Saturday, June 03, 2017

Un-Enlightened Trump

Joe Stiglitz knows who Donald Trump is. He's no Master Builder. To the contrary, he's a Malevolent Wrecking Ball. He wants to destroy more than American Health Care and the Paris Climate Accord. He seeks to destroy the legacy of the Enlightenment:

For millennia before the middle of the 18th century, standards of living stagnated. It was the Enlightenment, with its embrace of reasoned discourse and scientific inquiry, that underpinned the enormous increases in standards of living in the subsequent two and a half centuries.

With the Enlightenment also came a commitment to discover and address our prejudices. As the idea of human equality – and its corollary, basic individual rights for all – quickly spread, societies began struggling to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and, eventually, other aspects of human identity, including disability and sexual orientation.

Trump seeks to reverse all of that. His rejection of science, in particular climate science, threatens technological progress. And his bigotry toward women, Hispanics, and Muslims (except those, like the rulers of Gulf oil sheikhdoms, from whom he and his family can profit), threatens the functioning of American society and its economy, by undermining people’s trust that the system is fair to all.

As a populist, Trump has exploited the justifiable economic discontent that has become so widespread in recent years, as many Americans have become downwardly mobile amid soaring inequality. But his true objective – to enrich himself and other gilded rent-seekers at the expense of those who supported him – is revealed by his tax and health-care plans.

Europe -- led by Angela Merkel -- understands this. Her conclusion that Europe and Germany can no longer rely on the United States is absolutely accurate. She reached that conclusion after the G7 Conference. Trump's rejection of the Paris Accord underscored her conclusion. Stiglitz writes that countries, states, provinces and cities have to reject everything that Trump stands for:

The rest of the world cannot let a rogue US destroy the planet. Nor can it let a rogue US take advantage of it with unenlightened – indeed anti-Enlightenment – “America first” policies. If Trump wants to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement, the rest of the world should impose a carbon-adjustment tax on US exports that do not comply with global standards.

The good news is that the majority of Americans are not with Trump. Most Americans still believe in Enlightenment values, accept the reality of global warming and are willing to take action. But, as far as Trump is concerned, it should already be clear that reasoned debate will not work. It is time for action.

Trump is hopeless. He's Un-Enlighented. We must not be.

Image: Patricia Saxton


Dana said...

"It is time for action."

OK Joe. Take some.

Owen Gray said...

It's going to take concerted group action, Dana. The moment of truth has arrived.

Dana said...

Yes, Owen, I know. But Stiglitz is asking the rest of the world to come together to solve yet another problem caused by the USA. How damn many times does the rest of the world have to come together to solve a global problem caused by the USA? How long do prominent Americans get to sit back and ask/tell the rest of the world that it's our problem too now so get busy on it, I'm having dinner just now.

I'm bloody well sick of it and would much rather glaze the USA with a few billion tonnes of Neapolitan icing, whatever it took to get it to 3 feet deep over everything.

Owen Gray said...

In the end, if things are to change, Americans are going to have to ignore Trump, Dana -- if they have the courage to do it.

The Mound of Sound said...

I found it telling how the American media spun Merkel's words when she said Europe could no longer consider America a reliable partner. That quickly became, on American screens, Merkel admitting that Europe could no longer leech on America's generosity. Europe could no longer take advantage of the U.S., victimize the American people.

What Merkel was conveying was that Europe could no longer consider America dependable. Europe had to recognize the trans-Atlantic consensus, if not as broken, then certainly as diminished, less significant and less central to Europe's interests.

The difference between the message Merkel sought to convey and how it was spun in the United States isn't a matter of nuance either. The American response only reinforced the European view of the United States.

I don't share Dana's criticism of Stiglitz. There's not much he or others, such as Robert Reich, can do but agitate until the mid-term elections.

America is akin to a pot of water atop a burner on high. Stiglitz notes that Trump exploited "justifiable economic discontent" among average Americans. Trump harnessed that support but, as Stiglitz also observes, he's used it against those same voters. Trump seized on those first tiny bubbles of discontent and, with the contribution of the Russians, Comey and, sadly, Clinton herself, it put him into the White House. However, instead of turning down the heat, Trump has turned it up with his repeated betrayal of the Gullibillies.

This brings us to Christ Hedges boiling pot metaphor for civil unrest. He cautions that no one can accurately predict when that pot will hit a full, rolling boil. All you know for sure is that it's coming. If anything, Trump seems to be hastening the arrival of that moment.

Owen Gray said...

I can't help but conclude we're going to see a volcanic eruption, Mound. No one can predict when it will happen. Something small -- like the Rodney King verdict -- will set it off. But the conflagration will be massive.

Dana said...

Stiglitz just happened to be the exemplar on display at the moment. It might have been any number of others. And there's agitation from a paneled office and then there's agitation in the streets...

BTW, anyone seen any coverage of the March For Truth? Massive apathy.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't help posting this reference to something which happened 85 years ago but which looks like it is written for today.–Hawley_Tariff_Act

Whether you are a globalist or a protectionist, once you stifle trade things can get very ugly.


the salamander said...

.. among the sad things regarding tRumph ..
is that he has the power to pardon anyone including himself
the other being as a former president he will have Secret Service protection..

I see civil war coming.. to the United States
and it won't be all about tRumpho the clown president
it will also be about the GOP.. and anyone else enabling tRump policy or actions

I don't see how the US can afford another GOP government..
but I also don't see how they can afford a Democrat government..
What does that mean ?

I think that's civil war.. or at the very least, extreme civil unrest..
Call it an eruption, pr the madly boiling kettle vibrating or exploding off the burner

Its people dying on the streets or during protests.. you name it..
then you have people flipping out because other folks are dying..
or because the rest of the world is laughing at Americans.. for good reason
Its called a cascade .. triggers and/or tipping points
coming almost at once..

Owen Gray said...

Smoot-Hawley has served as an example of exactly the wrong prescription for the times, Anon-A. But, these days, not too many people appear to be interested in history.

Owen Gray said...

You can see it coming, salamander. It's not rocket science.

Owen Gray said...

Just caught the 6:30 News, Dana. 135 cities they say. And chants of "Investigate Trump!" Let's see what happens.

Dana said...

No. You didn't miss it. There just wasn't much. Not really all that much of a protest either other than the fact that it happened in a lot of cities. Not even Dailykos covered it much. There's one piece at Slate. Lost in the darkness of the back pages, dying with democracy, at WaPo.

It reminds me of the way the legacy media in the US completely ignored the 1 million people who marched around the White House in 2002 to protest the Cheney/Bush war. Not a single print mention or report or TV news video. Only photos shot by participants and a quiet report by the Park Service weeks later.

Owen Gray said...

ABC gave it about a minute and a half, Dana. That was it.

Dana said...

Yeah, the powers that be down there are so desperate for normal they're willing to pretend this is it.

The Mound of Sound said...

I would be reluctant to discern any overarching lessons about tariffs from Smoot Hawley. That was a measure enacted in response to the Great Depression which was bound to deliver outsized consequences.

The neoliberal/globalist era embedded in us an orthodoxy that labelled all tariffs bad. It's akin to saying that all firearms are bad and hence we should take them away from our police and military. That goes much too far and denies the utility of tariff policies when implemented wisely to advance legitimate government policy. Recall how instrumental it was in breaking Britain's attempts to make Canada a captive market for its manufactured goods.

The Mound of Sound said...

I think Sal, like Hedges, is right. Unrest in the United States seems inevitable because there seems to be no political will, not even among many Democrats, to actually reverse inequality. The Dems offer to nibble away at it but, save for Sanders, their proposals are halfhearted at best.

What most worries me is that, given the lack of political will to relieve this discontent, a sharper form of oligarchy cannot be far off and, barring some form of effective upheaval, the American people could see themselves consigned to a 21st Century form of consumerist feudalism, distracted by the latest bright shiny things and corporate media gibberish. Most Americans, it seems, still believe that democratic power rests securely in the fact they're still allowed to vote.

Owen Gray said...

I agree that tariffs in and of themselves aren't bad, Mound. What matters, though, is context. Smoot-Hawley was not the answer to the Great Depression. At the moment, we are captured by an orthodoxy which takes no notice of context. We have forgotten that solutions must always take present circumstances into account.