Grifter, Fixer and the Boss

New Orleans     It was a news explosion on every possible platform:  radio, television, and print.  It’s a wonder it didn’t “break” the internet, as the saying goes.

Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Trump, was found guilty in court of eight charges involving all manner of tax, bank and other fraud.  At almost the time Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal lawyer was in court pleading guilty to bank and tax fraud, and, more importantly, having made payments intended to affect the results of the 2016 election to a porn star and a former Playboy model mistress of Trump’s and having done so with his knowledge and by his direction.

When a grifter and a fixer go down simultaneously how can the gang’s boss escape the long hand of the law and the roaring and fickle fates of political winds?  We’ve all watched the “Godfather” movies and a hundred other gang films.  We know once the shoes start dropping, the rest of the cheap suits start running and going to the mattresses.

Speculation is soaring.

After a hundred years without an impeachment trial in the post-Civil War era, we have now seen Richard Nixon resign under the threat of proceedings and Bill Clinton barely survive formal impeachment charges.  Now the same charges, seen as quixotic when proposed earlier by Houston’s Congressman Al Green when he pressed for a vote in the House, will be grist for the daily mill and a prominent theme from right, left, and in-between in the mid-term elections.   Stephen Bannon, another controversial, right-wing member of the Trump gang, is arguing that the mid-terms should be a plebiscite on the question of impeachment.  No doubt Democrats will pick up that theme as well.

Then there’s the question of indictment.  Normally, if someone is found or pleads guilty to doing something criminally at the direction of another, credibility questions aside, they would be called to a grand jury and likely indicted so that any potential criminality could be sorted out in a trial.  Lawyers on all sides, including the Justice Department, past and future, and law professors of all stripes and flavors are divided on whether a sitting president can be indicted while in office.  Nixon was an unindicted co-conspirator and that was enough to force him out in Watergate.  Some are arguing that status is Trump’s now without the paperwork.

Who knows, but there’s one thing that is very, very clear:  there isn’t just blood in the water now, there are dead bodies floating in it.  Bluff and bluster won’t be enough to disguise the fact that Trump is in terrible legal and political trouble.

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Please enjoy Loretta Lynn’s Wouldn’t It Be Great.

Thanks to KABF.

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Making “Welfare” a Curse Word, No Matter How Many Benefit

BOSTON, MA – OCTOBER 14: Members of the National Welfare Rights Organization march along Summer Street in Boston on Oct. 14, 1969. (Photo by Phil Preston/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Kawakawa, New Zealand       Many years ago, we organized tens of thousands of people to demand welfare “rights,” but amazingly to me, the right has managed to usurp a fundamental entitlement by promoting welfare “wrongs.”  The New York Times had a depressing piece on how this tide turned based on an examination of recent work done by Cornell political scientist, Suzanne Mettler.

When I was organizing with the National Welfare Rights Organization in based in Springfield and Boston, Massachusetts in 1969 and 1970, Mettler found that…

7 percent of the average citizen’s income came from federal social transfers, and in 1979 it was 11 percent. By 2014, it was 17 percent, according to Mettler’s analysis of dozens of programs, including means-tested aid like food stamps, benefits tailored to narrow populations like veterans, and broad-based government programs like Social Security.

Of course this doesn’t even count the largest government benefit program we have in terms of cost which is the home mortgage deduction, as I detailed in my book, Citizen Wealth almost a decade ago, because that’s a tax transfer, but because that benefit is enjoyed by the middle and upper classes, no one calls it welfare regardless of the facts.

Ironically, despite the rising number of people benefiting from direct and indirect government benefit programs, Mettler found, surprising none of us, that there’s still no love for the government and these programs, even from beneficiaries.  As the article notes,

Their feelings about government don’t appear connected to their own direct experience of it. But those feelings are shaped by opinions about other people’s reliance on government aid — specifically, on “welfare.”

Welfare has become such a pejorative term in the United States that the Trump administration, fueled by rightwing anti-poor zealots, is trying to rebrand more popular programs as welfare and house them under some agency with “welfare” in the name in order to reduce the support for the programs.  Ronald Reagan doesn’t deserve all of the credit for this, but he was a leader of the hater-pack labeling welfare recipients with a broad brush as “welfare queens.”  Culturally he had help, as many continue to perpetuate myths of themselves and others as the “deserving” poor, rather than the rest of the poor.  All of this despite the fact that thanks to President Clinton and the rest of the gang, there are only 2.5 million people on traditional welfare payments now which is less than 1% of the population.

No small amount of this shaming is evidence of unconfessed racial bias and antipathy to people living in the big, bad city, but no matter the disguise it damages families that need the support and are entitled to receive it.

Mettler is quoted saying that if you want to kill a social program, call it welfare.  She’s probably right, but in every other way, that’s just plain wrong.

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