Tag Archives: incompetence

What Do THEY Know??

The Trump Administration’s war on expertise continues to expand.

Jeff Sessions (memorably identified by a Facebook friend as one of those Confederate monuments that should be removed) ignores 40+ years of criminal justice research and intensifies the drug war.  Betsy DeVos gives a feminine finger to the mountains of data rebutting her insistence that vouchers improve educational outcomes. Scott Pruitt spits on the 98% of climate scientists who agree that climate change is (a) real; (b) accelerating and (c) caused by human activity, especially fossil fuel use.

There is a reason that terms like “Know Nothings,” “Keystone Kops,” and “Gang that Can’t Shoot Straight” are being retrieved from past usage and applied to this sorry band of incompetents and theocrats.

When it comes to economic policy, Trump’s alternate reality isn’t limited to his belief that he invented the term “priming the pump.” As a column from the Washington Post recently reported,

President Trump’s administration says his tax cut will pay for itself. It turns out it’s really hard to find an economist who agrees.

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business regularly polls economists on controversial questions. In a survey the school published last week on Trump’s tax plans, only two out of the 37 economists that responded said that the cuts would stimulate the economy enough to cancel out the effect on total tax revenue.

Those two economists now both say they made a mistake, and that they misunderstood the question.

So there is not a single economist in the Chicago poll who agrees with the President that his proposed tax cuts would pay for themselves.

Not that the opinion of 39 out of 39 experts has a chance in hell of influencing a Commander-in-Chief whose residence in a very bizarre alternate universe becomes more apparent every day.

In Trump World–a world shared to varying degrees by the members of his spectacularly ignorant and incompetent cabinet–Trump knows more than those elitists who actually studied their subject matter. Sissies read books and conduct empirical research; superior beings (i.e. rich guys) surround themselves with lackeys and listen to their guts.

What did Stephen Colbert call it? Oh yes–Truthiness.

To use a term dear to the heart of our linguistically-challenged President, SAD.

Transferable–and Not-So-Transferable–Skills

A recent article in the New York Times reflected upon Trump’s relationship with Steve Bannon (which appears to be unraveling). That article was one of many focusing on the disarray in the White House and the tensions between Bannon and the various others who have the President’s ear, and wouldn’t ordinarily prompt me to post.

But this paragraph caught my eye:

In a way, to believe in Mr. Bannon’s genius is to adopt the president’s belief in a sort of vulgar technocracy — the belief that the “best people” can solve any problem put in front of them, whether they have expertise in that field or not. A newspaper publisher can broker peace in the Middle East and revolutionize the government. A neurosurgeon can run the Department of Housing and Urban Development. A life as a real estate mogul and celebrity businessman is adequate preparation for the presidency. But the ability to grab power does not grant the wisdom to wield it, and ungrounded grandiosity is just pretension.

During the campaign, I was constantly amazed by the number of people who appear to hold the belief that no special knowledge or experience is necessary to run a government agency-or for that matter, to run the government. They clearly believe that any reasonably savvy person (or in Trump’s case, anyone who can fog a mirror) can be President.

I watch television during my morning treadmill routine, and the other day I was struck by an ad for a window installer. He emphasized the length of time he’d been installing the product, and how important his knowledge and experience were.

May I point out that governing the United States is more complicated than installing double-paned windows?

Indianapolis once had a Mayor named Goldsmith who shared Mr. Trump’s evident belief that smart people can do any job, no matter how unrelated their prior education or experience. I still recall the woman with a distinguished scientific background who thought she’d been hired to oversee environmental assessments, and was astonished to discover she’d been hired to manage planning and zoning. (Because she was a smart person, she left.)

It’s bad enough that we have a President who substitutes arrogance for competence, but the problem is compounded by the fact that most of his personnel choices–in addition to lacking any relevant expertise–don’t appear to be all that smart, either. (Trump apparently confuses a willingness to flatter his already outsized ego with intelligence.)

We have a cabinet composed of people who have no idea how government works. The Secretary of State appears oblivious to the web of international agreements and protocols within which the United States is expected to operate. The Secretary of Education has never set foot in a public school; during her confirmation testimony, she displayed appalling ignorance of the most significant policy issues facing that department. But there is no humility accompanying her ignorance; instead, she comes armed with self-righteous hostility to the entire enterprise of public education.

There is the new head of the EPA, whose disdain for science and evidence (not to mention the agency he manages) is matched only by his regard for the bottom lines of fossil fuel companies. And the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who barely seems to understand what day it is, let alone the importance of HUD’s mission to neighborhoods in America’s cities.

Jeff Sessions does know how government works, of course; what recommended him to Trump appears to be his determination to reverse the progress made on civil rights–to further eviscerate the Voting Rights Act, encourage overreach by the police, and re-invigorate the drug war.

Most of the others are just as bad.

It’s not just that we have a self-aggrandizing buffoon in the Oval Office. We now have a government populated with–and being run by–dangerous ideologues with second and third-rate intellects who lack both relevant experience and any obvious willingness to learn, or to devote themselves to the tasks they’ve been assigned.

Our best hope actually lies in their incompetence. As Trump would say, SAD.

 

 

Maybe No One In The White House Can Read?

News organizations, pundits and bloggers all continue to express their amazement at the number of bald-faced lies uttered by the current occupant of the Oval Office. And it is certainly baffling; after all, virtually all of these falsehoods are easily disproved. Why would someone who presumably wants to be taken seriously provide political opponents and the general public with constant evidence of his lack of credibility?

Every day brings a new example. In his address to Congress, Trump cited a study by the National Academy of Sciences; according to Trump, that study showed illegal immigration costs the country billions of dollars a year. The authors of that study immediately responded that it said no such thing.

As the chair of the panel of scientists convened to write that report and one of the consultants who analyzed the effect of immigration on government budgets, we can state unequivocally that this was not our conclusion. Our report looked at the evidence from all sides and found that the economic and fiscal consequences of immigration are generally positive, or at least not likely to be negative. How, then, can the report be used to argue the opposite?

As blatant as that mischaracterization is, it is of course nothing compared to Trump’s evidence-free accusation that President Obama had wire-tapped him–an accusation that has been debunked by the FBI, the Department of Justice and all of America’s intelligence agencies. But hey–what do they know. He saw it on Fox, so it must be true….

Observers have attributed this behavior to Trump’s obvious mental instability, and although that’s certainly plausible, I have another theory. I don’t think Trump or the people around him know how to read.

For example, immediately after he unveiled his proposed budget, his crack team sent out their  “Daily Update” to their email list, with a prominent link to the following article:

The Washington Post: “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why”

I’m sure the geniuses who sent it out loved the headline; unfortunately, the article was a biting–and very effective– satire. The first two paragraphs should have given them a clue:

Some people are complaining that the budget proffered by the Trump administration, despite its wonderful macho-sounding name, is too vague and makes all sorts of cuts to needed programs in favor of increasing military spending by leaps and bounds. These people are wimps. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has called it a “hard power budget” which is, I think, the name of an exercise program where you eat only what you can catch, pump up your guns and then punch the impoverished in the face. This, conveniently, is also what the budget does.

This budget will make America a lean, mean fighting machine with bulging, rippling muscles and not an ounce of fat. America has been weak and soft for too long. BUT HOW WILL I SURVIVE ON THIS BUDGET? you may be wondering. I AM A HUMAN CHILD, NOT A COSTLY FIGHTER JET. You may not survive, but that is because you are SOFT and WEAK, something this budget is designed to eliminate.

Or maybe it isn’t that they can’t read; maybe the Trump Administration really is the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

On Friday evening, following the day’s earlier, humiliating defeat of the GOP’s  Obamacare “replacement,” advertisements praising several congressional Republicans for “keeping their promise” to replace the Affordable Care Act aired during national basketball games. Evidently, none of those “best people”with whom Trump has surrounded himself, thought to pull the  ads, which had obviously been prepared and scheduled beforehand.

This level of incompetence would be funny if our Buffoon-in-Chief didn’t have the nuclear codes…..

Will Incompetence Save Us?

This Dana Milbank column on Betsy DeVos is nothing short of wonderful. For one thing, it is really funny, and laughs are hard to come by these days. Beyond the humor, however,  Milbank also offers a ray of hope in the wake of yesterday’s (bare) confirmation of DeVos as Secretary of Education. He begins:

Rarely is the question asked: Is our Cabinet secretaries learning?

And if we is being honest with ourself, we says: No, they is not.

Today’s lesson: the education of Betsy DeVos.

Anyone who hasn’t been hiding under a rock (and I’m not judging–hiding under a rock is perfectly understandable in the Age of Trump) knows at least four things about Betsy DeVos: 1) she is monumentally unqualified for her post; 2) she gave gazillions of dollars to a large number of the Republican Senators who voted to confirm her (Conflict of interest? What conflict of interest?); 3) she is a proponent of siphoning taxpayer dollars from public schools to support Christian schools via vouchers; and public opposition to her confirmation was more intense and widespread than most observers can ever recall seeing.

It took DeVos’ longtime collaborator and fellow culture-warrior Mike Pence to break a 50/50 tie and get her over the finish line.

Milbank has words of consolation for those of us who view DeVos as an unmitigated disaster.

Democrats in the long run may thank the majority Republicans for confirming DeVos. In the fight against President Trump’s agenda, the new administration’s incompetence is their friend. Trump’s choice of DeVos signals a dangerous desire to dismantle public schools. It would be more dangerous if he chose somebody who was up to the task.

As bad as DeVos is, Milbank points out that she is only marginally the worst of a crew that includes Ben Carson (at Housing and Urban Development because–hey!–he lives in a house), Rick Perry (who admitted he had no idea what the Department of Energy did) and others.

Heading the National Security Council is Mike Flynn, reportedly drummed out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for poor management. Nikki Haley, the U.N. ambassador, has no foreign policy experience; Treasury nominee Steven Mnuchin has no government experience and displayed his financial skills during his confirmation hearing by failing to disclose $100 million in personal assets.

One can already see future Cabinet meetings shaping up in the White House, as Trump goes around the table asking for updates:

Carson: “Pass.”

DeVos: “Could you come back to me, please?”

Flynn: “Sorry, what?”

Perry: “Oops.”

No doubt there is some value in nominating people outside the “establishment.” But the value is diminished if your outsiders can’t do the job.

Milbank noted that after Senate Democrats spent hours addressing DeVos’ manifest ignorance of even the most basic issues facing the Department of Education, John Cornyn’s response failed to rebut any of those charges. Instead he simply said that “The president will get the Cabinet he nominated and deserves.”

As Milbank concluded: Yes, he will.