Category: Analysis
Trump’s Tax Cuts, Budget, Deficits…Trump’s Recession 2019?
| February 16, 2018 | 9:20 am | Analysis, Donald Trump, Economy, Jack Rasmus | No comments

Trump’s Tax Cuts, Budget, Deficits…Trump’s Recession 2019?

Trump’s Tax Cuts, Budget, Deficits…Trump’s Recession 2019?

By
Jack Rasmus
Copyright 2018

“Lies and misrepresentation of facts have become the hallmark of American politics in recent years more than ever before. Not just lies of commission by Trump and his crew, but lies of omission by the mainstream media as well.

In Trump’s recent package of tax cuts for corporations, investors and millionaires, the lie is that the total cuts amount to $1.5 trillion—when the actual amount is more than $5 trillion and likely even higher. And in his most recent announcement of budget deficits the amounts admitted are barely half of the actual deficits—and consequent rise in US national debt—that will occur. Even his $1.5 trillion so-called infrastructure spending plan, that Trump promised during his 2016 election campaign, and then throughout 2017, amounts to only $200 billion. The lies and exaggerations are astounding.

The mainstream media, much of it aligned against Trump, has proven no accurate in revealing the Trump lies and misrepresentations: They echo Trumps $1.5 trillion total tax cut number and provide no real analysis of the true total of the cuts; they low-ball the true impact of Trump’s budget on US annual budget deficits and the national debt; and they fail to expose the actual corporate subsidy nature of Trump’s ‘smoke and mirrors’ infrastructure plan.

Trump’s multi-trillion dollar tax cuts for business, investors and the wealthiest 1%, plus his annual trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, plus his phony real estate industry handouts that parade as infrastructure spending together will lead the US economy into recession, most likely in early 2019. Here’s the scenario:

The massive deficits will require the central bank, the Federal Reserve, to raise short term interest rates. What’s called the benchmark federal funds interest rate will rise above 2% (currently 1.5%). The longer term 10 year US Treasury bond rate will rise to 3.5% or more. Those rates have already been rising—and their rise already provoking stock and bond market corrections in recent weeks which should be viewed as ‘dress rehearsals’ of more serious financial asset market retreats and contractions yet to come.

As this writer has argued repeatedly in recent publications, both the US real economy and financial markets (stocks, junk bonds, derivatives, etc.) are ‘fragile’ and increasingly susceptible to a significant downturn. In 2007-08 central bank interest rates rose to 5% and that precipitated a crash in subprime mortgage bonds and derivatives that set off the contraction in the economy. With the US economy not fundamentally having recovered from 2008-09 still to this day, and with household and corporate debt well above levels of 2008, it will take less of a rise in interest rates to provoke another similar reaction.

The US real economy is already weak. GDP numbers don’t reflect this accurately. Important sectors like autos and housing are softening or even stalling already. Consumption will falter. Consumers have loaded up on household debt. At $13.8 trillion, levels are equal or greater than 2007. They have also been depleting their savings to finance consumption in 2017-18. And despite all the recent media hoopla, there’s been no real wage gains occurring for 80% of the workforce in the US. Moreover, renewed inflation now occurring will reduce households’ disposable income and buying power even more this year. Rising taxes for tens of millions of households in 2018-19 will also negatively impact consumption spending. Don’t expect consumption to rise in 2018 as interest rates, taxes, and prices do. Just the opposite. Consumption makes up 70% of the US economy and it is now nearly exhausted. It will stagnate at best, and even retreat steadily beginning in the second half 2018.

Like the real economy, the US financial markets are fragile as well. They are in bubble territory and investors are getting increasingly edgy and looking for excuses to sell—i.e. take their super capital gains of recent years and run to the sidelines. A rise in rates much above the 2% and 3.5% noted will provoke a significant credit contraction (or even freeze). Money capital (liquidity) will dry up for non-bank companies, investment and production will be scaled back, layoffs will rise rapidly, and consumption will collapse—together bringing the economy down. It’s a classic scenario the forces behind which have been steadily building. And it won’t take too much more to provoke the next recession—likely in early 2019. The Federal Reserve’s plans to hike rates four more times this year will almost certainly set the scenario in motion.

Trump’s $5 Trillion Business-Investor Tax Cuts

Trump & Congress—with the mainstream media in train—say the Tax Cut Act just passed amounts to $1.5 trillion. But that’s not the true total value of the business tax cuts. That’s what they claim is the deficit impact of the tax cuts. (But even that deficit impact is grossly underestimated, as will be shown shortly).

Here’s the true value of the business-investor tax cuts:

1. $1.5 trillion cut due solely to reducing the corporate nominal tax rate from 35% to 21%.

2. Another $.3 trillion for the new 20% tax deduction for non-corporate businesses (lowering their effective tax rate from 37% to 29.6%).

3. $.3 trillion more for ending the business mandate for the Affordable Care Act

4. Still another, at minimum, $.5 trillion for a combined accelerated business depreciation writeoffs (a form of tax cuts for writing off all equipment added by business in the year purchased instead of amortized over several years); plus repeal of the Alternative Minimum Tax for Corporations: and a roughly halving of the AMT for individuals. But that’s not all.

5. The wealthiest 1% households, virtually all investor class, get their nominal individual income tax rate reduced from 39.6% to 37%. Moreover, the 39.6% did not kick in until an income level of $426,000 was reached. Now the threshold for the even lower 37% does not start until $600,000 income is reached. All that amounts to at least another $.5 trillion in tax cuts.

That’s a total of $3 trillion so far in tax cuts in the Trump Plan. But the further, really big tax cuts come for US Multinational Corporations. Their ‘take’ will be another $2 trillion in tax reduction over the next decade.

The Multinationals have hoarded between $2-$2.7 trillion in cash offshore in order to avoid paying taxes on their earnings. But that $2 trillion is a gross underestimation. First of all, it’s a figure for only the 500 largest US multinationals. What about the hundreds of thousands of other US corporations that also have foreign subsidiaries in which they park their cash to avoid taxes? And what about the unreported cash and assets they’re hoarding in offshore tax havens in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Vanuatu and elsewhere? That too is not part of the $2.-$2.7 trillion. Another reason to doubt the $2 trillion is accurate is that they already had $2 trillion stuffed away offshore back in 2011-12. According to the business periodical, Financial Times, the largest US corporations by January 2012 “are collectively sitting on an estimated $2,000bn of cash”. Does anyone believe they stopped diverting profits and cash offshore after 2011-12 for the past five years?

If one conservatively estimates there’s $4 trillion in cash stuffed offshore to avoid taxes (accumulating since 1997 when Bill Clinton conveniently allowed them to begin doing so), the new Trump tax act allows them to pay a tax of only 10% on average if they ‘repatriate’ (bring back) that cash. If they paid the prior 35% tax rate, it would cost them $1.4 trillion in 2018-19, the first year of the Trump tax. But estimates of this provision in the Trump bill show they plan to pay only $339 billion. So they will be saving approximately $1.061 trillion in the first year alone. Thereafter for the next nine years they pay only 8% to 15.5%, instead of the 35%. That amounts to at minimum another $1 trillion in tax savings for multinational US corporations under the Trump tax.

6. In short, US multinational corporations will get a tax reduction of at least $2 trillion

The Trump tax cuts for businesses and investors thus total $5 trillion over the next decade!

So how do Trump, Congress, and the media get to only $1.5 trillion? Here’s how they do it:

They raise taxes on the middle class by $2 trillion in the Trump tax plan. That leaves the $5 trillion in business-investor cuts, minus the $2 trillion in middle class tax hikes, for a net $3 trillion in cuts. But they admit to only $1.5 trillion in net tax cuts. So where’s the difference of the other $1.5 trillion? That difference is assumed to be ‘made up’ (offset) by the US economy growing at a GDP rate of 3-3.5% (or more) for the next ten years—i.e. more than 3% for every year for ten more years without exception!

That 3-4% annual overestimated economic (GDP) growth for the US economy is based on ridiculous assumptions: that slowing long term trends in US productivity and labor force growth will someone immediately reverse and accelerate; that the US will now grow at double the annual rate it did the previous decade; and that there’ll be no recession for another decade when the historical record shows the typical growth period following recession is 7-9 years and the US economy is already in its 8th year since the last recession. (If there’s a recession, then the annual GDP growth for nine years will have to average close to 5% a year—a figure never before ever attained!).

It’s all Trump ‘smoke and mirrors’, lies and gross misrepresentations. But no matter, for its really all about accelerating the subsidization of corporations and capital incomes for the wealthiest 1% by means of fiscal policy now that the central bank’s 9 years of subsidization of capital incomes by monetary policy (i.e. near zero rates, QE, etc.) is coming to an end.

Trillion $Dollar US Deficits for Years to Come

The US budget deficit consequences of the Trump tax cuts are therefore massive. Instead of averaging $150 billion a year on average (the $1.5 trillion) the effect will be three to four times that, or around $300 to $400 billion a year!

On top of that there’s Trump’s latest US budget, which projects another $300 billion for the next two years alone. With the majority of that total $150 billion a year caused by escalation of the Defense-War budget as the US builds up its tactical nuclear, naval and air forces in anticipation of more aggressive US moves in Asia. Last year’s budget deficit was $660 billion. The Congressional Budget Office estimates deficits of $918 billion by 2019. Independent estimates by Chase bank put it at $1.2 trillion. And that’s just the early years and assuming there’s no recession, which will balloon deficits by hundreds of billions more in reduced tax revenues due to a contracting US economy.

Independent projections are for US deficits to add $7.1 trillion over the next decade. But that’s an underestimate that assumes not only no recession, but also that defense-war spending will not rise beyond current projection increases, and that government costs for covering price gouging by the healthcare and prescription drug industries (for Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, government employees) will somehow not also continue to accelerate. The likely true hit to US deficits—and therefore the US national debt—will well exceed $12 trillion! The US could easily see consecutive annual budget deficits of $1.5 trillion. That will mean a US debt total rising from current $20 trillion to $32 trillion (or more) over the coming decade.

From Tax Cuts, Deficits & Debt to the Next Recession

How does this potentially translate into recession? Here’s a very likely scenario:

The US central bank, the Fed, has already begun raising interest rates. That has already begun slowing key industries like auto and housing. It will soon impact consumers in general, who are near-maxed out with credit card, auto, student loan, and mortgage debt, and facing further accelerating inflation in rents, healthcare costs, transport, state and local taxation, and prices for imported goods.

The massive deficits will require the central bank to raise interest rates perhaps even faster and higher than before. Slowing foreigners’ purchases of US government bonds to pay for the accelerating debt, may require the Fed to raise rates still further. It’s 2007-08 all over again!

Rising Fed interest rates and inflation will also continue to depress bond prices. That has already begun, and to spill over to stock prices as the major contraction in stock prices in February 2018 has revealed. Both bond and stock prices are headed for further decline.

Should stock market prices correct a second time this year, this time by 20% or more, the contagion effects across markets will result in a general credit crunch for non-financial corporations and businesses. US corporate debt has risen even more than US household or government debt since 2009. The corporate junk bond markets will experience a crisis, as US Zombie companies (i.e. those in deep debt, an estimated 12% to 37% of all US corporations, depending on the source) cannot get new financing and begin to go bankrupt.

These stock and bond market effects, and emerging Zombie company defaults, will result in a general investment pullback by non-financial corporations. That will mean production cuts that result in layoffs and further wage stagnation and slowing consumption spending. The next recession will have begun.

The Central Bank (FED) Will Precipitate the Next Recession—As It Did in 2007

This scenario is all the more likely if the general argument that the US economy is both financial and non-financially weak and fragile is accurate. The weakness in the real economy and fragility in the financial markets mean that Fed interest rate hikes cannot exceed 2.0%, and longer term rates (10 year Treasury bonds) cannot exceed 3.5%, before the system ‘cracks’ once again and descends into recession. With the Fed rates at 1.5% and approaching 2% and the Treasury at 3% and approaching 3.5%, the US economy today is well on its way to approaching its limits.

Just as it was interest rates peaking in 2007 that precipitated (not caused) the crash in (subprime) mortgage bonds, that then spilled over through financial derivatives to the rest of the credit system—today the bond markets may once again be signaling the ‘beginning of the end’ of the current cycle. The new contagious derivatives may not be mortgage based bonds and CDO and CDS financial derivatives, as in 2008; the new financial contagion will be driven by the new financial derivatives—i.e. Exchange Traded Funds(ETFs), and related ETNs and ETPs—with their effects amplified by Quant hedge funds’ automated algorithm-based trading.

In summary, Trump tax cuts and Trump’s budget will exacerbate US budget deficits and debt and cause the central bank to raise interest rates even faster and higher. Those rate hikes cannot be sustained. They will lead to another credit crisis—this time even sooner than they did in 2007 given the even weaker US economy and more fragile financial markets. The next recession may be sooner than many think.

Dr. Jack Rasmus

Dr. Rasmus is author of the recently published books, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’, Clarity Press, August 2017, and ‘Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy, Clarity, 2016. His forthcoming book later in 2018 is ‘Taxes, War & Austerity: Neoliberal Policy from Reagan to Trump’, Clarity Press. He blogs at jackrasmus.com and tweets at @drjackrasmus

Military Conflict Between East and West Has Never Been Closer
| February 14, 2018 | 8:07 pm | Analysis, Israel, John Wight, Middle East, Russia, Syria, Turkey, USSR | No comments
https://sputniknews.com/columnists/201802141061656523-syria-east-west-conflict/
Israeli soldiers stand guard near the Israeli Syrian border next to the town of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights

Military Conflict Between East and West Has Never Been Closer

© AFP 2018/ MENAHEM KAHANA
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John Wight
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Recent events in Syria serve to illustrate the dire consequences of a unipolar world. They also provide further confirmation that international law now belongs to the realm of fiction when it comes to Washington and its allies, for whom exceptionalism is the natural order of things.

There is compelling evidence to speculate that what is now being attempted by the US in Syria, with its occupation of a large swathe of territory in the north west of the country, is a re-run of the Balkanisation of Yugoslavia in the 1990s — a sovereign state broken up and dismembered after the collapse of the Soviet Union in service to the unipolar world that had just come into being as a result.

The break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, a state born out of the carnage of the Second World War, was stark evidence that for hawks within the US political and military establishment the Cold War had not ended it had been won – won by dint of America’s divinely chosen position as the “indispensable nation”, a credo first articulated by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during an NBC interview in 1998.

READ MORE: Syria of Discord: Iran, US Clash Over Military Presence on Ground

Thus triumphalism abounded within the corridors of power in the land of the free, which cheered on by its willing vassals — such as Tony Blair’s UK government, and various eastern European satellites harbouring unresolved anti-Russian animus — produced an intoxication with overwhelming military power and strength, encapsulated in the eastward expansion of NATO.

The unending wars and military interventions that have been embarked by the US and its allies since the 1990s, rather than push the frontiers of democracy, have produced nothing but human misery, chaos, and instability. And on a scale hitherto absent.Syria is only the latest country and society to experience the tender mercies of Washington’s self-ordained role as the world’s policeman. It does so not with the objective of maintaining the world as a safe place or democracy or human rights, as tirelessly claimed, but so that global corporations are able to function and prosper and exploit the world’s human and natural resources unimpeded. They call it free market economics. A much more accurate name is’ disruptive unfettered capitalism’, an economic model which is no respecter of borders or cultures, no respecter of even the concept of the nation state.

The presence of US military forces in Syria is illegal. This is a fact that no amount of obfuscation or dissembling can elide. It poses a threat to the security and stability not only of Syria but the entire region. The idea that the presence of US military forces in the country, or anywhere else in the Middle East for that matter, is necessary to bolster security and stability, this is an exercise in peddling fiction. Just ask the people of Iraq or Libya, two countries laid waste by Washington and its allies, if you do not believe me.

READ MORE: Drone Captures Syrian Kurdish Militants Hit by Airstrike in Afrin (VIDEO)

Adding to the pot of instability and US-inspired mayhem in the Middle East is the news that the gargantuan US military budget for 2019 is to include $300 million for the training and equipping of the SDF, Washington’s proxy ground force in Syria, in addition to $250 million to fund the ‘border security force’ in the country that’s been mooted. By way of a reminder, as with the SDF the planned border security force will largely comprise Syrian Kurds attached to the YPG. All this, it’s worth recalling, is being undertaken in clear violation of Syria’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is the very epitome of might is right, redolent of that which sustained the Roman Empire.

The seeming willingness of the Trump administration to rupture its alliance and relationship with fellow NATO member, Turkey, with its commitment to arming and training the Kurds across Ankara’s southern border is remarkable, not to mention inexplicable. President Erdogan’s government has made no bones about the fact it considers it a threat to Turkey’s security, and has pledged to act accordingly. Indeed with its Operation Olive Branch military campaign against the YPG in Afrin, northern Syria, currently underway, involving ground forces deploying across the border in the process, the Erdogan government is making good on this pledge.

The fact is that along with Israel, Turkey is now exploiting the crisis and conflict in Syria to violate its sovereignty with wilful abandon.

It requires neither an abiding love or Russia nor a burning hatred of America to understand the necessity of a world in which no one nation is able or inclined to arrogate to itself the right to exercise global hegemony. Empires are doomed by virtue of the very premise upon which they exist, which is that nations and peoples can be dominated and subjugated by other nations. They cannot. Or at least they cannot over a sustained period.

If history teaches us anything it is that those who seek to dominate only succeed in sowing dragon’s teeth, inviting blowback and backlash. The monster that is Salafi-jihadism and the ensuing spate of terrorist attacks across the world in recent years leaves no doubt of it.

The need to check the untrammelled power of Washington is self-evident. Since the Soviet Union was consigned to history in the early 1990s, the US has rampaged across the world like an out of control juggernaut of death and destruction. It has done so regardless of the administration or president occupying the White House.In Donald Trump, a man for whom subtlety is an alien concept, we have ourselves a US president who cannot seem to make up his mind whether he is a recurring character in the Sopranos or the elected leader of the world largest economy and nuclear power.

With his presidency, the sheer reckless, aggressive and capricious character of it, the time has come to pose the question: Who will save us from America?

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

Scandalize my Name…

Scandalize my Name…

– from Greg Godels is available at:
http://zzs-blg.blogspot.com/

For the owners, publishers, and editors of the The New York Review of Books anti-Communism is still alive. The periodical occupies a unique, indispensable role in fostering and sustaining Cold War myths and legends.

The New York Review of Books has embraced rabid anti-Communism since its opportunistic birth in the midst of a newspaper strike. Founded by a cabal of virulent anti-Communists with identifiable links to the CIA through The Paris Review and the American Committee for Cultural Freedom, NYRB maintains the posture of the popular intellectual journal for academics, high-brow book clubbers, and coffee shop leftists for over half a century. Seldom would an issue go by without an earnest petition signed by intellectual celebrities pointing to human rights concerns in some far-off land that was coincidentally (perhaps?) also in the crosshairs of the US State Department. To be sure, the NYRB would muster a measure of indignation over the most egregious US adventures, particularly when they threatened to blemish the US image as the New Jerusalem.

Even with the Cold War behind us, the NYRB maintains an active stable of virulent anti-Soviet writers, partly to hustle its back list of Cold War classics and obscure “dissident” scribblers, partly to pre-empt any serious anti-capitalist thought that might emerge shorn of Red-dread.

Paul Robeson on Trial

In a recent essay/book review (The Emperor Robeson, 2-08-18), the NYRB brought its Red-chopping hatchet to the legacy of Paul Robeson in a piece transparently ill-motivated and poisonous.

Paul Robeson was nothing if not an exceptional, courageous political figure who galvanized US racial and political affairs in mid-century. Yet NYRB assigned Simon Callow, a UK theater personality, to the writing task despite the fact that he reveals in an interview cited in Wikipedia that “I’m not really an activist, although I am aware that there are some political acts one can do that actually make a difference…” And his essay bears out this confession along with his embarrassing ignorance of US history and the dynamics of US politics.

Callow begins his essay seemingly determined to prove his inadequacy to the task: “When I was growing up in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s, Paul Robeson was much in evidence… His name was haloed with the sort of respect accorded to few performers…” He then goes on at some length, heaping praise on Robeson. Then suddenly at “some point in the 1960s, he faded from our view…”

Whether Callow’s impressions are reflective of the UK experience is irrelevant. Surely, the important truth, the relevant fact, is that in Robeson’s country– the US– he was, throughout that time, a veritable non-person, the victim of a merciless witch hunt. To fail to acknowledge the fact that Robeson and his work were virtually unknown, were erased by the thought police, underscores Callow’s unfitness to discuss Robeson’s career. Indeed, members of the crowd that sought, at that time, to put lipstick on the ugly pig of racism and anti-Communism were soon to found the NYRB.

To say, as Callow does, that before the Cold War Robeson was “…lionized on both sides of the Atlantic…” is to display an unbelievable ignorance of the racial divide in the US. Robeson’s unequalled command of and success at multiple disciplines failed to spare him the indignities and inequalities that befell all African Americans in that era of US apartheid.

As for the post-World War II Red-scare, Callow simply ignores it as if it never occurred. Never mind the harassment, the surveillance, the denied careers, the confiscated passports, and the HUAC subpoenas that Robeson, like thousands of others, suffered from a hysterical, vicious anti-Communist witch hunt. For Callow, Robeson’s problems spring from a meeting granted by then President Truman in which Robeson had the audacity to make demands on his government. “From that moment on…” Callow tells us, “…the government moved to discredit Robeson at every turn…”

What a deft, nimble way to skirt the suffocating, life-denying effects of an entire era of unbridled racism and anti-Communism.

And, from Callow’s myopic perspective, Robeson’s campaign for peace and Cold War sanity resulted in “…universal approbation turned overnight into nearly universal condemnation.” For Callow, standing for peace against the tide of mindless conformity and mass panic is not the mark of courage and integrity, but a tragic career move.

In contrast to Paul Robeson’s life-long defiance of unjust power, Callow attributes a different approach to Robeson’s father, William: “But the lesson was clear: the only way out of poverty and humiliation was hard, hard work– working harder than any white man would have to, to achieve a comparable result.” One waits futilely to read that this reality is precisely what son, Paul, was trying to correct.

Like so many of today’s belated, measured “admirers” of Paul Robeson, Callow cannot resist delving into Robeson’s sexual proclivities, an interest which bears relevance that frankly escapes me. Similarly, Callow raises the matter of Robeson’s mental health and his withdrawal from public life.

Rather than considering the toll that decades of selfless struggle and tenacious resistance might have taken on Robeson’s body and mind, as it did countless other victims of the Red Scare, Callow contrives different explanations. “Robeson, it is clear, knew that his dream was just that: that the reality was otherwise. But he had to maintain his faith, otherwise what else was there?” So, for Callow, Robeson’s bad faith was responsible for mental issues and ill health. It was not a medical condition, the emotional stress of racism, or the repression of his political views that explain his decline. Instead, it was the consequences of bad politics.

Paraphrasing the author of a book on Robeson that Callow favors, he speculates that Robeson’s physical and mental decline “may have directly stemmed from the desperate requests from Robeson’s Russian friends to help them get out of the nightmarish world they found themselves in.” We are asked to believe that a man who resisted every temptation of success, defied the racial insults of his time, and steadfastly defended his commitment to socialism was brought to his knees by anti-Soviet media rumors? Certainly, there is no evidence for this outlandish claim.

Again, using author Jeff Sparrow (No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson) as his mouthpiece, Callow reveals his “problem” with Robeson: “…Robeson’s endorsement of Stalin and Stalin’s successors, his refusal to acknowledge what had been done in Stalin’s name, is the tragedy of his life.” In other words, like Budd Schulberg’s fictional snitch in On the Waterfront, if Robeson had only denounced his class, ratted on his friends, and bent to authority, he could have been a “contender” for the respect of liberals and the blessings of bourgeois success. But since he didn’t, his life was “a pitiful spectacle.”

Thankfully, there are still many who draw inspiration from the “pitiful spectacle” of Paul Robeson’s extraordinary life.

One Who Does

As if misunderstanding Robeson were not enough, Callow attacks a prominent scholar who does understand Robeson’s legacy. In contrast with his fawning review of the Sparrow book (“as different as chalk and cheese”), Callow demeans the contribution of one of the most gifted and thorough chroniclers of the page in history that included the life of Robeson. As a historian, Gerald Horne’s prodigious work stretches across books on such politically engaged Robeson contemporaries as WEB DuBois, Ben Davis, Ferdinand Smith, William Patterson, Shirley Graham DuBois, and John Howard Lawson. His writings explore the blacklist and The Civil Rights Congress, both keys to understanding Robeson and his time. In most cases, they represent the definitive histories of the subject.

But Callow prefers the shallow Sparrow account that substitutes the overused literary devices of “in search of../searching for…” to mask its limited scholarly ambition.

Callow is baffled by Horne’s Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary. Horne’s insistence that Robeson was a ‘revolutionary’ makes Callow apoplectic (“…page after page…”). But if Robeson was not an authentic, modern US revolutionary, then who was?

Callow cannot find a “clear picture of Robeson’s personality” in the Horne account, a conclusion that probably should not trouble Horne who seems more interested in history rather than psychology.

Callow’s sensibilities are especially offended by Horne’s depiction of the odious Winston Churchill, the man many believe to share responsibility for the WWI blood bath at Gallipoli and the two million deaths in the Bengal famine of 1943. It seems that Horne’s words for the short, chubby, Champagne and Cognac-loving prima donna– “pudgy, cigar-chomping, alcohol-guzzling Tory” — struck Callow’s ears as “vulgar.”

But Callow spews his own venomous insults: Horne’s book lacks “…articulate analysis, his account is numbing and bewildering in equal measure, like being addressed from a dysfunctional megaphone…”

Horne’s concluding endorsement of the relevance of Marx and Engels famous slogan– Workers of the World, Unite! –really brings Callow’s rancor to a boil: “I’m sorry to break it to Mr. Horne, but he doesn’t. And it isn’t.”

We surely know which side of the barricades Simon Callow has chosen.

The Legacy

The legacy of Paul Robeson has been maintained for the four decades since his death by his comrades and allies of the left, principally the Communist left. Most of those who worked and fought alongside of him have also passed away. Yet a small, but dedicated group of a few academics and more political activists have continued to tell his story and defend his values against a torrent of hostility or a wall of silence. Through the decades, he has been forced out of the mainstream– the history books and popular culture.

Of course, he was not alone in suffering anonymity for his Communist politics. Another giant who was brought down by Cold War Lilliputians, denigrated by hollow mediocrities, was African American Communist, Claudia Jones. Until recently, her powerful thinking on race, women’s rights, and socialism could only be found by those willing to search dusty corners of used book stores.

Perhaps no one promised to live and further Robeson’s legacy than the young writer Lorraine Hansberry, celebrated before her tragic death for her popular play, A Raisin in the Sun. Her work with Robeson and WEB DuBois on the paper, Freedom, brought her politics further in line with theirs: militant anti-racist, anti-imperialist, pro-socialist, Communist.

Forgotten by those who wish to portray her as a mere cultural critic, she famously called out Robert Kennedy’s elitist, patronizing posture in a meeting with Black civil rights leaders as enthusiastically recalled by James Baldwin.

Ignored by those who would like to see her as simply another civil rights reformer, her speech at a Monthly Review fundraiser, shortly before her death, resounds with revolutionary fervor:

If the present Negro revolt is to turn into a revolution, become sophisticated in the most advanced ideas abroad in the world, a leadership which will have had exposure to the great ideas and movements of our time, a Negro leadership which can throw off the blindness of parochialism and bathe the aspirations of the Negro people in the realism of the twentieth century, a leadership which has no illusion about the nature of our oppression and will no longer hesitate to condemn, not only the results of that oppression, but also the true and inescapable cause of it—which of course is the present organization of American society.

Today, there is a renewed interest in Robeson, Claudia Jones, and Lorraine Hansberry. Articles, books, and documentaries are appearing or are in the works. Some are offering ‘new’ perspectives on the lives of these extraordinary people, exploring aspects of their lives that show that their humanity perhaps reached further than previously thought. Yes, they were Communists, but they were not just Communists. Indeed, they belong to the world.

However, it would be a great tragedy if they were denied their conviction that capitalism– the present organization of American society, in Hansberry’s words– represented the foundation of other oppressions. It would be criminally dishonest if there were no acknowledgement that they were made enemies of the state precisely because they embraced socialism. For an African American, in racist, Cold War mid-century USA, the decision to embrace Communism was not taken lightly or frivolously. Robeson, Jones, and Hansberry knew exactly what that commitment meant to the forces of repression. And they risked it. They should be looked upon as people’s champions for their courage.

New researchers are welcome to explore other dimensions of the lives of these unbending fighters for social justice. But their authentic legacies are needed now more than ever.

Greg Godels
Moscow Disappointed by Content of New US Nuclear Doctrine
| February 4, 2018 | 2:27 pm | Analysis, Russia, struggle against nuclear war | No comments

https://sputniknews.com/russia/201802031061327966-russia-us-nuclear-doctrine/

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Moscow Disappointed by Content of New US Nuclear Doctrine

© Sputnik/ Vladimir Pesnya
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The Russian Foreign Ministry has commented on the Nuclear Posture Review, issued by the United States on February 2, naming Russia, North Korea, Iran and China as potential threats to the US national security.

“The content of the new nuclear doctrine (the so-called Nuclear Posture Review) released by the United States on February 2 has provoked our deep disappointment. The confrontational and anti-Russian nature of this document strikes the eye. We can state with regret that the United States explains its policies for a large-scale boost of nuclear weapons by referring to the modernization of the nuclear forces in Russia and alleged increasing role of nuclear weapons in the Russian doctrine statements. We are accused of lowering the nuclear threshold and of conducting some ‘aggressive behavior,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Speaking about the US Nuclear Posture Review released on February 2, the Russian Foreign Ministry pointed out that accusations against Moscow of aggressive behavior, interventions, breaches of arms control agreements, written in the document, have nothing to do with reality.

“All of these [accusations] has nothing to do with the real situation. The military doctrine of the Russian Federation clearly limits the use of nuclear weapons to two hypothetical and purely defensive scenarios: only in response to aggression with the use of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction against Russia and (or) our allies, and also — the second scenario — in case of use of conventional weapons, but only when the very existence of our state is threatened,” the ministerial statement reads.

The Russian side revealed their position on the document, calling it an unfair attempt to shift the blame for the degradation of the international nuclear situation.

“Such peremptory cliches have recently been replicated by Washington without a pause. We consider this as an unfair attempt to shift on others the responsibility for the degradation of the situation in the field of international and regional security and the imbalance of arms control mechanisms, resulting from a series of irresponsible steps taken by the United States itself,” the ministry added.

The ministry called the statements concerning the US interest in “stable relations” and commitment to constructive cooperation, mentioned in the doctrine, hypocritical. As the ministry explained, Russia would take the necessary measures to ensure its security due to the approaches defined in the document.

“Of course, we will have to take into account the approaches introduced by Washington and take all necessary measures to ensure own security,” the ministry said in a statement issued in response to the Friday publication of the NPR.

READ MORE: Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review: From US Nuke Capabilities to Nuclear Terrorism

Addressing the bottom line of the document, Moscow stated that it questions Russia’s right to self-defense in situations critical for the country’s existence.

“It turns out that the US readiness, declared in this review, to use nuclear weapons in order to prevent Russia from using its nuclear weapons is an attempt to question our right to self-defense when countering aggression in situations critical for the existence of the state,” the statement said.

Nevertheless, Moscow urged Washington to engage in a joint search for solutions to problems related to maintaining strategic stability, underlining that all nuclear states should be involved in nuclear disarmament, especially the United Kingdom and France as the US’ allies.

“The doctrine’s parts about Washington being interested in ‘stable relations’ with us [Russia] and its determination to work constructively in order to reduce respective risks look hypocritical,” the statement reads.

“From our part, we are ready for such work [on cooperation]. We urge the United States to seriously engage, jointly with us, in the search for solutions to the problems accumulating in the sphere of maintenance of strategic stability,” the Russian ministry said.

“We have directed the attention [of various players] including the United States to the fact, that settling key strategic stability problems, such as unilateral and unrestricted deployment of the US global missile defense system, implementation of the ‘global strike’ concept, the US denial to ratify the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and refusal to rule out possibility of deploying weapons in space, would contribute to creating the needed conditions for moving on the path of nuclear disarmament,” the statement pointed out.

US Nuclear Weapons

Moscow has expressed concern over Washington’s “unlimited” approach to the issue of nuclear weapons use, calling for a deeper look into the possibility of its use in a case of “extreme circumstances”, as the Posture Review reads. Speaking about their anxiety over the document, the Russian side explained that the US still possessed ans is even modernizing tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, placing them near Russian borders.

“Washington’s practically ‘adjustable’ approach to the use of nuclear weapons is concerning. The possibility of its use in the case of ‘extreme circumstances’ is declared, which the doctrine’s authors do not limit to military scenarios at all,” the statement read.

“If all this is not an increase of the nuclear weapons factor in the doctrine, then what does the United States mean when it uses this notion about Russia?” the statement pointed out, referring to the US statement on the increasing role of nuclear weapons in the Russian military doctrine.

READ MORE: US Nuclear Doctrine Allows for ‘Another Hiroshima, Nagasaki Bombing’ — Lawmaker

Speaking about the accusations against the country, the Russian side stressed its commitment to all obligations under international agreements, in particular, the INF treaty (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty) and the Open Skies agreement.

“The document’s statement that Russia allegedly refuses to further reduce its nuclear capabilities is yet another example of the blatant ‘falsification,'” the ministry said.

The newly released Nuclear Posture Review describes US nuclear capabilities, as well as challenges supposedly posed by Russia, China, rogue states and nuclear terrorism.

“Statements that the implementation of plans presented [in the US nuclear doctrine] ‘will not lower the threshold of the use of nuclear weapons,’ is, at least, the intention to mislead the world community,” the Russian ministerial statement reads.

“Even more dangerous is the belief of the US military experts and other specialists in the sphere of national security, emerging from the pages of the nuclear doctrine, in their ability to reliably simulate the development of conflicts, in which they allow usage of ‘low-yield’ nuclear warheads. For us, the opposite is clear: significantly lowered ‘threshold conditions’ may lead to a missile-nuclear war even during low-intensity conflicts,” the Russian ministry stressed.

US President Trump has decided to follow Obama’s plan for modernizing the country’s nuclear arsenal, including new bomber aircraft, submarines and land-based missiles. US nuclear forces are said to contribute to the “deterrence of nuclear and non-nuclear attack,” “assurance of allies and partners,” “achievement of US objectives if deterrence fails,” and “capacity to hedge against an uncertain future.” As Secretary of Defense James Mattis has observed, “a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent is there to ensure a war that can never be won, is never fought.”

‘Ugly socialists’: What on Earth are they smoking over at the Times of London?

https://www.rt.com/op-edge/417637-socialists-times-right-attractive-ugly/

‘Ugly socialists’: What on Earth are they smoking over at the Times of London?

‘Ugly socialists’: What on Earth are they smoking over at the Times of London?

John Wight
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
‘Ugly socialists’: What on Earth are they smoking over at the Times of London?
Like the vast majority of people in the UK seeking serious news coverage and analysis, I do not read the Times newspaper of London. A recent story carried on its front page reminded me why.

With the UK’s governing Tory Party currently tearing itself to pieces over Brexit; with the number of people sleeping rough in England now at its highest level since records began; with terrorism still constituting a threat to the British people; and with the country’s National Health Service in a seemingly unending crisis, you might think the Times – which is, after all, the country’s newspaper of record – had plenty of issues to choose from for its front page. But, no, for the Times it is deemed far more important to put on its front page a story surrounding the findings of a ‘scientific’ study claiming that, wait for it, “attractive people have a tendency to be more right-wing.

Just think about this for a moment: this is a story that was carried on the front page not of one of Britain’s array of cheap right-wing tabloids, whose bread and butter is the sensational, salacious and sordid; but the front page of a supposedly serious newspaper, popular with the country’s political and business elite.

Clearly the authors of this study, and the people over at the Times, do not subscribe to the view that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But even if you do subscribe to that view, has anybody had a look at Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson lately? I respectfully suggest that Mother Nature does not count him as one of her masterpieces.

Moreover, haven’t the author or authors of this ridiculous report, and its publication in the Times, noticed as they travel the world the preponderance of t-shirts, caps and other items carrying the iconic image of Che Guevara, a man whose life was dedicated to communism?

Just imagine if Che, who possessed the brooding countenance and looks of a Hollywood matinee idol, and a young Fidel Castro, who wasn’t exactly lacking in that department either, turned up a Tory Party conference in Britain or a Republican Party convention in the US. It would be tantamount to putting a couple of thoroughbred stallions into a field of donkeys. Then we have Charles De Gaulle, Winston Churchill, John McCain, and Donald Trump: four avowed right-wing leaders and politicians of note who, to be frank, were and are not among evolution’s finest creations.

Oscar Wilde, a dandy amongst dandies, was a man with socialist views, though as he famously opined once, “The problem with socialism is that it takes up too many evenings.” But he was no slouch in the fashion or flamboyance stakes in his day, proving that taking an interest in your appearance and being left wing in your political views are not mutually exclusive. What was it Wilde said again: “It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.”

Attractive children have been shown to experience warmer treatment from their parents,” the academic, Rolfe Peterson, of that world-renowned and respected institute of learning, Susquehanna University in the US, has written according to the Times story. Just by way of some friendly advice to the editor while we’re at it: it’s probably not a good idea when attempting to support an unsupportable generalization, such as contained in this report, to use a university that is so obscure you would struggle to locate it using the Hubble space telescope.

But, anyway, now that we’re here, on the actual substance of the claim that attractive children have been shown to experience warmer treatment from their parents, did it not strike Mr Peterson that this may just be a case of bad parenting? And what exactly is considered “warmer treatment”? Is it filling the child’s face with chocolate and sweets? Is it buying it everything it wants and more, filling the child’s head with expectation of future success and fame and celebrity? Is this what Mr Peterson of Susquehanna University and the clutch of right-wing cranks over at the Times consider to be “warmer treatment”?

Because it is precisely this malign brand of “warmer treatment” of children in the West that’s responsible for producing not balanced, caring and compassionate adults; but the archetypal right-wing sociopath, which is the norm within the Tory Party in the UK and the norm in Washington.

The real objective of this report, along with its coverage in the Times, is to place a pseudo-scientific gloss on selfishness, greed and narcissism – the very traits of those who subscribe to the mantra of me, myself, and I; such as your average Times newspaper journalist and reader. As the economist and author, John Kenneth Galbraith, once put it: “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

German philosopher Erich Fromm, in his classic work ‘The Sane Society,’ points out that “narcissism is the essence of all severe psychic pathology,” and that “the most extreme form of narcissism is to be seen in all forms of insanity.” Not casting any aspersions or anything, but Hitler was not exactly the full loaf of bread, was he? And the man did have some pretty right-wing views.

The Times story is not just fake news; it is mind-blowingly infantile propaganda masquerading as news. It is astounding, if not frightening, to think that this is the quality of brain nourishment being spoon-fed to Britain’s political and business elite, its movers and shakers, so to speak. No wonder the country’s in such mess.

Oh yes, and by the way, in the same story the Times also takes the opportunity to quote the findings of an “academic” paper from last year, which would have us believe that “socialists were more likely to be physically weak.

Really? Try telling that to the soldiers of the Red Army who smashed their way through the gates of Berlin in 1945.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Trade unionists slam Donald Trump for ‘actively hurting’ US workers after first State of the Union address
| February 1, 2018 | 8:24 pm | Analysis, Donald Trump, Labor | No comments

https://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/article/f-lead-trade-unionists-slam-donald-trump-actively-hurting-us-workers-after-first-state-union

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump was accused of siding with “corporations and their political allies to undermine the right of workers to bargain collectively” as he took to the podium for his first State of the Union address last night.

The president used his speech to brag about the “incredible progress and extraordinary success” of his first year in office, speaking at length about tax cuts, infrastructure investment, attacking environmental protections he derided as a “war on American energy” and reiterating promises to build a wall along the Mexican border and maintain the illegal concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay on Cuban soil.

But trade union federation AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said that Mr Trump’s first year in office had “actively hurt working people” with its assault on collective bargaining.

“He has taken money out of our pockets and made our workplaces less safe. He has divided our country, abandoned our values and given cover to racism and other forms of bigotry,” the trade unionist said.

Mr Trump claimed to have defeated the “core” of Obamacare by eliminating an “especially cruel tax” — the individual mandate requiring citizens to purchase health insurance.

Journalist Dylan Scott noted that ditching the mandate would raise premiums and see some citizens lose healthcare coverage, with the Congressional Budget Office estimating 13 million people will lose access to healthcare as a result.

Analyst Josh Bivens cast doubt on the president’s claim to have invested in infrastructure, saying his proposals aren’t “just empty, but outright corrupt,” comprising loan guarantees that will reward financial speculators and tax credits for private developers.

“It’s an open invitation for crony capitalism, corruption and rampant inequality of public investments across communities,” he said.

Over 500 women held an alternative State of Our Union event, featuring Democratic congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who boycotted the official event because of “all the racism and hatred coming out of this White House,” as well as Black Lives Matter co-founder Alizia Garcia and Ai-jen Poo of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. The meeting said “movement leaders” would discuss how to resist the Trump administration and responses to the “urgency of the current political and climate crises.”

Trump’s State of the Union Speech: Long on Theater, Short on Policy
| February 1, 2018 | 8:04 pm | Analysis, Donald Trump, Economy, Jack Rasmus | No comments

Trump’s State of the Union Speech: Long on Theater, Short on Policy

By
Jack Rasmus
copyright 2018

“Presidents’ State of the Union speeches used to report on accomplishments of the past year and proposals for new programs and policy changes for the next. Just as the country we once knew, those days are long gone.

In the 21st century the format is mostly theatrical: The president offers a short sentence about how wonderful America is, cuts his sentence short, and waits for applause. The Congress rises and claps longer than the spoken sentence that brought them to their feet. This goes on every 15 seconds. Sometimes less. Up and down, up and down. Turn off the volume, and it’s similar to canned laughter in a TV situation comedy—with the visual effect of bouncing butts replacing the canned laughter. Except it’s all more tragic than it is comedic.

A stranger viewing for the first time must conclude that something anatomically must be wrong with their backsides. Up-down, up-down. But when the incessant pattern of ‘short phrase, rise and clap too long, sit down’ threatens to become too repetitive, a new theatrical effect is introduced. Now it’s the president introducing staged character actors in the gallery above the floor, each introduction providing an appeal to the tv audience’s emotions. In the Trump speech tonight, there were no fewer than twelve such ‘gallery scenes’ to break up the mesmerizing stop-rise-clap-sit down nonsense.

First there was ‘Ashley the helicopter lady’, then ‘Dolberg the firefighter’, Congressman Scalise, whose only claim to fame was he got himself shot (definitely not on the level of the other ‘heroes’), followed. And how about the 12 year old ‘Preston the flag boy’, with whom Trump said he had a great conversation before the speech. (I’m sure it was of comparable intellect).
But clever by far was the next gallery event, the four parents whose kids were killed by MS13 gang members in Long Island, NY. All four were black, apparently to blunt the racist appeal by Trump injected into the scene, suggesting that all immigrants were gang members who came here as a result of ‘chained migration’ family policy. I guess MS13 gangsters never killed whites.
Not surprisingly, the next gallery scene was the ICE agent, a guy named Martinez who heroically smashed the MS13 gangsters. Of course, he too was Hispanic.

Both theatrical scenes dealing with ‘immigrant gangsters arriving by chained migration’ provided Trump a nice segway into describing his ‘4 pillars’ immigration bill, the only policy proposal he actually spelled out in his nearly hour and a half speech.

For a pathway to citizenship that would take 12 years for ‘Dreamer’ kids, Trump would have his $30 billion plus border wall, a new immigration policy based on ‘merit’ (welcome Norwegians), as well as an end to family ‘chained migration policy’ (which somehow would also protect the nuclear family, according to Trump). The message: white folks’ nuclear families good; immigrant folks’ (especially Latino) extended families bad, was the suggested logic. What it all added up to? If Democrats agreed to his pillars 2-4 right now, maybe there would be citizenship for Dreamers sometime by 2030! What a deal. But who knows, maybe the Democrats will take it, given that they retreated from their prior ‘line in the sand’ of pass DACA and dreamers or they’ll shut down the government.

The next theater event was no less interesting than the immigration scenes in the Trump play that was the presidential State of the Union address last night. In typical Trumpian worship of the police and military, Trump (the draft dodger) introduced an Albuquerque policeman in the gallery who had talked a pregnant woman on drugs from committing suicide. Seems the woman was desperate about bringing a kid into the world she’d be unable to afford to raise. The solution by the policeman was to offer to adopt her baby if she didn’t kill herself. It worked. The kid and mother were saved, and the policeman adopted the child. The policeman’s wife accompanied him in the gallery—with an infant in her arms of course. Not sure whose it was but no matter. Now that was double theater, a scene within a scene. Shakespeare would have been proud.

That impressive bit of theater, perhaps the high point of all the ‘gallery effects’ of the evening, was the intro to Trump’s solution to the Opioid crisis in America, where 60,000 a year now die from overdoses. In his speech, Trump’s solution to the opioid crisis was ‘let’s get tougher on drug dealers’. He failed to mention, of course, that the drug dealers in question most responsible for launching the opioid crisis were the prescription drug companies themselves who pushed their products like Fetanyl and Percoset on doctors a decade ago, telling them the drugs weren’t addictive.

As for the even larger prescription drug problem in American—i.e. the runaway cost of drugs that is killing unknown thousands of Americans who can’t afford them because of price gouging—Trump merely said “prices will come down substantially…just watch!” That solution echoed his press conference of several weeks ago when he publicly addressed the opioid crisis…but offered no solution specifics how. Watching Trump solve the opioid crisis will be slower than watching grass grow…in winter!

Trump’s speech was not all theater. Much of it was factual—except the facts were mostly misrepresentations and outright lies.

Like unemployment is at a record low. But not when part time, temp, contract and gig work is added to full time. More than 13 million are still officially jobless. The rate is still close to 10%. And that doesn’t count the 5-10 million workers who have dropped out of the labor force altogether since 2008, leading to record lows in labor force participate rates and employment to population ratios. That rate and ratio hasn’t changed under Trump.

Another lie was that wages are finally starting to rise. Whose wages? If you want to count average wages and salaries of the 30 million managers, supervisors, and self-employed, maybe so. But according to US Labor department data, real average hourly earnings for all non-farm workers in the US in 2017 rose by a whopping 4 cents!

Trump cited again his Treasury Secretary, Mnuchin’s, ridiculous figure that the average family income household would realize $4,000 a year in tax cuts. But no economist I know believes that absurd claim.

Perhaps the biggest facts manipulation occurred with Trump’s references to his recent tax cuts. He cited a list of so-called middle class tax cuts, leaving out wealthy individual tax cuts measures. Typical was his claim of doubling the standard deduction, worth $800 billion in tax cuts for the working poor below $24k a year in income. But he failed to mention the additional $2.1 trillion hikes on the middle class. (Or the $2 trillion in corresponding cuts for wealthiest households.) Independent studies show the middle class may get some tax cuts initially, but those end by the seventh year, and then rise rapidly thereafter by year ten. In contrast, the corporate, business, and wealthy household cuts keep going—beyond the tenth year.

What Trump conveniently left out in his speech regarding taxes also qualifies as lie by omission. He noted the corporate tax rate was reduced from 35% to 21% and the non-corporate business income deductions were increased by 20%. That was $1.5 trillion and $310 billion, respectively. Or that the Obamacare mandate repeal saved businesses another $300 billion. And multinational corporations would reap the lion’s share of $1 trillion in tax cuts, at minimum. And all that still doesn’t account for accelerated depreciation under the Act. Or abolition of the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax. Or continuation of the infamous corporate loopholes, like carried interest, corporate offshore ‘inversions’, or gimmicks that corporate tax lawyers joke about—like the ‘dutch sandwich’ and ‘double Irish’.

Then there were the Trump jokes. I don’t mean anything actually funny. Nonsense statements like “beautiful clean coal” (the oxymoron statement of the year). Or that US companies offshore are “roaring coming back to where the action is”. And car companies are bringing jobs back (while laying off in thousands). “Americans (white) are dreamers too”. Or the phony infrastructure program that’s coming, where companies will be subsidized by the federal government in ‘public-private partnership’ deals. And his unexplained reference to ‘prison reform’ (really?). Perfunctory references to trade, job training, another non-starter.

Hidden between the lines were other serious references, however. Like his ominous threat to “remove government employees” who ‘fail the American people’ or ‘undermine American trust’, which sounded like a warning from Trump to the bureaucracy not to cross him or else. Or his slap at National Football League players for not saluting the flag. Or plans to expand Guantanamo and the US nuclear arsenal. Or reaffirmation of the definition of ‘enemy combatants’ (which may include US citizens). Trump re-established the fact of his threat to civil liberties.
On the foreign policy front it was mostly threats as well, new and old: To withhold UN funding. Renewed support for new sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela. But North Korea was left for last. Here the return to theater was among the most dramatic. The last ‘gallery scene’ involved a legless defector from North Korea, Seong Ho, brought all the way from So. Korea just for the speech. This was theater with props; applause was sustained as Mr. Ho raised and shook his crutches above his head after Trump’s introduction.

Trump then rode the emotional wave to conclusion with his closing theme that the American people themselves are what’s great about America. Too bad he doesn’t mean all Americans.

So far as Trump speeches go, it was a ‘safe speech’, a teleprompter speech. But typically Trump. Lots of false facts. Emphasis on dividing the country. Long on Theater and emotional appeals to ‘enemies within and without’. And short on policy specifics. But after all, apart from tax cuts and deregulation for corporations and the rich, and a failed Obamacare repeal, not much was achieved in 2017 for him to talk about. And so far as new ideas for 2018 are concerned, there’s ‘no there there’ as well. ”

Jack Rasmus is author of the just published book, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’, Clarity Press, August 2017