what about the second aspect — influencing the emotions of others?

This is where Trump shines. He knows how to manipulate people. He has an uncanny ability to discover their emotional vulnerabilities and use them for his own purposes.

To put it another way, Trump is an extraordinarily talented con man.

He’s always been a con man. He conned hundreds of young people and their parents into paying to attend his near-worthless Trump University. He conned banks into lending him more money even after he repeatedly failed to pay them. He conned contractors to work for him and then stiffed them.

And he’s been a great political con man. He conned nearly 63 million Americans into voting for him in November 2016 by getting them to believe his lies about Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and all the “wonderful,” “beautiful” things he’d do for those who supported him.

And he’s still conning many of them.

Political conning is Trump’s genius. This genius — combined with his utter stupidity in seemingly every other dimension of his being — poses a clear and present danger to America and the world.

Which members of Congress will put aside their own political ambitions and unite to stop this clear and present danger? Hint: probably not enough of them, so Trump’s con will continue until stopped at the 2018 ballot boxes.

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