Welcome to Trumptopia

Welcome to Trumptopia

2017 has been a tough year for the thoughtful, for those who believe in the power of reason to navigate the complexities of the human condition.






The following comment from Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency, in June of this year on NBC’s Meet the Press, is just one of the jewels in a pantheon of travesties:


“Since the fourth quarter of last year until most recently, we’ve added almost 50,000 jobs in the coal sector. In the month of May alone, almost 7000 jobs.”

In pursuing the narrative that this administration is always winning, he managed to represent the growth of coal jobs as fifty times greater than reality. The total number of coal jobs in the United States is approximately fifty thousand according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It grew by one thousand in the last year.



The key takeaway from this small fragment of Trumptopia is the importance of the big lie in moving the needle of truth so far from the true north that the popular psyche becomes unmoored. Facts and fact-based understanding are replaced by the perception of truth – what feels right must be right because facts have become partisan tools wielded in service of tribal loyalty.


The Wrong Choice


There were many reasons to vote against Hillary Clinton. She was the product of the Democratic Party machinery. She was entitled. She defended her husband’s reprehensible behaviour towards women. She lacked charisma. She was guilty of living in a bubble, so convinced that she would ascend to the office of President that she failed to connect with the very people who should have been her base – who would have been Joe Biden’s base. Many reasons; but no excuse. Because there were only two choices and one of them was Donald Trump.


There were many reasons to vote against Donald Trump. His behaviour and attitude towards women should have been sufficient. His lack of candour about his financial position – failure to release his tax returns – should have been disqualifying. His racist slander of an immigrant judge should have been sufficient; his mocking of a disabled supporter should have been sufficient.


And yet, faced with this inauspicious choice, America made the wrong choice. One Trump voter, known well to this author, is satisfied with the results of that choice: Supreme Court Justice; Muslim Ban and recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel. There is no illusion as to Trump’s unsuitability; just naked self-interest. Other supporters, no doubt, have similar feelings.


The Long View


And so, in pursuit of such ends, America charts its decline. There are moments of hope. Apparently, there are standards for being a United States Senator: being a racist, misogynist, homophobic child molester did not sit well with the majority of Alabama voters and so a state that was about to be consigned to the international gallery of rogues redeemed itself a little.

The Trump administration may win its first legislative victory if it succeeds in passing a tax bill agreed between House and Senate. It will not be the tax reform that the President campaigned for. It will end up being much more generous to the wealthy and to corporations than was advertised. It will be anything but simple and will, therefore, be a tremendous gift to tax professionals. It will not deliver to the middle classes the tax breaks they may have hoped for. But it will be the best tax bill that money can buy.

Legislative victories ought properly to be judged through the long lens of history and ought to form a base on which a country can rely for the long term. Obamacare was passed with no Republican support and so has been a primary target for repeal upon a change of power. Tax reform will likely suffer a similar fate. This is not good for the country. One of the key aspects of a thriving economy is a stable structure of laws that promote investment with confidence that the rules will not be in a state of constant flux.


The Broader View


The world beyond the United States has continued to experience the traumas of BrexitNorth Korea; withdrawal by the US from the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership and the Paris Accords; the conflict in Syria; in Yemen; the emergence of a more explicit strategic competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran; terror attacks in Europe. The list of events is long and troubling. The thoughtful mind searches for some balance: an urgent need to fight the bias of news organisations to report the dark side. (There is such a thing as the  Good News Network. It meets a need).


The context of current affairs can be discouraging and lacks perspective. A century ago, the world was in the agonies of World War I: the Bolshevik revolution was sweeping away centuries of Tsarist rule; the collaboration of the allied powers in carving up the Ottoman Empire was exposed; millions of young lives had been wasted in a grinding conflict that had broken new ground in horror and human destruction. Vladimir Lenin moved in a brief six-month period from living next to a sausage factory in Switzerland to leading a revolution.


In the same year, the United States abandoned its doctrine, laid out by John Quincy Adams of “… [going] not abroad in search of monsters to destroy…” in favour of Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points, a statement of progressive internationalism that was used to justify the entry of the United States into World War I. It was a speech that has had profound consequences in shaping US foreign policy ever since.



Moral Authority


Effective leadership in world affairs must be based on moral authority. Raw military superiority projects differently, more narrowly. The United States has held both since at least World War II. The sense that power can be wielded not with the goal of territorial expansion but rather with the goal of conforming the word to the liberal democratic ideals that the United States holds dear has underpinned its role on the world stage.


Sadly, that is changing. Elections have consequences. Obama was pilloried for dialling back intervention in the Middle East. His rationale was that recent interventions had not produced unambiguously good results: Iraq; Libya. There was no reason to think that Syria would be different.


There was some focus on trying to reverse the “Great Satan” perception; to evolve from the position of being either perpetually at war in the Middle East, or engaged in an ongoing project of democracy building. It is more honest to act in one’s own enlightened self/national interest, but that requires a thoughtful, strategic sense of what that interest is and how, tactically, it might be accomplished.


The legacy of the Bush years caused Obama to pause, thoughtfully, and, subject to much criticism of fecklessness and embarrassing apologies, to pull back. The legacy of the Obama years is… well, that is not clear yet because there is no discernible foreign policy in the Trump administration. Nicki Haley is doing good work at the UN: tearing down some of the hypocrisies and trying to articulate a more strategic vision for the US and its relationships with its allies.


She has, however, embraced the #metoo movement in suggesting that women accusers should be heard, even if the accused is the President. It remains to be seen how this impacts her relationship with her boss. The fact that Donald Trump was elected, Access Hollywood notwithstanding, has proven to be a watershed moment where women have found the courage to speak up against powerful men such as Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer. The United States has had laws against such behaviour for many years. 2017 is the year where those laws have begun to bite among those who thought their power placed them above the law.



Conclusion



As the thoughtful mind searches 2017 for the signs of hope and progress, perhaps the most significant is #metoo. The IMF has authored a report on the importance of narrowing the gender gap in developing nations. Its findings and conclusions apply to developed societies also. It is not only the potential of women that is imprisoned in a culture of rape and sexual abuse but the potential of society as a whole. Power is rarely ceded willingly: it must be wrestled from the hands of the privileged. It is rare to be in the midst of a movement that has such consequences for societal progress. It appears that is where we are.

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  • Sebastian Patten

    2017 was a horrible year for America

  • Nigel Mcnamara

    The trump administration is clueless, such a shame to the rest of the free world

  • Erick D

    Excellent post, you have also managed to highlight the most important events

  • Scott Soliman

    The orange baffoon behaves like Nero. The downfall of Rome was because of creatures like him.

  • Zuzanna Borucka

    The Trump administration is setting new standards for incompetence, disorganization and ignoring the obvious.

  • Christina Hoffmeister

    Sad, tremendously sad........

  • Billy Woods

    Trump said he would be tough on Wall Street but he has moved many ex bankers into his administration and removed banking regulations introduced by Obama to protect ordinary people from banks exploitation. What a hypocrite, hate him forever!

  • Amy Lin JY

    Who works at the White House? During working hours nobody works. Outside working hours, they're not there.

  • Frederic Corps

    Oh my god, what a disaster, and hush hush from republicans not to admit the national security now is in danger, since it is so obvious the white house is lacking a good leadership!! I wonder what would be their reaction if Mr. Obama and his staff were in office!!!!

  • Giacomo Licari

    worst administration ever

  • John Matlick

    For Trump the most important qualification for any job is being unqualified. As the most unqualified President in every way competence, intelligence, experience and temperament Trump would have to confront his deficientcies if he hired people that were actually qualified. He needs to feel he's the smartest guy in the room and because he's a moron, he has to surround himself with morons.

  • J Campbell

    it is just amazing that Trump is allowed to continue.... really makes my heart bleed. How has it come to this and what other atrocities will be be victims of because our congress is asleep at the wheel?

  • Yorkshire Lad

    Can't believe all of this happened in 2017. Wow, this nation is a joke now.

  • Sigmund Ridge

    The trump administration has been an important experiment to see if a government can actually function during a Chinese Fire Drill.

  • Michael Ray

    Trump is compromised and Putin is shaping the U.S. government to his advantage.

  • Richard Keyser

    If you think this isn't a dictatorship, the senate just said they dont care if we the people dont like the tax bill they are going to do it anyway. They don't work for trump, But they are doing what he wants and screw the people ! Something is really wrong here !

  • Mark Mazer

    I highly invite Trump supporters to read this post, if this doesn't wake them up, don't know how to argue with them

  • Marc Bennet

    Love you Neil. Keep up the good work, and America will regain its self respect to the world . We don't want Trump visiting the UK. We have laws to lock up racist, homophobic and sexist liars

  • Ivan S

    An administration of clowns is running an industrial-military complex :)

  • Thomas L

    No regulation, no public funding, no positions filled....yeah...this isn't gonna blow up in anyone's face....see you guys on the other side of The Great Recession of 2018?

  • Johnny Bump

    Anyone who works for Trump needs to be banished from politics and America.

  • Adelina Fetahi

    OMG thank you for this article

  • Luis Francisco López

    Trump is working for Russia. His objective is to destroy America. Wake up people.

  • Coral Taylor

    It's so much more pleasurable to see them being fired one by one rather than all together when trump's fired himself!

  • Erik Jansink

    Most Americans live in a gigantic propaganda (lie) bubble in which they are intentionally, strategically, and emotionally mind-programmed from the mainstream media from cradle to grave.

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Neil Winward

Company Guru

Neil is the CEO of Sevara Capital Advisors. He is passionate about solving tax, accounting and regulatory problems for institutions that have invested billions of dollars of capital in multiple jurisdictions. His company provides solutions for banks, insurance companies and hedge funds to tackle their problems related to tax returns, financial statements, accounting and internal finance matters. Neil holds a master’s degree in Law from the University of Cambridge. 

   

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