Trump, the generals and the FBI

By Fred Goldstein, posted February 6, 2018.  

A most remarkable and telling indicator of where the ruling class stands today on the question of war and peace is the widespread acceptance of the Trump administration’s open surrender of civilian control to the military. Three high-ranking generals are his close aides in the White House: National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly.

An axiom of imperialist democracy is civilian control over the military. This has never been honored. The military has always been able to make its influence felt in the White House.  But this facade has always been maintained as a matter of doctrine in order to sustain the fiction of U.S. democracy.

And the capitalist media, instead of sounding the alarm about the danger posed by the military, have praised the generals as “the adults in the room” who will restrain Trump.

The ruling class has been silent about Trump’s State of the Union speech. He attacked China and Russia as adversaries and promised to reverse the decades-long policy of weapons limitation with a gigantic nuclear weapons buildup to come. Plans for “modernization” of the nuclear arsenal, begun at the end of the Obama administration, have been greatly expanded by Trump.

Military as a Trump defender

With Donald Trump, the military has attained a goal that it sought for years: a major share of political control at the center of the capitalist government. This occupation of the White House by the military brass is particularly dangerous as the Trump administration lays plans for a military attack on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The achievement of this long-sought goal of the Pentagon has more than just military implications. The three high-ranking generals in the White House have political input on both military and domestic policy. These generals — and the entire military — need Trump. They can count on his bellicose, belligerent bluster to give them cover for their aggressive, expansionary military plans. Furthermore, he is the one who let them in the door and enabled them.

Trump gave them more troops for the battlefields in Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa; more authority to carry out military operations without oversight; full authority to launch drone strikes without having to check with Washington. Above all, he promised them a vast increase in the military budget and authorized a $1.2 trillion nuclear buildup. He has been the arms salesman in chief, making $110 billion in deals for arms to Saudi Arabia.

This dangerous escalation of militarism has gone largely uncriticized in the capitalist media.

The billionaires and bankers in the administration and beyond need Trump. They thrive off his tax cuts, the destruction of corporate and environmental regulations, the giveaways of public lands and the sea coasts to big oil, and the destruction of regulatory agencies. Gary Cohen of Goldman Sachs, head of the National Economic Council; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin of Goldman Sachs; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil; and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a billionaire financier and buyout king — all have circled around Trump to ward off any threats to his presidency.

What does this mean politically for the generals, the Pentagon and the masses? It means Trump’s Wall Street appointees have just as much at stake as the generals in protecting the president.

As of this moment, until Trump’s crisis becomes far more serious, the brass in the White House and beyond will defend him against the Mueller investigation. They will defend his draconian, repressive immigration policies. They will defend his playing with nuclear catastrophe in Korea. They will defend him from anything that undermines his hold on the White House.

Trump vs. the FBI

For example, in Trump’s furious struggle against the FBI, the Justice Department and much of the capitalist establishment, the brass stood with Trump. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray went to appeal to the White House to stop the release of an anti-FBI, anti-Mueller memo drawn up by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes. The memo was designed to protect Trump from Mueller’s investigation into his relations with Russia. Gen. Kelly met with the two officials and turned them down, telling the public that the President wants the memo out “pretty quick.”

The chief executive of U.S. imperialism, with the consent of his entire administration, together with the Republican Party leadership in the House of Representatives, are in a campaign to discredit the FBI as being partisan against Trump and part of a “deep state” conspiracy.

How should this fight between Trump and the FBI be viewed?

The White House, the chief purveyor of violence, war and reaction on the planet, is at war with the FBI. But the FBI is the supreme capitalist institution of repression and persecution. It is now operating in 70 countries. It is the implacable enemy of the radical movement, liberation organizations and all the oppressed, as well as the unions and other working-class organizations. It has persecuted communists, socialists, anarchists, Black liberation organizations, civil rights organizations and anti-war activists ever since its inception after WWI. The FBI and the Pentagon are twin enemies of the workers and oppressed worldwide.

But the more Trump tries to discredit the FBI and the Justice Department, the more he is accused of violating the “independence of the FBI and the Justice Department.”

Post-Watergate rules and protocols

Why is it that the Trump administration and the Republican Party are being condemned by the anti-Trump press and the Democratic Party for violating long-standing protocols against presidential meddling in the Justice Department and the FBI? Indeed, the Democratic Party has become the staunchest defender of this reactionary spy agency, the political police of the ruling class.

First of all, we must understand what the corporate media and politicians mean by an “independent” FBI and Justice Department.

During the Watergate crisis, Richard Nixon tried to use elements of the CIA and the FBI against the Democratic Party and, in general, against his political opponents. This led to a strong movement in the ruling class and the political establishment to prevent the use of the spy agencies against a president’s political enemies. To make it plain, capitalist democracy was supposed to bar the use of the repressive apparatus by one political faction in the ruling class against its opponents.

The idea of the “independent” FBI and Justice Department meant that the White House was not supposed to communicate with the FBI or the Justice Department except under rare circumstances. For example, when Bill Clinton met with Obama’s attorney general, Loretta Lynch, on the tarmac of a Phoenix airport in June 2016 — while Hillary Clinton was under investigation for using a personal email account as Secretary of State — Lynch had to recuse herself from the investigation. The automatic assumption was that Bill Clinton was trying to influence Lynch in favor of Hillary Clinton. Lynch’s recusal followed protocol.

Trump and military vs. capitalist legality

The fact that Trump is on a crusade to violate bourgeois legality is a matter of concern to the workers and the oppressed. Trump’s crusade is open. The military has its own hatred and contempt for bourgeois democracy — which can stand in their way of launching war and aggression — but they are quiet and act behind the scenes.

Our concern, of course, has nothing to do with defending the FBI or the Justice Department. It is that Trump and the generals’ contempt for bourgeois legality, custom and protocol has been, and will be, turned against the masses, as exemplified by the open attempt to ban Muslims from immigrating to the U.S.

The workers and all the oppressed need to know what’s happening in the ruling-class struggle over the FBI. The Mueller investigation into alleged Russian attempts to influence the elections is a false inquiry, as far as the exploited classes are concerned. The very premise of the investigation is calculated to sow anti-Russian chauvinism and war fever among the population. It is meant to bolster the military buildup, including nuclear weapons.

Trump is trying from the right to overturn all the rules regarding political interference, influence and bourgeois legality — not just in the Mueller investigation but in many spheres. Undocumented workers are kidnapped off the streets by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Torch-bearing Nazis and Klansmen in Charlottesville, Va., were praised as “good people.” Trump openly rakes in profits from his businesses while he is president and refuses to submit his tax returns.

Trump violates nuclear treaties by commissioning new weapons. He unilaterally pulls out of the Paris Climate Accord. He threatens to tear up the Iran Treaty, which was signed by four imperialist countries plus Russia and China. His mode of operation is to overstep bourgeois norms and violate bourgeois legality in the interest of political reaction.

The only way to stop the anti-working-class lawlessness of Trump and his generals and bankers in the White House is to mobilize the masses in the streets for militant resistance. A place to start would be a massive anti-war struggle demanding “Hands Off Korea” and saying “NO to the nuclear buildup,” which Trump and his military handlers have put on the agenda.

Trump and the ruling class, from Davos to DACA to Mueller

By Fred Goldstein, posted January 29, 2018.

His speech at Davos was an attempt to partially get back into the imperialist fold without backing away completely from his super-power, reactionary, nationalist arrogance. It is dawning on the Trump grouping that he has weakened the entire imperialist camp.

Jan. 29 ― Donald Trump, the racist, bigoted, authoritarian, right-wing chief executive of U.S. imperialism, who is despised by the workers and oppressed masses of the world, was operating on several fronts last week.

Trump went to Davos, Switzerland, to attend a gathering of billionaires and millionaires. The representatives of the European ruling class there played to his ego, flattering him and treating him like an emperor.

At the same time that he was hobnobbing around Davos, rubbing shoulders with fellow members of the ruling class, Trump’s two immigration hawk henchmen, Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly and adviser Stephen Miller, were in Washington working on his proposed draconian, punitive immigration bill, which has been denounced by the immigrant movement as a “white supremacist” hostage bill.

As Trump deplaned in Davos, he was confronted by charges, corroborated by numerous news sources, that he had illegally tried to have Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired last June. His reply: “Fake news.”

Yet the European bankers gave Trump the royal treatment, taking their cue from the Saudi princes who provided a string of musicians to play for him as he entered the conference hall. He was praised by the corporate financiers for his tax cuts and deregulation, which sent their stock prices soaring. Corporate Europe organized a dinner for him with the heads of the top 15 European corporations.

Their goal was to placate Trump enough to keep him from launching an attack on the European imperialists, the European Union and NATO ― customary punching bags for his chauvinist, imperialist arrogance. In this, they largely succeeded. Trump stuck to a mild, 15-minute speech drawn up by his handlers. But he was booed when he went off script and denounced the “lying press.”

Trump took personal credit for the rise in the stock market and the tax cuts. Undoubtedly the parasitic European bondholders were elated. Trump’s key line was “America is open for business,” aimed at enticing European investors to cash in on low tax rates and minimal regulation.

Trump’s Davos speech a sign of weakness

His speech was a muted attempt to partially get back into the imperialist fold without backing away completely from his super-power, reactionary, nationalist arrogance. He tried to assure the audience that “America first does not mean alone.”

It is not that Trump has had some inner conversion from his great-power chauvinism. Rather it is dawning on the Trump camp that by breaking the U.S.-European alliance, he has weakened the entire imperialist camp on both sides of the Atlantic, especially the U.S. side.

The Pentagon needs NATO, along with German and French imperialism, in its struggle to subordinate Russia and to complete the conquest of Ukraine. The Pentagon and the State Department need the collaboration of French and British imperialism in Africa, where both former colonial powers have deep roots. And Trump needs the cooperation of European imperialism if he hopes to undermine the Iran nuclear treaty.

Neither camp is able to deal with the state-planned, socialist side of China’s economic, commercial and diplomatic expansion. China is steadily progressing with its One Belt One Road project to establish an international network of railways, roads, pipelines and utility grids linking China with Central Asia, West Asia and parts of South Asia.

In a concession, Trump even spoke about the possibility of re-engaging with the Trans Pacific Partnership ― a sure sign that the weakness of Washington and the strength of China are beginning to sink in.

And as the Trump administration edges closer and closer to war with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and potentially with China and even possibly Russia, it will need the backing or at least the neutrality of European imperialism.

Neither imperialist camp ― the U.S. or Europe ― is capable of dealing with the oppressed and the working class of the world without the other. Neither camp is capable of reining in the inter-imperialist antagonisms or of keeping a war from breaking out that could destabilize the capitalist, imperialist system. Trump, of course, may revert quickly to his old arrogance. But, for the moment, that is what accounts for Trump’s “moderate” behavior at Davos.

Trump’s DACA proposal: a white-supremacist hostage bill

Before going to Davos, Trump announced he had a proposal that would solve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals crisis by giving a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers and for people eligible to be Dreamers but who had never signed up. These young immigrants would get a so-called path to citizenship over a period of 12 years.

However, the Trump proposal, called the Dream Act, also demands $30 billion for his border wall. And it would sharply curtail family reunification immigration, a major component of legal immigration, by excluding the parents of Dreamers from any legalization. It also shuts down the system that each year allows some 55,000 people from all regions of the world to get visas to enter the U.S. on a lottery basis.

The White House proposal would limit family sponsorship to spouses and minor children. It would eliminate a number of existing categories, including adult children, both married and unmarried; parents of adult U.S. citizens; and siblings of adult U.S. citizens. Experts have estimated that cutting these categories would reduce the roughly 1 million green cards given out yearly by 25 to 50 percent.

A document obtained by CNN goes into more detail: “The framework [of the bill] could allow detaining individuals indefinitely as they await deportation for months and years ― something that has been curtailed as the result of constitutional concerns from courts. The proposals could also vastly expand the definitions of criminal offenses that could subject an individual to deportation.” (Jan. 26)

The immigrant rights movement and representatives of the Dreamers have denounced the Trump proposal, refusing to put other immigrants at risk in order to get a bill for themselves.

Greisa Martinez Rosas, advocacy director for United We Dream and a potential beneficiary of the Dream Act, commented: “Let’s call this proposal for what it is: a white supremacist ransom note. Trump and Stephen Miller killed DACA and created the crisis that immigrant youth are facing. They have taken immigrant youth hostage, pitting us against our own parents, Black immigrants and our communities in exchange for our dignity.

“To Miller and Trump’s white supremacist proposal, immigrant youth say: No.” (unitedwedream.org, Jan. 25)

DACA-recipient Juan Escalante, in a release from America’s Voice, wrote: “It’s no secret that Miller, along with Gen. John ‘Adult in the Room’ Kelly, has been penning some of the most heinous immigration policies coming out of the White House. One might even wonder if Miller and Kelly, not President Donald Trump, are running the government from the sidelines ― exploiting Trump’s short attention span. …

“What the White House is selling the American people is nothing but a nativist wish list that would reduce the number of immigrants, especially people of color born in countries that Trump considers ‘shitholes.’” (Jan. 26)

Trump, Mueller: bourgeois legality vs. mass struggle

Inside the Davos meeting hall, Trump was besieged with questions about how he tried to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading a criminal investigation into Trump’s relationship to Russia and his financial connections to the Russian oligarchs. Trump branded the charges as “fake news.”

But according to the New York Times of Jan. 26, Trump ordered his attorney, Don McGahn, to fire Mueller last June. McGahn, fearing his own criminal liability, refused the order. The number of witnesses interviewed led even Fox News to confirm the story.

The story has been the subject of endless network talk shows, news shows and the capitalist press.

The thrust of the discussion is that the attempted firing of Mueller fits in with Trump’s efforts to get FBI head James Comey to go easy on National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. When Comey refused to do so, Trump fired him.

The anti-Trump moderates and liberals are going over and over the various possible legal violations, procedural violations, violations of protocol, etc., that Trump has committed.

However, they won’t fight him politically for his racism, his misogyny, his militaristic jingoism, his threats of nuclear war, his anti-immigrant chauvinism, his support for voter suppression, etc. When they talk about undermining “our democracy,” they always refer to the Russians allegedly interfering with the elections. But they do not bring up the most serious interference with capitalist democracy: voter suppression.

Millions of African Americans, Latinx, Native people and poor whites have been kept from voting because of photo ID laws, redistricting to reduce the weight of the vote in poor neighborhoods and urban areas, shutting down polling stations, disqualifying people with felony convictions, etc.

All the bourgeois commentators keep referring back to the resignation of Richard Nixon, who faced impeachment over the Watergate break-in. But so far Trump has given no indication that he would honor bourgeois legality. Furthermore, the House of Representatives is far to the right, and it is the House that would be charged with initiating impeachment proceedings.

These commentators and the Democratic Party leadership repeat over and over again that Russia tried to “subvert our democracy.” Whatever Putin did or did not do, the democracy in this country is a very restricted version of capitalist democracy. The capitalist class has access to all the levers of government, communications, and the powers of the state. It is their democracy. What democratic rights exist for the workers and the oppressed within this suffocating capitalist system have been fought for, often with blood, for generations.

African Americans have fought for civil rights. Labor unions have fought for workers’ rights. Women have fought equality. So has the LGBTQ community, from the uprising at Stonewall to all the battles that followed. Immigrants have battled against deportations, disabled people have struggled for accessibility, and so on.

Yet no matter what rights the workers and oppressed have won under capitalist society, these rights are truncated, narrowly confined and under constant attack. The bosses are the ones who are in a constant struggle to take back the democratic rights the working class and oppressed have won.

Class-conscious workers should not fall for this phony pro-war investigation of Russia to get leverage against Trump. What we need is a massive movement to push back the entire right-wing Trump agenda and challenge the cops, ICE and the FBI who are oppressors of the people.

We do not benefit when one faction of the ruling class removes another faction if the masses sit idly by.

Trump: Front man for Wall St., Pentagon

Trump is opening a full-scale assault against the workers and oppressed. The anti-Russia campaign is the last thing the movement should be pursuing in its struggle against him.

By Fred Goldstein posted on May 31, 2017

Donald Trump came back from his overseas trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe resuming his plans to launch full-scale attacks on the workers and the oppressed through his budget, his health care bill and tax cuts for the rich.

That being said, he has also managed to make two major foreign policy moves that push U.S. imperialist policy further to the right.

In Saudi Arabia, he formalized and weaponized an anti-Iranian alliance with the House of Saud and the royal oil puppets in the Gulf States. The U.S. has had an alliance with the Saudis for 70 years. The reactionary monarchy has been a pillar of U.S. imperialism, the Pentagon and Big Oil, with four huge U.S. military bases in the country. This new outsourcing to the Saudis of U.S. military intervention is a further turn toward U.S. proxy war and aggression in the region.

In addition, Trump managed to do severe damage to the Washington-Berlin­-Paris alliance as expressed in NATO. He went to Brussels and chewed out the European imperialist rivals for being deadbeats — i.e., not paying their NATO bills. This is great-power chauvinism run wild.

The U.S. ruling class and the Pentagon will have to ponder this. Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, made a speech after Trump’s trip saying that Europe would have to rely on itself.

U.S. imperialism has relied on NATO for decades. NATO has troops in Afghanistan. It was key to the destruction of Yugoslavia. NATO was used to stop the Portuguese revolution in 1974 and the French workers’ uprising in 1968. French and British imperialism hold down the struggle in Africa using NATO.

The Pentagon needs NATO and they know it. Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have both pledged loyalty to the alliance.

From the point of view of the workers and the oppressed, anything that weakens imperialism is a positive development. We should not moan over Trump’s boorishness and undiplomatic insensitivity. That is a problem for the ruling class.

A further problem for big sections of the corporate ruling class is Trump’s refusal to say that he will stay with the Paris climate accords. Many of the Fortune 500 corporations, such as GM, Microsoft, DuPont, Amazon, etc., are moving toward low carbon and renewable energy as a matter of policy. Almost half of the Fortune 500 companies have adopted at least one climate or clean-energy goal, with 23 of them pledging eventually to run their businesses on 100 percent renewable energy, including Walmart, Bank of America and Google.

Whether or not these pledges are fulfilled, it represents a recognition by the bosses that climate change is a real threat to them and their profits. Even companies in Appalachian coal country are not using coal any more. (New York Times, May 26) Key sections of the ruling class are finally taking seriously the climate danger, just when Trump wants to wreck any progress in environmental protection.

These developments may intensify the contradictions in the ruling class here and feed ruling class opposition to Trump. They fear that getting rid of him could create further instability in the political system. Again, that is their problem. The job of the workers and oppressed is to take advantage of the situation and expose the capitalist system for what it is.

Fronting for military-industrial complex and big business

Back from his overseas trip, Trump faced the relentless anti-Russia campaign that anti-Trump forces in the ruling class are using to push him back or bring him down.

This is a deepening of the great “Russia” diversion in the struggle against Trump. At a time when Trump is opening a full-scale assault against the workers and oppressed, the anti-Russia campaign is the last thing that the movement should be pursuing in their struggle against Trump. The Democratic Party leadership is in the vanguard of this diversionary anti-Russia campaign.

He is planning to cut $800 million from Medicaid, which would destroy rural hospitals and nursing homes. He wants to cut back drug clinics, cancer research, environmental protection, job safety and student loan forgiveness, among many other things. His budget would wipe out Meals on Wheels, cut SNAP (food stamps) by billions of dollars and attack women’s health care around the world. And this after returning from a foreign trip where he served as a front man for big business and the Pentagon war makers.

At the very moment that his administration was planning massive tax cuts for the rich and major cutbacks for the poor, Trump was in Saudi Arabia heaping praise upon one of the most reactionary monarchies in the world. He was wined and dined and stroked by the royal princes of the feudal-capitalist patriarchal Saudi clan.

Women are the virtual property of men in Saudi Arabia. Trump made not even a mention of the status of Saudi women.

The princes rolled out the red carpet, gave him a sword to dance with, projected a 175-foot picture of him on the side of a building, drank toasts to him and had photo ops of him sitting surrounded by royalty and luxury in the palace in Riyadh.

Pentagon $110 billion sale

In return, the monarchy got $110 billion worth of weapons to wage a war of aggression against the people of Yemen and raise the military threat to Iran.

The military-industrial complex, the Pentagon death machine, was able to sell Abrams tanks, combat ships, missile defense systems, radar, and communications and cyber security technology, among other things. The Saudis are also getting a billion-dollar THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system like the one the Pentagon just rushed into south Korea, as well as $500 million worth of precision-guided bombs.

Much of this military package was already approved by the Obama administration last fall. Obama offered the Saudis $115 billion in military aid (Reuters, Sept. 16, 2016), but held up on sending precision-guided bombs and other weapons. Trump just went to Saudi Arabia to bask in the deal. Trump’s Pentagon-guided White House and cabinet, with three ranking generals, included the precision bombs even as the Saudis are escalating the massive killing of civilians in Yemen. The generals also added in the THAAD system.

Big business and banking alongside Trump

In addition to the military contracts, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund also signed contracts with U.S. corporations worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Dozens of the biggest names in U.S. business went in Trump’s entourage. Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Michael Corbat of Citigroup, James Gorman of Morgan Stanley, Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical and Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone were among the U.S. chief executives attending a business forum, along with General Electric vice chair John Rice. The heads of military contractors Lockheed, Boeing and Raytheon also went along.

The deals included agreements between Saudi Aramco, the state energy giant, and U.S. companies. They involve oil services groups Schlumberger, Halliburton and Weatherford International, drilling contractors Nabors Industries and Rowan Companies, and engineering and construction companies KBR, Jacobs Engineering Group and McDermott International. (New York Times, May 17)

The Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum was held on the same day that Trump met King Salman of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi chief executives attending included Amin Nasser of Saudi Aramco and Yousef Al-Benyan of Sabic, a chemicals, plastics and fertilizer group that plans to build the world’s largest ethylene plant in Texas, jointly with Secretary of State Tillerson’s former firm, ExxonMobil.

Trump cutbacks destroy jobs

Trump and Tillerson tried to justify these deals as creating jobs. Trump made a grinning triumphant remark about his deals creating “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Actually, the Trump health care plan and his budget are job destroyers. Cutbacks in Federal employment endanger tens of thousands of government workers, from the Environmental Protection Agency and National Institutes of Health to Forest Protection Service, the Labor Department, the National Endowment for the Arts and other targeted government departments. Trump wants to cut $54 billion in federal spending in order to make up for the increase of $54 billion to the Pentagon.

His health care cutbacks will not only throw 23 million people off the health care rolls but will also throw millions out of work. Health care created more jobs than any other sector in 2016, helping to drive total annual job growth to 2.2 million, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A report released by the Commonwealth Fund and the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University found that repealing key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the insurance premium tax credits and Medicaid expansion, could lead to 2.6 million people losing their jobs by 2019. By 2021, nearly 3 million jobs in health care and other sectors could be lost. (Modernhealthcare, Jan. 6)

Trump rages against China and Mexico for destroying jobs at home. He is scapegoating these countries in order to whip up workers and pander to his racist base. Trump says protectionism is the answer. Actually, the real job destroyer is technology. Far more jobs have been destroyed by automation than by offshoring. One authoritative study says that 13 percent of job losses in the U.S. come from trade while 87 percent have been lost to automation. (New York Times, Dec. 21, 2016)

Furthermore, capitalist overproduction is destroying jobs at this very moment. The auto industry has recently peaked and production is beginning to contract. Overproduction of malls and retail stores, together with online buying, have led to tens of thousands of layoffs and tens of thousands more to come.

Trump has no answer to other bubbling crises. For example, student loans have reached $1.3 trillion. In the first quarter of 2017, consumer debt rose to $12.73 trillion, exceeding its peak in the third quarter of 2008. (New York Times, May 17)

Booming auto sales have more to do with low rates and easy financing than they do with the urge to buy a new vehicle. In the last few years, car buyers have borrowed nearly $1 trillion to finance new and used autos. Much of that money was lent to borrowers who have bad credit ratings and might not be able to repay the debt. There has been a recent surge in delinquencies among subprime borrowers whose loans were packaged into bonds and sold to investors. ­(Counterpunch, March 18)

Expanding the debt of the masses is how capitalism is staying afloat. The expansion of debt is calculated to compensate for overproduction in the economy. It helps keep people buying things and thus keeps the circulation of capital going. It keeps profits rolling in, but sooner or later these various debt bubbles will burst.

How can students who have tens of thousands of dollars in debt buy much, let alone start a household? How can workers who owe the auto loan sharks money buy enough to create jobs for other workers? How can people who are up to their eyeballs in credit card debt keep the system afloat by further purchasing? There is no public tally for debt due to health care costs, but a leading cause of household debt is often the astronomical cost of medical care.

Trump has no answer for all this. It is doubtful he is even aware of it, let alone trying to deal with it. His preoccupation is with making money now and getting re-elected in 2020.

Trump, the gangster president

The ruling class is responsible for keeping Trump in office and for every racist, reactionary thing he does. Trump is their representative as a class and the masses must hold the capitalists accountable for every crime Trump commits against the people.

In accordance with their role in capitalist society, most high government officials, elected or appointed, have gangster-like qualities. These officials spend much of their time conspiring with the wealthy on schemes for fleecing or otherwise attacking the masses of people. Unlike the mob, they must carry out their schemes within the framework of capitalist politics.

The mob is differentiated from the capitalist establishment in that they are not constrained to carry out their crimes under cover of legality. On the contrary, mob activities function outside the boundaries of bourgeois legality with the silent consent of the ruling class and its law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, mob crimes are on a vastly smaller scale than the crimes of the Pentagon, the CIA and the FBI.

That being said, among bourgeois politicians with gangster qualities, Donald Trump stands above the crowd. He is a pampered real estate billionaire who has functioned by ordering subordinates around, cheating contractors and stiffing workers. When he gets caught in a mistake, he mobilizes his army of lawyers to clean things up.

He won the presidency by using his television career as a springboard and taking advantage of the complete bankruptcy of the Democratic Party leadership. His campaign strategists also took advantage of the undemocratic institution of the Electoral College to eke out an electoral victory while losing the popular vote. (Hillary Clinton, of course, was also a corrupt, militaristic, Wall Street-owned enemy of the people.)

Presidency as the road to (more) riches

Trump has not only refused to divest from his billions in assets but also sought to earn even more from his status in the White House. He continues to urge foreign leaders and associates to stay at his Washington hotel. He has raised the fee for membership at the Mar-a-Lago golf club from $100,000 to $200,000. He has refused to release his tax returns in order to cover up his investments. He has deals in Turkey, Azerbaijan and other places around the globe. He has drawn up a tax plan from which he and his fellow real estate moguls will reap hundreds of millions of dollars.

His daughter, Ivanka Trump, has spread her brand all over the world and continues to do so. His son-in-law and chief adviser, Jared Kushner, keeps a real estate empire of his own. “Although Mr. Kushner resigned in January from his chief executive role at Kushner Companies,” reports the New York Times of April 26, “he remains the beneficiary of trusts that own the sprawling real estate business. The firm has taken part in roughly $7 billion in acquisitions over the last decade, many of them backed by foreign partners whose identities he will not reveal.”

Now this right-wing, authoritarian, blustering buffoon, who knows nothing of bourgeois statecraft and has no inclination to learn or to seek advice, is formally in charge of U.S. imperialism.

When Trump gets U.S. capitalism in trouble with U.S. imperialist allies in NATO, or threatens corporate interests by ranting about trade wars with the People’s Republic of China (population 1.3 billion), Canada and Mexico (U.S. big business’ two largest trade markets), or cannot get the Republican Congress to throw 24 million people off health care, or passes an anti-Muslim travel ban that provokes a world countermovement, or threatens to provoke a mass rebellion by saying he will deport 11 million undocumented workers, etc., etc., all his subordinates, flunkies and lawyers cannot help him out of the jam.

The ruling class is ambivalent about Trump — for good reason. On the one hand, they are salivating over his tax cut hand-out to billionaires and big corporations. They are ecstatic about his deregulation campaign allowing, among other things, the coal companies to poison the water table, the destruction of auto emissions standards to help the auto barons and the elimination of environmental regulations to aid big industry. And, of course, they love his tax breaks for the health insurance companies.

On the other hand, they are frustrated because they were hoping to get big tax breaks from the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and they wanted to get their hands on $880 billion in cuts from Medicaid so the money could be used to fund tax breaks for the rich.

However, as much as the ruling class looks forward to profiting from Trump’s tax cuts and regulatory roll-backs, they do not want him to wreck their system. Thus, they have taken measures against him. In the first place, they have surrounded him with generals and Wall Street bankers in the White House and the Cabinet.

Trump is stonewalled on budget, overruled on NAFTA

But most recently they have given him a beating in the budget negotiations. In the latest $1.2 trillion budget, Trump came away empty handed, despite all his bullying and bluster. In the negotiations Trump was overruled by the trusted congressional representatives of the ruling class on key issues:

• Domestic spending rose, instead of $18 billion in cuts demanded by Trump.

• Trump wanted the National ­Institutes of Health budget slashed by $1.2 billion. Instead it was increased by $2 billion.

• Trump asked for the Environmental Protection Agency budget to be slashed by 33 percent. Instead it was cut by 1 percent.

• Planned Parenthood will continue to be funded at current levels in states that do not vote to defund it.

• Trump asked for $30 billion in increased military spending. He got $12.5 billion and another $2.5 billion when he comes up with a plan to defeat the Islamic State group.

• No money for his beloved Border Wall; border security funds for new technology and repairs only; in fact, funds for “border security” were slashed and there was no money for a deportation force.

• Health care subsidies for the poor will remain (the money goes to the insurance companies).

”The Trump administration said it was no longer considering pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement, following a day of intense lobbying from business leaders and lawmakers who rallied to quash internal White House discussion of the prospect,” wrote the Wall Street Journal on April 27. Trump was forced to call the presidents of Mexico and Canada to tell them he had dropped the repeal. He then issued a tweet saying they had called him, instead of admitting that big business and agribusiness had forced him to back down.

Trump, China and the DPRK

Washington is in the midst of a crisis in Korea. It needs the cooperation of the south Korean regime to pursue its belligerent agenda, but instead, Trump picked this moment to tell the south Korean government that he wants to tear up the trade agreement with their country. It is a “bad agreement” negotiated by President Obama, according to Trump. Actually, it was negotiated under George W. Bush.

To make matters worse, Trump told the south Korean government that it would have to pay $1 billion for the Pentagon’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system, despite an existing agreement by the U.S. to pay the cost of its deployment. National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster had to get on the phone with south Korean officials and reassure them the U.S. would pay. (WSJ, April 30)

Trump has an excessive view of his personal powers, to say the least. He claims to have a good relationship with President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China. He claims that because of his phone calls with Xi, China is going to help the U.S. government out of its fix with the defiant Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Trump has tried to sweet-talk China and tough-talk the DPRK. But the truth is that the PRC leadership, especially its military, the People’s Liberation Army, cannot ignore the overriding facts of the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

In a phone call on April 23, President Xi asked Trump to refrain from escalating tensions in the region, even if the DPRK announces testing of missiles or nuclear weapons. Xi made an appeal to Trump not to go tit-for-tat and to move in the direction of negotiations.

We certainly do not agree with Xi that the DPRK should be pressured to give up its struggle to build a nuclear deterrent. But, nevertheless, the head of the PRC asked Trump to de-escalate.

One day later, on April 24, in the dead of night, the U.S. deployed the THAAD anti-missile system in south Korea, which is equipped with high-powered radar that reaches beyond the DPRK into China and can be used to spy on the Chinese military. The PRC has already said this deployment would destabilize the strategic balance in the region in favor of U.S. imperialism.

The Chinese leadership and the PLA are fully aware of the threat. It cannot be a coincidence that on the same day as the deployment, China test-launched its first domestically made aircraft carrier. The ship is due to be completed in 2020.

“China has launched its first aircraft carrier built entirely on its own, in a demonstration of the growing technical sophistication of its defense industries and determination to safeguard its maritime territorial claims and crucial trade routes. The 50,000-ton carrier was towed from its dockyard just after 9 a.m. Wednesday.” (Washington Post, April 26)

But the unspoken message is that China has its own naval power, including a fully armed and functional Soviet-built carrier which it obtained from Ukraine and refurbished. China restrained its response to Trump and the Pentagon by not deploying its armed aircraft carrier and deploying the unfinished one instead. But the message was sent.

What is also clear from these events is that U.S. imperialism and the Pentagon are the enemies of both the DPRK and the PRC. The Pentagon has been out for revenge against the DPRK because this heroic socialist country has fearlessly stood up to Washington, as firmly now as it did during the 1950-53 Korean War, when it rebuffed the mighty U.S. war machine.

U.S. imperialism is also opposed to the People’s Republic of China because — despite the growth of capitalist millionaires and billionaires inside the socialist country — the Communist Party of China and the People’s Liberation Army still stand as guardians of state-owned enterprises and economic planning, which are hallmarks of socialism.

Washington realizes that while U.S. imperialism is mired in economic stagnation and military and political crises around the globe, China is steadily growing stronger, both economically and militarily. It is building influence in Asia, Africa and Latin America through infrastructure projects that help the former colonies overcome imperialist-imposed underdevelopment.

At a moment when U.S. imperialism is off balance at home and abroad, the capitalist ruling class needs to keep their gangster-real estate president in check, so he does not add to Washington’s instability.

Despite all the attempts by the established ruling class to distance themselves from Trump, the capitalist government is the executive committee of the ruling class. Karl Marx said it long ago, and it still holds true today.

There are many ways that the bosses could get rid of him, given all the illegality of his family-enriching regime. Instead, the ruling class is responsible for keeping Trump in office and for every racist, reactionary thing he does. Trump is their representative as a class, and the masses must hold the capitalists accountable for every crime he commits against the people.

Trump & the Wall Street-Pentagon Coalition

By Fred Goldstein, posted April 18, 2017.

There has been much buzz in the capitalist media recently about Donald Trump’s “flip-flopping.” He has changed his positions 180 degrees on a whole variety of issues within a few weeks’ time.

Among the issues on which he has switched are:

  • He has bombed Syria after having opposed intervention.
  • He says China is not a currency manipulator after calling China “the world champion” of currency manipulators.
  • He has floated the idea of negotiations with north Korea after saying that he would never negotiate with that government.
  • He says that NATO “was once obsolete; it is no longer obsolete.”
  • He says he likes Janet Yellen, the head of the Federal Reserve Board, and her low interest rates, after claiming she and “other global special interests” had ruined life for middle America.
  • He says it turns out that “lots of small companies are really helped” by the Export-Import Bank, after having opposed it.

These are just a few of his reversals. They have all brought him more in line with the fundamental needs of U.S. imperialism.

Numerous explanations for Trump’s reversals have been put forward by the big-business media. For example, it is said that Trump adopts the position of the last person he has talked to. Or, Trump has no ideology and he can shift positions easily. Or, he listens to his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. And so on.

All of these things may be true. But they mask the deeper reason for the so-called flip-flops.

Trump has been leaned on by the Pentagon and Wall Street to shift from demagogy to policy based on the reality of the core needs of U.S. imperialism.

Trump is surrounded by four generals, three former bankers from Goldman Sachs and other financiers, not to mention Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, the largest private oil company in the capitalist world. This is a veritable coalition of Wall Street, the Pentagon and big business. And, for the moment, they have reined in Trump and subordinated him to their needs. Whether he will stay in harness remains to be seen.

Trump removed ultra-rightist Steve Bannon from the Principals Committee of the National Security Council, thus bowing to the pressure of the Wall Street-Pentagon coalition, led in this instance by Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser. In doing so, he denied that Bannon had been his strategist. “I’m my own strategist,” declared Trump.

The problem with that statement is that Trump does not have a strategic cell in his brain. He can’t think politically beyond what he said yesterday.

Trump’s previous positions have been the result of blustering election demagogy. He has uttered positions that no serious imperialist politician could possibly follow through on. The applause lines that gratified his ego and won over gullible voters during the election campaign have now clashed with the hard realities of the problems of U.S. imperialism at home and abroad. However, Trump is so dense and so vain that he clung to these positions for dear life. Finally, he had to be put straight by the capitalist establishment.

Tweeting baloney

Take Trump’s belligerent, war-like posture toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Trump tweeted recently about the DPRK and its drive to obtain an intercontinental ballistic missile that can be armed with an atomic warhead.

“That’s not going to happen,” tweeted Trump. In another tweet Trump said the DPRK is “looking for trouble” and he warned that “if China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them.” (New York Times, April 17)

These were clear threats to use force against the DPRK. To underscore the threat, the Pentagon sent an aircraft carrier squadron, accompanied by Aegis missile ships, off the coast of the Korean peninsula. Washington made vague but menacing threats to “take action” if the DPRK carried out a nuclear test.

Trump — and Obama before him — has adamantly refused any negotiations with the DPRK unless it shows signs that it will give up its nuclear weapons program.

Brass rethinking negotiations

But listen to National Security Adviser McMaster speaking on a recent Sunday talk show: “It’s really the consensus with the president, our key allies in the regions … that this problem is coming to a head,” said the general. “And so it’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.” (ABC News This Week, April 16)

Take the position put forward by Vice President Mike Pence while visiting the demilitarized zone in south Korea on April 17. According to the New York Times, Pence blustered that north Korea should not test “the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region.” Yet he also noted that Washington was seeking security “through peaceable means, through negotiations.”

Whether or not the peaceful language of McMaster and Pence was meant as a gesture to China without expressing real White House policy remains to be seen.

But the socialist government of the DPRK did precisely what Pence warned against. The government of Kim Jong Un defied all the blustering war-mongering of the Trump White House and the Pentagon, proudly staging a massive military parade on the 105th birthday of the founder of the DPRK, Kim Il Sung, complete with an array of  intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Pyongyang stands up to Trump and Pentagon

The DPRK stood up to military threats and the presence of a U.S. naval armada in its waters. The leadership has taken into consideration the lessons of Iraq and Libya. The U.S. imperialists used the pretext of looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to plan a massive attack, which ended in the murder of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The DPRK is also well aware of the lesson of Libya, whose leader Moammar al-Gadhafi gave up his nuclear program; Libya was later invaded and he was brutally murdered by pro-U.S. forces.

The New York Times noted: “North Korea could hardly drop these [nuclear] programs without understandably fearing an attack. Disarmament, in this view, would invite annihilation.” (New York Times, April 17)

This also speaks to the fraudulent slogan of a “denuclearized Korean peninsula,” which Washington and its allies are always promoting. The only nuclear weapons actually on the Korean peninsula belong to the DPRK. The U.S. does not need nuclear weapons in south Korea. The Pentagon has surrounded the DPRK with a “ring of fire,” including nuclear-armed submarines, nuclear-armed planes on aircraft carriers and nuclear-capable bombers at bases from Japan to Guam to Hawaii, as well as island bases throughout the region. A “denuclearized peninsula” means a disarmed DPRK.

So Trump’s flip-flop on the DPRK, as espoused by McMaster and Pence, is rooted in hard military reality. Trump tweeted that the U.S. would “deal with” the DPRK. But the military explained to him that there is no good option for U.S. imperialism in north Korea so long as Pyongyang remains steadfast in the face of nuclear blackmail.

Trump and China

Trump has publicly declared that the Chinese government is going to “help on north Korea,” so he pulled back from naming China as a currency manipulator. Such a declaration was part of his anti-China campaign. He also promised to slap tariffs on Chinese goods sold in this country. This was when he was preaching to his followers about how China was “stealing jobs” and “cheating on trade.”

The truth is that he has been forced to reject his own and Bannon’s anti-China line by financiers like Gary Cohn, head of Trump’s National Economic Council and president and CEO of Goldman Sachs for 10 years. Cohn and his Goldman Sachs cohorts, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, have also explained to him that Janet Yellen, head of the Federal Reserve Board, is a favorite of Wall Street. She has funnelled billions of dollars to the banks, allegedly to “save the economy.”

Said Reuters on April 16: “Apparently paying more heed to Cohn and other moderates on his team, Trump last week said he was open to reappointing Janet Yellen as Federal Reserve chairman when her term is up and he also held back from naming China a currency manipulator.

“Both stances marked a reversal from his campaign when Trump criticized Yellen and vowed to label China a currency manipulator on ‘day one’ of his administration, a move that could lead to punitive duties on Chinese goods.

“Chinese authorities, faced with an insult from a foreign leader as the ruling Communist Party prepares for elections of top positions later this year, eventually would have slapped steep retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exporters that send more than $100 billion a year of goods to the Asian country. U.S. manufacturers’ profits and stock prices would take a big hit.”

The designation of Cohn from Goldman Sachs as a “moderate” paints him with a kindly brush. Finance capital in general, and Goldman Sachs in particular, is just as aggressive and ruthless in pursuit of profit as the Pentagon is in pursuit of conquest. They are two adventurist arms of the same ruling class.

Cohn, meaning Goldman Sachs, told Trump it would not be a good idea to start a trade war or a currency war with the second-largest economy on earth. The Chinese economy is growing at an annual rate of 6.9 percent, while U.S. capitalism can barely eke out 2 percent growth.

China and Korea

As for China helping the U.S. on “taming” the DPRK, it is worthwhile noting that for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, it is impossible to ignore the contrast between south and north Korea.

The north is not threatening China militarily one bit. But the south Korean puppets of U.S. imperialism are enthusiastically and hastily rushing to deploy the Pentagon’s THAAD anti-missile system. THAAD has powerful radar that can reach into China and spy on Chinese missile installations. The Chinese government has vigorously warned against this deployment and has said it would upset the “strategic balance” in the region. Seoul and Washington have ignored China’s concerns.

In Beijing the military and the political high command must be truly worrying about the possibility of having a pro-imperialist regime on their border. In the long run, China cannot afford to undermine the DPRK. It will be compelled to resist U.S. aggression against the government of Kim Jong Un.

The crisis in Korea, like the economic and geopolitical crises for U.S. imperialism around the globe, cannot be tweeted away nor can they be overcome by military means. U.S. imperialism is a colossus with feet of clay. Trump is finding that out the hard way.

Goldstein is author of Low-Wage Capitalism: Colossus with Feet of Clay and Capitalism at a Dead End, available from all major booksellers.