The State of Government and Democracy in Trump’s America

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A night view of the White House from Lafeyette Square Park in Washington, D.C.: Glynn Wilson

By Glynn Wilson —

WASHINGTON, D.C. — If President Donald J. Trump was actually as smart as he likes to say he is and actually had a plan to make America great, he would have shut down his Twitter account on Inauguration Day and ordered his cabinet to come up with real plans to address the big problems of our time.

Instead, he continued running his zany keyword campaign to appeal to the most radical, disgruntled members of American society and thumbed his nose at the world.

For all those fence sitters who said “give Trump a chance,” what do you say now?

We’ve accidentally elected bad presidents in the past and lived to tell about it, and it hasn’t been that long ago. When the U.S. Supreme Court elevated George W. Bush to the White House, the world got broken but did not end. Looking back at Bush 43 now, he looks like a Rhodes Scholar compared to Trump. At least his administration actually ran the government to some extent, if badly, making horrible decisions on Iraq, the economy and the environment.

After nine months in office, it has become obvious that Trump is unable to change and govern. The view from here is crystal clear. Trump’s government is on autopilot. Angrily tweeting at your enemies is not the same as governing.

Is Trump even staying in the West Wing and working in the Oval Office? Or is he just Tweeting from his king-sized bed in the Trump hotel nearby?

All the federal government agencies are being run by the 2.79 million civil service employees, like the great rangers with the National Park Service. Many agencies are riddled with unfilled positions, staff shortages and shrinking budgets. The federal government employs more people than any corporation in the country. Walmart only has 2.1 million employees by comparison.

We are still operating under Keynesian economics — in spite of conservative Republican attempts to change that to what George H.W. Bush called “Voodoo Economics.” Ronald Reagan’s biggest disappointment, which he admitted, was that “supply side” economics didn’t work and he ended up running up a huge national debt and deficit. Cuting taxes did not generate the revenue he hoped.

Bush 43 tried it again, just because it seems to work as an election strategy, and it nearly collapsed the world economy. President Barack Obama had to bail it out and try to run a merit system, while the political right just shouted epithets from the peanut gallery for eight solid years. Screaming at the president on Facebook because you don’t like him personally is not the same as getting involved in democracy as a member of this “government by the people.” Mr. Obama tried to tell people he would need their help to get things done all during the 2008 campaign and in his inaugural address. Mostly people went on about their business and did nothing to help.

Now Trump is trying the voodoo once again, or at least tweeting about it.

Congress

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A night view of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.: Glynn Wilson

Most members of Congress are not here either, showing up for work at the Capitol and trying hard every day to try to pass meaningful legislation to fix our very real problems, economic and otherwise. They are mostly back home in their districts holding town hall meetings and running for reelection, and checking their stock options to get rich on their privilege of being largely exempt from insider trading laws.

The question I get most often from people when I talk to them about the government is this: How do these poor members of Congress end up getting so rich after many years in office? My answer: Because members of Congress are exempt from the law against capitalizing on insider trading.

While President Obama and Congress made a show of changing the congressional ethics rules back in 2012 after an expose came out about this on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” it turns out they left huge loopholes for themselves.

Think of a recently retired Congressman from Birmingham named Spencer Bachus. He decided to leave Congress due to a strong challenge from the tea party right. But after many years of serving on the House banking committee, technically called the Committee on Financial Services, Bachus retired to a big house on Logan Martin Lake a very rich man.

The other question I often get asked is this: How can we get rid of them? Trump promised to “drain the swamp.” It is not really all that clear what he meant, but part of it was to get rid of do-nothing members of Congress who get reelected over and over again every two years. I think he was also talking about all the immigrants who populate the Washington, D.C. metro area, but that is not how the mainstream media interprets the slogan. I think that’s why Jeff Sessions helped Trump and took the appointment as attorney general. He really, really doesn’t like immigrants.

The phrase is commonly referred to as an attempt to get rid of the “bureaucrats” who actually run the federal government, which is sort of ridiculous if you think about it. If people need governing, and obviously we still do, people are going to have to show up for work and run the government. You can’t run the government from bed on Twitter.

Once people get elected to allegedly “serve” their country in the nation’s capital, it’s almost impossible to replace them, especially Senators like Richard Shelby, who mostly spends his time at his Lake Shelby mansion outside Tuscaloosa. Does anyone recall any legislation Shelby actually wrote and passed in his many years in the U.S. Senate? I can’t think of a single example.

Congressmen like Bradley Byrne of Mobile, Alabama, rarely show up here. If the Republican leadership needs him here for a quorum call to vote to try to dismantle our health care system or cut taxes for the rich, he can fly up and be here for show.

Just like the federal executive branch agencies, Congress is run by the staff. They do all the research, all the tweets, all the Facebook posts, all the emails, write all the speeches, and greet visitors who show up in Washington wanting to check in with their representatives in Congress. Most of the time, they are politely turned away — unless they are a mega-donors with circumspect partisan credentials.

Occasionally, like when I recently showed up to try to ask questions of Shelby, Luther Strange and Byrne, you are simply scoffed at by the new class of young Washington professionals, who do not wear the same kind of shirts, shoes and suits I came up wearing in the professional craft of journalism in the 1980s and ‘90s. They all wear these blue shirts with no buttons on the collars and tight-fitting suits that make them look skinny — unless they are not.

They mostly don’t seem to worry much about losing their jobs, since their bosses have little chance of being defeated for reelection, except from the hard right. They do not worry much about questions from so-called “liberal” journalists like me. If Steve Bannon of Breitbart News showed up, they would jump like frogs being chased by a dog — even though the U.S. House and Senate Press Galleries won’t grant anyone from Breitbart credentials to cover Congress.

Some of the young women still wear professional suits, although now a sexy dress and four-inch heels are more common. This is an odd fact in a world where sexual harassment is all over the news. Oh, guess what? Members of Congress write the laws, so they are also exempt from sexual harassment lawsuits.

In my one attempt to give Trump a chance, I wrote a story in January saying if Trump really wanted to rebuild America’s “crumbling” infrastructure, he should make his first priority as president getting Congress to pass a bill to put people to work with sustainable infrastructure projects, including upgrading our energy system. But since that would not please his base in the coal industry, of course he has not even bothered to tweet that he is thinking about proposing such a thing.

While the stock market so far has climbed to new heights under Trump, the job market for the middle class continues to shrink. It would take federal taxes and spending to hire people to work on this. Trump can’t do that because he promised to cut taxes, again.

If Trump wanted America to be considered great around the world, instead of trying to gut people’s health care and cut taxes on the rich, he would take on the crisis of climate change due to global warming from the burning of fossil fuels and do something about it. A new study shows major glaciers in Antarctica melting into the sea.

Instead, with the former head of Exxon now running the State Department and industry insiders running the Environmental Protection Agency and other departments, the staffs are prohibited not just from working on the problem. They can’t even mention it in public or post about it on the web.

Now that we know the role a conservative billionaire played in manipulating public opinion to help Trump get elected, at least one billionaire on the left has begun to try to counter him. I don’t know much about Tom Steyer, but I am looking into this. Perhaps he would be interested in funding my ideas on how to counter the rat fucking of America by Breitbart, Facebook and the MSM.

Related Coverage

The State of Objective Journalism and Democracy in Trump’s America

More Washington Photos

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A night shot of the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.: Glynn Wilson

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A night shot of the Jefferson Memorial across the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.: Glynn Wilson

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A night shot of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.: Glynn Wilson

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A night shot of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.: Glynn Wilson

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A night shot of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.: Glynn Wilson

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A night shot of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.: Glynn Wilson

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A night view of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.: Glynn Wilson

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A night view of the White House from Lafeyette Square Park in Washington, D.C.: Glynn Wilson

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A view from the south of the White House at night in Washington, D.C.: Glynn Wilson

© 2017, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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  2 comments for “The State of Government and Democracy in Trump’s America

  1. November 4, 2017 at 7:12 am

    Well said. But is anyone listening?

    • November 4, 2017 at 8:11 am

      To the extent that y’all share it, yes.

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