Trump’s system will gorge itself until it collapses under its own weight. Too bad it’ll take the planet down as well

Richard Feynman (copyright Tamiko Thiel, 1984)

W.J. Astore

Conflicts of interest characterize Donald Trump and his cabinet even before he and they take power in January, so we can safely predict a lot of corruption will be forthcoming. I always love the way both parties, but especially the Republicans, vow to fight for smaller government and lower deficits — until they get in power. Then it’s bigger government and larger deficits in the service of crony capitalism. Kleptocracy, in a word.

A good friend put it concisely: “It makes me sick!”

But of course that’s why she’s not in Washington. The Washington-types don’t find it sickening. For them, “Greed is good.” They convince themselves that: 1) The more they have, the better. 2) They deserve more because they’re better people. 3) The little people are schmucks who deserve to be exploited.

My parents liked the saying, “Birds of a feather flock together.” So the greedy are easy to find. Just look for them in the corridors of power, clustered together. For example, why do so many generals and admirals cash-in at retirement, joining corporate boards and making millions? They have six-figure government pensions, so why do they need more? They think they deserve the money. And they want to continue to play the power game, preening among the flock in the process.

As another friend of mine put it, “Money is the only thing the American elite really cares about. And I always think of Sinclair Lewis’s line that poor Americans never think of themselves as poor, only as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. One of our neighbors and friends told me he was voting Trump because with lower taxes he will be free to make a lot more money. Really? How much does anyone really think taxes will go down for people making what we make?”

The reality for us is that our taxes will probably go down by only a few hundred dollars. It’ll help us pay our air conditioning bills next summer, but that’s about it. Modest tax cuts are not going to turn us all into budding Donald Trumps (thank god for small mercies).

Yes, for people in Trump’s crowd, money is the measure of success. But so too is access. And power. Some of these people will kill themselves to be seen at the right parties, among the “right” kind of people. “Players.” “Operators.” Not people like you and me.

Trump’s government will gorge itself until it collapses under its own weight. The big question is whether its collapse will take the rest of us with it. Consider global warming, and consider the climate change deniers and fossil fuel profiteers that Trump is empowering. How long does our planet have left until we confront true disaster? A few decades, perhaps?

I always told my students the big problem with global warming was that its most serious perils – real as they are – lurked decades in the future. Problems that are decades away are difficult to address when America is driven by a quarterly business cycle and a quadrennial election cycle for the presidency. Now, under Trump, these problems won’t be addressed at all because the business moguls as well as the president simply deny their existence. Why? Because it’s convenient for them to do so. Because they stand to make a great deal of money by doing so. And because they don’t care about decades from now; they care about quarterly profits and getting reelected.

As I grow older, the words from a commercial of my youth have found new resonance in my memory: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” Not only isn’t it nice: it’s incredibly foolhardy. For the words of Richard Feynman about the space shuttle Challenger disaster ring true here:

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.

Trump and his cronies may fool some of the people all of the time, but they’re not going to fool Nature. Sooner or later (and sooner under Trump), nature’s bill will come.

6 thoughts on “Trump’s system will gorge itself until it collapses under its own weight. Too bad it’ll take the planet down as well

  1. True. They’re bound to go down–the air in gated communities will, if not now, eventually be the same the rest of us have to breath.


  2. First off, I would suggest changing the future-determinative “will” in this article’s headline to something a little less assuredly prophetic, like, for example: “might possibly,” or “could perhaps.” Yes, anything could happen or might possibly happen once Donald Trump actually takes the oath of office on January 21st of next year; but given the fact that he remains at present a private citizen and has yet to gain Congressional approval for a single cabinet nominee, it seems only fair and prudent of us all to wait until we have a President who actually does something — whether we approve or otherwise — before we jump to any conclusions about what the future may have in store for us. I mean, our predictions this year have turned out so very on-the-mark, right? How about a little humility from the usual and ubiquitous fortune-telling crowd?

    As a lifelong misfortune teller myself, I agree with the Russians who say: “a pessimist thinks that things can’t get any better while an optimist thinks that things can’t get any worse.” I also like to say that “an optimist is doomed to perpetual disappointment while a pessimist can at least look forward to the occasional pleasant surprise.” If President Donald Trump avoids starting World War III with Russia and China — as You-Know-Her and her Democratic-Neocon War Party seemed hell-bent on doing — then I will consider myself pleasantly surprised. Vietnam taught me that things can always get worse, and can’t help but get worse once the U.S. military starts meddling in America’s foreign and domestic policies. Ditto for the CIA, that Keystone Cops cadre best known as the “Can’t Identify Anything” crowd. You know: Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, bombing the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Iraqi WMD, “slam dunk” stuff like that. I understand that President-elect Donald Trump doesn’t feel inclined to waste his time listening to daily “briefings” from this moronic cluster of frenetic fuck-ups. Good for him. A pleasant surprise indeed.

    I find the present difficult enough to manage without attempting to manage the future before it happens. As William Faulkner wrote: “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.” So, with that in mind, I suggest that we Americans proceed to clean up the messes we’ve already made before making present messes worse or making any more new ones. This means basically just butting-out and letting others do the cleaning up, since we Americans have shown little apetite or aptitude for the work to date. You know: because, as inveterate optimists, we Americans never think that we can make things worse — so we do.

    Leave Donald Trump to Janurary, 2017. His administration will come soon enough. For the present, we have already got a President and Congress determined to keep fucking with a world grown tired of us for as long as they possibly can. We really ought to mind our own business. Today. In the past that never dies.


    1. Are you trying to help me with my Nostradamus Syndrome, Mike?

      I will say this: Trump has already done much. Consider his cabinet choices, many of whom constitute an anti-government of sorts. Consider his rhetoric and what his words have inspired others to do. True, he’s not president yet, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t already made decisions with important consequences for the future.

      Here’s just a quick list: He’s embracing fossil fuels. He’s highly skeptical of global warming/climate change/science. He’s promising to enlarge and further engorge the U.S. military. He’s on a path to privatize education and health care while hiring cabinet people who are unsympathetic to workers and labor unions. And so on.

      I don’t think we have to wait until January 20th to make certain predictions about Trump — his plans are quite transparent.


      1. I don’t know about Nostradamus, Bill, but predictions about “what President Trump will do” once in office sort of assume that the Democratic Party will do what it usually does in the face of the Republican Party’s obstreperous demands, congenital venality, institutional corruption, and demonstrated malfeasance: namely, nothing. And if the Democratic Party cannot find a way to derail President Trump’s more toxic nominations and proposals, then who needs them anyway? And if the Democrats cannot do any better than this absurd “blame the Russians” hysteria they have whipped up to excuse their dismal performance over the last several decades — not just in the recent presidential election — then good riddance to the lot of them. Weak. Lame. Stupid. Pathetic.

        I keep coming back to these few, simple, powerful observations by the late Sheldon Wolin from his masterful treatise: Democracy, Inc: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism:

        The Republican Party is not, as advertised, conservative but radically oligarchical. Programmatically it exists to advance corporate economical and political interests, and to protect and promote inequalities of opportunity and wealth.” …

        “While the Republican Party is ever vigilant about the care and feeding of its zealots, the Democratic Party is equally concerned to discourage its democrats.”

        “The timidity of a Democratic Party mesmerized by centrist precepts points to the crucial fact that, for the poor, minorities, the working class, anticorporatists, pro-environmentalists, and anti-imperialists, there is no opposition party working actively on their behalf. And this despite the fact that these elements are recognized as the loyal base of the party. By ignoring dissent and by assuming that the dissenters have no alternative, the party serves as an important, if ironical, stabilizing function and in effect marginalizes any possible threat to the corporate allies of the Republicans.”

        In other words, the Republican Party exists to see that wealth and power continue to gravitate upwards to the Corporate One Percent, while the Democratic Party exists to see that the Republicans have little to worry about from the relatively poor and powerless working people who have no political party to represent their interests. As the Podesta e-mails showed, the Democrats wanted Donald Trump — along with his bizarre “brain trust” of Newt Gingrich, Rudi Giuliani, and Chris Christy — to run against because they assumed that these reactionary nut jobs would (and I quote) “make Hillary Clinton look like a savior.” Well, the Democrats got what they wanted, asked for, and deserved: a royal ass-kicking by a billionaire political rookie. Now they want to blame Vladimir Putin for giving them what they wanted? Wouldn’t that make them dupes and tools of the Kremlin also?

        If Donald Trump gets everything he wants, then doesn’t that mean the Democrats have chosen to help and not hinder him? I mean, what other purpose could the servile, boot-licking Democrats possibly serve?

        The Republicans, as you well know, promised the newly elected President Obama nothing but obstruction — and, true to their word, they carried through with their reactionary recalcitrance quite successfully for his entire two terms. President Obama promised a whole lot of “hope” and “change” to working-class America and — thanks to his clueless “bipartisan” outreach to his vicious, rabid opposition — delivered abysmally little of either. Now, in the waning days of his lame-duck presidency, President Obama threatens Russia with “retaliation” for “interference” in the recent election where the Republicans once again took good care of their pissed-off working-class zealots while the Democratic Party discouraged their own base with a truly awful, unpopular, and undistinguished candidate. As an explanatory metaphor, You-Know-Her’s “glass ceiling” looks more like a glass jaw.

        Again and finally, President Donald Trump will only get what he wants for himself and his fellow One Percenters if the Democratic Party — in performance of its designated role in life — lets him have it. I await the (admittedly remote) possibility of a pleasant surprise should a Democrat actually prevent a Republican from having his way with the disintegrating American working class. Experience, on the other hand, cautions me to count on no such thing. If anyone can turn a “Republicans could possibly …” into a “Republicans definitely will …”, then I guess the Democratic Party can do it. Nostradamus can always count on the Democrats, I admit. The odds certainly favor Donald Trump and the Republicans at the moment. Still, I really don’t think that one should proclaim “mission accomplished” for Trump and his troops before the aircraft carrier has even left home port, much less made it safely back again. The irony of history, and all that …


      2. Her glass ceiling became a glass jaw — great writing!

        Everything you said, Mike. Trump & Co. are filled with passionate intensity. The Democrats? As usual, they lack true convictions that are tied to the working classes. The result? Most likely more oligarchy, more concentration of wealth, more corruption, together with a weakening middle class, greater exploitation of workers, and a further decline in democracy.


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