History turned, this past election. Most haven't yet noticed that we were pushed into a new form of government. It's a bit like cultural metabolism switching from growth to cancer, to self-consumption of the body for the exclusive growth of a few cells. I articulated my position in today's political letter. What do you think?
Dear Senator Casey,
I urge you to reject the Republican budget, not only because it favors excessive military buildup over the well-being, health, and very lives of US citizens, but because, along with a slew of new laws and executive orders, it finalizes a drastic change in US governance. Since the election, we are witnessing a fundamental change: from an overall functional government struggling with pockets of corruption to corrupt strongman rule, which is a kleptocracy.
In other words Trump and the GOP leadership now emulate Putin’s government style, as described by Fiona Hill, the White House's senior director for Europe and Russia in her book Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.
The political compact Putin made his elite enter into with the Kremlin was an extension of the old Andropov rule from the KGB Fifth Directorate. Rather than resort to pure brutality to keep the masses in line, one could blackmail and extort businessmen. In this way Putin reined in the banking and energy sectors by appealing to them like a mafia protector. Play according to the rules, don’t challenge or taunt the regime, and you could earn and pilfer as much as you liked. Cross the boss, and face the consequences. Russia’s industrialists are thus run like assets of the KGB.
Consider the Republican administration’s moves to privatize public lands, prisons and education, and its proud elimination of regulations protecting citizens from corporate pillage. Corporate insiders appointed to senior government positions are precisely positioned to remove restraints on their own interests.
Consider Trump’s close connection with people who have done serious business with Russian kleptocrats, such as his new Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross. When Ross took over the Bank of Cyprus, he installed Josef Ackermann as chairman, a man who had left Deutsche Bank under a cloud, including a $650 million fine for laundering Russian money. Cyprus banks have a long and painful history of laundering dirty money from Russians involved with corruption and criminality. Deutsche Bank is also Trump’s largest known lender. Trump now owes Deutsche about $300m. He has four large mortgages, all issued by Deutsche’s private bank. Oligarch Dmitry Ryvoloviev, another owner of that Cyprus bank, bailed out Trump when his finances softened, by purchasing an unsaleable Palm Beach mansion for around $60 million more than the market price, before tearing it down unused.
Trump isn’t just an open admirer of Putin’s style of governance, and entangled with Russian oligarchs in business. His political style resembles a Mafia Don. He called out Mark Meadows, who led the conservative opposition to the Republican health care plan, to stand up, saying, "Mark, I'm gonna come after you". "I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018," he said to the other Republicans called behind closed doors, a threat style stereotypic of movie Mafiosi.
Corrupt strongman governance isn’t just un-American, it is economically dysfunctional. MIT science historian Loren Graham points out why Russia’s economy is dependent on resource extraction despite its brilliant scientists and engineers, because corruption inhibits commercializing their creativity. When entrepreneurship means entering a dirty realm of crime, corruption, wheeling and dealing, the conditions necessary for commercial success in technology do not exist.
In summary, the ongoing behavior of Trump and the Republican leadership fundamentally betrays not only core American values but also the Republican Party’s business-friendly roots.
The example of Russia demonstrates why this “new” Republican model of government not only goes against all ideals of a representative democracy, it also seriously cripples a nation’s economy.
I call on you to reject the Republican budget plan.
Jeff Danziger captured the same insight.
>a logic which locks up the petty offender and enthrones grand larceny
As Jonathan Swift put it,
Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.
My politics/thinking has always revolved around what I have as a short list of the 6 basic human needs also as things we owe each other by the nature of our common humanity: Food, Shelter, Clothing, Basic Income, Education and Health Care.
Adam Smith saw a living wage, not merely subsistence wages, as a moral imperative. That thing he stated in the latter part of his book.
At the moment pond scum is ascendant.
Pond scum can pass the Turing test.