Opinion: The Real Reason for Trump’s Meltdowns – By Paul Brandus | MarketWatch

 Paul Brandus | MarketWatch

It’s easy to see why President Trump’s latest meltdown — on display for all to see in the East Room last Wednesday — makes it easy for commentators to say that the 73-year-old man has lost his marbles. He’s “unhinged,” they say with an exaggerated amount of glee.

You can decide for yourself whether this is so. Meantime, I’ll offer some additional thoughts that may help explain his behavior.

I’ve said this before: Trump spent most of his life as the CEO of a privately held company. Yes, there were those disastrous years between 1995 and 2004 when Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts was a public company – investors lost about 90% of their money.     

But, for the bulk of his career, Trump has preferred to run things in private. This means no public accountability, no quarterly 10-Qs or annual 10-Ks to file with the feds. Immersed in this transparency-free zone for half a century, he has always believed that he wasn’t required to answer to anybody. And until announcing his candidacy in 2015, he was right.

And yet Trump still has not learned — much less respected — the essential fact that he has been, for three years now, a public servant. Be it city councilman, or mayor, or all the way up to the Oval Office, public servants are answerable to the public. But 50 years of doing whatever you want and not having to explain any of it is apparently hard to shake. Trump won’t release his taxes, even though all previous presidents have.

We have a government with three separate but equal branches. Trump heads just one of them, the executive branch, but refuses to cooperate with another, the legislative branch. As a private citizen, he called on lawmakers to investigate Hillary Clinton in the extreme.

But when it comes to investigating Trump?  That’s a “witch hunt” – and “presidential harassment”. It’s all very unfair, he complains. And no one has ever been treated as poorly as him, he adds.

Trump’s half-century of non-accountability and non-transparency — and his rage that a majority of the American people now demand this of him, as they have of every other occupant of the White House — must be seen in another light, as well.

Trump has seen for decades a loose culture that has enabled white-collar criminals to inflict great damage on the American people and get away with it. Yes, there are exceptions. Going back two decades, the massive accounting scandal at Enron resulted in felony convictions of Kenneth Lay and Jeff Skilling. Lay died before he could be sentenced, but Skilling spent 12 years behind bars. Bernie Ebbers is still in prison for his role in the collapse of telecom giant WorldCom. And, in 2009, Bernie Madoff got a 150-year sentence for the massive Ponzi scheme he’d orchestrated over many years.

But that’s just four people. You know how many people in the USA went to jail over the near-collapse of the economy between 2007-09? ONE. Former Credit Suisse trader Kareem Serageldin got 30 months for artificially inflating the price of subprime mortgages, a financial product at the very heart of the Wall Street collapse.

A judge called Serageldin’s conduct “a small piece of an overall evil climate within the bank and with many other banks.” And yet no one from any other bank or mortgage company that melted down — including Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, AIG, IndyMac and Countrywide, to name but a few — ever went to prison for that “evil”. NO ONE. In 2012, the Treasury Department estimated the total lost household wealth at $19.2 trillion.

Prosecution of white-collar crime has been falling for years. Susan Long of Syracuse University, who tracks this, says the drop began during the presidency of Barack Obama – officials are criticized for having believed that executives at big banks were simply “too big to jail” – and has continued on Trump’s watch.

“This year, federal prosecutors are on track to bring the fewest number of white-collar criminal cases in at least 33 years,” the Syracuse professor, an inductee of the National Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame, tells me, citing government records.

Perhaps this means financial executives are better behaved? Human nature and greed being what they are makes this unlikely: “I think there’s tons more offenses out there than are being prosecuted,” Long says, adding that there are “more crimes out there than there are prosecutors to look into them.”

What does this have to do with Trump? I think the notion that the administration is not taking white-collar crime seriously has helped to culturally normalize it and reinforce in the minds of executives the idea they can violate the spirit — if not the letter — of the law without fear of recrimination. This in turn fuels still more bad behavior while lowering the bar of what voters consider acceptable behavior.

And so, we see Trump melting down day after day. Perhaps he’s losing his marbles. But perhaps he just doesn’t get that what he is doing is wrong.

“I hear about the word ‘impeachment’,” he told us in his news conference with the president of Finland. “I said, ‘What did I do now?’ ”

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late senator from New York, once warned of the danger of “defining deviancy down”, in which worse and worse behavior comes to be accepted as the norm.

This explains much about how Trump — whose company has been linked with everything from housing discrimination to outright fraud — has gotten away with so much. His standards are low; his ethics, non-existent. And yet he is adored by millions. This says as much about him as it does about us.

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Comments

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On October 6, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    A well reasoned analysis of where we now stand as a nation. Our current president is but a symptom of our moral and ethical decay, not the cause.

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 6, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    With Michigan Won, Trump is Done

    Bonnie Greer | The New European

    One possible reason that speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that she now supports a narrow impeachment inquiry in the matter of the possible Trump shakedown of Ukraine is this: MICHIGAN IS READY.

    One of the reasons that Donald Trump knew that he had become president-elect in 2016 was the fact that he had won Michigan. Or rather, that the Democrats had LOST MICHIGAN. Even though the Democrats had been losing votes between 2012 and 2016, that defeat was still a shock.

    The vote total for Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, and her vice-presidential running mate, the senator from Virginia, Tim Kaine, was 300,000 short of the number achieved by Barack Obama and his running mate, the former senator from Delaware Joe Biden, in 2012.

    Add to that, out of all of the states that the millionaire real estate tycoon from Manhattan had won in the north, he had taken Michigan by the fewest number of votes: 11,000 – 47.50% to Clinton’s 47.27%.

    It is the Electoral College that decides the president of the United States. The voters elect the electors: 270 votes are enough for the win. And a one-vote majority can give a candidate all of a state’s electoral college votes.

    For the Dems, Michigan could not be lost, both literally and symbolically. So, when Trump won all of Michigan’s 16 electoral college votes, the 2016 election was, as they say, WON and DONE.

    This left Michigan Dems among the most bitter of mourners at the Democratic Party post-mortem. It was not, as some might say, that they had not seen defeat coming. Michigan was one of the seedbeds of the Reagan Democrat – that white, working class voter who felt that he (mainly ‘he’) was in a death-spiral of diminishing returns culturally and economically. This demographic helped Reagan win 44 states out of 50 in the 1980 election. Game-change does not begin to describe this.

    Yet the Reagan Dems voted for Obama and Biden twice, in 2008 and 2012. This is one of the reasons that Trump truly fears Biden, and this fear is the source of the deep trouble Trump is in now.

    Michigan can be tricky. That great New York City expression, “go figure”, certainly applies to it. But figuring politics out is what Nancy Pelosi does. Her father, a former mayor of Baltimore, taught his only daughter to, above all, “count the votes”.

    When the centrists, moderates and conservatives of the Democratic Party of Michigan came on board the Impeachment Train, Pelosi had the votes. Plus, she had the voice of the demographic that her party needs in order to take back the White House.

    Michigan is composed of two peninsulas. The state motto is Si quaernis peninsulam amoennam circumspice – ‘If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you’. The election of 2016 was far from pleasant.

    Back then, the Democrats won 75,000 fewer votes in Wayne County than they had in 2012. Wayne County. A Democratic Party stronghold. The home county of Detroit… the home of Motown.

    So, as they awaited the results of the 2018 midterm elections, Michigan Dems must have been singing. Singing the refrain from Standing in the Shadows of Love, as delivered by the great Detroit-born lead singer of the Four Tops, the late Levi Stubbs:

    Standing in the shadows of love

    I’m getting ready for the heartaches to come.

    But the 2018 midterms were not heart-breaking. The election saw the Democrats sweep all the statewide offices held by Republicans. They gained two Republican seats in the House of Representatives, while former state senator Gretchen Whitmer took the governor’s mansion by a 10-point margin.

    Whitmer is seen as ‘folksy’. With her victory, she buried the urban myth that a woman could not succeed in Rust Belt Michigan and sceptical Detroit. She even won over some Trump voters.

    Her campaign slogan was, lyrically, ‘Fix the Damn Roads’ and she toured in a bus. She visited all 83 counties in the state including Macomb County, the bellwether that makes you or breaks you in Michigan. Full of Trump voters who told her who they were, they nevertheless voted for her.

    Flint did, too. She promised that she would give them, at last, clean water. Since 2014, the city has faced a crisis after its drinking water source was changed from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to a less costly source of the Flint River.

    Poor water treatment saw lead from pipes leach into the drinking water, exposing residents to elevated lead levels. A promise of Clean Water in a state nicknamed the Great Lakes State.

    Michigan has the longest freshwater coastline of any political subdivision on earth. Flint tells you just about everything you need to know about the effects of de-industrialisation; poverty and racism. ….. And Michigan.

    The Congress people from Michigan who have come out for the impeachment inquiry are Debbie Dingell, Dan Kidee, Brenda Lawrence, Andy Levin, Haley Stevens, and Rashida Tlaib. All Democrats.

    Justin Amash, is the lone Republican, so far, in the House to support the inquiry. He is now an independent. And he is from Michigan. Pelosi does not do gesture politics, nor stuff full of symbols. Like her or loathe her, she is what is called a ‘retail politician’. Although she herself is as corporate as they come, she likes to know what folks talk about at the watercooler, or while filling up the tank, or over the breakfast table, at the school gate, and when they can’t sleep at night. The rest is theatre.

    In fact, the legal rococo that is the Mueller Report was made into a night of theatre in an effort to get people to read the thing. The production was called The Investigation: A Search for the Truth in Ten Acts and was a table-read on Broadway with several well-known Hollywood and Broadway actors, among them John Lithgow, Kevin Kline, Annette Bening and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

    It is true that the alleged shake-down of a comedy star turned politician and elected president of the Ukraine, by a reality TV star elected president of the United States is straight out of Dario Fo.

    But what Pelosi is now carefully and minimally weaving through Congress will be something that even Fo could not concoct. Because when Michigan stood up, at last year’s midterms, she had the people who had elected Trump in the first place.

    Impeachment is NOT a legal process. It is what the House says it is. In other words, it is a political process.

    If the people of Michigan can see that Donald Trump is a danger to national security by bargaining with a foreign power through a deal involving military equipment in exchange for dirt on a political opponent, Trump is done. This is for real and he knows it.

    And if the committees now conducting the impeachment inquiry come up with a recommendation for impeachment, the Speaker only needs a simple majority of 218 VOTES, to impeach the president of the United States. In effect, undo the 2016 election. With Michigan on board she now has 220 VOTES.

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 6, 2019 at 5:24 pm

    For The Record: The national debt leaped by $1.2 trillion during fiscal year 2019.

    Uncle Sam closed the books for the fiscal year on Monday. The national debt grew during the previous 12 months from $21.5 trillion to $22.7 trillion.

    Budget hawks are wont to remind us that these gargantuan numbers are not the result of efforts to fight a recession, as happened from 2009–2012.

    The economy now might NOT be “robust”, but it is NOT struggling to get off the floor, either.

    NO, this is just plain ol’ reckless spending by the White House and Congress.

    Just imagine what happens whenever the next recession does roll around and tax receipts crater while spending on unemployment benefits and Medicaid explodes.

    Sheesh…

    5 Minute Forecast

    • kamtanblog  On October 7, 2019 at 3:33 am

      Fake false fiction fantasy or fact ?
      U decide !
      Using statistics provided evaluating
      = by 2024 USA debt would increase
      a whacking 50% from 2016-2024 !
      Speculation?
      Really !
      Will ROW continue to prop up the US
      economy to 2024 and beyond ?
      Doubt it !
      Will USD remain world reserve currency?
      Will Humpty Dumpty remain Potus until
      2024. ?

      Seriously
      My prediction that by 2024 or before
      USD will no longer be used for trading !
      However it will remain an internal/external
      currency.

      ROW will no longer hold USD as their
      “hedge fund” … as titanic sinks rats will
      jump ship.

      Hope am incorrect in my predictions!!

      Forever the optimist

      Kamtan

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