IF YOU THINK THAT WAS BAD…

Even as we try to cheer ourselves up and enjoy the holiday season, one of the realities that has been lurking just beneath the surface throughout Trump's presidency is becoming clearer: As miserable as the first two years were by any conceivable measure, this has been the *good* part. We haven't even started the bad part yet.

Though the president's actions in no way contributed to it, the national economy maintained its pedestrian growth rate since the end of the Obama era. Employment has remained pretty high, with the important caveat that much of the job market consists of low wage, no benefit service industry type jobs and Gig Economy things like Uber driving taking people out of job-seeking. The stock market, for the rarefied slice of Americans who get to benefit from such things, has performed well. It's not an economic track record anyone should crow about (not that anything could stop Trump from credit-claiming) but it certainly hasn't been an unmitigated disaster. Remember the last year of W Bush and the first year of Obama? THAT was bad. This has been just kinda mediocre.

But as you no doubt have noticed, the inevitable "correction" of the stock market is well underway (and overdue). While the stock market is not the economy or vice-versa, bear markets like this historically are a reliable indicator of economic trouble ahead.

Some critics have pointed out (correctly) that the mystery of why Trump's approval rating is so high (that is, in the low 40s instead of like 15% where it logically should be) is better understood as: Why is his approval rating so *low* given the overall positive to decent economic indicators? And that's what I mean when I say the bad part is still to come. Trump has coasted on a lot of "Well, the economy's going up so who cares!" cynicism and callousness so far. As we have seen clearly, those white suburban middle class types will put up with just about anything is the 401(k) performs. When that support softens, what do you think Trump is going to do? If this is how he behaves now, how will he behave when his approval is in the 20s like fin de siècle GWB?

Authoritarians don't have any strategy for digging themselves out of a hole except to do everything they're doing, but harder. Changing course is not a thing they're emotionally capable of doing. Authoritarianism is an endless string of doubling-downs until they're removed from power.

Additionally, while I don't recommend hanging on the every turn of Mueller's investigation it appears (as anyone with half a brain predicted from the beginning) that the news will continue to get worse on that front. The mass exodus of cabinet and White House officials appears to be accelerating, which is a reliable sign that people who know something we don't know are starting to give Trump a wide berth.

The traditional authoritarian move when the walls close in is to start a war and double down on persecuting minority populations internally. The latter is bound to keep ratcheting up until Trump is gone; at this point my hope is simply that we can get to the endpoint without the former.

31 thoughts on “IF YOU THINK THAT WAS BAD…”

  • Steve Bottoms says:

    I so hope you are right about the former! Trump as a "war president," keeps me awake at night.

    PS Minor typo "white suburban middle class types will put up with just about anything is [sic] the 401(k) performs."

    I think you meant, "if their 401(k) performs." Or something like that. :)

  • It does seem it will get worse before it gets better. It is at least mildly promising that Trump's relationship with GOP legislators seems to be deteriorating rapidly. Unfortunately, they still seem to be more worried about being primaried than they are driving the nation over a cliff at the moment, but perhaps Trump's petty vengefullness will limit the odds of anything other than increasing mutual loathing.

  • I work in the air freight business and we're considered a pretty reliable leading indicator of the economy.

    Our stock was taking a pounding even before the latest, ahem, "correction".

    Trump's little trade war and the Brexit, among other things, have been taking a bite out of our international business.

  • Gotta factor in the increasing Adderall abuse as the pressure mounts. What little emotional stability he could maintain is rapidly vanishing.

  • So that last paragraph paints Obama as authoritarian, too, then? He was known as "the deporter in chief" and built those photogenic "camps," after all. Not to mention a helping hand in international feats like the introduction of slave markets into Libya. And he was our Nobel laureate president who bombed 7 countries, offering his rare apology after bombing doctors without borders because it wouldn't have been proper for one Nobel laureate to bomb another without apologizing afterward. For a moment I was worried you shared the recent liberal blindness, thinking the problem is just the cheeto in the big (oh so big, very long, big!) tie.

    The real problems we face are a little deeper than a reality TV star who is a repeat failure at business, marriage, et al. He's just the Bizarro-world rodeo clown who's distracting us all while an angry bull bears down on us.

  • drew does have a significant point.

    The War Party does what The War Party does, no matter who is in "power".

    Trump just adds a fine little seasoning of obvious corruption. (But how have the Clintons and Obamas done post presidencies? They are not too worried about "the economy". When you are a tool of Wall Street and the War Racket, you are set for life).

  • Regarding the last paragraph: do you really expect the internal persecution of minorities to stop ratcheting up when Trump is gone? I think you've reversed cause and effect here. Trump didn't cause the recent upsurge in racism, he inflamed it and rode it and continues to rely on it to motivate his supporters. But he didn't cause it. It's been ratcheting up for years. If anything, the spiking increase in racial hatred, the reaction to the first black president, caused President Trump.

    If Trump stepped down or keeled over today, do you think the GOP, at any level, will stop cheering for police violence, condemning nonwhite culture, gutting public assistance, fear-mongering over the imagined hordes of scary brown people slouching towards Real America from the ghettos and barrios to take our jobs, kill us in our beds, steal our womenfolk, corrupt our kids? Are they going to stop equating all of Islam with terrorism or ever start recognizing white mass shooters as domestic terrorists? Will they suddenly start respecting women? Will they stop funneling every dime from public funds to private hands?

    Trump didn't start Republicans down these roads, he followed them. These are the true Republican voters' agenda and had been for some time now. Trump's election was the rank and file GOP voters making their agenda clear. It won't change when he's gone.

  • Chris Ekstedt says:

    Ditto on Brian and Drew's statement. Trump is emblematic of the long developing pimple about to burst. From what I've read though I haven't seen G&T doing rah rahs on previous administrations unless I've missed something.

  • "my hope is simply that we can get to the endpoint without the former."

    Not likely with either Cotton or Keane likely to replace Mattis. A pox on all their houses.

  • RobW has a point. Trump is the symptom not the disease.

    My fear is that when Trump is gone someday, the next one will be just as bad but smart enough not to say the quiet parts out loud.

  • Usually the last act of failing politicians is to start a war somewhere. It is rather odd in this respect that Trump is actually withdrawing from Syria.

  • Bill Dan: We will see what really happens. Although it sucks to be the Kurds, even a rampaging, drunk, senile elephant can do the correct thing once in a while.

  • @Brian M – withdrawing from Syria is, in the abstract, a good idea.

    Withdrawing from Syria so Erdogan and Assad can tag-team genocide the Kurds is, in particular, a really bad idea.

    The drunk elephant's excited about letting his autocrat buddies do crimes – the withdrawal is just a means to that end.

  • "Usually the last act of failing politicians is to start a war somewhere. It is rather odd in this respect that Trump is actually withdrawing from Syria."

    That's not HIS war. He's starting a new one by freeing up some of Assad's assets (and allowing the russians to do the same thing with the turks that they've done with Assad. It'll be a much bigger war, it'll be YUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE!

    Dondzilla knows what side his bliny has the beluga on.

  • It has long been my contention History, if there is a History, will mark the appointment by an ideologically stacked court of unelected judges of a scion of an old school, blue-blooded Robber Baron, Hitler financing family with limited intellect, marginal education and no practical experience – not to mention it was AWOL from the National Guard while I and mine were pulling ninety-six hour patrols – to the highest office of the land as The End of "America". We are where we are on momentum.

    Speaking of momentum, as I rarely speak here and physics is of course everything (everything is physics), "wheels coming off" implies momentum, momentum of course implies a certain degree of accurate anticipation where the wheels will go.

    I think the wheels have come off, the momentum run out, but I could be wrong, it's happened a time or two. I'm merely a Mad Scientist.

  • The key is to start a war you can win. Hell, even Ronnie knew that. Get out of the ME and find a small easy to conquer Grenada and do war with them.

  • Not forgetting that those short little conflicts give potential adversaries opportunity to learn the limitations of that shiny weapons system you blew the nation's health care budget on.

  • @Brian M — Trump can't start a war without pulling troops from somewhere; the US military is already committed too many places for it to be practical. In that sense, pulling the troops from Syria is a terrible sign, since it implies he's getting ready to start one.

  • Does anyone think Trump might use the withdrawals from Syria and maybe Afghanistan to try a war with Iran? It does seem that hating Iran is one of the few things that unites the foreign policy instincts of the various Washington factions.

    I'm not sure the military itself would go for it though. There are quite a few reasons the Americans haven't tried to do a 2003 Iraq-style invasion on Iran even though they've hated the Mullah regime since the Revolution. Iran has a much bigger population than Iraq, a lot of mountains for its troops to hide in, and a lot more friends (even if those friends probably wouldn't confront the US openly). Given how "well" Iraq went, it seems fantastic that the US would try to do that again, but against a much harder target.

    During the Bush years, I heard it said that much of the US military leadership would probably resign rather than be part of anything more than a few small incursions into Iran. I wonder how Trump would react if that happened.

  • @Democommie

    To be honest another thing that worries me is mot so much a nuclear exchange between two great powers, but that increasingly it feels like all the major nuclear-armed countries might be on, or moving towards, the same side.

  • @Callum:

    In one sense they've all always BEEN on the same side. It's like all of the king's dukes and earls and such were squabbling to see who sat at the end of the table which was only ever going to be big enough for them, anyway.

  • @democommie

    I'm not sure if that's true; certainly the states with nukes have always had a fair bit in common, but they were, to use your analogy, sitting at parallel tables during the cold war and trying to entice others to their table, not the other one. The US and Soviet-led blocks didn't trade with each other or even talk to each other very much, so cooperation was limited.

    Now they're all at the same table, and while they might squabble over where they sit, they're starting to realize that if they all stick together there's nobody else who can challenge them. They're all trading partners, and they're all increasingly led by rich people who know and do business with each other. The US, Russian and Chinese state apparatuses still see each other as enemies and there's a lot of inertia there hindering a true coming together, but if the people at the top want a coming together, it will happen eventually.

    I don't think the world has ever had to deal with a clique of billionaire authoritarians with a nuclear monopoly before.

  • What i find astounding is the lack of "terror" at what the Republicans are doing, and the silent collaborating by the Vichy Democrats. Trump appoints all these Business lobbyists to destroy/manage The Federal Government, aka de-regulating everything under the guise of the "Market" knows best. "How to screw Americans," basically.

    and the Democrats only find fault with Trump/Frankenstein!. what about all these Carpetbaggers in charge of the wide spread destruction of our economy, air, water, you name it in the name of Business/Market "Freedom".

    the Democrats could do something about the way any or all of the Federal Government has been "sold" to Business for next to nothing. of course, we the taxpayer, not the Rich, will pay for everything, will pay to fix all the pollution, graft and corruption which is also known as Congress.

    it is just amazing to watch people complain about Trump, aka Trump Derangement Syndrome. and no one, not a single Democrat goes after any of those "Business Leaders" Trump appoints to destroy what is left. Lobbyists have been appointed to replace those Lobbyists that weren't "conservative" in their rape of American Land, Water or Air. there were things that actually used to work in America.

    shows just how Money is the only thing that Matters. The Democrats just wait to get their share, as Obama showed. America, It's Money that Matters. Not Trump.

    What a Country!!

  • Townsend Harris says:

    Several of Bernard's tactics are classic examples of "both sides are equally bad," and "what difference does it make?" The purpose of Bernard's tactics is to encourage apathy and demobilization.

  • @ Callum:

    I think that the fix has been in ever since the Russians gave up Alaska for what seemed, even then, like a paltry sum. Yes, they might be at separate tables but the tables were smaller and the TOP eaters were still smaller. Back then–before internet and other modern infrastructure made it more profitable to do business with the enemy than fight him directly–the Russians, the Brits, the Germans, the USAians, the French, the Spanish and other empires could better control access to markets and media. Now, they have to work together to achieve the corpostatisthegemony of which you speak.

    It will, btw, fall–but this time, we WILL be bombed into the stone age or worse.

    Shorter Townsend Harris:

    Bernard's a fucking troll.

    He's just like the other trolls (well, maybe a bit less thin-skinned, but, still, a fucking whanker, for all of that).

    Ignore him, other than to scrape him off of your shoe.

  • Why, just think, if Mark had been alive during the reign of Augustus, he coulda been one of the good jooz. He coulda completely revamped the roman information systems. There would be FB sites like, "Janus–looking forward/backward", stuff like that.

    It would all be great until some sheep spilled its guts and the auguries said, "Augie, GOOD–but has JOOOO friends…"

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