Republican politicians are taking their masks off for Donald Trump

mask-1641264_1920This is a frightening time. Having only been president for a few days, Donald Trump has turned bigotry into policy and attacked basic tenets of American democracy. Even more frightening, many respected Republican politicians are supporting and enabling President Trump, and dropping their masks of respectability in the process. The Trump agenda is not possible without collaborators in Congress, which is why it is terrifying to see what these politicians look like without their masks.

In case this sounds overblown, let’s do a brief and highly abridged recap of the Trump administration so far. President Trump has begun to implement the Muslim ban he promised during the campaign by banning immigration from several countries. President Trump’s government has denied immigrants access to legal counsel in defiance of court orders, and pressured some to sign away their Green Cards. The Trump family has brazenly used the Office of the President for personal profit. President Trump has elevated white nationalist Steve Bannon to a position of enormous power in domestic policy, and given Bannon an unprecedented role for a political advisor in national security. And there is much more.

Many Republican politicians are vocal supporters of President Trump’s early actions. Many more are content to let Trump do what he wants if it helps them maintain power. A few Republicans have stood up to Trump, and they should be commended.

None of this should be forgotten. The politicians enabling President Trump are as much of a threat to American democracy as Trump himself. They do not belong near positions of power. Thanks to Trump, we know who they are.

No politician wore his mask better than Paul Ryan. But not anymore. Paul Ryan supports Trump’s anti-immigrant executive order. Paul Ryan shows no interest in Trump’s kleptocracy. Paul Ryan even embraces Steve Bannon. While some have accused Ryan of lacking the courage to stand up to Trump, Jonathan Chait argues persuasively that Ryan is in fact standing for his highest principle. It’s just that Ryan’s highest principle is to reduce taxes for the wealthy, in exchange for which Ryan is willing to accept the ugliest parts of Trump’s agenda. Whatever the reason, Paul Ryan is taking off his mask for President Trump.

When President Trump loses, and I think he will, his enablers cannot be allowed to put their masks back on as if nothing happened. If Paul Ryan has something to say about politics, he can go write for Breitbart where he belongs.

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3 Responses to Donald Trump

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Photo by Gage Skidmore.

This election is heartbreaking, and I am still processing what it means for our country. I love America, and Donald Trump’s hate, ignorance, and bullying represent all of the things that I want to believe our country can overcome. I don’t think anyone has all the answers yet about how we fight back for a more inclusive and fair America that lives up to our ideals, but I know this election makes the fight all the more urgent. Here are a few thoughts I have on how to respond to this election.

1. Stand with vulnerable communities

The worst immediate consequence of this election has been the permission slip that it has provided for hateful people to spew their hate at immigrants, Muslims, people of color, the LGBT community, and other populations. Personally, I worry about the rise of overt anti-Semitism that Trump has inspired, but I still feel safe from the most direct consequences of this election. But I know that lots of my friends see this election as a rejection of their humanity, and I want to do all that I can to give them my love and support.

It’s not enough to not be hateful and bigoted. We have to actively oppose hate and bigotry. When we see someone being targeted with this kind of abuse, or when we hear it from our friends and family, we have to confront it. Hateful people are going to keep carrying their permission slip from this election until we take it away from them.

For those with the resources to do so, now is the time to support organizations that fight for the people who are most vulnerable to the consequences of this election. The Southern Poverty Law Center made its bones bankrupting the KKK with lawsuits from victims of hate crimes, and they continue to use the legal system to fight injustice. Republicans will try to destroy Planned Parenthood, and private donations are now especially important to protect access to reproductive health care. Jezebel compiled a good list of organizations who will need more support.

2. Public opinion can stop Trump

When a Trump Administration and Republican Congress try to force through unpopular policies, we need to be there to show how their agenda will damage the country and organize people to oppose it. In 2005, Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, and George W. Bush pushed hard to use this power to privatize Social Security. He failed. The American people were so strongly opposed to the plan that Republicans in Congress refused to support it.

In an election characterized by populist backlash against elites, it is hard to imagine a less appropriate response than cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations at the expense of programs for low- and middle-income Americans. But Republicans are already talking about doing just that under the blueprint of the Ryan Budget.

As Trump showed when he won the nomination while ignoring many of the tenets of conservative economic orthodoxy, not even Republican voters are interested in the Ryan Budget. The  working-class people who supported Trump in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan did not cast their vote because they want to turn Medicare into a voucher program or give tax breaks to the corporations and executives who shipped their jobs overseas.

I co-wrote a paper earlier this year showing that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and the Ryan Budget were only popular with the elites who donate to Republican campaigns. These policies were not even supported by a majority of Republican voters.

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As he has throughout his career, Donald Trump wrote a lot of checks during the campaign that he might not be able to cash. If his economic agenda fails to deliver an industrial renaissance and “something terrific” fails to materialize to replace the Affordable Care Act, a lot of people are going to be left out in the cold.

Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress know they will soon face reelection, and a wave of public opposition has the potential to dissuade them from enacting their most unpopular proposals. Or, if voters see President Trump and his party rigging the system even more for the wealthy and special interests, they are going to look for an alternative.

3. Progressives need to hold our leaders to a higher standard

The progressive agenda is based on the idea that the system should work for everyone, not just the elites, and this message should have been perfectly suited for this election. I think voters who are frustrated with a rigged system made a mistake by trusting Donald Trump to fix it, and as that becomes clear we need to do everything we can to show that progressives can be trusted to look out for the interests of ordinary Americans.

I think Hillary Clinton would have made a really good president. I knocked on doors in Pennsylvania to encourage people to vote for her, and I’m deeply disappointed that she lost.

I think Hillary Clinton was honest and trustworthy. Even though I thought the paid speeches to Goldman Sachs and others showed poor judgment, and the Clinton Foundation’s conflict of interest policies were not perfect, and it was a mistake to not follow government protocols with her State Department emails, I didn’t think any of these things were that big of a deal. These all seemed like relatively ordinary things for politicians to do, and I think the media blew them way out of proportion.

I still believe all of that, but I care more that most voters saw things differently. Maybe they agree that these are ordinary things for politicians to do, but they are sick of it. I don’t think this explains voting for Donald Trump, who is far more corrupt than the worst caricature of Hillary Clinton, but I think it’s why some people did not support either of them. I know that’s true for some of my friends who live in the Midwest.

So for those of us who work in progressive politics, we need to hold ourselves, our colleagues, and our leaders to a higher standard of conduct. Even when we know that someone is not actually corrupt, we need to be less tolerant of creating the appearance of corruption.

The progressive agenda recognizes that sometimes making the system work fairly for everyone requires action from the federal government. But no one is going to support that agenda if they don’t trust the federal government to act fairly on their behalf. This is less of a problem for conservatives, who tend to oppose using government to solve problems and claim that government is the source of our problems.

When frustrated voters are looking for an alternative to Donald Trump and Paul Ryan, they need to know that progressives can be trusted to make the government work for everyone.

Even on Child Care, Donald Trump has to help wealthy people the most

I have an op-ed in US News that digs into Donald Trump’s new child care proposal. The details are sketchy and seem to change by the minute, but I did my best to run some numbers on this. Based on the most generous assumptions I could use, Trump’s plan will not make child care affordable for low- and middle-income families (HHS says child care costs above 10% are unaffordable), but it will be a nice windfall for richer households that get the most benefit.

Even after deducting $18,000 in child care costs under Trump’s proposal and claiming the existing Child and Dependent Care Credit, a typical family making about $62,000 with an infant and a preschooler would still need to pay 23 percent of their income to place their kids in a child care center – not even close to affordable. Even if this family has just one infant and pays $10,000 for a child care center, child care costs would still consume 13 percent of their income. But it gets even worse: a tax break that arrives the following year at tax time will not make ends meet for families who need to pay for child care up front.

 Low-wage workers fare even worse under Trump’s plan. Since these families will not benefit from Trump’s tax deduction, Trump has proposed a rebate worth up to $1,200 per family. But this is not nearly enough to make child care affordable for these families. Even assuming that a family with two parents working at minimum wage gets the full $1,200, they would still need to spend 55 percent of their income to place an infant and preschooler in child care centers. The same family would still need to spend 27 percent of their income if they only need child care for the infant.

By the way, it now looks like the minimum wage family in my example only gets a rebate of about $600, not the full $1200. So it’s even worse. The full column is at US News.

Is the House in play if Trump wins the Republican nomination?

As Donald Trump appears poised for a big round of victories in today’s Super Tuesday primaries, his success is forcing everyone to rethink their assumptions about politics. One assumption to question is that gerrymandering gives Republicans a lock on the House of Representatives until the next round of redistricting after the 2020 Census. I’m not saying Democrats will win the House of Representatives if Trump is the Republican nominee, and I wouldn’t rule out the chance that Trump wins the White House, but I do think the House is in play this year. Continue reading

New Report: Expanding National Service to Address Long-Term Unemployment

We published a new report at the Center for American Progress that details a policy to automatically and temporarily expand national service programs in times of high long-term unemployment. There are still over two million Americans who have been out of work and looking for a job for at least 27 weeks—the definition of long-term unemployment—even though the Great Recession technically ended more than six years ago.

This is especially relevant on Martin Luther King Day, both because the holiday is associated with service and because the long-term unemployed are victims of a mindset that King warned about in 1961: “When human values are subordinated to blind economic forces, human beings can become human scrap.”

The most important point in the report is that long-term unemployment is a solvable problem. Our policy isn’t a panacea, but we think it can be a big part of the solution. Here are some of the details from our report:

Under this plan, national service would function as an automatic stabilizer. Automatic stabilizers, such as unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance, expand during recessions and contract during times of economic expansion. The need for assistance from the nonprofit sector is greatest when the economy is struggling, meaning that recessions are the perfect time to boost capacity with a surge of national service. Specifically, the plan would establish a formula for an automatic funding source that would support 25,000 new and temporary national service positions for every tenth of a percentage point by which the long-term unemployment rate exceeds 1 percent. The long-term unemployment rate has averaged about 1 percent from 1948 to the present, and no temporary positions would be created whenever long-term unemployment is at or below this historical average. The plan includes guardrails to ensure that national service is not expanded more rapidly than the system can support, and also to prevent economic shocks from withdrawing temporary positions too rapidly.

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, this policy would have responded decisively by supporting a peak of 475,000 temporary national service positions at a time when about 4.6 million people were long-term unemployed. If this automatic policy had been in place from fiscal years 2000 to 2014, it would have cost an average of $2.6 billion per year—enabling 1.87 million Americans to serve their country for a year during tough economic times and delivering a return on investment of $3.93 in benefits to society for every dollar spent based on an economic study of national service.

The full report is posted on the CAP website.

 

Even Progressives Who Can’t Stand Democrats Should Cast a Vote in November for Reproductive Rights

Looks like this is going to be another election where some on the far left threaten to stay home on election dayif Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee—because they see no difference between the two parties. I don’t expect that very many people will actually do this (even in 2000, Ralph Nader received less than 3% of the popular vote). Of course, even a small number of votes can swing the election (as we saw in 2000). I understand the impulse on the far left to reject a Democratic Party that has rejected or failed to enact many of their preferred policies. But staying home on Election Day or casting a symbolic vote for a third party only makes sense if you don’t care about women’s reproductive rights. Continue reading

Rewarding Tax-Time Savings Through Existing Law

My new column at Center for American Progress proposes executive actions that would make it easier for low-income households to save for retirement at tax time. New legislation would be ideal, but if Congress remains gridlocked there is still progress to make:

[T]he Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, could make it easier for households to claim the Saver’s Credit by directing a portion of their tax refund into retirement accounts—a step that is already legal and would simply require one additional line on the Saver’s Credit tax form and clear guidance from the IRS. This would give struggling families an immediate, tangible benefit from retirement savings around tax time, which is the very moment when they have resources to set money aside.

From my experience as a tax preparer with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, I see this as a small change with the potential to help a lot of low-income taxpayers. Read the full column here.