Like I said in my last post, I really want to believe. I want to believe that president Obama is right when he says that "We're going to be OK." I want to believe that Donald Trump will end up surprising all the naysayers (including me) and turn out to be a great president who will lead the country to continued peace and prosperity. (I can't say "back to peace and prosperity" because we're already relatively peaceful and prosperous.) I want to believe in a merciful God who delivers cosmic justice too, and that there is life after death. But I can't believe in any of these things because the evidence is overwhelming that none of them are true.
I thought I saw a tiny glimmer of hope a couple of weeks ago when Congress tried to abolish the ethics office and Trump helped shut them down. But then I went back and actually looked at his tweet. He didn't actually disapprove of shutting down the ethics office at all, he just disapproved of doing that first. To the contrary, he actually endorsed shutting down the ethics office eventually:
"With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it ... may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS,"And that snuffed out the very last glimmer of any realistic hope that Trump will anything but a complete disaster. And it's not just Trump. But himself he would be bad enough, but with Congress under Republican control there is nothing standing in the way of total calamity. The potential problems of this toxic combination are too numerous to enumerate, but it can be summed up simply by observing that the war between corporate interests and the interests of individuals is almost certainly lost for a generation. Environmental regulations, protections for minorities and individuals, fair labor laws, respect for scientific truth, consumer protections -- all at very serious risk.
As scary as all that is, it pales in comparison to the brazen disrespect that Trump and the Republicans have for ethics. The disbanding of the Congressional ethics office has not been stopped, it has merely been delayed. Trump and the Republicans really believe that they don't need to be bound by ethics rules. They have the power to eliminate those pesky rules. There is nothing standing in their way.
One of the things that has always distinguished the United States and helped make it free and prosperous is our relative lack of corruption. You could in the past, at least since WWII, mostly count on government officials to do their jobs more or less fairly, and that you could expect to be treated fairly without having to pay bribes. That may soon change. Trump and the Republicans (I'm going to have to come up with an abbreviation for that -- how about TATR?) really believe that there is nothing wrong with using positions of public trust to enrich themselves at the expense of others, and that ethics rules are merely "unfair annoyances" standing in the way of this perfectly legitimate enterprise.
There are so many dangers, so many existential threats from TATR, that it is easy to lose sight of this one in the morass. Making a few bucks off an insider stock trade seems to innocuous. Who actually gets hurt? If politicians still vote their conscience (stop laughing, this is a hypothetical) where is the harm if they make a few bucks on the side to augment their meager government salaries?
Well, the harm is that it will ultimately turn the U.S. into the same kind of banana republic that we like to look down our noses at. In the long run it will undermine public trust in the nation and its institutions. In the past Americans have been willing to work hard and take risks because they believed that the playing field was level and they had a fair shot at the brass ring. If that faith is undermined, the entire foundation of the American dream will crumble to dust. As countries like Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela demonstrate, that kind of loss of public trust can be very hard to recover from.
To reiterate: I fervently hope I'm wrong about all this. I really want to believe. But I can't. TATR are not even trying to hide the fact that they want to enable government corruption. That is one thing I will say for Donald Trump: he doesn't dissemble, which is somewhat refreshing in today's political climate. One of the reasons people voted for him is because he speaks his mind. But sometimes I really wonder if his supporters pay more attention to his candor than to the things he actually says.