Saturday, January 21, 2017

Record keeping: Times are changing

What's changing as a result of Trump presidency and Republican-controlled House/Senate?  Here's an effort to start keeping track of life under a new administration.  Clearly I've got a bias, but I'll try to use this space to provide myself with multiple perspectives on some of the changes.
  • Trump is likely to increase military spending (along with many other countries in the coming decade).  Military Times reports: "The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has pegged the cost at an additional $150 billion in coming years....Trump has said he's confident that savings can be found by cutting bureaucracy and better policing government waste. But few independent analysts believe such reductions will be enough to offset the cost. A big question to be answered is whether Trump tries to buck fiscal conservatives with a costly military buildup."
  • The entire set of Dept. of Interior twitter accounts (the social media department) was temporarily suspended (on whose order?) for retweets not in line with the agency's central missions.  They were since reactivated after clarification of agency policy.  IJR doesn't ask why the entire set of accounts were suspended, rather than just the specific accounts of individuals/programs that didn't follow policy, instead describing the issue this way: "staffers were told to stop tweeting, pending a review, because they performed their jobs unsatisfactorily, according to the standards of the new president." But not ALL staffers were guilty of an error here.
  • HUD suspends a recently passed FHA mortgage insurance cut that would've saved homebuyers ~$500 a year.  LA Times reports that that outgoing HUD Secretary Julian Castro described the cut this way: “With sufficient reserves on hand to meet future claims, it’s time for FHA to pass along some modest savings to working families."  The LA Times also quotes Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa), at confirmation hearings for Ben Carson, with what seems like a possible reason for the new administration's reversal of this policy: "Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) argued that private mortgage insurance should play a larger role in the market for homes acquired by buyers who can’t afford traditional 20% down payments."
  • In terms of negative impacts on middle-class workers, this article lays out a series of predicted impacts of Trump's plans (taxes, medicaid/medicare, Wall Street favoritism), including this predication about his apparently willy-nilly approach to affecting change in trade: "He might slap large, arbitrary tariffs on imports from countries he doesn’t seem to much like, but this will do little to improve American competitiveness. In fact, if such tariffs encourage foreign producers to set up facilities in the United States to avoid tariffs, create economic weakness in our trading partners, and/or encourage retaliatory tariffs, they will  America’s trade deficit. A prediction: presuming the economy does not enter recession in the next four years (and there’s no reason it should, absent a huge fumble by the Trump policymaking team), the American trade deficit will be , not smaller, by 2020."
  • Trump's approach to attacking companies via Twitter can be destabilizing (for the company as well as the larger stock market), even when they are based on inaccuracies/mischaracterization.  Additionally they require time and money for crisis management efforts that create additional operating costs for corporations.
  • Trump appointed big-Republican-donor Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education despite her staggering lack of knowledge about basic national education policies.  Her efforts in Michigan are not compelling, especially for people concerned with social-justice issues of public schooling; as the Detroit Free Press reports: "Some critics have said advocates like her push school choice with little regard for the quality of options parents have. She and other advocates believe strongly that parents should be able to decide where their kids go to school, and that kids shouldn't be trapped in failing schools. But critics say choice advocates ignore the need for quality options, say charters have siphoned money away from traditional public schools and point to data that show charter schools aren't performing any better, and in some cases are performing worse, than their counterparts."

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Too far

Also from George Black, in Empire of Shadows:

There are times when people push, or are pushed, too far, and things begin to fall apart.  A new line is drawn on a map.  One man steals a horse; another takes one drink of whiskey too many.  An insult is magnified, and the reprisals escalate.  Personal grudges bleed into larger political grievances.  Prejudice breeds fear, and fear feeds prejudice.  Demagogues size hold of these unstable moments.  Moderate men chafe at the absence of order and find themselves invoking extreme remedies that end in outbursts of collective madness. (Ch. 15)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

History repeats (?)

"Historian Richard Slotkin says that while the intended mission of the vigilante may be civilizing and socially constructive, his methods assume a 'privilege of violence' beyond the law.  Terror breeds counterterror."  - George Black, in Empire of Shadows