Tag Archives: populism

HUD boss implies: I’ve got your populism right here

Let’s explore for a moment the “populism” that Donald Trump ran on to become president of the United States.

As I understand the term, a “populist” politician is one who looks after the so-called “little guy,” who is a champion for those who need a hand from others to help them.

Trump said he would be that guy. He would be their champion. He would fight for Joe and Jane Six Pack.

OK, let’s stipulate that his entire previous life prior to politics suggests nothing of the sort. He was not committed to anyone other than himself. He sought to gain massive wealth and succeeded … as near as anyone can tell.

Let’s look, then, in the current moment. Housing Secretary Ben Carson — the one-time renowned neurosurgeon — has pitched an idea that sounds quintessentially anti-populist. He wants to triple the rent that Housing and Urban Development residents pay to live.

Triple, I tell ya.

I should add that Dr. Carson, brilliant doc that he is, has about as much (or little) exposure to government policymaking as the president. Trump selected Carson to run HUD because, well … I have no reason why he selected him. Perhaps he couldn’t find someone with actual experience in government to run the massive agency.

Carson’s rationale for seeking a tripling of the rental rates is that it would provide an “incentive” for those Americans to do better for themselves. Sure thing, Doc. Someone who’s been poor all his or her life is going to say, “You know, now that I have to pay three times what I can afford to pay to keep a roof over my head, I’ll just get off my duff, get to work and everything will be all right.”

That ain’t how it works in the real world. The deepest forms of poverty so very often are ingrained in people’s psyche. They need compassion, empathy and they need their government — the one that pledges among other things to “provide for the general welfare” of the public — to step up.

A populist president and a populist housing secretary wouldn’t consider pricing someone out of public housing to be a productive and compassionate way to run the federal government.

Do I want the government to offer an endless stream of money to every American? Of course not. I am as pro-hard work as anyone.

I also am one who believes that government should be available to those who have been swallowed up by circumstances they cannot always control. Populists would as well.

What has become of the GOP?

What would Honest Abe, Teddy Roosevelt and Ike think of what’s become of the Republican Party? If only we could ask ’em.

Above is a tweet I posted two years ago wondering about the state of today’s GOP and how it was abducted by a form of “populism” that has no real resemblance to the movement that I had grown to understand.

Donald J. Trump got elected president on a pledge to do certain things, all of which he said at the time would be “easy.”

Build a wall along our southern border? Piece of cake.

Make Mexico pay for it? No sweat.

Negotiate the “best trade deals” in U.S. history? Done deal.

Craft a new health care program? Got it.

Cut taxes for everyone? Perfecto.

And so it went. How has he done? Not too well, by my way of looking at it.

As for the “populist” angle he pursued while running for office, the president hasn’t fulfilled that promise either. He continues to hobnob at his extravagant resorts. I haven’t seen him visiting housing projects, or tour squalid neighborhoods in Appalachia.

Indeed, Housing Secretary Ben Carson recently announced a desire to triple the rent paid by low-income residents of government housing. Dr. Carson then said his idea would “incentivize” residents to improve their lot in life and get them out of housing projects.

Man, that’s just so damn populist of him. Don’t you think?

Back to my Twitter message of two years ago. What, precisely, does the Republican Party stand for these days? Does it go along merely with what the president desires, even though this president had no history of political activism — let alone political experience of any kind — before he ran for the highest office in the land?

The party of Abe, TR and Ike is now the party of Trump.

President Lincoln stood for unifying the nation; President Theodore Roosevelt was an environmental champion; President Eisenhower sought to return the nation to a peace footing after so many years of open warfare in Europe, the Pacific and in Korea.

What does Trump believe? He touts his hatred of the media, he stiffs the opposing party at every turn, he is ravaged by an endless series of controversies — and a scandal or three — and he promises to “make America great again” by bullying our allies.

I’ll give him props for one potentially huge achievement, if he can pull it off: getting North Korea to back off its nuclear program.

However, a success there doesn’t erase the rest of the nastiness that has pervaded this man’s presidency.

Abe, TR and Ike are spinning in their graves.

That’s not very ‘populist’ of you, Mr. President

Stock Market up 5 months in a row!

So said Donald J. Trump via Twitter today.

I share the president’s enthusiasm about the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It speaks to burgeoning investor confidence in the nation’s economy and, presumably, about the president’s vision for the future.

We actually have some skin in that game. Our retirement portfolio contains holdings in the stock market. So I happen to be as glad as the president about the Dow’s performance for much of 2017.

However …

Didn’t the president campaign as a “populist”? Didn’t he tell us while winning the 2016 presidential campaign that he was for “the little guy”? He tried at times to sound more populist than, say, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the independent U.S. senator from Vermont and self-proclaimed “democratic socialist.”

A true-blue populist, by my definition of the term, should be skeptical, wary, even alarmed that the big ol’ rich guys are profiting so handsomely as their stock portfolios rocket skyward.

So, is the president a populist or is he a Populist in Name Only — a PINO?

My gut tells me I should go with the latter.

It’s for real: Trump is a RINO

I’m a bit slow to pick up the beat on this, so I’ll acknowledge that right up front.

It’s been clear for a quite a while that Donald John Trump Sr. is a Republican In Name Only. Yep, he’s a RINO. He owns the pejorative term that true-blue Republicans hang on imposters, those who pose as members of the GOP.

The most glaring piece of recent evidence comes from the dozen or so Republican U.S. senators who are lining up behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s embroiled in a dispute with the president.

Trump blames McConnell for every legislative failure that’s come along. He has chastised at various times the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (another Republican), Sen. John McCain (he’s an R, too), and the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions (a former Republican U.S. senator).

Oh, sure, he’s gone after Democrats as well.

The president, though, is playing exclusively to the 35 percent or so of Americans — his political “base” — who continue to stand by their man. They adore the president not because he’s a Republican, but because he, um, “tells it like it is.” 

Hmm. It just occurs to me: They love Trump for the very same reasons millions of other Americans — including yours truly — detest him.

The man has no ideological grounding. He doesn’t have a core set of principles. He has no understanding of government, nor any interest in learning about it.

Trump ran for president as a “populist,” a friend of the Little Guy. Yet he jets off to his decadent resort properties in Florida and New Jersey where, I’m quite sure, he spends zero time talking up close with rank-and-file middle Americans who are the only political allies left on whom the president can count.

The president’s appeal has nothing to do with party, or ideology, or governing principle. The president is a RINO. Pure and simple.

President redefines ‘populism’

I would venture a guess that if one were to ask Donald J. Trump to define “populism” off the cuff that he would say something like: It’s the philosophy on which I campaigned successfully for the presidency of the United States.

Translation: He likely doesn’t understand a philosophy aimed at taking power away from big corporations and the rich folks who run them.

This billionaire real estate mogul and TV celebrity campaigned as a populist, declaring his intention to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and “work for you, the people.” He would surround himself with the “best people” to run the government and would “drain the swam” of the corporate corruption he said has infected American politics since the beginning of the Industrial Age.

He is governing, though, as anything but a populist.

The president did sign the executive order that took the United States out of TPP. NAFTA? Well, in the span of just a few days he said he would consider pulling out; then he said he wouldn’t after talking to the leaders of Mexico and Canada; then he said he would like to “renegotiate” the treaty. The “best people” surrounding him include a healthy cadre of executives from Goldman Sachs, the big-time investment outfit he criticized freely during the campaign. The “swamp”? It’s still full of muck.

I want to focus for a moment on NAFTA. Free trade is an example of orthodox Republican philosophy with which I agree. I dislike artificial barriers, such as import taxes and tariffs, that inhibit trade, particularly among bordering nations. NAFTA’s intent is to open markets throughout three major nations: the United States, Canada and Mexico. Is it perfect? No. Is it as flawed and “disastrous” as the president has contended? No to that, too.

It has fostered a freer flow of goods across the borders of all three nations and has been a significant net plus for their economies.

I am heartened to sense the president is beginning to understand that campaign rhetoric often must differ with the way one actually governs.

NAFTA is not the bogeyman that Trump called it while winning the presidency.

As for whether he can govern as the populist he portrayed himself as being, I only can point to the weekend lifestyle he still enjoys as he jets off to Mar-a-Lago, his glitzy, glamorous and posh resort in southern Florida.

His attachment to all the decadence associated with it suggests to me that the president is a populist in name only. Hey, maybe we can create a new acronym: PINO.