The Noise: Trump’s tweeted barnyard epithet, his master class in paranoid politics given during a press conference with the Finnish president, his reported musings on creating alligator-and-snake-filled moats to chomp on undocumented immigrants. These are the marks of a madman, not a leader; and one day they will be fodder for historians attempting to decipher the cultural morass of Trumpism.
But on a day-to-day basis, even as the tweeter in chief implodes in full public view, the Signal—the actions seriously impacting day-to-day reality—goes on apace. A lot’s been happening this week.
Take, for example, the data showing that America’s manufacturing is in meltdown, with factory expansion at its weakest since the onset of the Great Recession more than a decade ago. And, partly in response to that data, partly in response to Trump’s escalating trade war against the EU, partly in response to a growing sense that the wheels are coming off the international system, the stock market has tanked over the past week. Trump’s Noise response has been to rant against the Federal Reserve; don’t be taken in by his distractions for a minute. The Signal is that his erratic policy-by-tweet is starting to have a calamitous impact on the global economy.
At some point a Trump-triggered recession will settle in like a fog, and when it does, this administration’s escalating attacks on what remains of the social safety net will come home to roost. If hunger increases, for example, Trump’s ongoing efforts to limit eligibility for SNAP (food stamps) will result in increased numbers of people missing meals or relying on charity food lines. The most recent attempts are marketed as simply a “modernization” of how household expenses are calculated. But anti-poverty advocates estimate that, if implemented, 19 percent of recipients would see reduced benefits, and several thousand families would lose access to the program entirely. That’s on top of the cuts that have already been proposed.
Meanwhile, on the environment the administration has continued its assault on expert advice, discontinuing two more panels that, over the past decade, have provided scientific input on marine life and how to tackle the problem of invasive species. Why let little things like facts and evidence stand in the way of deregulation, ramped-up pollution, and profits for big business?
As for telecommunications, this week the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit upheld FCC rules from 2017 essentially overturning the principle of net neutrality. That’s a huge loss for consumers and small businesses, and a huge win for the Internet giants. There was, however, at least some good news in that ruling: The court allowed California and other states the right to craft stronger protections than those mandated by the feds. In the long run this will further the shift toward the states as guarantors of consumer and human rights in an era of malignant federal policy-making.
Finally, pay attention to Trump’s escalating efforts to stack the judicial system with white supremacists. There’s a battle royal brewing over the nomination of the deeply conservative Steven Menashi to fill the seat once occupied by civil rights icon Thurgood Marshall on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Impeachment is, quite rightly, dominating the headlines these days. But don’t forget to heed the Signal too. The Trump wrecking ball is still swinging in full force.