Trump Has Far Less Power Than He Thinks

Donald Trump - Not Much PowerMost people think that President Richard Nixon was brought down by Bernstein and Woodward — those intrepid reporters at The Washington Post. They weren’t the only reporters on the story, so that’s a simplification. But the truth is that it wasn’t any group of reporters who caused Nixon to resign from the presidency. If you had to pick a man, it would be Mark Felt — better known as Deep Throat. He had real power, which he used brilliantly. And his reason for going after the president tells us a lot about the political climate that we now live in.

In 1972, Mark Felt was Associate Director of the FBI. Although his motives in All the President’s Men were claimed to be patriotic, his actual allegiance was to the FBI itself. Felt didn’t like what he saw as meddling in the agency by the Nixon administration. He was almost 60 years old when he started leaking information, so it’s hard to see him as the idealistic leaker that Chelsea Manning was. If I were Donald Trump, I’d be afraid.

Let’s remember what brought down President Nixon. It wasn’t the break-in of the DNC office at the Watergate complex. That would have been pathetic enough a thing. He was brought down because of his part in trying to cover-up this second-rate crime. We know that presidents are involved with far worse crimes all the time. Why didn’t Ronald Reagan and George H W Bush get indicted about the far worse crimes involved in the Iran-Contra affair? Because the bureaucratic infrastructure wasn’t out to get them. Indeed, both men were protected by Oliver North.

Trump’s Antagonizes the Powerful

The Trump administration has gone out of its way to antagonize most of the US government’s bureaucratic infrastructure. That’s especially true of the most dangerous part of it: the intelligence community, which has show little reluctance to use its power. I wonder if Michael Flynn wouldn’t still be Trump’s National Security Advisor if it weren’t for the intelligence community’s distaste for Trump and his minions.

The truth is that I doubt one could be President of the United State without commonly breaking the law. And even if it were possible, Trump would not be the president who managed the feat. In fact, it takes no power of imagination to substitute Trump for Nixon when he said, “When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

YouTube Video: Nixon When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal

So it seems certain that the Trump administration will break the law. Trump seems to think that the president is a dictator. And there are thousands — perhaps hundreds of thousands — of government officials who would be thrilled to get rid of him. Add to that the fact that the Republican Party itself would be happy to get rid of Trump — so long as the alternative would be Mike Pence. And you end up with a very dangerous situation for Donald Trump.

Trump Doesn’t Have Much Power

I’m not saying that Trump will go away any time soon. For one thing, he and his staff are so incompetent that it’s possible they won’t be able to get enough done to break any laws. It may just be four long years of embarrassing tweets and nothing more — other than signing every legislative wet dream the Republicans in Congress have ever had.

But Trump doesn’t seem much interested in wielding real power. His constant boasting show that he’s more interested in looking tough than actually being it. And his idea of looking tough is that of a third grade boy. The truth is that if you lead a country that has a military roughly the size of all the other countries combined, no one would question your toughness. Trump’s boasts seem to indicate a kind of insecurity on his own part.

Trump hasn’t made friends with old enemies. The Russians have the same relationship with us now as they ever did. But Trump has made enemies he didn’t need to. And those enemies could be his ultimate downfall.

Funding Social Wealth Fund: Mandatory Share Issuances

Matt Bruenig - Corporate Income TaxRight now, the US taxes corporate income at a statutory rate of 35 percent (the effective rate is much lower). The way this works is corporations determine what their profits are and then take 35 percent of them (actually less) and remit that money to the state. If we wanted to build up the wealth fund quickly, we could replace the corporate income tax with mandatory share issuances.

There are two ways to do this. The first way, favored by Dean Baker, is to have companies give a one-time grant of shares to the government equal to whatever we think an appropriate tax rate would be. So, instead of taxing corporate income at 20 percent, we could have each corporation give the state shares equal to 20 percent of its outstanding shares. This would make the state the 20 percent owner of the company and would entitle it to 20 percent of the dividends, buybacks, and any other payouts to shareholders.

The second way, favored by Rudolf Meidner, is to have companies give an annual grant of shares to the government equal to some percent of their annual profits. So, instead of taxing corporate income at 20 percent every year, we would have companies give over shares equal in value to whatever their corporate income tax liability would be that year. So, if a company had profits of $100 million, the 20 percent mandatory share issuance would require them to give the state shares equal to $20 million. This is a much more aggressive strategy than the one favored by Baker because, in the long-run, it would result in far more of the company’s equity getting transferred into the social wealth fund.

–Matt Bruenig
Nickel-and-Dime Socialism