These are immensely dangerous developments which threaten to weaken this country’s moral standing in the world, imperil the planet and reverse years of slow but steady gains by marginalized or impoverished Americans. But, chilling as they are, these radically wrongheaded policy choices are not, in fact, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency.
What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.
Here’s a shocker: A Texas Republican used the Bible to justify doing something that would hurt thousands of people. We’re used to that when it comes to women who need reproductive health care, but it’s been a while since someone cited the Bible to go after people on food stamps.
Earlier this week, during a House Agriculture Committee hearing about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps low income people purchase food, Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX) cited 2 Thessalonians 3:10 as reason to cut benefits to people who need them. That verse says, as Arrington put it, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
But he’s making a huge mistake in his interpretation of the verse, according to theologians who spoke with the Washington Post. In the Bible, they’re talking about people who can work but choose not to. In real life, SNAP benefits often help people who can’t work due to disabilities and mental illness.
Not that Arrington seemed to care.
“Franz Kafka lives… he works at Bank of America.”
Judge Christopher Klein’s words kick off an incredible ruling in a federal bankruptcy court in California last week, condemning Bank of America for a long nightmare of a foreclosure against a couple named Erik and Renee Sundquist. Klein ordered BofA to pay a whopping $46 million in damages, with the bulk of the money going to consumer attorney organizations and public law schools, in hopes of ensuring these abuses never happen again—or at least making them less likely.
The shame, I think, is that he could have been a leftie. There is a strong streak of social justice that runs through him. Or social something. Chippiness is part of it. But that’s no bad thing. But he’s not a leftie. And in the US, the permanent revolution is well under way. Steve Bannon is masterminding a silent coup: the institutions of government are being systematically dismantled. The relation of citizens to the state is being re-engineered. Trump, the businessman, is redefining them as consumers. Last week the US senate approved the right of telecoms companies to sell their customers’ browsing history – a huge step forward in renegotiating the relationship between individuals and their rights from that of democratic participants to end users. This is government as platform monopoly. Government as modelled on Google and Facebook. And what’s coming is platform democracy, where the company/government retains the right to change the user agreement at any time. And it’s data – the intimate information of you, your personal life, your history, your relationships, your dreams and desires, your thoughts – that’s the source of their power, legitimacy, capital. Harvested, captured, sold, fed into the panopticon: total surveillance, total control, total power.