Can Trump be Beaten on Foreign Policy?

New Orleans     Various polls indicate that the American people are increasingly open to impeachment proceedings on President Trump, but his hardcore Republican base continues to hold firm, seemingly against all odds.  Increasingly, I have to wonder giving the Teflon nature of his support, whether his Achilles heel is his hip-shooting, disastrous foreign policy.  I don’t mean just his efforts to involve foreign countries in domestic politics for his own ends, like Russia or Ukraine.  His base seems to believe in the old saying that “anything goes in love and war,” and they see politics as war.  Fair enough, but can his base continue to hold as strong if they are forced to understand that Trump is not strong, but weak, and caves into one country after another led by autocratic and ruthless men who are stronger.  Can Trump’s base be eroded on a line of attack that says he is not a deal-maker, but someone who allows every other country to eat his lunch?  Why can’t we beat Trump by arguing his real slogan is not “make America great again,” but “make America weak?”

The litany of cave-ins seems endless.

North Korea wants South Korea to end military exercises, Trump talks to the dictator, and caves in exchange for nothing.

Turkey wants to muscle up in Syria and advance its age-old conflict with our allies in Syria and the fight against ISIS, and Trump pulls us out without so much as a howdy-do to the Kurds unleashing a disaster on multiple grounds.

Israel’s weakening strongman wants to come to the White House to get some buzz for his recent re-election effort, which he loses, and announce a muscling in on the West Bank, and Trump nods him forward without any agreement for peace in the Middle East.

Hungary’s autocratic leader visits the White House and dishes dirt on Ukraine, and Trump takes his side and continues America’s support for Orban even as he loses municipal elections across the country.

China’s leadership is the subject of one tirade after another on trade and other issues, but when it comes to the bottom line, Trump steps back once again as his bluff is called.

Russia has Trump on speed-dial, and he excuses all of Putin’s behavior and appeases their every request.

The Saudi’s seem to be able to kill at will, and Trump remains a fan.

I could go on, but the point is clear.  Trump’s Christmas card list is one filled with dictators and wannabe dictators, while his attacks are constant on any moderate to liberal leaders and countries in the rest of the world.  Ironically, many of his best friends are losing badly when their own citizens are actually allowed to vote on their policies these days and demonstrations by their people are often ongoing.

As America becomes increasingly a global laughing stock, and Trump’s bizarre decision-making process makes the US weaker and weaker, how long will the red-blooded Trump base be willing to look the other way?  Forever, if there is no concerted attack, but I would bet moving on this front more aggressively and strategically could be a winning tactic in ending his reign of terror.

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Poverty in America, Why So Bad, and What to Do About It

New Orleans      The answer to the perpetually plaguing question of why we have such intractable poverty in the United States, arguably the richest country in the world, is always perplexing.  Every comparison of the US with other economically developed countries finds us at or near the bottom.  Recently the conservative business weekly, The Economist, looked at the issue with a different set of eyes to try to determine why the results of spending trillions over the years still has us struggling.

The heart of their argument is that our poverty programs focus on the “problems of the past, largely elderly and the working poor, leaving behind non-working adults and children.”  And it shows:

  • 40 million poor in 2017 or 12% of the population that amounts to individuals in a family of four living on $17.64 per day.

  • 18..5 people make only half that amount.

  • Children fare the worst with 13 million in poverty or 17.5% of all American children.

The Economist writers were not afraid to ask “Why?”  Their answer: “the safety net does not work as elsewhere.”

Countering the rightwing consensus, they argue that the poverty program has been a success, as far as it went.  Using the supplemental poverty measure, the “1967 safety-net taxes and transfers barely dented poverty:  26.4% of Americans were poor before, and 25% remained poor after.  Without a safety net, nearly the same proportion of Americans… would be poor today as were 50 years ago.”

No back-patting though.  They also find that poverty is now moving to the suburbs where 15% are at that level compared to 11% in cities.  Youngstown, Ohio gets special attention as sinking fast and Cleveland, where half of the children live in poverty, is no model despite some claims and hype.

Of course, poverty is also not colorblind with people of color paying the most painful prices for poverty.  With reparations in the news but not likely on a short list of potential policy agreements not matter the overwhelming justice that lies in the arguments, what are race-neutral problems that would move the needle?

The Economist doesn’t have the answer here, but refreshingly they do not default to the notion that philanthropy and charity are the answer.  Even with total charitable giving at $438 billion, that only accounts for 2.1% of GDP, and despite all the claims of the techsters and the rich who claim they know and do better, “charitable giving has stayed roughly the same for 40 years,” as they point out.

What might help break the cycle?

Help on rent and more affordable housing, they recognize, as we have argued, would be huge.  A lot more investment in children, which means more for HeadStart, an entitlement to daycare for all, and other programs perhaps too far out for their taste would also move the needle.

Of course, just plain cash support for out of work men and women and a restoration of welfare supports that make a difference for mothers and their young children, would be huge.  Just saying, because The Economist hinted at those answers without advocating them.

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