Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Predatory Presidency


Forbes made sure to include a caveat under contributor Harry Binswanger's name in their latest issue. Here's how Binswange describes himself-- no joke: "I am a philosopher who was an associate of the late Ayn Rand, and since 1986 I have been a member of the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute. I have taught philosophy at Hunter College (CUNY) and the University of Texas at Austin. My forthcoming book, How We Know," is on the theory of knowledge." He's also an heir to the Binswanger Glass Company, founded in 1872 by Samuel Binswanger, and a prominent Climate Change fanatic. But mostly he's just a crazy Randian.

Republicans may secretly agree with his latest Forbes OpEd, put quietly... secretly. No one in their right mind is going to embrace it publicly: Give Back? Yes, It's Time For The 99% To Give Back To The 1%. "It's time," he wrote, "to gore another collectivist sacred cow. This time it's the popular idea that the successful are obliged to 'give back to the community.' That oft-heard claim assumes that the wealth of high-earners is taken away from 'the community.' And beneath that lies the perverted Marxist notion that wealth is accumulated by 'exploiting' people, not by creating value-- as if Henry Ford was not necessary for Fords to roll off the (non-existent) assembly lines and Steve Jobs was not necessary for iPhones and iPads to spring into existence."

As far as I know, Binswanger has never run for office, not even in college, not even in his fraternity. But why should he? He always had Paul Ryan to do that.

I guess he's unaware of who builds the roads and bridges... and public safety-- and public education and general prosperity, just as Ayn Rand (and Paul Ryan) were.
Let's begin by stripping away the collectivism. "The community" never gave anyone anything. The "community," the "society," the "nation" is just a number of interacting individuals, not a mystical entity floating in a cloud above them. And when some individual person-- a parent, a teacher, a customer-- "gives" something to someone else, it is not an act of charity, but a trade for value received in return.

It was from love-- not charity-- that your mother fed you, bought clothes for you, paid for your education, gave you presents on your birthday. It was for value received that your teachers worked day in and day out to instruct you. In commercial transactions, customers buy a product not to provide alms to the business, but because they want the product or service-- want it for their own personal benefit and enjoyment. And most of the time they get it, which is why they choose to continue patronizing the same businesses.

All proper human interactions are win-win; that's why the parties decide to engage in them. It's not the Henry Fords and Steve Jobs who exploit people. It's the Al Capones and Bernie Madoffs. Voluntary trade, without force or fraud, is the exchange of value for value, to mutual benefit. In trade, both parties gain.

Each particular individual in the community who contributed to a man's rise to wealth was paid at the time-- either materially or, as in the case of parents and friends, spiritually. There is no debt to discharge. There is nothing to give back, because there was nothing taken away.

Well, maybe there is--in the other direction. The shoe is on the other foot. It is "the community" that should give back to the wealth-creators. It turns out that the 99% get far more benefit from the 1% than vice-versa. Ayn Rand developed the idea of "the pyramid of ability," which John Galt sets forth in Atlas Shrugged:
When you live in a rational society, where men are free to trade, you receive an incalculable bonus: the material value of your work is determined not only by your effort, but by the effort of the best productive minds who exist in the world around you.

When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making...

In proportion to the mental energy he spent, the man who creates a new invention receives but a small percentage of his value in terms of material payment, no matter what fortune he makes, no matter what millions he earns. But the man who works as a janitor in the factory producing that invention, receives an enormous payment in proportion to the mental effort that his job requires of him. And the same is true of all men between, on all levels of ambition and ability. The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains. Such is the nature of the 'competition' between the strong and the weak of the intellect. Such is the pattern of 'exploitation' for which you have damned the strong.
For their enormous contributions to our standard of living, the high-earners should be thanked and publicly honored. We are in their debt.

Here's a modest proposal. Anyone who earns a million dollars or more should be exempt from all income taxes. Yes, it's too little. And the real issue is not financial, but moral. So to augment the tax-exemption, in an annual public ceremony, the year's top earner should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Imagine the effect on our culture, particularly on the young, if the kind of fame and adulation bathing Lady Gaga attached to the more notable achievements of say, Warren Buffett. Or if the moral praise showered on Mother Teresa went to someone like Lloyd Blankfein, who, in guiding Goldman Sachs toward billions in profits, has done infinitely more for mankind. (Since profit is the market value of the product minus the market value of factors used, profit represents the value created.)

Instead, we live in a culture where Goldman Sachs is smeared as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity." That's for the sin of successful investing, channeling savings to their most productive uses, instead of wasting them on government boondoggles like Solyndra and bridges to nowhere.

There is indeed a vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity: the Internal Revenue Service. And, at a deeper level, it is the monstrous perversion of justice that makes the IRS possible: an envy-ridden moral code that damns success, profit, and earning money in voluntary exchange.

An end must be put to the inhuman practice of draining the productive to subsidize the unproductive. An end must be put to the primordial notion that one's life belongs to the tribe, to "the community," and that the superlative wealth-creators must do penance for the sin of creating value.

And Ayn Rand is just the lady who can do it.
One thing is certain: Señor Trumpanzee is not the lady who can do it. Republican Party man about town, Alex Castellanos, looked into what the new Trumpified GOP will look like once all of Binswange corrosive and sick philosophy is more fully implemented-- the day after the coming GOP catastrophe known as the midterms. "The sun will rise on a political landscape wrecked" by Señor T, and Republicans "will crawl out from the smoking rubble of a 40- to 50-seat pounding to find they have lost their majority." [I just got off the phone with one of the savviest chiefs-of-staff and he said if the election were held Tuesday, the Democrats would win 60-70 seats. But a lot can change between Tuesday and November-- and it's likely Trump will make matters worse for Republicans so let's call it 70-80 seats.] "How," Castellanos asks in despair, "do we renew our party in the Age of Trump?" Then he tried convincing himself it can be done-- even with Trump hanging around the necks of Republicans like a giant albatross.

It is unremarkable, at this point, to note that good Americans turned to Donald Trump, not because of his many flaws, but despite them. Trump’s threat and his appeal are identical: He is the un-distilled reptilian brain.

Trump is all id, the oldest and most primitive part of our brain, concerned only with the evolutionary basics: sex, sustenance, and survival. His brain is not filtered by our social and emotional brain, much less by the rational, pre-frontal cortex. He has no Jeb Bush brain to digest facts and figures, issues and policy. Instead, Donald Trump is a predator. When something enters his world, he either eats it, kills it or mates with it. That is all his predatory instincts can do.

The president’s primitive nature is the root of his narcissism. Trump’s immediate and voracious appetites allow no concern for others or understanding of tomorrow. He reacts instinctively, not emotionally, morally or intellectually. He is insensitive to truth and incapable of discipline or strategy.

Yet Americans elected this predator, this T-Rex President, as their last resort, in a desperate attempt to protect themselves from the horde of smaller, slimier predators in Washington who were on the verge of devouring them.

We can all see that Donald Trump is, at times, a disreputable human specimen. His supporters see it as clearly as his adversaries. In fact, Trump makes sure we see it. Our T-Rex President is proud of his predatory triumphs. Yet this electorate thought that even Donald Trump was a better bet than the status quo both Republicans and Democrats were offering them. Trump’s victory measured our national frustration, our hunger for an alternative to the impoverished offerings of both parties.

Like the Bourbons after Napoleon, however, Republicans and Democrats “have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” Since the surprising day Trump was elected, neither party has learned or evolved, despite their humbling defeats at his hands.

The Republicans who make Donald Trump necessary are not the boot-lickers like Corey Lewandowski who blindly follow his parade past Trump Tower, from Fifth Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue. His enablers are Bill Kristol, Steve Schmidt and Karl Rove. They are Jeff Flake and John Kasich. They count Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan. They include all of us in the Republican Party who left the vacuum Trump has occupied. Yet today, we still offer more of the same but expect different results. If we do not renew this visionless party, it will never lead again.

...Trump’s presidency is hidden behind the clouds, a storm of controversy of his own making. This president, more than anyone else, has made it impossible to credit him for his accomplishments. By any fair measure, there are many: He has crushed ISIS and increased our paychecks with a tax cut.

He has erased regulations that were growing Washington’s economy at the expense of our economy. He has appointed a respected Supreme Court Justice and transformed the judiciary to call balls and strikes. American manufacturing is growing. He brought China to confront North Korea. He is pressing for free trade that works fairly in all directions. He throws missiles at Putin once a year and he is making our military strong again. His ferociously incorrect talk has ripped away the pretension cloaking Washington’s decline and irrelevance.

When the long arc of history judges Donald Trump, it will likely report he left behind a vicious inflationary spiral. That, alongside devouring the country’s expectations for a president’s personal conduct, may be the greatest cost of his T-Rex presidency. He will be assessed as the bipolar leader he has become, both one of the worst and best Presidents Americans have ever elected, perhaps the greatest president to be removed from the Oval Office in chains.

I doubt any other 2016 GOP candidate could have equaled this President’s accomplishments. He has stopped America’s decline and, in many areas, reversed it. Americans should be grateful he was elected President. If he is not disqualified from the ballot, I plan to vote for him again.

But what Trump has done can be undone. He is a man, not a movement. He is an instinct, not an idea. He crushed a hollow Republican Party, but he has not rebuilt it. The Republicans who come after Donald Trump must do what they have not yet done: decide how to lead after this exasperating and heroic president leaves office.

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At 7:12 AM, Blogger tony in san diego said...

Are you insane? You want six more years of this?

At 7:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't they just come out and say it: All "unproductives" should just be shot and ground up for cattle feed.

But wait... who would be left to buy the shit that the "productives" 'create' thus making them so goddamn "productive"???

This shit-for-brains invokes Henry Ford. But this shit-for-brains forgets that Ford knew that all his "productiveness" wouldn't mean shit unless the "unproductives" could afford to buy his shit, so he paid his "unproductives" a wage such that they COULD. It's an obvious insight that the likes of ayn rand and this shit-for-brains are not capable of discerning, so virulent is their xenophobia.

Sadly, in this shithole, NOTHING that Nixon, Reagan, bush, Clinton, cheney/bush, obamanation and trump have done WILL EVER be undone. There is no political impetus from either sect of the money party to do so. There seems no impetus from ANY part of the electorate to do so.

There is only the push for a repeat of 2008 or a continuance of 2016. Shitty or shittier. That's your choice.

At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to believe that women will act to save us all, but I lived through women sinking the ERA because of ginned up fears of unisex bathrooms (Gee - how'd THAT work out? Like This!).

Women are never more harshly criticized by anyone as they are by other women, and they can be easily motivated to work against their own benefit just by invoking irrational fears, such as being hit on in public restrooms not just by men, but by hormonal lesbians.

So, ladies, pretend I'm from Missouri and SHOW ME you are the rescue the nation awaits.

At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:20, aside from hormones, women proved in 2016 that they are just as goddamn stupid as middle-aged white men.

Women will only save us from ourselves if the next FDR turns out to be George Clooney.


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