Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Trump’s support base sees no crisis, urges full speed ahead
MIAMI – With Donald Trump struggling to keep his presidency on an even keel in a cacophonous first month, die-hard supporters have a message for their champion: stay on offense, never modulate, never change.
Trump is under immense pressure as missteps have plagued his debut, with opposition lawmakers and observers lobbing one assault after another at the new commander-in-chief.
They say he lies, he lacks understanding of crucial issues, his White House is already riven with scandal and warring factions, and he’s dismissing the U.S. Constitution by attacking the media.
Even some fellow Republicans are expressing alarm.
On Saturday, Trump escaped the fiery cauldron of Washington to host a boisterous rally in Melbourne, Florida, where he was greeted with open arms by loyal supporters who insist his presidency is running smoothly.
And they sniffed at charges that Trump, now the world’s most powerful man, is refusing to moderate the aggression, impulsiveness and sniping that defined his 2016 campaign, which ended in shock victory.
“I want to see more of it,” Steven Migdalski, a 53-year-old unemployed computer technician from Titusville, Florida, told AFP during his seven-hour wait to enter the Trump rally.
He gave emphatic approval of Trump’s combative tone with the press and his hasty policy steps including his controversial executive order restricting immigration.
“I am totally ecstatic that a Republican president has the balls — the fight in him — to push back against not only fake news,” but the political establishment, said Migdalski, proudly displaying his red “Built Trump Tough” shirt.
Never mind that Trump’s debut has sent jitters across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans with policy musings that contradict decades-old U.S. policy regarding the Western alliance and post-World War II order.
“He’s upsetting the globalists. And I hope they’re afraid,” Migdalski said.
Such is the damn-the-torpedoes support Trump enjoys with his core base — largely white and male, predominantly working class, and increasingly nationalistic.
In more than a dozen interviews with supporters, they said they are backing their man, despite — perhaps even because of — his controversial actions.
But supporters are aware that they too provide the energy, adulation and respect on which Trump feeds — a symbiotic relationship that was on full display in Melbourne.
Washington is not a friendly town for any occupant of the White House, and Trump appeared thrilled to return to a campaign-styled event, complete with a woman holding up a poster with the words “Hillary for Prison,” even though Hillary Clinton was defeated months ago.
“I think he needs this. Everyday he hears hatred and negativity each time he turns on the TV,” said Tammy Allen, a self-employed independent distributor in Melbourne who was in the rally crowd with three friends holding “Women For Trump” signs.
“He’s been ridiculed and put down. I mean everybody is against him. So he needs to see those Americans that support him, that love him,” she added.
“We’re the wind beneath his wings.'”
High school student Jacob Wyskoski turned 18 last year, and cast his first-ever vote in November, for Trump.
“We used to be the strongest, the biggest, the most powerful nation in all of the world. We need that back,” he said, echoing a common refrain among voters old enough to recall the U.S. power that ended the Cold War.
As for Trump appearing to live his presidency with boxing gloves on, Wyskoski said, “we need someone who’s willing to fight for this country, and I feel like he’s the guy who is going to get in the ring if we need him to.”
Several supporters brushed aside the ongoing congressional investigations about the role Russia may have played in influencing the presidential election, and potential connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials prior to the vote.
“Knock yourself out. Get all the people you want” to investigate Trump, said Mike Sikula, a retired aerospace engineer. “I love him to death.”
That Trump irks foreign leaders, antagonizes Democrats, and blasts the media while maintaining his combative campaign style is icing on the cake.
“I think it’s good,” Sikula said. Trump “has to go out in public and counter it,” he said of the criticism. “He has to go on TV and he has to tweet just to try and level the score a little bit. If he remained completely quiet, the lie would overwhelm him.”
I'm Not a Pessimist. I'm an Economist
By Abigail R. Hall Blanco
I've been lucky, in my time as a graduate student and now as a professor, to give talks on a variety of subjects to many different groups. From business owners, to my undergraduate students, to MBA students, to high school students and more, I never get tired of talking about what I love.
Unfortunately for me, many topics I discuss tend to rain on people's parades. Informing my undergraduate freshman, for example, that things like a $15 minimum wage and free college would hurt them and others, is not something they like to hear. (They usually acknowledge, begrudgingly, that the economics makes sense.) In a similar way, explaining how arming "moderate" rebels will likely end in disaster, and that foreign aid may do more harm than good, tends to fly in the face of a lot of "conventional wisdom."
Other topics I discuss are downright depressing. In presenting talks on things like police militarization, torture, and the surveillance state, people often ask me, "What can be done to fix the problem?" I attempt to craft an answer, but ultimately admit I have no step-by-step solution. In a world where politicians, teachers, and others freely offer their supposed solutions as gospel, my inability and unwillingness to offer prescriptions for the world's problems often leaves people feeling as though I'm holding something back.
On more than one occasion, I've been called a pessimist. Why are you so negative, Abby?! Geez!
In reality, I'm a closeted optimist. I have more faith in humanity than I probably should. But when confronted with the accusation of pessimism, I always respond with the same thing.
"I'm not a pessimist. I'm an economist."
Allow me to explain: It seems that many people today are focused on the world as they would like it to be, and not how it actually operates. I observe this all the time-and not just with students. Take, for example, the most recent election and Trump's new policies. People I follow on social media, who I would consider good acquaintances and friends, genuinely think Sanders', Clinton's, or Trump's patently insane economic ideas would be good for the economy and society. Free college, free healthcare, $15 minimum wages, mandated paid maternity leave, building walls around the border, making Mexico "pay for the wall," (and probably free unicorns for everyone,) have mass appeal.
Explaining that each of these policies would not only fail in their intentions, but would likely make many situations worse, is not a popular position. But it is not pessimistic.
I teach my students that the economic way of thinking requires us to engage in positive analysis. That is, we focus on what is. We look at how people respond to the incentives they face and how they make choices. We don't engage in normative analysis. We don't talk about how things ought to be or how they should be. We can talk about issues of "ought" and "should" all day long, but this does absolutely nothing in helping us determine what is actually possible.
We recognize that, as human beings living in a world of scarce resources, we face constraints. This leads to the fundamental question of economics: What do we produce? How should it be produced? Who should produce it? For whom should it be produced? Etc.
Good economists accept that we are limited in what we can achieve. We have to try and do the best we can, given all the constraints we face. We look at the goals of policymakers and others, and analyze if and how well particular actions achieve these goals. Unconstrained thinking, which dominates the political and social landscape, ignores that there are many things that, given the circumstances we face, are not possible, or will not work the way people wish they would. In many instances, the economist often plays the role of constant inquisitor, much to the chagrin of those in earshot.
In the coming weeks, months, and years, I image I'll have plenty of occasions to question people's ideas and policies. Last week, I wrote a piece examining the "danger" posed by refugees. Based on some of the responses I received, it looks like a lot of people weren't pleased with my analysis.
What President Trump Should Know about California's Bullet Train
In his State of the State address, California governor Jerry Brown went off on President Trump with unusual fury, but he also extended an olive branch of sorts. California has "roads, tunnels and railroads" that the president "could help us with," Brown said, and that will "create good-paying American jobs." Before he gets on board the president should take a hard look at this railroad the governor is touting.
It was pitched as a swift route from Los Angeles to the Bay Area, but construction began way out by Fresno. The land the rail project needs is still in the hands of the rightful owners, and the first 118 miles could cost $3.6 billion more than expected. The Federal Railroad Administration has already forked over grants of $3.5 billion for that very segment, supposedly the easiest to build. Other parts would require the most elaborate tunneling project in U.S. history, certain to incur massive cost overruns.
Few California commuters were panting for a 19th-century form of transportation both slower and more expensive than air travel. California's high-speed rail project is best viewed as a bait-and-switch ploy to get state voters to finance local transit projects they otherwise would not support. The state's High Speed Rail Authority has no experience building anything but has established a Sacramento headquarters and three regional offices. The Authority works well as a comfy sinecure for ruling-class retreads like board member Lynn Schenk, a former congresswoman and chief of staff for former governor Gray Davis. As we noted, a convicted embezzler also found work with the rail authority, so criminals are also all aboard.
President Trump and Congress should weigh all that before loading any taxpayer dollars on the bullet train. The president should also take a hard look at the massive tunnels the governor wants to dig under the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta, at a cost of $15 billion, certain to be higher. As for "good-paying American jobs," the president should note that California chose to use cheap Chinese steel on the new span of the Bay Bridge, which still came in $5 billion over budget, ten years late, and remains riddled with safety issues. Despite a whistleblower's call for a criminal investigation, nobody was held accountable for any of it.
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Posted by JR at 1:30 AM