The Greatest Danger of Donald Trump

Donald TrumpI probably haven’t mentioned it, but I exchanged a number of email messages with David Cay Johnston. He was critical of something that I had written, but generally seemed to have a positive attitude toward me. He called me a “polymath” — which is just about the highest complement you can give me. I bring it up primarily to brag, because I love his work. One of the great things about having this blog is that actual smart people take me half seriously. But in addition to Johnston being brilliant, he is also playful. And that’s got to be why he went to the trouble to write a book review, Trump’s Sloppy, Illogical Crippled America Is a Jumble of Contradictions.

“Given how often Donald Trump reminds us of his incredible accomplishments as a businessman, you might reasonably expect that his new book on ‘how to make America great again’ would include a business plan.” —David Cay Johnston

Before I get to it, I want to highlight the subtitle of the book, “How to Make America Great Again.” That reminds me so much of Stephen Colbert’s book, America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t. Is this really what passes for serious political debate in the United States? Something that Colbert satirized three years ago? Yet that does seem what the Republican base wants — and has wanted for a long time. It isn’t about policy or even ideology. It is about who is “strong” and will make America “great” — things that aren’t concrete — that are just gut-level feelings about some fantasy of what America is. As Colbert put it: the greatness we never weren’t.

What I was most struck with in Johnston’s review was where he starts, “Given how often Donald Trump reminds us of his incredible accomplishments as a businessman, you might reasonably expect that his new book on ‘how to make America great again’ would include a business plan.” But of course it wouldn’t. I noticed at the start of Tuesday’s Republican debate that FNC referred to Trump as a “builder.” He’s not a builder. He’s not even a businessman. He’s a guy with a lot of money who hired other builders and businessmen. As I’ve written about before, he hasn’t made any more money than if he had just put his inheritance in an indexed fund. So of course he has no business plan, because planning isn’t what he does. He’s just a privileged rich kid whose braggadocio conservatives mistake for genius.

David Cay JohnstonAs usual with Johnston, he really knows things on the granular level. So he rightly applauds Trump for calling for greater infrastructure spending. But then Trump goes on to call for getting rid of the Rural Utilities Service program — an infrastructure financing program. What’s more, Trump claims it will save us almost $10 billion, but it actually only costs the federal government $400 million. But I suspect Trump would just say that cutting that $400 million would create a 25× multiplier effect. Of course, the more fundamental issue is that this is what Republicans are always for: let’s build infrastructure and make America strong — but let’s not pay for it!

Johnston goes on quite a bit about Trump’s ideas for tax “reform” and just how illogical it is. You should read the whole article. But the main thing is that Trump is like most people in business: he knows what he knows. There is no reason to think that he would understand macroeconomics better than anyone else. The problem with Trump and the thousands of other rich people that the media run to for their thoughts, is that they live in a reality in which they think being rich makes them smart and knowledgeable. Thus, they don’t worry about learning economics. Their hubris makes them especially dangerous, and that’s the most important point about Donald Trump.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “The Greatest Danger of Donald Trump

  1. Why are you surprised someone moderately famous like him thinks highly of your obvious intelligence and abilities? You are the smartest and most talented person here after all.

    As for the Trump book-I know that every Presidential candidate is supposed to have some ghostwritten nonsense to let their avid supporters buy (I know I did with Dean’s) but it should at least be somewhat coherent. These days the grifters in the Republican party don’t even bother doing that.

    The only other thing I can think of is maybe we need to have someone to stand next to these twizzlerheads and whisper memento homo you hack as they campaign.

    • Thank you for saying so. But it isn’t just anyone famous. If you haven’t read his books Free Lunch and Perfectly Legal, you should. He’s a great journalist and he uncovers really important stuff. But I’m kind of a groupie for these kinds of people: Johnston, Dean Baker, Alfie Kohn. Even more than Trace Beaulieu!

      The only campaign book I ever read was Kerry’s. But that was the time I really became a Democrat. In 2000, I was too much of a radical, left leaning libertarian. But following the lead-up to the Iraq War turned me very quickly into a Democrat. I just couldn’t believe what was going on. Even when I was younger, working very hard for the Nuclear Freeze movement, I didn’t follow politics. Or if I did, it was of the Pacifica Radio kind. I don’t think I was ever aware of just how bad the media was, so it was easy enough for me to dismiss both Democrats and Republicans as useless. Well, that’s not exactly right. I always thought the Republicans were actively evil. This is one of the reasons that I didn’t get on well in the Libertarian Party: the vast majority of them were closet Republicans. I would constantly hear them talking about this or that that they heard on Rush Limbaugh. Even though I wasn’t one, the only ones I could stand were the pot head libertarians — who I still like. But obviously, they are a dying breed as they discover that it is the Democrats who are getting cannabis legalized — not the libertarians and certainly not the Republicans. Anyway, I thought Kerry’s book was pretty good. Another important moment for me was hearing Republicans dismiss Kerry’s war record. That just showed that they didn’t believe in anything other than power. I have my problems with Kerry, but his war record has to be honored. Democrats never did that sort of thing to McCain who has a far less admirable record.

      • I have read his books and his columns so I agree he is a great journalist. And I agree with him about you. :P

        I have not read any other campaign books unless, I guess you could call Paul Wellstone’s The Conscience of a Liberal: Reclaiming the Compassionate Agenda a campaign book. I recommend it even if it did make me cry.

        I wish I had an interesting story about becoming a Democrat but my family has always been very pro union so there really was not question of what I would register as when it came time to sign up to vote. Since then I have not seen anything in the party to make me regret the decision. Not a perfect party but we certainly have many advantages over the Republicans.

        I do have a joke I remember from my first local political meeting (it is an old joke though): Teddy Roosevelt asks an old man what political party he’s a member of and why. The old man responds that he’s a Democrat because his father was a Democrat and his grandfather was a Democrat. Roosevelt then asks, if your father had been a jackass and your grandfather had been a jackass, then what would you be? The old man says, “I guess then I’d be a Republican!”

        I know I know, I will slink my way over to the nearest debate watching party.

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