The G.O.P.’s Climate of Paranoia

From The New York Times:

By Paul Krugman
Aug. 20, 2018

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Truth isn’t truth.

Rudy Giuliani’s latest bon mot is a reminder, if anyone needed it, that calling the Trump administration Orwellian isn’t hyperbole, it’s just a statement of fact. Like the ruling party in “1984,” Donald Trump operates on the principle that truth — whether it involves inauguration crowd sizes, immigrant crime or economic performance — is what he says it is. And that truth can change at a moment’s notice.

For example, not long ago, Republicans insisted that Russia was our greatest threat, and that Barack Obama was betraying America by not confronting Vladimir Putin more forcefully; now Putin is one of the good guys, and the base has gone along with the change. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

And if you thought you heard something different from the Trumpian version of reality, blame evil conspirators and saboteurs, whom you get to denounce in the Two Minutes Hate, chanting “lock her up.”

But how did this happen to the whole Republican Party? And it is effectively the whole party: There is no serious G.O.P. opposition to Trump or his vision. Why did the party’s belief in objective reality collapse so suddenly and completely?

I don’t claim to understand the whole story. But one thing is clear: The Orwellification of the G.O.P. didn’t start with Trump. On the contrary, the party has been moving in that direction for years; the mind-set Trump is exploiting was already well in place before he burst on the scene.

Consider the claims of Trump and his allies that evidence of his collusion with Russia — not “alleged” collusion, because there is no longer any real doubt — is a hoax perpetrated by the “deep state.” Where have we seen something like that before? In Republican attacks on the evidence for climate change.

Fifteen years have passed since Senator James Inhofe suggested that global warming is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” This was and is an even crazier claim than the assertion of Trump and company that all of the tweeter in chief’s woes are the product of a vast deep-state conspiracy; it’s not far short of Pizzagate or QAnon territory. To take it seriously you have to believe in a vast international conspiracy involving thousands of scientists, not one of whom dares speak out.

Yet this paranoid fantasy has in effect become the official position of the G.O.P. Climate change deniers have pretty much given up on arguing about the evidence, although the old line “it’s a cold day, so global warming is a myth” still pops up now and then. Instead, it’s all about the supposed conspiracy.

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Elizabeth Warren Unveils Radical Anti-Corruption Platform

From The Intercept:

August 21 2018

Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping set of reforms that would radically restrict and publicly expose corporate lobbying in Washington.

In a major speech at the National Press Club, she laid out the parameters of what she is calling the “Anti-Corruption Act.” If just half of it were implemented, it could transform the political economy of Washington and fundamentally upend the lawmaking process as it currently exists.

Warren began her speech by noting that only 18 percent of the American people now say that they have trust in the government. “This is the kind of crisis that leads people to turn away from democracy,” she said. “The kind of crisis that creates fertile ground for cynicism and discouragement. The kind of crisis that gives rise to authoritarians.”

In broad strokes, Warren is attempting to take the profit motive out of public service by making it extremely difficult for former lawmakers and government officials to cash in on their government experience, while simultaneously giving Congress and federal agencies the resources needed to effectively govern without the motivated assistance of K Street.

In 1995, when Newt Gingrich and the “Republican Revolution” took over Congress, he systematically dismantled the intellectual infrastructure of the institution, defunding major functions of Congress and slashing budgets for staff. The public-facing explanation was to cut back on wasteful spending, but the true intent was to effectively privatize lawmaking, forcing Congress to outsource much of the work of crafting legislation to K Street. What followed was an explosion in the lobbying industry in Washington.

Warren proposes much stricter restrictions on the revolving door between public service and lobbying, but, more fundamentally, flat-out bans on any lobbying on behalf of foreign governments, an industry that has come under increased scrutiny as a result of the trial of Paul Manafort, who made his fortune carrying water for foreign governments in Washington, often whose interests ran against those of the U.S.

Under current law, foreign agents must register and disclose any contacts with government officials — they would now be banned and under Warren’s law, all lobbyists would have to do what foreign agents do now.

Her bill would also mandate that the IRS release tax returns for candidates, and that the president and vice president be subject to conflict-of-interest laws. She would create a new Office of Public Integrity to enforce the new ethics laws.

The new proposal comes on the heels of the Accountable Capitalism Act, and is a window into what she sees as one of the main functions of government, to be a check against runaway capitalism but in significant ways to strengthen, rather than challenge, the free market. “I am a capitalist to my bones,” Warren said recently, in response to the conversation around democratic socialism.

Where some on the left view markets with deep skepticism, Warren’s ideology sees concentrations of corporate power as a great threat, but views functioning markets as a check against that consolidated power. For markets to function properly, she has long argued, robust government regulation and serious enforcement of laws must be in place, otherwise fraudsters and monopolists ripoff both consumers and investors. That ideology led to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and undergirds her more recent proposals.

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OMAROSA! A Randy Rainbow Song Parody

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