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Failed Presidency Complicates 2021 Recovery

2021 is the beginning of the end of a failed Presidency whose behavior is unmatched in modern times.

It was a Presidency of unparalleled cruelty towards our fellow human beings, led by a grifter consumed with adding millions in public dollars to his portfolio of unearned wealth.

We suffered four years under a man deranged with a dangerous narcissistic personality disorder. Yet his grandiose sense of self-importance, lack of empathy for others, need for excessive admiration, and the belief that he is unique and deserving of special treatment grew support from Republican politicians and cult-like followers.

While Trump loyalists continue to bask in his glow, the impact of their collective behavior remains with us as we enter  2021.

Let us review how Trump and his followers shaped our future.

The Electoral College

We are not a democracy in the traditional sense of a majority vote as practiced in ancient Greece. In ancient Greece, all adult male citizens voted on policy measures rather than electing representatives to vote for them.

The differences and similarities between Athenian and US democracy. Resources for History teachers, pbworks.com.

We are a constitutional republic in which we choose representatives to avoid the tyranny of a majority trampling on the few’s rights. To that end, the framers put the Electoral College in the constitution. The Electoral College was a compromise between those favoring the President’s election by Congress to those opting for an election by popular vote. The danger becomes not tyranny by a majority but that tyranny by the minority.

German Prince-Electors, the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire

As George Thomas, Professor of American political institutions at Claremont McKenna College points out: “After 1988, the Republican presidential candidate has prevailed in the Electoral College in three out of seven elections, but won the popular vote only once (2004).” [i]

In 2016 Republican Donald J. Trump lost the popular vote by around 3 million ballots. Nonetheless, his narrow wins in former “Blue Wall” states Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin put him in the White House. His Electoral College margin was smaller than 37 of his predecessors across 58 total presidential elections up to that time.

On the other hand, in this year’s election, the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket took the Electoral College and garnered about 7 million more popular votes than Trump. Biden-Harris won 81,283,098 votes, or 51.3 percent of the votes cast. He is the first U.S. presidential candidate to have won more than 80 million votes. Trump won 74,222,957 votes, or 46.8 percent of the votes cast.

And in Nevada, Biden took 50.1% of the votes to 47.7% for Trump. Libertarian candidate Joe Jorgensen got 1.1 %.

While the Biden-Harris victory spells some future hope in governance, we must all deal with the severe consequences of a decidedly corrupt President individually.

The Virus effect

On February 7, Trump told journalist Bob Woodward that he knew about the COVID-19 virus. Yet he did nothing.

As it stands, Nevadians suffered 225,000 infection cases, with an additional 2,642 in December alone.  Some 3,125 died from the disease, with a further 46 in December.  Those facts alone make the Pandemic impact on public health and the economy the lead story for the year.

Nevada cases

The economy

Trump boasts that the U.S. economy is the best it’s ever been under his watch. However, Trump inherited a favorable economic situation from President Barack Obama.

Trump’s “Tax Cuts and ‘Jobs Act’ of 2017 (TCJA)” is nothing more than a valid attempted to again push the discredited Republican supported trickle-down theory [ii] on us.

Not only does his legislation increase the federal budget deficits [iii] [iv], but more importantly, his action accelerating income inequality. [v]

Cutting taxes, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) employees warned, would increase the fiscal year 2020 deficit by  $3.1 trillion or 15.2% GDP. That is the largest since 1945 relative to the economy’s size. [vi] ,[vii], [viii]

According to Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley, Trump’s tax cuts have lifted the ultra-rich fortunes. And for the first time in a century, the 400 wealthiest American families paid lower taxes in 2018 than people in the middle class, the economists found. [ix]

By the numbers, researchers for Americans for Tax Fairness report that since the Pandemic began, America’s 651 billionaires’ combined wealth has jumped by more than $1 trillion, reaching $4 trillion in early December.[x]

Raising taxes on the rich and corporations could provide trillions of dollars in resources for helping the economic recovery, Zucman told CBS MoneyWatch.[xi]

“This is not only a viable option but also a fair option because some of the wealthiest taxpayers have benefited from the pandemic — for instance, large corporations such as Amazon and their shareholders,” he noted. “These taxpayers could reasonably be asked to pay more to make up for pandemic losses.”

By mid-2019, Trumps’ failed economic policies started to show roots with an inversion of the  U.S. yield curve, signaling the forthcoming recession. [xii],[xiii]

And in February, a 128-month expansion, the most since 1854, came to a halt. The recession also began the same month. [xiv]In the first quarter, the economy contracted by 4.8%, one of the most profound declines on record.[xv]

It took time for the Trump recession to take hold, and his failure to act immediately to counter the Pandemic accelerated the downturn in the economy.

As the Pandemic raged, restaurant patronage fell sharply across the country,[xvi] and airlines vastly reduced their operations.[xvii] The Big Three car manufacturers halted production.[xviii]

In the United States, about 16 million people lost jobs in the three weeks ending on April 4.[xix] Unemployment claims reached a record high, with 3.3 million requests made in the week ending on March 21. (The previous record had been 700,000 from March to April in 1982). [xx] [xxi]  In April, new homes’ construction dropped by 30%, reaching the lowest level in five years.[xxii]

The Nevada Department of Employment, Training, and Rehabilitation (DETR) reported 1.57 million claims filed for unemployment since mid-March. That is 98.7 percent of all claims filed with DETR.

And through April, Nevada employment officials reported a loss of nearly 244,800 jobs, which helped drive the state’s unemployment rate to 28.2 percent, the worst-ever unemployment rate in state history and the country’s highest mark. The previous record state unemployment rate was 13.7 percent in late 2010.

In May, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) officials said that the unemployment rate would rise Nationwide to nearly 16% by Q2 2020 and fall towards 10% in 2021. They also warned that the economy would not regain its late 2019 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) level until 2022 or later, absent additional relief legislation. [xxiii]

Nationwide, on May 8, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported U-3 unemployment (official unemployment) figure of 14.7%, the highest level recorded since 1941. And U-6 unemployment (total unemployed plus marginally attached and underemployed part-time workers) reaching 22.8%.[xxiv]

By then, approximately 5.4 million Americans lost their health insurance from February to May 2020 after losing their jobs. [xxv],[xxvi]

In Nevada, the unemployment rate hit 15.2 % in June, dropping somewhat to 10.1% in November (seasonally adjusted).  Leisure and hospitality services were down 16.4 % in June and lessened a little to 13 percent in November.

From the start of the Pandemic through November, almost 8 million Americans slipped into poverty. [xxvii]

Trump did sign the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) on March 27 and ending in December.

And late in December, Trump signed a $900 billion COVID relief bill providing a $300 weekly unemployment checks, an eviction ban, and help for small businesses to cover payroll.

President-elect Biden has committed to a third stimulus check.

Climate Change

The Pandemic is severe and requires actions at all government levels and by every individual to overcome its consequences. Nonetheless, we will get through the Pandemic but not so fast with climate change.

2020 was a year of extreme weather around the world. Hot and dry conditions drove record-setting wildfires. And according to those reporting for the Climate Reality Project since 1970, vast areas of Nevada warmed (on average) about 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit across the state. Its southern portion experienced more common long-lasting heat waves.

Nevada’s Walker River, USGS

Climate Reality Project writers point to earlier spring melting of snow in Nevada’s mountains and nearby states along with erratic precipitation patterns as signs of continuing declines in water flows in Colorado and other rivers in Nevada.

Low river flow creates a snowball effect that will weaken both rural and metropolitan communities’ economies and increase wildfires’ frequency and intensity.

Coral Davenport, writing for The New York Times, [xxviii] argues that the greenhouse gas pollution unleashed by President Trump’s rollbacks may prove to be one of the most profound legacies of his single term.

Davenport points out that “Most of Mr. Trump’s environmental policies, which erased or loosened nearly 100 rules and regulations on pollution in the air, water, and atmosphere, can be reversed, though not immediately.” Pollutants, she notes, “like industrial soot and chemicals can have lasting health effects, especially in minority communities where they are often concentrated. But air quality and water clarity can be restored once emissions are put back under control.”

Trump’s Foreign policy

According to Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook  [xxix], the Donald Trump Presidency will have created a destructive legacy in foreign and domestic policy, the depth of which is unrivaled in modern American history.”

In three short years, Ashbrook says that the President has done profound damage to its international credibility, and its capacity for moral persuasion began 70 years ago.  The trauma of the Trump administration’s assault on postwar order will resonate beyond the (first) four years of any Democratic administration and will deepen dramatically, should he be re-elected in November, he adds.

Nevada judicial races

I can not leave this editorial without commenting on this year Nevada’s judicial races. These six-year terms were a disaster.  There were 31 contested seats. That required that voters know the difference between 62 individuals.  In addition to those contests, the primary settled six other judicial seats.  And 23 additional seats were uncontested.  Stuffing that many people onto a ballot and asking people to choose does not work.  Analysis suggests that many voters skipped over the list. Or worse, men voted for men, and women voted for women creating a disadvantage for either sex.

The problem with Judicial races stems from a failure to subdivide counties into geographic regions for county judges.  Thus, a county becomes one district packed with judicial seats and contestants. That is unfair for both the candidates and the voters.

Good news?

If you are a Raiders fan, I guess you can take some solace that currently they are second to the AFC West race against the Chiefs.  But hold on, as of today, the Raiders are seven wins to 8 losses in the AFC. Their division rivals, The Chiefs, are 14 wins to 1 loss. I do not think the Raiders are Super Bowl material, at least not this year.

In all seriousness, a pandemic compounded by a recession, climate changes, water shortages, and a minority cult led by a mentally challenged individual spell unusual and unprecedented challenges for all of us in 2021.

Endnotes:

[i] George Thomas, Professor of Amrican political institutions at Claremont McKenn College, ‘America Is a Republic, Not a Democracy’ Is a Dangerous- And Wrong- Argument. Enabling sustained minority rule at the national level is not a feture of oru constitutional design, but a perversion of it.” The Atlantic, November 2, 2020 at” https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/yes-constitution-democracy/616949/

[ii] Trickle-down economics, also known as trickle-down theory or the horse and sparrow theory, refers to the economic proposition that taxes on businesses and the wealthy in society should be reduced as a means to stimulate business investment in the short term and benefit society at large in the long term. Empirical evidence shows that the proposition has never managed to achieve its stated goals.

[iii] Amadeo, Kimberly (April 29, 2017). “Why Trickle Down Economic Works in Theory But Not in Fact”.

[iv] Crouse, Eric R. (2013). The Cross and Reaganomics: Conservative Christians Defending Ronald Reagan. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 31. ISBN 9780739182222.

[v] Wilson, Thomas Frederick. 1992. The Power “to Coin” Money: The Exercise of Monetary Powers by the Congress. Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe. p. 172. ISBN 0873327942

[vi] Merriam-Webster Dictionary (online edition) entry for “trickle-down.” Archived April 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.

[vii] Merriam-Webster Dictionary (online edition) entry for “trickle-down theory.” Archived April 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine

[viii] No one really knows at what level a government’s debt begins to hurt an economy; there’s a heated debate among economists on that question.

[ix] Picchi, Aimee, “50-years of tax cuts for the rich failed to trickle down, economis study says,” CBS News, Moneywatch, December 17, 2020 at: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tax-cuts-rich-50-years-no-trickle-down/

[x] Net worth of U.S. Billionaires has soared by $1 trillion – to total of $4 trillion, since pandemic began, Americans for TaxFairness at: https://americansfortaxfairness.org/issue/net-worth-u-s-billionaires-soared-1-trillion-total-4-trillion-since-pandemic-began/

[xi] Picchi, Aimee, “50-years of tax cuts for the rich failed to trickle down, economics study says,” CBS News, Moneywatch, December 17, 2020, at https://www.cbsnews.com/news/tax-cuts-rich-50-years-no-trickle-down/

[xii] “A closely followed recession indicator is flashing its most worrying sign in 12 years | Markets Insider”. Business Insider. May 2019. Archived from the original on 30 September 2019.

[xiii] “U.S. Yield Curve Inverts for the First Time Since March”. Bloomberg L.P. May 2019.

[xiv] A recession is a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales.

[xv] Bartsh,, Jeffry, “U.S. entered recession in February after end of longest expansion in history, NBER finds,” Market Wtch, June 8, 2020, at https://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-entered-recession-in-march-after-end-of-longest-expansion-in-history-nber-finds-2020-06-08

[xvi] Molla, Rani (16 March 2020). “Chart: How coronavirus is devastating the restaurant business”. Vox. Retrieved 26 March2020.

[xvii] Gilbertson, Dawn. “American Airlines cuts 55,000 flights, parks 450 planes amid coronavirus: ‘Fight of our Lives'”. USA Today. Retrieved 26 March 2020.

[xviii] Valdes-Dapena, Peter; Yurkevich, Vanessa. “GM, Ford and other automakers to halt production in the US”. CNN. Retrieved 26 March 2020.

[xix] Rushe, Dominic; Sainato, Michael (9 April 2020). “US unemployment rises 6.6m in a week as coronavirus takes its toll”. The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 10 April 2020.

[xx] Yglesias, Matthew (26 March 2020). “Chart: New unemployment claims soar to 3.3 million, shattering previous records”. Vox. Retrieved 27 March 2020.

[xxi] U.S. Jobs Report Shows Clearest Data Yet on Economic Toll: Live Updates”. The New York Times. 8 May 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2020.

[xxii] Wiseman, Paul (19 May 2020). “US home construction drops 30.2% in April as virus rages”. Yahoo Finance. Retrieved 19 May 2020.

[xxiii] Will Rogers on “trickle up” economics”. WiredPen. January 30, 2015. Archived from the original on May 10, 2017. Retrieved March 11, 2017.

[xxiv] The Employment Situation – April 2020″ (PDF). Bureau of Labor Statistics. 12 May 2020. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 May 2020. Retrieved 12 May 2020.

[xxv] Millions Have Lost Health Insurance in Pandemic-Driven Recession”. The New York Times. 13, July 2020.

[xxvi] 5.4 million Americans have lost their health insurance. What to do if you’re one of them”. CNBC. 14 July 2020.

[xxvii] Han, Jeehoon, Meyer, Bruce D., Sullivan, Jams X. “Real-time Poverty Estimates During the C OVID-19 Pandemic through November 2020 at https://harris.uchicago.edu/files/monthly_poverty_rates_updated_thru_november_2020_final.pdf

[xxviii] Davenport, Coral, “What Will Trump’s Most Profound Legacy Be? Possibly Climate Damage, ” The New York Times, November 9, 2020 at: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/09/climate/trump-legacy-climate-change.html.

[xxix] Ashbrook, Cathryn Clüver, “The Trump Legacy and its consequences,” Analysis  & Opinions, International Politik, Harvard, Kennedy School, Belfer Center, for Science and International Affairs,   March 01, 2020.

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About Author

Michael McGreer Mesquite, Nevada
Dr. Michael Manford McGreer is managing editor of Nevada-today.com and writes on issues that impact public policy.

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