Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

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Thad
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Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Thad » Mon Dec 05, 2016 1:25 am





I'll come back to this in a minute.

Taibbi interviews Bernie Sanders: Where We Go From Here

After the election, you called the anger Trump connected with "justified." When did you first recognize that sense of discontent and alienation was big enough to have the impact it did this past year?
I've seen it for years. I've seen a media, which has basically ignored the declining middle class, that doesn't talk about poverty at all, and has no sense of what is going on in the minds of millions of ordinary Americans. They live in a bubble, talk about their world, worry about who's going to be running 18 years from now for office. Meanwhile, people can't feed their kids. That's something I knew.

Talking about those issues, seeing that they resonated, that did not surprise me. How quickly they resonated did surprise me. How weak the Democratic establishment was, and how removed they were from the needs of ordinary people, that also surprised me.


Here's the thing: Trump won the electoral college (barring any last-minute faithless shenanigans) with a smaller minority of the vote than Clinton had. Most people did not vote for him. And even the people who did? A lot of them weren't crazy about him.

That's the thing about a two-party, first-past-the-post electoral system: the old bit about the lesser of two evils. This election perhaps more than ever.

I think a lot of people here can relate to voting for Clinton despite serious misgivings about her. Well, a lot of Trump supporters feel the same way about him.

And that's a good thing, ultimately. Trump has a core of diehard supporters -- but he's also got a hell of a lot of skeptics. I understand having trouble understanding how anyone could think he was the lesser of two evils -- but ultimately we're almost certainly going to need those people to switch sides if a Democrat is going to win in '20.

(I say "almost" because there are a few cases where a Democrat could win without any Trump voters' support. Substantial increase in turnout among Democratic-friendly demographics, National Popular Vote Compact reaches tipping point, US is hit by pandemic that only affects white people, etc. But realistically? Don't count on any of those things; we're going to need Trump voters to switch sides.)

I overheard a coworker, right after the election; seems like a nice enough lady. She said, sounding dismayed, "Just because I don't like her doesn't mean I like him!" There's hope there. There are people who voted Trump who are extremely skeptical about him but who were just, for whatever reasons, more skeptical about Clinton.

Let's try and be nice to those people. Shouting "What were you thinking?" is a natural instinct, but probably not going to change anybody's mind.

I am not advocating making peace with the bigots. Taibbi/Sanders again:

You talked about giving Trump a chance to earn your support. What did you mean?
There are areas where people like me could work with him: rebuilding the infrastructure, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, re-establishing Glass-Steagall, raising the minimum wage. Those are ideas that we can work on. Now, was he being totally hypocritical and just saying whatever came to his mind that he thought could attract votes? Or does he believe that?

Where there will not be any compromise is in the areas of racism or sexism or xenophobia or Islamophobia. This country has struggled for too many centuries to try to become a less discriminatory society. We've made progress that we should be proud of, and we're not going back to an era of racism and sexism and discrimination. On that there will not be any compromise. But you're really asking, are there areas that we can perhaps work together? If he remains consistent with what he said on the campaign trail, we'll see.


I'm not saying we should make nice with David Duke or the motherfuckers spraypainting swastikas on Adam Yauch's memorial. It should go without saying that fuck those fucking fucks.

But there are people who voted for Trump who are nonetheless very worried about his bigotry, his crassness, his conflicts of interest, etc. And we can, should, work with those people.

And Sanders is laying a trap here: yes, we can even work with Trump; it may make me throw up in my mouth a little to say it, but even he has some good ideas. (The TPP is dead. That's a good thing. I wish it had happened under happier circumstances.) Trump said some populist things that got working-class white people to back him. Sanders is prepared to work with him if he keeps his word -- and he's prepared to pounce on him at every single opportunity every time he breaks it.

To wit, in the Washington Post: Bernie Sanders: Carrier just showed corporations how to beat Donald Trump

Trump has endangered the jobs of workers who were previously safe in the United States. Why? Because he has signaled to every corporation in America that they can threaten to offshore jobs in exchange for business-friendly tax benefits and incentives. Even corporations that weren’t thinking of offshoring jobs will most probably be reevaluating their stance this morning. And who would pay for the high cost for tax cuts that go to the richest businessmen in America? The working class of America.


Sanders and Warren are in a pretty good place right now: everything they say is getting media coverage. They've got a bully pulpit and they're using it.

Sanders's biggest problem has always been, and continues to be, that while his rhetoric is good, he's light on details and concrete plans. (The "light on details" criticism, of course, never stopped Trump.) He finally drops a hint at the end of that Post article about what he plans to actually do about this:

If United Technologies or any other company wants to keep outsourcing decent-paying American jobs, those companies must pay an outsourcing tax equal to the amount of money they expect to save by moving factories to Mexico or other low-wage countries. They should not receive federal contracts or other forms of corporate welfare. They must pay back all of the tax breaks and other corporate welfare they have received from the federal government. And they must not be allowed to reward their executives with stock options, bonuses or golden parachutes for outsourcing jobs to low-wage countries. I will soon be introducing the Outsourcing Prevention Act, which will address exactly that.

If Donald Trump won’t stand up for America’s working class, we must.


I don't know what the Outsourcing Prevention Act is, but it sounds like it's potentially a pretty good cudgel against the Republicans. Do you want to be a Republican congresscritter who voted in favor of outsourcing? That's gonna make for a swell campaign ad.

Course, we've still got all the same problems with incumbent inertia, plus the post-2010 districting issues. 2018's not a lock by any stretch, let alone 2020. But the working-class wing of the Democratic Party seems to have the floor right now, and if they can keep calling attention to the hypocrisy of the Republican Party claiming to represent the working class, then they've got a shot.

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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Büge » Mon Dec 05, 2016 1:32 am

I was just thinking we needed a non-election thread for US politics going forward, but I wasn't sure what to open with. Thanks, Thad.

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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Thad » Mon Dec 05, 2016 1:39 am

The title crossed my mind the other day. It probably doesn't hurt that I've been reading a fuckload of Transformers comics.

(In the current comics, Galvatron and Megatron are not the same guy. Galvatron is an ancient Cybertronian who got trapped someplace called the Dead Universe some six million years ago, missed the entire war between the Autobots and Decepticons, and only just recently showed back up. So he's like a barbarian warrior who's suddenly been transplanted into the present day, which gives him the same kind of alien-even-among-all-the-other-aliens vibe as he had in the movie, but for non-Unicron-related reasons.

Whereas Megatron has been turned into this sort of wonderfully complex character -- basically, "What if Marx, Lenin, and Stalin were all the same person, and that person was also Magneto?" He starts off as a philosopher who protests an oppressive class system, then he leads a righteous revolution that overthrows that class system, and then he goes too far and becomes a genocidal maniac. Then a full-on supervillain. Then a repentant supervillain who joins his former enemies and tries to atone for his crimes but is always just a single heel-turn away from becoming a supervillain again.

In case I have not made it clear prior to this moment, I would much rather be talking about Transformers than US politics at this point.)

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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Bal » Mon Dec 05, 2016 6:13 am

So I was thinking about this election compared to Bush in 2000. In many ways the election itself was much more controversial, and the vitriol that built up on the left was no less intense by the time he took office (not to draw false equivalencies here, I'd kill for Bush right now), and for those of us (which I think is most of us actually) who were really voting for the first time around that 2000-2004 era, I know a ton of people in that demographic for whom the Bush years were profoundly radicalizing politically.

Which is to say, while I currently feel like "What's next" would be best summed up in the song Five Years by David Bowie, I'm very interested to see what kind of political climate we have in ten years time.

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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby zaratustra » Mon Dec 05, 2016 11:35 am

I kinda suspect the outsourcing prevention thing is too little, too late. Hell, now that Trump has almost started a war with China with just one phone call, it might prompt the Chinese to show exactly how much industrial clout America has lost in the last thirty years.

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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Mongrel » Mon Dec 05, 2016 3:40 pm

NYT: Trump has decided, yes, we are going to start a fight with China

Okay, so, hang on, this isn't war yet or anything close, so I know it's Trump, but don't panic.

Weirdly, I think it's not impossible that a head-to-head confrontation with China could turn to be good thing for the US in the mid-term and maybe the short or long terms too, assuming it doesn't go beyond diplomacy or economics. At the end of the day, if the US really wants to bear the substantial cost, they can bankrupt China, whereas China cannot level the same threat.

I think the bigger risk is that China does lose this fight and so decides that in the long term they're going to have to Do Something About America.
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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Thad » Tue Dec 06, 2016 2:14 am

Bal wrote:(not to draw false equivalencies here, I'd kill for Bush right now)


I dunno, man, Trump hasn't presided over 9/11, Katrina, or Iraq yet.

I certainly have every fear that he will be worse than Bush. But Bush has a pretty good head start in terms of sheer bodycount.

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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby zaratustra » Tue Dec 06, 2016 8:35 am

Mongrel wrote:At the end of the day, if the US really wants to bear the substantial cost, they can bankrupt China, whereas China cannot level the same threat.


You know how much is the US's debt to China?

One trillion dollars.

(this article seems to make sense regarding how US-China foreign debt works: https://www.thebalance.com/u-s-debt-to- ... wn-3306355 )

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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Mongrel » Tue Dec 06, 2016 2:41 pm

China has not been a net buyer of US debt for several years - they already sell more than they buy.

And any trade war where the US devalues it's dollar will only help the US. And China can't just "call it all in" since Treasuries don't work that way (and if they tried, the US would probably just do something by fiat anyway, maybe even print money to pay the bill - which would devalue the US dollar, though that would be risky for the effect on future treasuries markets).

All that being said, a real trade war would be incredibly damaging to both parties. It's just that it's more likely to precipitate an existential crisis for China than it would for the US.
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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Bal » Tue Dec 06, 2016 11:47 pm

China's position economically is incredibly unstable. They have an almost entirely growth based economy, and they're almost out of growth. This is why they're being so aggressive recently in growing their influence in other Asian markets and beyond. They're riding an economic bubble right now propelled by an absolute mandate from a totalitarian regime. This is actually pretty helpful when it comes to pure economics, because that regime can turn on a dime through fiat, but unless they come up with something new, they're going to look like Japan in 1990 only on the scale of fucking China.

Holding US debt is all well and good, but they've already gotten the best out of that debt that they're likely to get, and we're incredibly unlikely to sell them more (and if we did they wouldn't want to buy it because it would make the overall debt worth less).

China needs to internalize their economic gains over the last 30 years and craft a genuinely self-sustaining middle class (basically people with money to spend and decent enough jobs to be willing to do so) or I suspect they're going to be in trouble.

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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby patito » Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:34 am

Mongrel is like my oracle in that I can count on everything he predicts being wrong.

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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Mongrel » Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:39 am

The main reason China was even buying US debt was to mainpulate the currency, and that game plan isn't as strong as it once was, because they want to argue for the renminbi as a reserve currency, which they can't do if they keep it too low, so for now they're just trying to keep it sorta competitive with the US dollar.

They had stopped entirely over the past 2-3 years, but the drop in the greenback a few months ago meant that they were coming dangerously close to giving more developing countries a big currency advantage over them, so they did go on a bit of a run to bring the renminbi back down in spring. But that's all the recent activity.

As for raising domestic spending and creating a real middle class, the ruling circle knows it, but they've trapped themselves. Chinese consumers widely see Chinese-made products as trash (and not merely in the sense that the goods are inferior, but that they're even potentially lethal) and will only buy the stuff out of sheer necessity.

The road to quality domestic goods means better standards enforcement and less corruption, which in turn requires a more open and accountable society. But since the party is DEATHLY AFRAID of a Chinese repeat of the consequences of Glastnost/Perestroika (yes, they're no longer Communist, but it's the social and political aspects that matter more) and refuse to cede even the tiniest bit of power, it's doubtful they can actually make producers and bureaucrats accountable enough to resolve the problem of shoddy goods pawned off on hapless domestic consumers.

So for now their best solution is more imported production - foreign companies setting up plants in China under foreign auspices which provides at least some quality control (the exact amount depends on how stringently foreign companies monitor production - as anyone who has ever dealt with production work in China could tell you, you really have to watch the fuck out of things). But you're still not solving the issue of Chinese products being seen by Chinese folks as crap or even dangerous. The whole system needs to change and that's only going to happen if the ruling class dares to let go. Since this seems unlikely, it's very possible that something big is going to break, possibly soon.

And that's without getting into other landmines like all the shadow debt they've built up. The party can handwave away some of that by fiat (as they have already), but they can't fix those problems entirely without better governance.
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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Mongrel » Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:40 am

patito wrote:Mongrel is like my oracle in that I can count on everything he predicts being wrong.

Whew, thank god I predicted that Trump might win, eh?
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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby patito » Wed Dec 07, 2016 1:41 am

I"m just being cheeky mongrel, relax. Though I do not think China is in as bad a position as you may think.

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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Mongrel » Wed Dec 07, 2016 7:38 am

patito wrote:I"m just being cheeky mongrel, relax. Though I do not think China is in as bad a position as you may think.

Well, China's not going to collapse tomorrow or anything. The point Bal was making, which I agree with, is that they're a lot weaker than they look right now and a big crisis is actually very possible.

At the same time, I think they actually have a lot of options and potential, but most of them require the ruling circle to loosen their grip. Maybe this will happen! That would be good for China AND the world. But uh, they, haven't shown much inclination to do so.
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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Bal » Wed Dec 07, 2016 7:56 am

For the record, there's nothing actually wrong with Chinese people thinking Chinese goods are shit. There is more money to be made overall by exporting your own goods to the world and importing what your people want to buy. The trick is setting it up so they can afford to buy them with solid middle class jobs, which is basically any form of skilled labor whether that be working in an office with a business degree or working as a machinist.

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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Thad » Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:01 pm

It bears adding that the Taiwan call wasn't Trump's idea; Bob Dole made it happen in his role as lobbyist for a law firm.

That's the thing: Trump's largely an empty suit. His impulsivity and unpredictability are incredibly dangerous*, but as far as actual policy, he doesn't have much of any. Based on most of his cabinet picks, I think it's pretty clear that Bannon's the guy who's actually in charge, which is frankly even worse than if Trump was calling the shots himself.

* If there's another terrorist attack on US soil like 9/11, I think Trump's immediate response is going to be to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike. On the plus side, that requires confirmation by the SecDef, and while I have my misgivings about Mattis, beginning with the importance of civilian leadership of the military and ending with a nagging feeling that you should not hire a guy named "Maddog" to any cabinet post more important than the Bureau of Weights and Measures, he sure doesn't seem like the kind of guy who's going to let that happen. That this is something I even feel the need to speculate about is, of course, terrifying in and of itself.

That's me thinking worst case, though. There are a lot of things, far short of nuclear war, where Trump can cause harm just by saying stupid shit. Just look at what he did to Boeing's stock yesterday with a single dumb-ass tweet, and he's not even President yet.

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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Brentai » Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:42 pm

My job security has already gone from "rock solid" to "my collar needs adjusting".

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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Hardly Ideal » Wed Dec 07, 2016 1:25 pm

Thad wrote:Based on most of his cabinet picks, I think it's pretty clear that Bannon's the guy who's actually in charge, which is frankly even worse than if Trump was calling the shots himself.

I feel the end result is kind of the same. He was just pandering to terrible people before, which is about as bad.

Thad wrote:...and while I have my misgivings about Mattis, beginning with the importance of civilian leadership of the military and ending with a nagging feeling that you should not hire a guy named "Maddog" to any cabinet post more important than the Bureau of Weights and Measures, he sure doesn't seem like the kind of guy who's going to let that happen.

I hate to keep referencing it, but the BBC had a story once about all the people involved in Britain's firing chain. I found it weirdly reassuring; even if the Prime Minister loses his marbles and orders an all-out nuclear strike on Liechtenstein, cooler heads will probably prevail. Then again, I thought similar checks would keep The Bastard from getting elected, and HAHA SHIT.

And call me crazy, but for a brief nanosecond I heard "Bureau of Weights and Measures" and imagined a government building loaded with all manner of Rube Goldberg machines. Silly, but I fucking need silly these days.
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Re: Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?

Postby Thad » Wed Dec 07, 2016 9:41 pm

Hardly Ideal wrote:
Thad wrote:Based on most of his cabinet picks, I think it's pretty clear that Bannon's the guy who's actually in charge, which is frankly even worse than if Trump was calling the shots himself.

I feel the end result is kind of the same. He was just pandering to terrible people before, which is about as bad.


Well, no, because words aren't actions. Politicians say they're going to do shit and then don't actually do it all the time.

This is not to dismiss the danger of Trump's words. His words are dangerous; the word "normalization" has been getting a lot of traction lately, and there's a reason for that. Trump's words have emboldened bigots and terrorists; that, all by itself, is bad enough.

But Trump is stupid, he has no attention span, he's easy to manipulate, and he has no principles outside of his own personal gain. He's dangerous, but it's bull-in-a-china-shop danger*, stumbling around and knocking shit over, destructive but unfocused. Bannon is a very different kind of dangerous. He's a schemer. He knows exactly what he's doing.



* Mythbusters showed us that a bull in a china shop is actually very careful, so the expression isn't really apt, but I can't think of a better one.

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