Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Robert Reich -- Climate and Inequality (Video)

Climate change and widening inequality are intimately connected. Trump is telling the rest of the world he doesn't care about either.

PolitiFact -- Does the U.S. have a 'massive' trade deficit with Germany, as Donald Trump said?

The answer to the question is yes but not "massive," and it's not problematic.

But the rhetoric President Trump uses and his behaviors are problematic. His remarks on trade “alienates our trading partners, which also happen to be strategic international allies." At the G7 summit, Trump decided not to endorse NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense agreement  and  the 2015 Paris Agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which is an agreement setting a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming. Both send a clear message that the United States “is no longer a trustworthy partner not only for matters of trade, but also for matters of international diplomacy. Trade and international diplomacy go hand in hand."

Moreover, There is his outrageous behavior of pushing the prime minister of Montenegro out of his way in order to stand in front of other country’s leaders who had gathered for a group photograph, adjusting his jacket and putting his chin in the air, an arrogant snub that can only be interpreted as look, I am better than you.

Trump’s displayed ignorance of foreign relationships in regard to maintaining a solid foreign policy by calling for our allies to assume more responsibility for their own security, and his “goon display of ignorance of other languages, cultures or even basic manners” are unfitting of any leader of any country, least of all the President of the United States of America.

Germany’s Angela Merkel called her NATO experience with Trump, “six against one discussions very difficult, not to say unsatisfactory.”

Trump is now berating Merkel on Twitter.

“ . . . Merkel said at a May 28 campaign event, ‘The times in which we could fully rely on others are partly over. I have experienced this in the last few days. We Europeans really have to take our destiny into our own hands.’

“Two days later, Trump fired back on Twitter: ‘We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.’

“Jeremy Shapiro, research director for the European Council on Foreign Relations at the Brookings Institution, called the trade deficit with Germany ‘large’ but said the word ‘massive’ includes some inappropriate undertones.

" ‘Massive’ in my view connotes that it is inappropriately large or somehow unfair, so I wouldn’t use that term." 

“However, Shapiro and other independent experts say they are worried about the type of rhetoric Trump is using.

" ‘This type of language encourages the population’s worst instincts on trade, is economically illiterate, and could possibly result in tit-for-tat protectionist spirals that would negatively affect U.S. and global prosperity,’ he said.”

Robert Reich calls it “Rubbish.” 

He adds, “Trump is just trying to get even for the negative things Angela Merkel and the German foreign minister had to say about him over the weekend -- which were entirely justifiable. Trump’s refusal to endorse NATO’s famous Article 5, the guarantee of mutual defense, at the NATO summit, combined with his refusal to join the Paris climate accord, made his trip a catastrophe.

“As to Trump's morning tweet, he's wrong both on substance and on politics. Substantively, Trump (and his obtuse trade adviser, Peter Navarro) assume Germany wants a weak euro when, in fact, Germany has been critical of the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing policy that’s helping hold down the euro.

“Germany also saves a big chunk of what it earns, resulting in more money flowing out of Germany in search of investments around the world (capital outflows) into places like the United States. So the real issue is capital flows, not trade. And it’s not all bad for America.

“Politically, Trump’s blast at Germany is just as stupid. Germany is now the most powerful democracy in the world, and our most powerful ally in Europe. Rather than cozy up to dictators, Trump would serve America’s interests better by cozying up to our friends.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel,
speaks with President Trump during a group photo
at the G7 Summit on May 26, 2017.

(AP/Andrew Medichini)

Does the U.S. have a 'massive' trade deficit with Germany, as Donald Trump said?

By Louis Jacobson

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Vox -- The Bullshitter-in-Chief

Donald Trump’s disregard for the truth is something more sinister than ordinary lying.

Vox’s Matthew Yglesias writes a great piece examining Trump’s penchant for not telling the truth. He appropriately calls Trump's untruthfulness bullshit. Meaning false or exaggerated statements made to impress and deceive the listener rather than inform.

Here are the opening paragraphs of “Bullshitter-in-Chief,” but please read the complete article. It’s good.

“Donald Trump says a lot of things that aren’t true, often shamelessly so, and it’s tempting to call him a liar.

“But that’s not quite right. As the Princeton University philosophy professor Harry Frankfurt put it in a famous essay, to lie presumes a kind of awareness of and interest in the truth — and the goal is to convince the audience that the false thing you are saying is in fact true. Trump, more often than not, isn’t interested in convincing anyone of anything. He’s a bullshitter who simply doesn’t care.

“In Trump's own book, Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again, our now-president describes himself in a way that Frankfurt could hold up as the quintessential example of a bullshitter. Trump writes that he’s an ‘I say what’s on my mind’ kind of guy. Pages later, he explains that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily an honest guy.

" ‘If you do things a little differently,’ he writes of the media, ‘if you say outrageous things and fight back, they love you.’ The free publicity that results from deliberately provoking controversy is invaluable. And if a bit of exaggeration is what it takes, Trump doesn’t have a problem with that. ‘When,’ he asks ‘was the last time you saw a sign hanging outside a pizzeria claiming “The fourth best pizza in the world”?!’

“When Trump says something like he’s just learned that Barack Obama ordered his phones wiretapped, he’s not really trying to persuade people that this is true. It’s a test to see who around him will debase themselves to repeat it blindly. There’s no greater demonstration of devotion.”

The Bullshitter-in-Chief

By Matthew Yglesias

The Intercept -- We Need Memorial Day To Obscure The Unbearable Truth About War

The Intercept’s Jon Schwarz highly recommends a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. “There may be nowhere where American history is more highly concentrated in all its kooky cruel splendor — and so there’s also no better place to ask questions about it.”

Here’s an excerpt:
"But of course if you spend time with the dead from the Civil War and the Boxer Rebellion and Iwo Jima and Apollo 1, you’ll also find yourself asking larger questions. Every time I’ve gone there, as I’ve looked out from Lee’s hilltop mansion at the hundreds of thousands of soldiers quietly feeding the freshly-mown grass, I’ve wondered why human beings just can’t stop fighting wars.

"The fervent pomp of Arlington to me always exudes desperation, as though we’re trying to suppress any acknowledgment that war’s the silliest thing people do. We sort ourselves into teams based on imaginary lines, dress up in costumes, pledge allegiance to pieces of cloth, and then mercilessly slaughter total strangers.

"This reality — that waging war is both extremely unpleasant and fundamentally ridiculous, yet we keep doing it – indicates that it must serve some important purpose.

"And all the history books I’ve ever read and all the history I’ve lived through suggests what that is: Wars are less about conflicts between societies than about conflicts within societies. Every country has a militaristic right-wing, and nothing helps that right-wing triumph over their domestic enemies more than a state of war. And just like a pharmaceutical company that doesn’t want to cure diseases when managing them is so profitable, their top priority is never bringing the war to an end, but maintaining and expanding their power within the country.

"Amazing enough, Donald Trump recently told the National Governors Association exactly this, even if neither he nor they understood what he was saying. 'We never win. And we don’t fight to win,' Trump declared. '$6 trillion we’ve spent in the Middle East … and we’re nowhere.' "

“We’re nowhere," and continued perpetual wars will be our future. We do obscure the truth about war in so many ways. It will not stop until Americans understand that “The Greatest Casualty of War Is Our Future.” That we don’t fight wars to keep men free but to line the pockets of wealthy people, the pockets of the arms dealers, and the military equipment and supply industry, and all others who benefit from war.

We Need Memorial Day To Obscure The Unbearable Truth About War

By Jon Schwarz

NPR -- Macron Opens A 'Demanding' Dialogue With Putin In France

“Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had a whole lot of ground to cover Monday: Between the long-standing conflict in eastern Ukraine, the six-year-old civil war in Syria and their own countries' tattered ties, the Russian president's stop at the Palace of Versailles promised plenty of difficult topics for conversation.”

Following their meeting, Macron and Putin expressed optimism that their two countries could work together on a list of issues and disagreements, signaling a new beginning in Russian-French relations.

Robert Reich posted on Facebook,

“Macron’s invitation to Putin was a surprise after his tough stance on Russia during the French election. But, hey, if Trump is going to shaft Europe, Europe has to seek friends wherever it can. 

“Trump's ‘making America great again’ apparently means making Russia more influential again.”

Maybe so, Mr. Reich, but as Macron told reporters on Saturday at the G-7 summit, "It's indispensable to talk to Russia because there are a number of international subjects that will not be resolved without a tough dialogue with them."

Stephane de Sakutin/AP
Macron Opens A 'Demanding' Dialogue With Putin In France

By Colin Dwyer

The Atlantic -- Jeff Sessions’ Agenda for the Civil-Rights Division

“Trump's budget isn't just about massive tax cuts for rich and major cuts in assistance for the poor. He also wants to roll back civil rights”

His budget proposal -- “America First: A Budget Blueprint to make America Great Again” -- calls for major reductions of civil-rights division staff in the Justice Department’s operation that’s charged with enforcing laws against discrimination and protecting the right to vote.

While Trump’s budget will not fully pass muster in Congress, it certainly is a reflection of his state of mind. What he believes will benefit America is horribly wrong for the vast majority of Americans.

Robert Reich outlines some of the major staff reductions in Trump’s proposal:

1. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice -- which has long investigated hate crimes, voter suppression, and other forms of discrimination -- would lose at least 121 positions.

2. The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program -- in charge of policing against discrimination by companies with federal contracts – would be eliminated altogether. That’s 600 positions. (Just last September, the office reached a $1.7 million settlement with tech giant Palantir for discriminatory hiring practices.)

3. The Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental justice program -- which combats higher-rates of pollution in communities of color -- would be eliminated.

4. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights -- charged with investigating discrimination in America’s schools – would be drastically cut. The Trump administration itself has admitted these cuts will hamper its ability to conduct investigations.

Trump has made clear his priorities are to benefit the most comfortable Americans and stick it to the most vulnerable.

Mike Blake / Reuters
Jeff Sessions’ Agenda for the Civil-Rights Division

The Trump administration's budget envisions staff reductions and a diminished focus on traditional civil-rights enforcement.

By Adam Serwer

Monday, May 29, 2017

AFP -- Merkel warns US, Britain no longer reliable partners

At the G7 summit, which perhaps now should be called the “G-1-plus-6”, Trump decided not to endorse the 2015 Paris Agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, an agreement that set out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming.

During a meeting with fellow NATO leaders in Brussels, Trump decided not to endorse NATO’s mutual defense pledge, known as Article 5.

Then there was his outrageous behavior of pushing the prime minister of Montenegro out of his way in order to stand in front of other country’s leaders, adjusting his jacket and putting his chin in the air, an arrogant snub that can only be interpreted as look, I am better than you.

Trump’s displayed ignorance of foreign relationships in regard to maintaining a solid foreign policy by calling for US allies to assume more responsibility for their own security, and his “goon display of ignorance of other languages, cultures or even basic manners” are unfitting of any leader of any country, least of all the President of the United States of America.
Germany’s Angela Merkel called her experience with Trump, “six against one” discussions very difficult, not to say unsatisfactory.”

Europe is faced with a western alliance divided by Brexit and Donald Trump's presidency. While Germany and Europe would strive to remain on good terms with America and Britain, "we have to fight for our own destiny", Merkel said.

Yes, Chancellor Merkel, we do have to “fight for our own destiny." We all are threatened by the presidency of Donald Trump.

However, Chancellor Merkel, “We shall return…

To our allies who fear we have lost our way, I say ‘We shall return.’ To our adversaries and enemies who gleefully mark our chaotic state, I warn ‘We shall return.’ And to all of you who wonder about the future, I plead to not give up. ‘We shall return.’ -- Dan Rather

© Provided by AFP 
Merkel warns US, Britain no longer reliable partners

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Politico — What Donald Trump Needs to Know About Bob Mueller and Jim Comey

The two men who could bring down the president have been preparing their entire lives for this moment.

Robert Mueller joined the Marine Corp. in 1968.  During the Vietnam War he led a combat platoon before completing a law degree at the University of Virginia in 1973.

Since then, Mueller has been a lifelong career prosecutor. His work has been mostly in Washington’s justice department spending most of his career working his way up the ladder: U.S. Attorney's offices, head of the criminal division for the U.S. Department of Justice under George H.W. Bush, Deputy Attorney General under George W. Bush, and then elevated to director of the FBI. Mueller became the longest-serving FBI Director since J. Edgar Hoover, completing a 10-year term.

He was so needed and respected that his service was extended for another two years by President Obama with the approval of a bipartisan act of Congress.

Mueller is completely apolitical, nonpartisan, and respected by both Democrats and Republicans. Long-time colleague David Kris has described him as “experienced, knowledgeable, capable" and "utterly incorruptible. He cannot be intimidated.”

While the head of the justice department's criminal division from 1990 to 1993 he oversaw the investigation into the 1988 Pan Am airline bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, and the drug case against former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.

He led the probe into the 1991 collapse of the Luxembourg-registered Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

Mueller started his term as director of the FBI the week prior to 9/11. On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, when the World Trade Center's Twin Towers were attacked, he was in the Hoover Building for his first briefing on al Qaeda.

Mueller led the FBI through dramatic periods of change. At the time of 9/11, the FBI was, for the most part, a domestic law enforcement agency. He transformed it into a global intelligence agency focused on counterterrorism. Towards the end of his career, the FBI began to address Cyber Crimes and the “transnational nature” of global

Mueller left the FBI at the end of his 12-year term. In September 2013 he signed up with Walmart Hale, a Washington law firm. According to Graff, Bob Mueller was the person a company calls when they have really badly screwed up and need someone beyond reproach to come in, investigate, and make recommendations.

Robert Mueller led the investigation into the handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident in 2014. The 2015 report he produced is being called the best analog for what might be expected of Mueller as special counsel. It was just an incredibly thorough investigation built from scratch. When you read his report about that incidence, five pages of the report deal with just how the NFL headquarters receives mail and signs for packages. I think in the course of this, Bob Mueller figured out things about the NFL mailroom that the NFL mailroom staff didn’t know, said Graff.

The Trump administration needs to be concerned not just about what happened in the past, but the actions that they have taken and will take over the course of special counsel’s investigation.

I would say if Trump is guilty of some wrongdoing he should be very concerned that Mueller is special counsel. There is no-one who will get to be the bottom of the Trump-Russia problem if there is one, better that Robert Mueller.

What Donald Trump Needs to Know About Bob Mueller and Jim Comey

By Garrett M. Graff 

Dan Rather: President Trump, I hope you can find it worthy of your time to take notice.

“US police have identified the two men killed by a white supremacist on a train in Portland as they attempted to defend passengers the suspect was bullying.

“On Friday, Jeremy Joseph Christian - a 35-year-old who was known to authorities - stabbed to death 53-year-old Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, after they stepped in to defend two girls Christian was bullying.

“At least one of the girls was wearing a headscarf and is believed to be Muslim.

“Christian is reported to have shouted Islamophobic slurs at the girls, as well as other hate speech.

“Police said on Saturday that Best died at the scene and that Meche succumbed to his wounds at a hospital after Christian slit their throats.

“A third victim, 21-year-old Micah David-Cole Fletcher, was also stabbed in the attack and is in serious condition at a hospital in Portland, Oregon. Police say his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.” -- Aljazeera

Regarding this, Dan Rather has an important message for the President:

Dear President Trump,

Their names were Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best. One was a recent college graduate. The other was an Army veteran and father of four. I wish we would hear you say these names, or even just tweet them. They were brave Americans who died at the hands of someone who, when all the facts are collected, we may have every right to call a terrorist. A third brave man, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, was wounded in the knife attack.

This story may not neatly fit into a narrative you pushed on the campaign trail and that has followed you into the White House. They were not killed by an undocumented immigrant or a "radical Islamic terrorist." They were killed in an act of civic love, facing down a man allegedly spewing hate speech directed at two teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab. That man seems to have a public record of "extremist ideology" - a term issued by the Portland Police Bureau.

This "extremism" may be of a different type than gets most of your attention, or even the attention in the press. But that doesn't make it any less serious, or deadly. And this kind of "extremism" is on the rise, especially in the wake of your political ascendency. Most people who study these sorts of things do not think that is a coincidence. I do not blame you directly for this incident. Nor do I think other people should. But what a President says, who he has around him, and the tone he sets can set the tone for the nation at large.

Perhaps Portland, Oregon is off your radar. It is, after all, a rather liberal place. It's even a "sanctuary city." But it is still an American city. And you are its President. Two Americans have died leaving family and friends behind. They are mourned by millions more who are also deeply worried about what might come next.

I hope you can find it worthy of your time to take notice.

Portland victims of white supremacist killer identified

Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and Ricky John Best stepped in to defend two girls being bullied by a white supremacist [Facebook]

The Greatest Casualty of War Is Our Future

June 8th, 2007, was a beautiful sunny Friday morning. Yellow ribbons and the “Red, White, and Blue” lined streets and adorned buildings. Men, women, children, representatives of the Armed Forces, the Patriot Guard Riders, and politicians lined the streets waiting for the hearse carrying Matthew Bean to his final resting place.

Matthew lost his life on May 31, due to wounds suffered while serving in Iraq. On May 19, a sniper shot him during a door-to-door search for three missing members of his unit in the Sunni Triangle.

Matthew, a member of the 10th Mountain Division, received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and an Army Commendation Medal. However, pretty ribbons and glistening medals are not satisfactory compensation for a life, for taking away a future and all that life could have been.

That’s what the medals are for, imbuing Americans with “pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war and promoting its continuance."

In the sense Americans like to think of Memorial Day, Mathew is the essence of a war hero. Matthew and all those who lost their lives in war gave all they had with courage and with nobility of purpose as they understood it to be.

It’s appropriate that a day is set aside to honor Mathew and those who gave their lives in service to our country. If families and friends take advantage of Memorial Day to get together with barbecues or other events, enjoy a parade, that’s appropriate too, as long as we remember why there is a Memorial Day and acknowledge the real loss that lies under all those graves decorated with pretty flowers and flags.

The reality is we are collectively responsible for the sacrifice Mathew and so many others made, and the sacrifices and heartbreaks of families and children because of the loss of a loved one, as well as those who brought horrific “shadows of battle back home.”

We need to remember that we are responsible for civilians and all those who lost their lives because of our wars. They too will have to live with their “shadows of battle.” And we should keep in mind the human cost in the aftermath of our wars: land mines and other unexploded ordinances that continue to kill and maim to this day.

However, there is no nobility of purpose when we allow our government, and those who make their living from war, to trade lives for power and profit. We allow our tax dollars to go for research, development, maintenance of our military, and deployment overseas, at the expense of advancing science, education, medicine, healthcare, and so many other needs right here at home.

As a result, we have failed at making the United States and our world a better place to live if only we had chosen a different way other than war.

As James Carroll wrote, “remembering is not enough. Beneath the beauty of the lilies lies the ugliness of war.” That’s what we should never forget and make best efforts to never let war happen again. James Carroll’s metaphor captures the deepest meaning of war, and of all the things lost because of it.

Copyright © Horatio Green 2017

Robert Reich -- What we have learned about Trump and the world

Robert Reich writes, Trump doesn’t really like democracy. He’s an authoritarian who admires other authoritarians with total control over their countries. He has never been accountable to anyone but himself (even Trump’s business is privately-held), and he aspires to turn America into an authoritarian country.

What have we learned about Trump and the world? Two big things:

1.Trump admires totalitarian strongmen – he praises the rulers of Saudi Arabia, loves Turkey’s anti-democratic strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who visited the White House a few weeks ago while his security detail beat up protesters outside Turkey's U.S. embassy), is proud of his “wonderful relationship” with China's autocratic President, Xi Jinping, congratulates thug Rodrigo Duterte on his brutality in the Philippines and invites him to the White House, and secretly reached out to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin just days after being elected.

2.But Trump seems uncomfortable with America’s traditional friends – other democracies and their presidents and prime ministers. While in Europe, he lectured European leaders on not paying enough for NATO, he failed to restate America’s commitment to Article 5 the NATO charter (which pledges all 28 NATO members to treat an attack against any of them as an attack against all), and he refused to recommit to the Paris climate accords.

What attracts Trump to the world’s tyrants and what repels him from democratically-elected heads of state?

A charitable view would be that Trump likes to make deals, as he did as a real estate developer. And it’s easier to make deals with dictators than with leaders who must be accountable to their citizens.

Trump Made This G-7 a Lot Different Than the Last

By Marc Champion

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Vox -- It’s becoming increasingly clear that Jared Kushner is part of Trump’s Russia problem

The coverup continues -- and it’s getting closer and closer to Trump himself.

"As the Trump administration’s been sent into a death spiral over the firing of FBI Director James Comey last week — a failed move to curtail the Justice Department investigation into contact between his campaign and the Russian government — Kushner hasn’t been the “adult in the room” urging caution and scrupulousness. To the contrary, he’s been urging aggression and retaliation.

"And the White House’s reaction to the appointment of Robert Mueller as a special counsel in the Russia inquiry, including a possible attempt to use ethics rules to limit the scope of his investigation, shows that somebody in the White House is deeply worried about what might happen if Kushner were included in the probe." --

Robert Reich reviews the latest revelations.

1. The FBI has been investigating Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law.

2. Kushner played an active role in the firing of James Comey, the former F.B.I. director. In fact, the New York Times has noted that Kushner specifically “had urged Mr. Trump to fire Mr. Comey.”

3. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that on December 1 or 2, Kushner and Russian Ambassador Kislyak “discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring.”

4. Later in December, Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, a Russian bank that's the subject of U.S. sanctions placed on Russia in 2014 after its invasion of Ukraine. Gorkov is also a graduate of Russia’s Academy of the Federal Security Service, which trains the country’s spies.

5. Kushner failed to disclose either of these meetings on a standard security form, known as a SF-86, that all White House officials must fill out and sign in order to get security clearance.

6. Reuters reported yesterday evening that Kushner had two additional previously undisclosed phone calls with Kislyak during the presidential campaign.

7. CNN reported yesterday that FBI investigators are also interested in how Russia helped use computer bots to target and push negative information on Hillary Clinton (and positive information about Trump) on Facebook.

Trump campaign's data analytics operation was supervised by Kushner.

Trump has distanced himself from the others who are being investigated by the FBI -- Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, et al. But Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, has and continues to be one of Trump's closest confidantes -- the kind of person Trump entrusts to do the most delicate deals on his behalf. The question is, what if any deal did Kushner do with the Russians?

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Jared Kushner is part of Trump’s Russia problem

By Dara Lind

New Yorker - - The Republicans’ War On Medicaid

Robert Reich reacts to the Republican war on Medicaid:

Many people who don’t use Medicaid think of it as a federal health-care program for the poor. It’s not. As incomes have stagnated and health-care costs have accelerated, Medicaid has turned into an essential support mechanism for more than 1 out of 5 Americans.

About 60 percent of all nursing-home residents now receive assistance from Medicaid. Kids are also big beneficiaries: Medicaid and CHIP [Children’s Health Insurance Program] now help to provide medical coverage for about a third of all the children in America.

But the Republican Party doesn’t merely want to roll back Medicaid’s expansion under the Affordable Care Act; it wants to shrink the entire program. According to the CBO, the House’s Trumpcare bill would reduce over-all federal spending on health care by about $1.1 trillion over ten years. Of that, $840 billion —fully three-quarters of the savings—would come from cuts to Medicaid. The number of people covered by Medicaid and CHIP would fall by 14 million, accounting for almost two-thirds of the total decrease of 23 million predicted by the C.B.O.

Why is the Republican Party so hostile toward Medicaid?

1. It’s costly to the rich. Under the Affordable Care Act, households with taxable incomes of more than a quarter of a million dollars a year are obliged to pay a 3.8-per-cent tax on their investment income—money from things like stock dividends and interest payments on bonds—and a 0.9-per-cent surtax on their other earnings. The Obamacare repeal would abolish these taxes -- providing significant handouts to families in the top 1 per cent. The cuts to Medicaid pay for these handouts.

2. It’s become an embryonic single-payer system that could be further expanded pretty easily. Paul Ryan and the GOP want to kill it before it grows more.

Keep an eye on what happens to the Medicaid provisions of Trumpcare.

The Republicans’ War On Medicaid

By John Cassidy 

Washington Post -- Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

It’s obvious that President Trump, some in his administration, and some of his campaign advisors, have been extraordinarily secretive and appear to have criminality to hide.

“During a secret meeting in Trump Tower less than 2 weeks after Trump was elected, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, met with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, to discuss setting up a secret and secure communications link between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin -- in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring by intelligence agencies, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports. The link would be through the Russian embassy.

“The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.

“Although Russian diplomats have secure means of communicating with Moscow, Kushner’s apparent request for access to such channels was extraordinary, according to current and former intelligence officers.

“What could Kushner (or his father-in-law) have wanted to talk to the Kremlin (or Putin himself) about just 10 days after the election and a month and a half before assuming office – without anyone else knowing? What did they have to hide?

“Sort of makes you wonder,” -- Robert Reich

Moreover, apparently former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador to the United Stares Sergey Kislyak discussed arranging a meeting between a Trump representative and a Russian contact in a third country.

The Washington Post reported that Erik Prince, the former founder of Blackwater private security firm and an informal adviser to Trump’s transition team, met nine days before Trump’s inauguration with a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And Trump’s advisers Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon were secretive about meetings with leaders from the United Arab Emirates. Former President Barack Obama’s White House learned that the crown prince of Abu Dhabi was flying to New York in December to see Kushner because U.S. border agents in the UAE spotted the Emirate leader’s name on a flight manifest.

Read the full story here:

Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin

By Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous, and Greg Miller

Newsweek -- Texas Governor Greg Abbott Makes Joke About Shooting Reporters

"Today, after signing a bill that lowers the fee licensing a handgun in the state, Texas Governor Greg Abbott went to a gun range to show off his prowess with firearms. Then, as he displayed his target sheet and handgun, he joked in plain view of several reporters and photographers, 'I'm gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters.'

"Not funny. Two days ago, Republican House candidate Greg Gianforte beat up “Guardian” reporter Ben Jacobs at a public event in Bozeman, Montana. Gianforte was elected yesterday.
Under Trump, hatred of the mainstream press has become dogma among some sectors of the Republican Party and the public.

"Let me emphasize once more that violence and intimidation directed at America’s free and independent press is a threat to our democracy. Even if it’s supposed to be a joke.

“ 'Reporters Without Borders,' an organization that grades countries on the protections they afford to freedom of the press, now ranks the United States 43rd in the world, just below the small African nation of Burkina Faso," -- Robert Reich

Trump’s hateful rhetoric and behavior resulted in violent incidents of hate targeted at Muslims, Latinos and African Americans. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump cracked a joke about assassinating Hillary Clinton. This too could have ended up very badly as did Sarah Palin’s political action committee’s infamous 'crosshairs' map targeting legislators who voted for Obama's health care bill.

Sarah Palin put crosshairs on a graphic over the district of former Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

On January 8, 2011, Giffords and eighteen others were shot during a constituent meeting held in a supermarket parking lot in the Tucson metropolitan area. Six people died, including federal District Court Chief Judge John Roll; Gabe Zimmerman, one of Giffords' staffers; and a nine-year-old girl, Christina-Taylor Green.

Leadership requires the best behavior and best examples at all times. There is a high probability that words and actions, even jokes,  by those in power will result in significantly serious consequences because some people will take them very seriously.

Gov. Abbott admires his practice target 
after signing Senate Bill 16, which reduces
the first-time fee for a license to carry handguns, 
on May 26, 2017. Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune
Texas Governor Greg Abbott Makes Joke About Shooting Reporters

By Alexander Nazaryan

Friday, May 26, 2017

Ron Kovic’s Memory of War

A majority of Americans have never served in the Armed Forces. Their understanding of military service and war comes from how the news media reports our wars. Television, movies, video war games . . .  distort their view of war. Unlike previous wars, restrictions on publishing certain images of war and inadequate media coverage sanitize war in a way that creates ignorance of the horrors of war, and what combat veterans face when they return home.

Most combat veterans cannot talk about their experiences. Not even to their families or best friends. They will only share their experiences with other veterans. They know people will not understand the adrenalin-driven rushes, exultation, rage, and dreadful fear simultaneously felt during combat. They will not understand how it feels to kill another human being.

But, it’s important for veterans to speak out and share their experiences. Men like Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic encourage veterans to join the anti-war movement. His articles, In the Presence of My Enemy: A Reflection on War and Forgiveness and Reflections are must-reads.

Kovic writes, "I know war very well. I know it at night when I am sleeping and nightmares still come or in the morning when I wake up and transfer into my wheelchair to start my day. I am happy to be alive, and recently bought a piano and hope to learn to play it someday. I love to play the high notes; they are gentle and soothing to me, almost like the sound of raindrops on my window when I was a boy. Just to touch the keys from time to time helps me to forget the war. The music of the piano fills the air with healing. The past recedes. And sometimes even the nightmares disappear for a while. The sound of a single note gives hope. Somehow we must begin to find the courage to create a better world even if it is with one note or one step."

When veterans speak out we should pay attention. For they are evidence that we have failed at making the United States and our world a better place to live if only we had the courage to take a different path other than war.

Remember this Memorial Day that the greatest casualty of war has been our future.

Copyright © Horatio Green 2017

Participatory Management Skills That Define Today’s Strong Leaders

As an entry-level manager and administrator. I made an all-out effort to learn whatever I needed to know to be successful. In the beginning, I concentrated on learning the basics, which every manager knows involves the intricacies of planning, organizing, staffing, directing, and controlling. Of course, these functions are important to operating any business effectively. But I learned over a forty-four-year management career that the most misunderstood function of management, yet just as important and much harder to grasp, is leadership.

That’s because for years leadership has been associated with that part of the management process involved in directing and controlling. My superiors referred to those who lead with an iron fist as strong managers. And so my career began with an understanding that I needed to be an autocratic manager to be successful.

But over the years all that changed. Participatory styles of management became the new paradigm. Management that encouraged and empowered employees to make recommendations and participate in decision-making became the norm. Part of the reason for this needed change was that effective managers finally realized that they did not have all the answers.

Managers now need to not only be good at the technical intricacies of management but also need to be good motivational leaders.

They need to have a working understanding of other management styles because today’s good leaders employ different styles as circumstances dictate. When there are no alternatives, when immediate decisions are imperative, a manager must employ an autocratic style.

Today’s effective manager requires them to be out of their office every day, interacting with all members of their team. Leadership today requires management awareness that you cannot lead without everyone in the organization working together as a team; therefore, managers must possess skills at motivating, coaching, cheerleading, and building a team spirit. So it’s imperative that managers be good listeners, skilled at receiving as well as giving constructive feedback. Effective managers do not resent challenges to their authority and are able to work with people who may disagree with them. They have the ability to recognize unofficial leaders in their team and work through them in order to meet corporate and operational objectives, empowering them to work on their behalf.

In today’s world, managers who possess these interdisciplinary skills will generally have successful operations. Unlike the days of the “it’s my way or the highway” autocrat, it’s what defines managers as effective and strong leaders.

(This article was first published on the Yahoo Contributors Network on December 5, 2013)

Copyright © 2017 Horatio Green

Bill Moyers -- A Catholic Nun on What It Really Means to Be Pro-Life

Sister Joan Chittister provides the perfect response to the anti-abortionist, pro-life movement. Chittister’s remarks are not new. They have been out there for a while.

Here’s Sister Chittister’s memorable quote:

"I do not believe that just because you're opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don't? Because you don't want any tax money to go there. That's not pro-life. That's pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is," -- Sister Joan Chittister

Her remark is particularly applicable today as it ever has been in the past.

Today, the United States is under the burden of a Trump presidency and a Republican-led Congress who continue to introduce and pass restrictive legislation against women’s reproductive rights. They work to shut down women’s health clinics, and have a special vendetta against Planned Parenthood.

“President Donald Trump’s budget proposal together with the American Health Care Act, which Trump’s proposal embraces, would deny all federal funding to Planned Parenthood through both discretionary Title X grants and Medicaid.” -- CNSNews

Moreover, “Earlier this year Trump also announced he was withholding $32.5 million in funding earmarked for the U.N. Population Fund, the lead United Nations agency on family planning and maternal health. Trump made that decision on the grounds that the agency helps to support a Chinese government family planning program that forces people to get abortions and sterilizations — a determination that both the agency and many advocates for foreign aid vigorously dispute.

“The impact on women and children worldwide would be severe, contends the abortion rights advocacy group PAI. In an analysis released this week based on research data compiled by the Guttmacher Institute, PAI calculates that the reduction in family planning services that would result from ending U.S. funding would lead to 3.3 million more abortions, 15,000 more maternal deaths, 8 million more unintended pregnancies, and 26 million fewer women and couples receiving services per year.” --

I end this with another quotation from the beautifully dissident Sister:

“It’s so easy to be a one-issue voter. It’s also so superficial to be a one-issue anything. It’s a narrow, delimiting approach to the very essence of life. As in, I go to church every Sunday but I don’t believe in welfare. I’m not going to support slackers. If people worked as hard as I do, they could take care of themselves, too. Or even worse, ‘there’s no such thing as equal.’ 

“And there may be some truth in that. But it is also true that all humans must be enabled to live as human beings — with dignity and decency — or the rest of us are no longer fully human beings ourselves, whether we realize it or not, 

“The fact is that suffering built into the system for many will finally erode the lives of us all. “ -- Sister Joan Chittister

A Catholic Nun on What It Really Means to Be Pro-Life
A moral world is one whose societies realize that none of us can manage alone without the help of those who believe that every life is as important as their own.

By Sister Joan Chittister

NBC -- Jared Kushner Under Scrutiny in Russia Probe, Officials Say

A week or so ago, it was reported an unnamed White House official was under investigation in the Trump-Russia probe by the FBI. We now know his name.

Robert Reich writes,

The senior White House adviser under investigation in the Russia probe turns out to be Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

It’s unclear what possible crimes Kushner might be under investigation for committing, but in addition to possible coordination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election, investigators are also looking into possible financial crimes.

It’s called corruption. Any expert on corrupt authoritarian regimes throughout history knows that those regimes' wrongdoing often runs through family members with official titles. That’s because people who want to curry favor with a regime often provide favors to family members as a way to get closer to the person in power.

Kushner has already come under scrutiny for his family possibly benefiting personally from his proximity to his leader-of-the-free-world father-in-law. His sister earlier this month mentioned Kushner's advisory role in the White House while pitching Chinese investors on a New Jersey housing development.

This is a big reason why we have anti-nepotism laws in the United States – precisely to avoid the corruption that all too often comes with installing relatives in positions of power. Trump and Kushner have disregarded those laws. They may come to regret it

Jared Kushner Under Scrutiny in Russia Probe, Officials Say

By Ken Dilanian, Peter Alexander And Courtney Kube

President Trump pushed aside Dusko Markovic, the prime minister of Montenegro (Video)

During his first joint meeting with North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders, President Trump on Thursday pushed aside Dusko Markovic, the prime minister of Montenegro, out of his way in order to stand in front of a gathering of world leaders.Trump then adjusts his jacket, puts his chin in the air, and looks down his nose. Body language that’s interpreted as look, I am better than you.

Here’s a video of the interaction.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

CNN -- Trump scolds NATO allies over defense spending

President Donald Trump on Thursday lectured NATO member countries directly for not meeting their financial commitments to the alliance. Trump did not explicitly endorse Article 5, NATO’s mutual defense commitment.

Jorge Benitez, a Senior Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security and Director of NATOSource, said the president should have been "clear, transparent, and reassure our allies" about Article 5 since he was speaking in front of a memorial to the very tragedy that prompted it -- commemoration of Article 5, the commitment to mutual defense, invoked after the 9/11 attacks.

The key section of NATO is Article 5 commits each member state to consider an armed attack against one member state, in Europe or North America, to be an armed attack against them all.

Benitez said,"The US is now not a reliable ally"

Robert Reich says “Trump continues to be an embarrassment.

“Trump had an opportunity today to make amends for his absurd campaign claim that NATO is ‘obsolete,’ and when he questioned why the United States was spending its own money to defend Europe and threatened to withdraw if other members failed to pay their ‘fair share.’

“Which is why European leaders eagerly anticipated Trump’s speech today at the ceremony to dedicate a memorial to NATO’s resolve in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

“But Trump blew it.

“In his speech he gave no specific commitment to NATO. Instead, he publicly chastised his fellow alliance leaders for not being ‘fair’ to U.S. taxpayers, saying ‘23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying,’ and that they owe ‘massive amounts’ from past years. ‘I have been very, very direct with Secretary Stoltenburg and members of the alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.’ Even the 2 percent of their gross domestic products that members have agreed to spend on defense is ‘insufficient,’ he said. ‘Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today’s very real and very vicious threats.’

“This is particularly bizarre coming from someone who refuses to pay his fair share of U.S. taxes, and who's determined to rig the system even more so his rich friends don't have to pay their fair share.

“Then Trump focused on driving terrorists out of Europe and not letting them back in, saying ‘all people who cherish life must unite in finding, exposing and removing these terrorists and extremists. And, yes, losers. They are losers. . . . Drive them out and never let them back in.’

“Immediately after his speech, subdued European leaders gathered for a ‘family photograph’ — a standard feature of such summits. As they chatted among themselves, Trump was left alone at the podium.

“Message to Europe: He doesn’t represent the views of most Americans. We’re doing all we can to get rid of him.”

Trump scolds NATO allies over defense spending

By Jeremy Diamond

The New York Times via MSN -- White House Moves to Block Ethics Inquiry Into Ex-Lobbyists on Payroll

Another Donald J. Trump move that’s “unprecedented and extremely troubling”

“The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose any ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists who have work in the White House or federal agencies.

“The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information.

“Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.

“Mr. Shaub, who is in the final year of a five-year term after being appointed by President Barack Obama, said he had no intention of backing down. ‘It is an extraordinary thing,’ Mr. Shaub said of the White House request. ‘I have never seen anything like it.’

“Marilyn L. Glynn, who served as general counsel and acting director of the agency during the George W. Bush administration, called the move by the Trump White House ‘unprecedented and extremely troubling.’ ”

Read the full story here:

© J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

Walter M. Shaub Jr.,
the head of the Office of Government Ethics
White House Moves to Block Ethics Inquiry Into Ex-Lobbyists on Payroll

By New York Times’ Eric Lipton

Robert Reich's "The Travesty of Trumpcare"

Very good explanation of the House Republicans' American Health Care Act, euphemistically called Trumpcare.

Vox -- CBO: Republican health care bill raises premiums for older, poor Americans by as much as 850%

“I find it remarkable that Trump supporters like Steven Moore believe it's possible to insure the sick and the poor without requiring any sacrifices from the healthy and wealthy. This is conservative rubbish,” -- Robert Reich.

The American Health Care Act is "irresponsible and cruel." It would make the cost of health care for the sick and the poor not affordable, while it benefits the healthy and wealthy, many of whom could afford health care without lowering their insurance premiums.

In a nutshell, under the American Health Care Act -- the House Republicans’ Obamacare replacement that was passed last month -- as reported Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), greatly increases the number of America’s uninsured, Americans would pay more for their health insurance, and it allows individual states to decide whether to allow insurers to charge more for those with pre-existing conditions.

The CBO forecasts that by 2026 twenty-three million Americans would have no health insurance.

They forecast the deficit would be reduced by $119 billion.

And, premiums are forecast to be lower than under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Premium cost, however, would come down for healthy Americans but those who are sick or suffer from pre-existing conditions would have access to less coverage.

Under the American Health Care Act, for most Americans, lower prices would mean higher out-of-pocket cost, fewer covered services, and coverage for Americans who would need it the most would be less accessible because it would cost more than they could afford.

Obamacare should not be repealed and replaced with something that is basically a good law for something that is not. Obamacare -- the Affordable Care Act -- should be carefully looked at and tweaked to make it a better law. Republicans will not because the law was put into place by the Obama Administration. But even better, replace the law with a single-payer health care system.

Now the Senate Republicans will have to decide whether to tweak the House's version or throw it in the trash. The best alternative would be to trash it permanently.

CBO: Republican health care bill raises premiums for older, poor Americans by as much as 850%

By German Lopez

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Robert Reich -- Trump's infrastructure Scam

The Trump administration, determined to overhaul and modernize the nation’s infrastructure, is planning to privatize public assets such as airports, bridges, highway rest stops and other facilities, according to top officials and advisers. In his proposed budget released Tuesday, Trump called for spending $200 billion over 10 years to “incentivize” private, state and local spending on infrastructure. Here's why it's a scam:

Dan Rather -- The winds of our age howl and swirl and rattle the windows of our souls.

The winds of our age howl and swirl and rattle the windows of our souls. So much sadness and anxiety.

Horrific mass murder in Great Britain. Young lives of promise and hope ended in a flash of depravity and evil.

A budget proposal so cruel and heartless. Tax cuts for plutocrats on the backs of families who worry each night about feeding their children or caring for the sick. Not to mention huge cuts to medical research.

Daily bombshells of an investigation into the undermining of our democracy by a hostile foreign power and the potentially active collaboration by some of our own citizens. Now, we confront serious fears of obstruction of justice.

To all this we add so much more... desperate refugees fleeing war zones... a belligerent and unstable nation firing off missiles and boasting of nuclear weapons...a climate warming...add your own concerns to a list that can take so many forms...

And yet... and yet...

I go for a walk on a glorious spring day and see the flowers in resplendent bloom.

I hear the chatter of school children at the bus stop apprising their friends of pending summer activities.

The sun is out late as I settle into my favorite chair and turn on the television to the familiar chatter of a baseball game - words and phrases that I have heard since my youth

There are new books in the window of the local bookstore begging to be bought for a summer read.

Even the headlines in the newspaper suggest our nation may survive this stress test to its democracy. Congressional hearings heating up. An acknowledgement that this budget is dead on arrival. Spirited races for Congressional seats and a growth in civic engagement across the country.

There was a time when many of you asked me if I thought this was potentially the end to our way of life. I have returned many times to a word that was one of my father's favorites and has guided me since I was a child - steady.

Over the course of my lifetime the world has been shrouded many times in darkness and despair. It took courage and action to persevere and it will require that again. But somehow our precious Earth kept spinning. And as the sun crests on the horizon in the east this morning, I know it spins again today.

Dan Rather

Robert Reich and The 6 million people the White House believes can balance its budget

“President Trump's proposed budget released Tuesday rests on a key assumption: The economy will grow much faster than it has in recent years — and at a more robust pace than most analysts predict.” 

Robert Reich:

The Trump administration’s new budget assumes a 3 percent rate of economic growth to keep the budget balanced -- more than 50 percent higher than forecasts.

Budget director Mick Mulvaney says that growth will come from pulling some of the 6 million people who have been stuck on the sidelines of the economy – working part-time but would prefer full-time jobs, or too discouraged to look for work -- back into the labor force.


1. There are about 160 million Americans in the labor force, who together generate GDP growth of just under 2 percent. Another 6 million people couldn’t possibly raise the growth rate another 50 percent.

2. Besides, it would be a one-time boost to growth. It wouldn’t expand the labor force for a sustained period of time, like the 10-year window of Trump's budget.

3. Mulvaney says the economy has often grown in the past at a 3 percent rate. "In fact, it's been normal for the history of the country,” he said. But the country's productivity and labor force growth were significantly higher between 1946 and 2010. Now, the giant baby boom generation is retiring. If you look at the longer term -- between 1881 and 2007 -- America’s average annual growth rate was 2 percent.

Bottom line: Trump's budget will cause giant deficits and explode the debt.

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney
speaks to the reporters about President Trump's
 proposed budget on Tuesday.

Andrew Harnik/AP

Trump Budget Plan Relies On Optimistic Growth Assumptions, Analysts Say

By Yuki Noguchi

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders --CNN: Carrier plant that Trump helped save will cut 300 jobs right before Christmas by Chris Isidore

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders:

It is outrageous that Carrier is planning on laying off hundreds of workers right before Christmas, after receiving a $7 million tax break courtesy of Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

During the campaign, Donald Trump made a 100 percent commitment to prevent United Technologies from shipping 2,100 jobs from Indiana to Mexico. All of us need to hold Mr. Trump accountable to make sure that he keeps this promise. It is not good enough to save some of these jobs. We cannot rest until United Technologies signs a firm contract to keep all of these good-paying jobs in Indiana without slashing the salaries or benefits workers have earned.

Let’s be clear: This company which is owned by United Technologies is not going broke. It makes billions in profits and receives billions more in defense contracts from the Pentagon. In 2014, United Technologies gave its former CEO (Louis Chenevert) a golden parachute worth over $172 million. If Donald Trump was really serious about saving these jobs, he would make it clear to the CEO of United Technologies that if his firm wants to receive another defense contract from the taxpayers of this country, it must not lay off these workers.

We need to send a very loud and very clear message to corporate America: the era of outsourcing is over. Instead of offshoring jobs, the time has come for you to start bringing good-paying jobs back to the United States of America.

Carrier plant that Trump helped save will cut 300 jobs right before Christmas

By Chris Isidore

Esquire -- Read New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Remarkable Speech About Removing Confederate Monuments

A politician actually takes a stand! And a controversial one at that. Please take a minute to read the speech delivered by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on why the city removed the last of its Confederate monuments. Yes, in 2017 there are still defenders of the "old south" and the mayor let them have it with both barrels. It's a speech that should be required reading in every high school in America, - News And Guts 

Read New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Remarkable Speech About Removing Confederate Monuments


While You Weren’t Looking, Trump Basically Killed Dodd-Frank

As the nation’s capital has been consumed by the frothing chaos of President Donald Trump’s administration — botched Muslim bans, sudden personnel changes and the chief executive’s erratic behavior — a steady current of traditional right-wing orthodoxy is sweeping through the federal government. Whatever happens with Russia or the FBI, this tide is washing away former President Barack Obama’s second-greatest legislative achievement: Wall Street reform. And it’s all happening while you’re paying attention to something else.

Trump campaigned on conflicting promises about big banks. One minute, he was going to stick it to the corrupt financial insiders who had wrecked the middle class. The next, he’d vow to liberate our benevolent princes of capital from crushing regulations Obama had cruelly imposed.

Some of Trump’s populist rhetoric followed him into office. But the actual governing has been pure deregulation. Last week, a council of top regulators quietly met to discuss the future of the Volcker rule [reinstated under Dodd-Frank] ― the most important structural change Obama established for the financial system. A few days later, a freshly installed Trump official went further, threatening to defang the rule “unilaterally” by “reinterpreting” its entire purpose.

The rule is basically dead, Keefe Bruyette & Woods analyst Brian Gardner wrote in a note to clients last Monday: Examiners can start giving banks the benefit of the doubt regarding compliance with Volcker almost immediately.’ “

The Volcker rule was an update of the Banking Act of 1933, also called the Glass-Steagall law. It banned traditional banks from engaging in high-risk investments and separated commercial from investment banking. It was deemed a healthier financial system because it restricted banks from making certain kinds of speculative investments that did not benefit customers. Such speculative investments played a key role in the financial crisis of 2007–2010.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton signed the law repealing Glass-Steagall.

The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly known as Dodd–Frank, was signed into law in 2010, as a result of the financial crisis 2007-2010, by President Barack Obama. Dodd–Frank (Volcker rule) was significant because it basically reinstated some of Glass-Steagall's principles.

Pier Marco Tacca/Anadolu Agency Via Getty Images

By Zach Carter