Deny ‘Til You Die

Esquire

Deny ‘Til You Die

Scott Pruitt and Co. can talk all they want. The storms are coming.

By Charles P. Pierce    June 20, 2017

It seems that it’s too hot in Phoenix these days for airplanes to fly, or at least that’s what USA Today tells us.

Extreme heat affects a plane’s ability to take off. Hot air is less dense than cold air, and the hotter the temperature, the more speed a plane needs to lift off. A runway might not be long enough to allow a plane to achieve the necessary extra speed.

The Phoenix area is going to experience heat in excess of 115 degrees for a while. This is not merely uncomfortable; it’s damned near uninhabitable. But at least, unlike Portugal, Phoenix isn’t burning down at the moment. From the BBC:

The week’s highest temperatures of around 38C (100F) are expected on Tuesday and together with windy conditions could reignite fires already quelled. Civil protection officials say although 70% of the fire is under control, what remains is a source “of great concern”. At least 64 people have died in the fires since Saturday. The latest of the victims was identified as a 40-year-old firefighter who died in hospital. Many died inside their cars or a short distance away from them as they tried to flee. More than 130 other people have been injured.

Here is where I remind you that we have a president* committed, at least rhetorically, to reviving the dead coal industry, and who was loudly applauded by the members of his party—and quietly applauded by the CEOs who own them—for pulling the US out of the Paris climate accords, and who installed at the Environmental Protection Agency an extraction industry sublet who doesn’t even believe that Carbon dioxide and climate change have anything to do with each other. In turn, this cluck appointed a former lobbyist for various polluters to head the enforcement division of the EPA, which, in any case, is savaged in the new proposed federal budget.

Hugely anomalous and destructive weather events are going to be the new normal in no small part because a hugely anomalous and destructive political event took place last November. Some day, that whole election may be looked on as a crime against humanity.

Oh yeah, Louisiana has the first bull’s-eye of the season painted on it.

The Southwest is broiling. Are you paying attention, President Trump?

CNN

The Southwest is broiling. Are you paying attention, President Trump?

By Jill Filipovic        June 20, 2017

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Jill Filipovic: There’s plenty of reason to believe extreme heat in West is climate change portent. Yet Trump, many in GOP continue to deny reality.

She says they are mistaken to believe their base is with them on this: they will be as affected by ruined crops, rising sea level as everyone else.

(CNN) Record temperatures. Roads cracking and buckling. Planes that can’t take off. Power knocked out. Wildfires raging. These are just some of the trying conditions currently roiling America’s West Coast, which is in the midst of a record-breaking heatwave.

Nervous about how these disruptions will negatively impact the economy and even cost human life? You should be. And there’s more to come.

Changing weather patterns are the new normal, thanks to decades of trashing the environment and a refusal from many in the party currently controlling Washington, the Republicans — and their corporate patrons — to even acknowledge climate change as a reality, let alone do anything about it.

Entire nations may soon be under water. Mega-cities that are home to hundreds of millions are set to drown, leaving huge numbers of people stranded, constraining already-limited resources, fueling violence and competition over those resources, and creating a whole new category of need: climate refugees. A delayed flight out of Phoenix will soon be the least of our worries.

Yes, of course, heat waves happen, and the causes are complex. There is not a direct A to B line from “pollute the environment” and “die in a scorching June.” But there is virtually no real dissent that the Earth is getting warmer. The ice at the poles of our oceans is melting. Irregular and dangerous weather patterns are increasing. Sea levels are rising.

We have polluted, depleted and abused this planet so badly that there is much damage that can’t be undone. But there remain ways to rein in the ills we continue to reap — and ways to at least slow our progress toward a chaotic and barren global hellscape.

Even if you are a climate change skeptic and doubt human agency in this crisis — if you write off the consensus of the overwhelming majority of scientists who study this issue — now that we are regularly faced with weather extremes, why not at least entertain the idea that scientists are onto something?

And if you allow that you just might be wrong — that climate change could be real — how about reconciling to the idea that the downside of doing nothing is so immensely catastrophic that it’s our immediate obligation to act?

Let’s say the climate change skeptics get their way and we don’t act according to the pleas of environmentalists and scientists. If the doubters are right, then the upside is that we save a good deal of money on palliative measures. If they’re wrong, though, and if people who study the environment professionally are in fact better able to predict its condition than businessmen and politicians, the downside is massive — many will die.

What marginally sane person would ever take that gamble?

Our President and many in the Republican Party, it turns out.

For one example, candidate Trump made a campaign pledge to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, and as President has settled instead for appointing an administrator who is cozy with the oil and gas industry; who is reluctant to acknowledge the human causes of global warming; who has announced cuts that essentially gut the agency that stands between Americans and environmental disaster. For his part, the President has signed an executive order targeting regulations that had aimed to slow climate change.

For another, Trump has backed the country out of the Paris climate agreement — a move wildly opposed by Americans!

This is just a short list (there is more) of the steps this administration is taking to undo climate protections.

In all, it represents a shocking combination of greed and shortsightedness, compounded by an apparent urge to appeal to the worst impulses of the Trump base — people he and Republicans seem to assume are motivated by an urge to stick it to Prius-driving egghead liberals, even if doing so means their grandchildren might suffer or perish in a world of flooded metropolises, un-breathable air and expansive, unlivable deserts.

Surely this calculation is wrong: Republican voters whose livelihoods depend on the ability to harvest corn crops in Iowa or ship goods to their store in Arizona (or who live near the water and can’t afford flood insurance that’s more than their mortgage) can take a look around and realize this “see no evil” strategy is going to hurt them, and soon.

Indeed, that the American right has transformed climate change into a partisan issue defies all reason and rational self-interest. Climate change will have the largest and most immediate impacts on the world’s poor — not a demographic the GOP has shown much concern for. But make no mistake — rich or poor we all share the earth, and the catastrophic impacts of defiling it are coming for all of us.

If you’re stranded in Phoenix right now, or worried about an elderly acquaintance in California, or are without power in the Bay Area, or nervous about a wildfire taking your home, you can thank the long list of politicians who do the bidding of polluting corporations instead of their constituents and protect profit over the environment.

You can thank the President who tore up the Paris climate agreement. And you can show your displeasure by refusing to support candidates who don’t take climate change seriously, and don’t do whatever they can to keep the world inhabitable.

Anything less is global suicide.

Report: 1 In 5 Plants In Danger Of Extinction

MintPress News

Report: 1 In 5 Plants In Danger Of Extinction

The number one cause of plant extinction, according to the study, is habitat destruction.

By Amelia Kinney     June 20, 2017

Experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew have just published their second ever State of the World’s Plants report. They reveal there are 390,000 known species of plants, with over 30,000 being used by humans. Unfortunately, the report also says that 1 in 5 plant species are in danger of extinction.

“Plants are absolutely fundamental to humankind. Plants provide us with everything – food, fuel, medicines, timber and they are incredibly important for our climate regulation. Without plants, we would not be here. We are facing some devastating realities if we do not take stock and re-examine our priorities and efforts.” said Prof. Kathy Willis, director of science at Kew.

The biggest driving factor behind plant extinction is the loss of habitat. Loss of habitat is caused by farming, deforestation and infrastructure expansion. Climate change isn’t currently a major contributor, but the report warns that it will have a dramatic impact on plants within the next 30 years.

On a positive note, new scientific discoveries offer hope. “I find that really encouraging and exciting. We are still finding new species of trees, new species of food: five new species of onion were found last year, for example.” says Prof. Willis.

She went on to say, “There are huge areas of the world where we just don’t know what is growing there. They may hold the key to the future of food. Genetic diversity in our foods is becoming poorer and poorer.”

The report references the global challenges of “population size, land-use change, plant diseases and pests” and says preserving biodiversity is urgent, as well as finding and conserving wild relatives of crops.

Major agriculture companies like Monsanto put world food security in jeopardy by propagating homogenous crops, known as “mono-cropping”. This is in contradiction with natural evolutionary processes which promote strong diverse crops with area-specific defenses and characteristics.

“As the global population rises and the pressure increases on our global food system, so does our dependence on the global crops and production systems that feed us. The price of failure of any of these crops will become very high.” says Luigi Guarino, senior scientist at the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

According to the report, “Having access to this large and diverse genetic pool is essential if we are to furnish crops with the valuable traits that enable resilience to climate change, pests and diseases, and ultimately underpin global food security.”

Watch State of the World’s Plants 2017 by Kew:

America’s Oligarchs Will Control 70% Of National Wealth By 2021

MintPress News

America’s Oligarchs Will Control 70% Of National Wealth By 2021

A new study by the Boston Consulting Group has found that while wealth inequality is growing on a global scale, it has kicked into overdrive in the United States – where America’s 1% are expected to control 70 percent of the nation’s private wealth by the year 2021.

By Whitney Webb      June 20, 2017

America’s rich just won’t quit getting richer, according to a new study released in mid-June by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a global management consulting firm. The study, which seeks to analyze the global wealth management industry, as well as the evolution of private wealth, uncovered some startling statistics that suggest that global financial inequality will grow significantly by the year 2021.

The firm found that the already massive gap between the world’s wealthy elite – the approximately 18 million households that hold at least than $1 million in assets – and everyone else is continuing to widen at a remarkable rate. The estimated 70 million people who make up these households were found to control 45 percent of the world’s $166.5 trillion in wealth. And in just four more years, it is estimated that they will control more than half of the world’s wealth, despite representing less than 1 percent of the world’s current population.

However, while rising inequality is a global phenomenon, it is especially pronounced in the United States. While wealth inequality in the U.S. is by no means an unknown phenomenon, the U.S. is significantly more unequal than most other countries, with the nation’s elite currently holding 63 percent of the private wealth. The U.S. elite’s share of national wealth is also growing much faster than the global average, with millionaires and billionaires expected to control an estimated 70 percent of the nation’s wealth by 2021.

The U.S.’ high wealth inequality largely owes to post-World War II government policies that have seen almost a quarter of all national income go to its wealthiest residents. Meanwhile, wages for the majority of Americans have remained stagnant for decades – in contrast to the richest Americans, their future economic outlook is incredibly bleak by comparison.

The U.S. is also home to more billionaires and millionaires than anywhere else in the world, which partly explains how U.S. policy has come to favor them over the years. According to Bloomberg, two out of five millionaires and billionaires live in the United States – and their ranks are growing.

While the world’s richest citizens may be pleased by the results of BCG’s recent study, there is plenty for them to be worried about if history is any indicator. Indeed, history shows that societies with drastic wealth inequality are much more unstable and more likely to experience drastic economic failure or outright societal collapse.

For instance, a 2014 study conducted by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center noted that over-consumption and wealth inequality have occurred in the collapse of every civilization over the last 5,000 years. That same study also warned that rising inequality could easily lead to an unsustainable use of resources and the “irreversible collapse” of global industrial civilization.

This warning seems particularly prescient, given that wealth inequality in the U.S. is well above that of past civilizations that eventually collapsed as a result of these factors. For example, at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire, the top 1 percent of the Roman elite controlled just 16 percent of the society’s wealth, a measly figure compared to the percentage commanded by the 1-percenters of the U.S.

While the BCG study paints a rosy picture for the world’s millionaires and billionaires, particularly in the United States, they should be gravely concerned that their growing accumulation of wealth could have drastic consequences – not just for those poorer than them, but for everyone.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress contributor who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, 21st Century Wire, and True Activist among others – she currently resides in Southern Chile.

Donald Trump’s Approval Rating Plummets to New Low as Republicans Grow Wary Amid Russia Investigation

Newsweek

Donald Trump’s Approval Rating Plummets to New Low as Republicans Grow Wary Amid Russia Investigation

T. Marcin, Newsweek June 20, 2017

Another day, another low point for Donald Trump. The president’s approval rating, which has proved historically bad since he took office, has sunk again.

The latest survey from CBS News out Tuesday found his approval rating had hit a new low of 36 percent, while 57 percent disapproved of the job he is doing. Trump’s approval rating has declined over the last few months in the CBS News poll. Forty-three percent approved of him in early April, a number that dropped to 41 percent by late April and now has hit the new low of 36 percent in late June. The previous low for Trump was 39 percent in February.

Trump’s support among Republicans might have been a factor in the drop. Seventy-two percent of GOP respondents approved of the president’s job performance—which sounds like a lot but actually represents an 11-percentage-point fall compared with April.

The poll found that the investigation into Trump’s potential ties with Russia, the country that interfered in the 2016 election as it aimed to help get the GOP candidate into office, has dragged down his popularity. His firing of FBI Director James Comey and comments suggesting the move was connected to the bureau’s Russia probe, as well as his near-constant focus on the investigation, might not be helping him with the American people. Just 28 percent of respondents approved of the way he’s handled the probe, according to CBS, while 63 percent disapprove. About one-third said Trump’s approach on the process has left them thinking less of the president. Fifty-seven percent of GOP respondents approved of Trump’s handling of the Russia investigation.

Thirty-nine percent of all respondents thought the Russia investigation was a critical national security issue, while 32 percent thought it was a distraction. Twenty-seven percent thought it was a serious issue but not as serious as other issues.

The CBS News survey, conducted by SSRS, sampled 1,117 adults across the country though telephone interviews from June 15 through June 18. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for the full sample.

Other recent surveys haven’t brought good news for Trump either. The tracking poll from the generally right-leaning Rasmussen Reports, a survey often cited by the president on Twitter, found Trump’s approval rating had fallen 2 percentage points over the weekend, to 48 percent. Gallup tracking poll, meanwhile, pegged Trump’s approval at just 38 percent Monday, closing in on the president’s lowest point in the survey—35 percent—which he hit in late March.

The weighted average from data-focused website FiveThirtyEight had Trump’s approval rating at 38.7 percent Tuesday morning, while his disapproval stood at 55.3 percent. FiveThirtyEight aggregates public polls to come up with the average figure and accounts for each survey’s quality, timeliness, sample size and any partisan leanings.

Supreme Court could restore the power of your vote

Sun Times Editorial

Supreme Court could restore the power of your vote

Sun-Times Editorial Board     June 19, 2017 

If you were properly appalled by the shooting of a Republican congressman on a baseball field last week, we expect you were cheered by the news Monday that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider a key reason American elections have grown so partisan and vitriolic.

It is safe to say that the uncompromising politics and overheated rhetoric of our times contributed to the dark atmosphere in which an unstable man went on a shooting spree against Republicans. He wounded five people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana.

EDITORIAL

It is also fair to say that this polarization in politics, in which increasing numbers of congressmen and state legislators answer only to the hard-core ideologues of their respective party’s base, is the direct result of how voting districts are drawn. Legislatures across the country increasingly draw boundaries in a painfully contorted manner — what’s known as gerrymandering — to create extreme partisan advantages. In a gerrymandered “safe” seat, an incumbent faces no serious challenger in a general election. The only race that matters is the party primary, where voters are likely to reward the candidate who is the most uncompromising.

It was because of gerrymandering that Republicans in the House earlier this year approved a draconian new health care bill, a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, without bothering to work with Democrats. They didn’t have to. They know they will be rewarded, not punished, in next year’s primary elections for refusing to budge on this issue and others, including tax reform and immigration policy.

It is also because of gerrymandering, in part, that Illinois suffers from political paralysis. Dozens of state representatives and senators have little incentive to work across party lines on a compromise state budget because they represent lopsidedly Democratic or Republican districts. They don’t fear the voters. Thanks to gerrymandering, they picked their voters. State senate and house districts are so gerrymandered that in almost 60 percent of all races last fall, the incumbent ran unopposed for reelection.

Many legislators in Springfield fear only party bosses and people with money. They worry, above all, about House Speaker Mike Madigan and Gov. Bruce Rauner, who could run a well-funded challenger against them in a primary. They do the leaders’ bidding, not the voter’s.

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear the case of Gill v. Whitford, in which it is alleged that the Wisconsin Legislature and governor gerrymandered the state’s legislative map so completely that Democrats have been robbed of the power of their vote. The proof is in the numbers: Last fall, slightly fewer than half of all Wisconsin voters voted for Donald Trump for president, but Republicans won two out of every three state House seats.

If the Supreme Court rules that there is a constitutional limit to how much party-based gerrymandering a legislature can get away with, that could reshape dramatically the way district lines are drawn following the 2020 Census. The court previously has ruled that race-based gerrymandering is unacceptable, but it has never ruled on party-based gerrymandering, though the practice grows ever more common and sophisticated with every new clever software program.

That growing sophistication may be why the high court has decided to wade in now. Computer analysis could provide the court with, in the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2004, the “limited and precise” rationale necessary to set rules.

Thanks to computer analysis, it is possible now to count the exact number of “wasted” votes in a gerrymandered district — the votes that went to the candidate who was sure to lose, plus the votes that went to the winning candidate that were in excess of what was needed to win. From this, an “efficiency gap” can be measured, which could be used to set a limit on possible gerrymandering.

After Rep. Scalise was shot last week, Americans by the millions called for a more civil tone in our politics. But raw self-interest today so often works against comity and bipartisanship, especially on primarily election day in a heavily gerrymandered district.

For decades, good government groups in Illinois and elsewhere have worked to end gerrymandering, proposing constitutional amendments and the like. They have been thwarted at every turn by powerful party leaders like Mike Madigan.

Nobody in politics voluntarily gives up power.

If ever there were a job for the Supreme Court, this is it.

Too hot to handle: Study shows Earth’s killer heat worsens

Associated Press

Too hot to handle: Study shows Earth’s killer heat worsens

Seth Borenstein, Associated Press    June 19, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — Killer heat is getting worse, a new study shows.  Deadly heat waves like the one now broiling the American West are bigger killers than previously thought and they are going to grow more frequent, according to a new comprehensive study of fatal heat conditions. Still, those stretches may be less lethal in the future, as people become accustomed to them.

A team of researchers examined 1,949 deadly heat waves from around the world since 1980 to look for trends, define when heat is so severe it kills and forecast the future. They found that nearly one in three people now experience 20 days a year when the heat reaches deadly levels. But the study predicts that up to three in four people worldwide will endure that kind of heat by the end of the century, if global warming continues unabated.

“The United States is going to be an oven,” said Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii, lead author of a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change .

The study comes as much of the U.S. swelters through extended triple-digit heat. Temperatures hit records of 106, 105 and 103 in Santa Rosa, Livermore and San Jose, California on Sunday, as a heat wave was forecast to continue through midweek. In late May, temperatures in Turbat, Pakistan, climbed to about 128 degrees (53.5 degrees Celsius); if confirmed, that could be among the five hottest temperatures reliably measured on Earth, said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of Weather Underground.

Last year 22 countries or territories set or tied records for their hottest temperatures on record, said Masters, who wasn’t part of the study. So far this year, seven have done so.

“This is already bad. We already know it,” Mora said. “The empirical data suggest it’s getting much worse.”

Mora and colleagues created an interactive global map with past heat waves and computer simulations to determine how much more frequent they will become under different carbon dioxide pollution scenarios. The map shows that under the current pollution projections, the entire eastern United States will have a significant number of killer heat days. Even higher numbers are predicted for the Southeast U.S., much of Central and South America, central Africa, India, Pakistan, much of Asia and Australia.

Mora and outside climate scientists said the study and map underestimate past heat waves in many poorer hot areas where record-keeping is weak. It’s more accurate when it comes to richer areas like the United States and Europe.

If pollution continues as it has, Mora said, by the end of the century the southern United States will have entire summers of what he called lethal heat conditions.

A hotter world doesn’t necessarily mean more deaths in all locales, Mora said. That’s because he found over time the same blistering conditions — heat and humidity — killed fewer people than in the past, mostly because of air conditioning and governments doing a better job keeping people from dying in the heat. So while heat kills and temperatures are rising, people are adapting, though mostly in countries that can afford it. And those that can’t afford it are likely to get worse heat in the future.

“This work confirms the alarming projections of increasing hot days over coming decades — hot enough to threaten lives on a very large scale,” said Dr. Howard Frumkin, a University of Washington environmental health professor who wasn’t part of the study.

Mora documented more than 100,000 deaths since 1980, but said there are likely far more because of areas that didn’t have good data. Not all of them were caused by man-made climate change.

Just one heat wave — in Europe in 2003 — killed more than 70,000 people.

This Trump Tarbaby Will Leave a Permanent Stain on the GOP

This Trump Tarbaby Will Leave a Permanent Stain on the GOP

John Hanno      June 16, 2017

The best all of Trump’s apologists, just like Sen. Marco Rubio, can muster in defense of the Trump administration’s run-away train wreck, is that he’s not a typical politician. All the stumbling and bumbling is only because he doesn’t do things like Presidents have always done in the past; in spite of the hundreds of times Trump had denigrated “all” politicians because they really needed to conduct themselves more like successful businessmen like Trump.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says of Trump, after it was discovered Trump tried to get FBI Director Comey to shut down the Russia investigation: “The President is new at this….he’s new to government….he probably wasn’t steeped in the long running protocols that established the relationships between DOJ, FBI and White Houses….he’s just new to this….”

But did Ryan and these Republican apologists in Congress and in the far right media give President Obama the same consideration and latitude? Would they have afforded the same courtesy to Hillary, if she had been elected but were conducting herself like Trump is now? The answer is a resounding no. These highpocrits would be conducting dozens of congressional hearings, 6 days a week and on Sundays and holidays.

No one first elected as President of The United States, has previous experience for the job; but they typically hire consultants and cabinet members who do have previous experience. And they council with experts and rely on career government employees to get them up to speed.

The Republicans handed Barack Obama an economy in free fall. Banks, the housing industry and businesses were collapsing and we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. Obama put his nose to the grindstone, hired capable experts and with the help of a Democratic controlled Congress, eventually dug us out of the Great Recession, all in spite of the Republican conspiracy to oppose him at every turn. He worked hard (and actually studied and read books) and based his corrective policies on facts, not the flawed alternative reality and conspiracy theories or conflicted and disproved dogma Trump and the Republicans rely on.

But Trump has so denigrated, and has such a low opinion of, politicians and career federal employees, that he’s clearly shot himself in the foot by hiring sycophants and family members to run the most complex organization on earth. He thinks he knows more than anyone, more than the intelligence community, more than the generals, more than budget experts in the Congressional Budget Office, more than the scientists, more than legislators and their staffs, more than the judiciary, more than leaders throughout the world, especially our historical democratic allies. His self promotion and aggrandizement is boundless.

But when have you ever heard of an American President’s spokesperson (Sarah Huckabee Sanders) actually deem it necessary to come out and say: “I can definitively say the president is not a liar and I think it’s frankly insulting that question would be asked;” probably because a vast majority of Americans and folks around the world are convinced Trump has lost any shred of credibility and believe he’s the most dishonest person they have ever encountered. Its not surprising his approval ratings are in the mid 30’s and disapproval ratings are more than 60%.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that Trump’s business acumen and aura is as symbolic and unsubstantial, as the TRUMP brand displayed on properties around the world. He’s obviously not as rich nor as savvy as he claims and was probably on the verge of another business bankruptcy, until the Russian devils bailed him out and sunk their fangs into his business empire and soul. This Russian/Trump saga could be the next Coen Brothers sequel to the current Season 3 Fargo series on FX.

His campaign boasts and promises as a great builder, is as credible as the real estate properties that someone else actually builds and then pays Trump to put his name on. He’s spent the first half year of his first and only term tearing down President Obama’s programs and accomplishments. Trump Inc. should be more appropriately, in the demolition business. He’s not a builder; he’s a destroyer. What has he actually built or accomplished?

Trump fired United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, because he was investigating Russian money laundering in the New York real estate business. He fired FBI director James Comey because he was stepping up the Russian hacking and collusion investigation of Trump’s campaign and administration. Trump obviously has a lot to hide. All he’s clearly building is a classic case of obstruction of justice that closely resembles the Watergate cover-up.

Everyone seems to agree that the most remarkable and telling theme, is that Trump hasn’t once asked or tasked anyone in his cabinet or the intelligence departments to get to the bottom of the Russian interference in our election. Its seems he couldn’t care less.

Trump said he would be “100% willing to testify under oath” about his meetings with James Comey. I guess I’ll believe it when I see him in front of the cameras, taking the pledge to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

As in the past, and in spite of the Trump brand accruing a patina of tarnish and scandal, Trump personally, will probably survive America’s national disgrace financially in tact, as he did from his six bankruptcies and the Trump university scandal (minus the $25 million). Trump’s conflicts of interests, and entanglement with the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, are already paying dividends to his failing empire.

Unless all these investigations are able to prove Trump and his family engaged in Russian money laundering schemes or shady real estate deals, Trump will end up bloodied, bruised and thoroughly defrocked, but probably not broke or in prison. That probably can’t be said for all the Trump administration folks caught up in the scandals and cover-up shenanigans. They’re already hiring defense attorneys. Even their defense attorneys are hiring defense attorneys. Trump voters didn’t know the jobs Trump promised were all going to Washington lawyers. Historical note: Nixon was able to resign but dozens (I think 59) of the conspirators in his administration went to jail. And all those millions in legal fees are probably still not paid off. I’m guessing the plea deals are already in the planning stages.

Trump will call it all fake news and blame the media. He and his apologists will stonewall and obfuscate, they’re even attempting to somehow implicate Hillary Clinton in the Russia Thing; and Trump may even try to fire Special prosecutor Robert Mueller. But sooner or later, we just might get the whole truth.

In the mean time, the folks who went all in on Trump will suffer. Obamacare will get worse and may ultimately fail because of Republican tactics to defund the Affordable Care Act. Trump and the Republican controlled congress will go to any extreme to give the super rich their tax cuts by cutting Medicaid and health care subsidies for the poor, elderly and disabled. Workers and the middle class, even those with employer subsidized health insurance, will get the same crappy substandard health insurance they had before the ACA was passed, with double digit increases, skyrocketing deductibles and cancellations because of pre-existing conditions. And the insurance industry will be back to skimming 30% off the top of America’s health care costs instead of the 15% mandated under Obamacare. And good luck with any legitimate type of tax reform or infrastructure plan. And I wouldn’t count on those coal jobs coming back. Hillary and Bernie at lease had a plan to replace those lost jobs.

These pretenders and evil doers will try to reverse the progress the Obama administration made towards sustainable energy and slowing climate change and global warming. They’ll embarrass America in the eyes of the world by exiting the Paris Agreement, they will bend over backwards for fossil fuel and corporate polluters, they will try to turn back the clock on progress made in the Cuba accord and try to overturn Dodd-Frank, but the 2018 elections are right around the corner. Hopefully they will be so bottled up with the criminal investigations, the amount of damage they do will be limited.

And the loyal Trump supporters may be very slowly coming to their senses. Its reported that the super die hard Trumpers have gone from 30% down to close to 20%.

Unfortunately we can’t say the same for the Republicans in congress. What will it take before they find the courage displayed by Republicans during the Watergate and Iran Contra scandals? It could be the damage done to the Republican party by this Trump Tarbaby will be far worse than Watergate.     John Hanno

Newsweek

Neil Buchanan: Is Trump Naive? Stupid? Evil? Or All of the Above?

Neil H. Buchanan,  Newsweek    June 18, 2017

This article first appeared on the Dorf on Law sire.

Donald Trump is wrong almost all of the time about almost everything.

He lies constantly, and even though he is constantly being caught in his transparent lies, he never admits error, pressing ever forward on his destructive path.

Does he do this because he knows nothing about the world? (That is, is he naive ?)

Alternatively, maybe it is because he is incapable of logical thinking. (Is he stupid ?)

Or is it instead because he has horrible policy goals? (Is he evil ?)

All three of those explanations fit, and then some. As Michael Dorf argued in a recent column, normal human beings can be “evil, stupid, or ignorant,” but “Trump is not a normal human being. He is not even a normal but evil, stupid, or ignorant human being. Trump is Trump.”

In order to understand how Trump is different, we first need to understand what it means to be normal yet wrong in one of those three ways —naive, stupid, or evil. Because those three categories should be sufficient to explain every bad decision, it is important to understand how Trump is a category unto himself.

When Professor Dorf and I were much younger men, we frequently discussed the many ways in which the nation’s then-new president, Ronald Reagan, was wrong. It was a frustrating experience to watch a touchingly naive fool lead the nation in harmful directions, but it certainly created a need to understand exactly what was going wrong.

For me, the issue that helped to clarify how to think about all of this was Reagan’s opposition to imposing economic sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid regime. Led by protests and boycotts on college campuses, politicians on the left at that time were beginning to pressure our reactionary president to force the Botha regime to change its shockingly racist legal and social system.

Reagan resisted, arguing at one point that South Africa was simply in the process of evolving into a civil rights-friendly nation, just as the United States had evolved in the fifties and sixties. This was jaw-droppingly wrong, so much so that it took a great deal of effort to tease out Reagan’s many errors.

One possibility was that Reagan simply did not have the facts necessary to see the situation clearly. As bad as the Jim Crow era had been in the United States, it was obvious that South Africa was not “merely” going through what the U.S. had experienced.

Moreover, Reagan seemed not to know how bad things had been here, even though he had lived through those decades. Saying, “They’ll be fine, just like we figured it out,” could have been explained by complete ignorance about one or both countries. The problem was that, even if Reagan himself believed these fantasies, he surely had access to advisors who should have known otherwise.

If ignorance about the facts was not at work, it was possible instead that Reagan knew the facts but was not smart enough to draw logical conclusions from them. Was there something like 2 + 2 = 5 error at work in Reagan’s head, a reasoning error along the lines of “All men are mortal, Socrates was mortal, therefore all men are Socrates”?

Reagan argued that sanctions would do no good, even though it was clear that South Africa’s government (notwithstanding its claims to the contrary) was being forced to respond to world pressure. The civil rights leaders in South Africa also rejected Reagan’s argument, saying that outside pressure was key to reaching the goal of ending apartheid.

In any case, Reagan’s policy errors did not seem to fit into the category of mere logical folly. What seemed much more likely was that Reagan, who had been supported by American racists and who had perfected Richard Nixon’s ” southern strategy ” to scare white voters away from Democrats, was simply not particularly concerned about the evils of white supremacy (and maybe actually supported racist goals).

In short, Reagan’s bad policy views could be explained by one of three possibilities. He was naive, or he was stupid, or he was evil. He might also have been some combination of the three.

Being a young man, I thought that maybe I was onto something with the naive/stupid/evil framing of policy debates. Admittedly, there was nothing genuinely new in my taxonomy. People have often said things like, “He’s either a fool or a liar,” when trying to explain their opponents’ errors.

Moreover, one has to decide how to treat things like willful ignorance. Is that a fourth category? It turns out, however, that it is easy to explain this as a version of evil, because a person who decides not to gather facts must be doing so in order to avoid facing the consequences of that knowledge. (This is currently seen, for example, in Republicans’ blocking government statisticians from gathering facts about gun violence.)

The naive/stupid/evil taxonomy can also be expressed with different synonyms—ignorant/illogical/malevolent, uninformed/irrational/malicious, and so on—and the order can be changed. Hence, Professor Dorf’s “evil, stupid, or ignorant” rendering of the taxonomy.

In any case, I have noticed over the years the many ways in which people who are unaware of this taxonomy struggle to identify and understand what they are seeing. Sometimes a shorthand is valuable simply for being a shorthand. And the Trump era has left many people struggling to understand what in many cases boils down to that simple triad.

For example, the conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post recently offered an excellent critique of Trump’s ill considered Muslim ban, concluding with this:

One might conclude that the administration is too incompetent or lazy to make [its case in court]. We prefer a different theory: These orders have no national security or other justification, but rather are blatant appeals to prejudice that have no factual, rational basis. No lawyer in the world can defend that in court.

In short, Rubin first considers whether the administration is incompetent or lazy, which are somewhat fuzzy concepts because incompetence can refer either to stupidity or ignorance, and laziness is most likely (at least in Trump’s case) a version of willful ignorance, that is, evil.

By saying that Trump has “no national security justification,” Rubin means that Trump’s argument is not actually “stupid.” That is, there is no logical argument from Trump’s people that says that A (the ban) causes B (less terrorism). They simply assert their conclusion, as opposed to offering a logically fallacious if-then argument.

Why do they do that? Rubin reasonably concludes that Trump is evil because he is appealing to prejudice. He is so focused on getting to an evil outcome—discriminating against people on the basis of religion and national origin—that he will deny reality and not even bother with logical arguments.

An interesting variation on this method of framing the Trump problem was recently offered by the editorial board of The New York Times : “Stupidity, paranoia, malevolence—it’s hard to distinguish among competing explanations for the behavior of people in this administration.”

Paranoia is a particular form of ignorance, because it means that Trump’s people are living in a different reality from the rest of us. (Using “naive” here would sound too much like an excuse, which is why I am calling it ignorance, with all of its connotations.)

As I wrote above, however, I agree with Professor Dorf that Trump is not simply the unique case of a normal person who is somehow always dealing with an incomplete or incorrect set of facts, or who makes logical errors, or who is always acting in bad faith —naive, stupid, or evil. He is his own category.

The reason Trump is different is that there is always the sense (or hope) that the normal people who have supported Trump are making one of more of those three errors—and, most importantly, that they might be open to fixing those errors.

A person who thinks that there was a “war on coal,” for example, might be persuadable if she exited the Fox New alternative fact zone and saw that it is the simple economics of cheap natural gas and other non-conspiratorial factors that explain the decline of coal.

Also, a person who thinks that Trump will bring back manufacturing jobs might, if prompted, notice that Trump has no actual logical argument regarding how he will make that happen.

Even people who are acting on what I am calling evil motivations are not always beyond reach. Many people are able to confront their demons and say, “Wow, I didn’t realize that I was motivated by hatred.”

That is one of the reasons that same-sex marriage has gained such wide acceptance so quickly. Many people thought, “What was I so scared or angry about?” And the world became a meaningfully better place.

It is impossible to imagine anything like that happening with Trump.

Many of us do hold out some hope every day that even some of Trump’s closest advisors will say, “I can’t do this anymore. I tried to deny to myself what was happening, but this is too much.” It is safe to say that that will not happen with Steve Bannon or some others, but some people have said that even hard-core Trumpists like Kellyanne Conway might harbor doubts.

But Trump? Not a chance. He is ignorant, both as a matter of never having learned anything and because he likes it that way. He is stupid, usually not even bothering to make an argument, but making incoherent arguments when he tries. (We will, he says, just start winning again, somehow.) His goals are racist, sexist, and in other ways bigoted, and he is corrupt to boot.

What are we to think when we learn that Trump does not care about whether the Russian government is undermining American democracy? He only cares about whether he will look bad and lose power if the truth comes out.

“Trump is naive, stupid, and evil” simply does not cover it. Trump is Trump, and heaven help us all.

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a professor of law at George Washington University. He teaches tax law, tax policy, contracts, and law and economics. His research addresses the long-term tax and spending patterns of the federal government, focusing on budget deficits, the national debt, health care costs and Social Security.

HuffPost

Donald Trump’s Attorney Marc Kasowitz Hit With Ethics Complaints

Mary Papenfuss, HuffPost    June 17, 2017

Complaints have been lodged with the District of Columbia and New York City Bar Associations against President Donald Trump’s personal defense attorney Marc Kasowitz, calling for an investigation to determine if he has breached rules of professional conduct.

Separate complaints were filed over the week against Kasowitz by the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit government watchdog organization, and by attorney Neil Goldfarb, a former board member of the American Civil Liberties Union. They both allege that Kasowitz may have inappropriately counseled other White House staffers while representing the president, raising conflict-of-interest concerns.

In addition, the CAF complaint alleges that Kasowitz is not currently authorized to practice law in Washington, D.C.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Kasowitz, dismissed the complaints in a statement to Law.com, calling them “obviously politically motivated” and “based on press reports, which were based on anonymous sources.”

Trump has called on his longtime personal attorney to represent him as investigations heat up into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump acknowledged Friday that he is now a target of a probe by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible obstruction of justice linked to the president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

Last week, Kasowitz issued a statement characterizing Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee as very positive for the president (which he spelled “predisent”). He threatened to file legal complaints against Comey because of Comey’s admission that he had given a memo about a meeting with Trump to a friend and asked the friend to give it to a reporter.

Kasowitz, a member of the New York bar, has been advising Trump and reportedly other members of the president’s staff, even though he is not currently authorized to practice law in the District of Columbia, according to the CAF complaint. He told White House aides it was not yet necessary to hire their own private attorneys, The New York Times reported, citing anonymous sources. Such behavior could be construed as a conflict of interest.

“By meeting with White House staff within the White House complex and offering the legal opinion that those staffers need not hire counsel, [Kasowitz] may have engaged in the unauthorized practice of law,” the CAF complaint states. “In addition, by advising White House staff members, who are not represented by counsel and who have a reasonable possibility of having interests that conflict with those of Mr. Kasowitz’s client, President Trump, Mr. Kasowitz appears to have violated” a rule of professional conduct concerning conflicts of interest.

Goldfarb similarly pointed out in his complaint that “there is obviously a very reasonable possibility that [aides’] personal interests are in conflict with those of President Trump’s.”

The complaints from CAF and Goldfarb come as another of Trump’s private attorneys, Mark Cohen, confirmed to The Washington Post that he has hired his own lawyer to represent his interests during federal investigations into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign team.

International Business Times

Trump’s Lawyer Broke Ethics Rules, Complaint Claims

Josh Keefe,   International Business Times    June 17, 2017 

President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney is the subject of a complaint filed by a watchdog group Thursday with the disciplinary body in charge of Washington attorneys, allegedly for dispensing legal advice to unrepresented White House staffers, a violation of bar rules and legal ethics.

Campaign for Accountability, a government ethics group, filed the complaint with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals’ Office of Disciplinary Counsel in response to a story in Sunday’s New York Times that said Marc Kasowitz, who has represented Trump for 15 years, told presidential aides they did not yet need to hire lawyers in response to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

By telling White House aides they did not need to hire lawyers, Kasowitz dispensed legal advice to people who not only weren’t his clients, but whose interests in the coming legal storm might be contrary to the president’s, the complaint alleges. The complaint, which asks the office to open an investigation, comes as Mueller’s investigation reportedly has expanded to examine whether the president attempted to obstruct justice.

“It was really concerning to read he was providing legal advice to White House staffers,” Daniel Stevens, executive director of the Campaign for Accountability, told International Business Times. Stevens is an alumnus of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington, the watchdog group that filed suit against the president just days after his inauguration over his foreign business dealings.

“They weren’t his clients and they might take heed of that advice and it might not be in their best interest. [Kasowitz] needs to be held accountable for giving that advice,” Stevens said.

The D.C. bar, as well as the American Bar Association’s model rules, which have been adopted by all 50 states and the District of Columbia, forbid attorneys from giving legal advice to people who don’t have lawyers, other than recommending they retain counsel, if the “interests of such person are or have a reasonable possibility of being in conflict with the interests of the lawyer’s client.”

Kasowitz’s discussions with White House staff reportedly bypassed White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II,  a departure from previous protocol that worried former attorneys who have held that position.

“The president’s private lawyer is representing only his interests, not the interests of the United States government or the individual interests of the White House staff,” Robert F. Bauer, who was White House counsel under President Barack Obama, told the Times.

The White House declined to comment and directed IBT to send questions to Kasowitz, who did not respond to IBT’s inquiries. A spokesperson for Kasowitz previously said the Times’ categorization of the meeting was “inaccurate,” but, according to the Times, “would not specify how.”

Campaign for Accountability copied the complaint to the New York State Bar. Bar. Court records indicate Kasowitz is not a member of the D.C. Bar but is a member of the New York Bar. The committees in D.C. and New York that evaluate complaints would not confirm they received the complaint, as complaints against attorneys are confidential unless a complaint ends in disciplinary action, which can run the gamut from requiring attorneys take continuing education classes to disbarment.

The Committee on Character and Fitness for Manhattan and the Bronx, which has jurisdiction over Kasowitz’s law practice, told IBT that Kasowitz has never been disciplined by the courts for misconduct since becoming a member of the New York Bar in 1978.

Trump hired Kasowitz to represent him in all matters connected to the Russian investigation at the end of May, shortly after the Justice Department tapped Mueller as special counsel.

After FBI Director James Comey testified to a Senate panel June 7th about his interactions with Trump, Kasowitz attacked Comey and defended Trump at the press.

“From before this president took office to this day, it is overwhelmingly clear that there have been and continue to be those in government who are actively attempting to undermine this administration with selective and illegal leaks of classified information and privileged communications,” Kasowitz said. “Mr. Comey has now admitted that he is one of these leakers.”

Trump’s legal team has said it is planning on filing a complaint against Comey for leaking conversations with the president. The team initially planned to file the complaint this week, but the legal team’s spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday the complaint would most likely be filed next week. It’s unclear with which office in the Justice Department, which oversees the FBI, the legal team will file the complaint.

Kasowitz has represented Trump in a variety of matters since the turn of the century, including defending the president in the Trump University lawsuit, keeping the president’s divorce records sealed, restructuring Trump casino bondholder debt and suing a Trump biographer in 2009 for citing unnamed sources claiming the real estate mogul wasn’t actually a billionaire.

ProPublica has reported Kasowitz bragged to friends about convincing Trump to fire Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Brahara, who was investigating Tom Price, Trump’s secretary of health and human services, at the time of his firing.

Kasowitz’s firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, employs former Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, whom Trump briefly considered for FBI director after he fired Comey. Trump tapped Kasowitz’s partner, David Friedman, to serve as ambassador to Israel prompting the firm to change its name  (until late March, Kasowitz’s firm’s name was Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman). In addition to Trump, Kasowitz also represents Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, which counts the Russian government as a majority shareholder.

Vice President Mike Pence has also retained counsel to represent him in the Russia inquiry, the Washington Post reported Thursday. Pence hired Richard Cullen, a former U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, a Pence spokesman confirmed to the Post.

Mr. Mueller Is Following the Money

Esquire

Mr. Mueller Is Following the Money

And he will not be deterred.

By Charles P. Pierce       June 15, 2017

I’d say that shit just got real around the White House on Wednesday night, but shit hasn’t been anything but real there ever since the country determined it would be best led for the next four to eight years by a vulgar talking yam. As everyone who follows Preet Bharara on the electric Twitter machine—and why don’t you, by the way?—knew was coming, the news that special counsel Robert Mueller had rolled out the railroad artillery broke well after the close of business. From The Washington Post:

The move by special counsel Robert S. Muller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said. Trump had received private assurances from then-FBI Director James B. Comey starting in January that he was not personally under investigation. Officials say that changed shortly after Comey’s firing.

You can’t fix stupid, boys. Better men than you have tried.

Five people briefed on the interview requests, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that Daniel Coats, the current director of national intelligence, Mike Rogers, head of the National Security Agency, and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week.

Also, never underestimate the destructive power of terrified careerists, as The Daily Beast illustrates:

But some privately concede that Trump is so unpredictable—and so frustrated with the persistence of the investigation and its cost in political capital—that they’re not ruling it out. Another White House official conceded that it would be “suicide” if Trump sacked Mueller at this point, but “I’d be insincere if I said it wasn’t a concern that the president would try to do it anyway.”

Let’s see if there’s any solace to be found over here with the folks at The New York Times. Oops, no, shit’s gotten pretty real there, too, via Raw Story:

“A former senior official said Mr. Mueller’s investigation was looking at money laundering by Trump associates,” a source told the Times. “The suspicion is that any cooperation with Russian officials would most likely have been done in exchange for some kind of financial payoff, and that there would have been an effort to hide the payoffs, most likely by routing them through offshore banking centers.” A separate investigation into Russia has also reportedly focused on potential use of offshore banking centers to launder money. In April, House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) visited Cyprus, which “has a reputation as a laundromat for the Russians who are trying to avoid sanctions.”

It is now painfully clear that Mueller has opened the ballgame on the Trump organization’s entire business model, which always has been aromatic but which now has become entangled with the intelligence community, the institutions of government, and the national interest, as interpreted by Robert Mueller. He isn’t some roofing specialist that you can stiff and then drag through the courts until he can’t afford the trip any more. He isn’t someone you can scare off with your usual gang of billable-hour button men. He isn’t some dingy Russian banker who can float you a loan to tide you over. He is honest and respected and relentless, and the only way you’re going to get rid of him is to fire him. In a way, the country is daring you to do that, just to see if you have the stones for what comes next, and (possibly) as the last excuse it needs to insist on a new president. Go ahead. Make our day.

Mueller isn’t someone you can scare off with your usual gang of billable-hour button men.

For a long time, I didn’t believe that the president* would bring all this down on himself just to hide the fact that he isn’t as rich as he says he is, but now I’m less sure. I think, maybe, that’s what’s at the bottom of everything else. I think he isn’t that rich, so he and the family business allegedly needed freshly laundered Russian money to keep the business—and his image—afloat. Then, of course, the bill came due from Moscow, and that required another set of malodorous transactions which, in turn, required that they be concealed by another set of malodorous transactions, including the firing of James Comey, and so on.

God, the tax returns. If he’d only released the tax returns, and the people had gotten a look at how he does business and how much he’s really worth, it’s likely none of this happens. Of course, it’s also likely he doesn’t become president* either, but, what the hell, all indications are he doesn’t much like the job, anyway, at least not enough to learn the basics of how to do it properly.

In any event, it appears that we’re all going to get a crash course in the crooked side of high finance—like we need another one of those—and in identifying all the various fauna in the wild kingdom of the international real estate game. I love those teachable moments. Truly, I do.

The Hoarding of the American Dream

The Atlantic

The Hoarding of the American Dream

In a new book, a Brookings scholar examines how the upper-middle class has enriched itself and harmed economic mobility.

Annie Lowrey   June 16, 2017

There’s a certain type of financial confessional that has had a way of going viral in the post-recession era. The University of Chicago law professor complaining his family was barely keeping their heads above water on $250,000 a year. This hypothetical family of three in San Francisco making $200,000, enjoying vacations to Maui, and living hand-to-mouth. This real New York couple making six figures and merely “scraping by.”

In all of these viral posts, denizens of the upper-middle class were attempting to make the case for their middle class-ness. Taxes are expensive. Cities are expensive. Tuition is expensive. Children are expensive. Travel is expensive. Tens of thousands of dollars a month evaporate like cold champagne spilled on a hot lanai, they argue. And the 20 percent are not the one percent.

A great, short book by Richard V. Reeves of the Brookings Institution helps to flesh out why these stories provoke such rage. In Dream Hoarders, released this week, Reeves agrees that the 20 percent are not the one percent: The higher you go up the income or wealth distribution, the bigger the gains made in the past three or four decades. Still, the top quintile of earners—those making more than roughly $112,000 a year—have been big beneficiaries of the country’s growth. To make matters worse, this group of Americans engages in a variety of practices that don’t just help their families, but harm the other 80 percent of Americans.

“I am not suggesting that the top one percent should be left alone. They need to pay more tax, perhaps much more,” Reeves writes. “But if we are serious about narrowing the gap between ‘the rich’ and everybody else, we need a broader conception of what it means to be rich.”

The book traces the way that the upper-middle class has pulled away from the middle class and the poor on five dimensions: income and wealth, educational attainment, family structure, geography, and health and longevity. The top 20 percent of earners might not have seen the kinds of income gains made by the top one percent and America’s billionaires. Still, their wage and investment increases have proven sizable. They dominate the country’s top colleges, sequester themselves in wealthy neighborhoods with excellent public schools and public services, and enjoy healthy bodies and long lives. “It would be an exaggeration to say that the upper-middle class is full of gluten-avoiding, normal-BMI joggers who are only marginally more likely to smoke a cigarette than to hit their children,” Reeves writes. “But it would be just that—an exaggeration, not a fiction.”

They then pass those advantages onto their children, with parents placing a “glass floor” under their kids. They ensure they grow up in nice zip codes, provide social connections that make a difference when entering the labor force, help with internships, aid with tuition and home-buying, and schmooze with college admissions officers. All the while, they support policies and practices that protect their economic position and prevent poorer kids from climbing the income ladder: legacy admissions, the preferential tax treatment of investment income, 529 college savings plans, exclusionary zoning, occupational licensing, and restrictions on the immigration of white-collar professionals.

As a result, America is becoming a class-based society, more like fin-de-siècle England than most would care to admit, Reeves argues. Higher income kids stay up at the sticky top of the income distribution. Lower income kids stay down at the bottom. The one percent have well and truly trounced the 99 percent, but the 20 percent have done their part to immiserate the 80 percent, as well—an arguably more relevant but less recognized class distinction.

Why more relevant? In part because the 20 percent are so much bigger than the one percent. If you are going to raise a considerable amount of new income-tax revenue to finance social programs, as many Democrats want to do, dinging the top one percent won’t cut it: They are a lot richer, but a lot fewer in number. And if you are going to provide more opportunities in good neighborhoods, public schools, colleges, internship programs, and labor markets to lower-income families, it is the 20 percent that are going to have to give something up.

Reeves offers a host of policy changes that might make a considerable difference: better access to contraception, increasing building in cities and suburbs, barring legacy admissions to colleges, curbing tax expenditures that benefit families with big homes and capital gains. Still, given the scale of the problem, I wondered whether other, bigger solutions might be necessary as well: a universal child allowance to reduce the poverty rate among kids, as the Century Foundation has proposed, say, or baby bonds to help eliminate the black-white wealth gap fostered by decades of racist and exclusionary government policy, as Darrick Hamilton has suggested. (So often, the upper-middle class insulating and enriching itself at the expense of the working class has meant white families doing so at the expense of black families—a point I thought underplayed in Reeves’ telling.)

Yet, as Reeves notes, “sensible policy is not always easy politics.” Expanding opportunity and improving fairness would require the upper-middle class to vote for higher taxes, to let others move in, and to share in the wealth. Prying Harvard admission letters and the mortgage interest deductions out of the hands of bureaucrats in Bethesda, sales executives in Minnetonka, and lawyers in Louisville is not going to be easy.

Members of the upper-middle class, as those viral stories show and Reeves writes, love to think of themselves as members of the middle class, not as the rich. They love to think of themselves as hard workers who played fair and won what they deserved, rather than as people who were born on third and think they hit a triple. They hate to hear that the government policies they support as sensible might be torching social mobility and entrenching an elite. That elite is them.