Impotent Tyranny

I’ve been doing some thinking about Trump’s ‘executive orders’ last week, how he has overstepped his authority, shredded the Constitution yet again, and all for naught, for nothing he did is likely to help very many of the people who need help the most.  He is all pomp, no substance, as is proven by the fact that rather than sign these orders in his office as would have been appropriate, he took them to his country club to sign them in front of a group of rich, old, white men sipping wine who applauded enthusiastically, for they have no horse in this race.

Today I happened across a piece written by a freelance writer, Joel Mathis, writing for The Week, that I thought covered the matter well, so I am sharing it here today.

Donald Trump’s impotent tyranny

joel-mathisJoel Mathis

Everything is a show with Donald Trump.

He was never really a successful businessman — he just played one on TV. Now, as president, a similar pattern has emerged: Trump wants to perform the role of autocrat in front of TV cameras, but cannot or will not act effectively to protect the country from the economic and health challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s a Potemkin strongman.

The latest example of this phenomenon came over the weekend. With the House and Senate hamstrung on a pandemic relief bill, President Trump announced he would act unilaterally — signing executive orders to extend unemployment benefits, continue a moratorium on evictions, defer payroll taxes, and pause student loan payments.

“I’m taking executive action,” he said. “We’ve had it. And we’re going to save American jobs and provide relief to the American workers.”

Trump’s executive orders combined two paradoxical elements: overreach and impotence.

Let’s take overreach first. As The Washington Post noted, Trump’s orders “attempt to wrest away some of Congress’s most fundamental, constitutionally mandated powers — tax and spending policy.” The Constitution plainly gives Congress, not the president, taxing and spending power. One Republican senator called Trump’s orders “unconstitutional slop.”

But this isn’t the first time Trump has tried to usurp the legislative branch’s financial prerogatives: After his failed government shutdown at the start of 2019, he signed an emergency decree diverting defense funds to build his border wall with Mexico. That is plainly unconstitutional, but the courts have so far let him proceed, drifting leisurely toward a final question on the matter. Their failure to act in due haste has given the president an opening for additional transgressions.

Perhaps the sidestepping of Congress and the Constitution would be understandable if Trump’s acts would actually help Americans trying to survive the pandemic and its economic fallout. After all, President Lincoln disregarded habeas corpus during the Civil War, and Americans mostly love him.

Then again, Lincoln won the Civil War. Trump is losing the pandemic. And his executive orders probably won’t help him win it. There is less here than meets the eye. Let’s take them one-by-one:

  • Most unemployed Americans probably will not see the extended benefits. The president announced they would get an extra $400 a week — but that money would be paid under a formula in which the federal government will provide $300 if individuals qualify for an extra $100 from their own states. But states are facing their own financial problems, and observers say implementing that formula is a logistical nightmare. “There are so many problems with people getting a benefit under this,” one expert told CNN.

  • There are several problems with the payroll tax deferral. First, it only applies to Americans who are still working — if you’re unemployed, the cut won’t put any extra money in your pocket. That makes it largely ineffective as a stimulus. What’s more, workers might enjoy having slightly larger paychecks now, but they will still owe that money at the end of the year, unless Congress chooses to forgive the deferred taxes. Despite his claim to act on his own, Trump needs legislators to make the payroll holiday stick — and he is willing to play chicken with workers’ income to do so.

  • And, oh yeah: Payroll taxes are what fund Social Security and Medicare. “These systems, which have helped generations retire and live, are already underfunded,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) tweeted Sunday. “Cutting the payroll tax without replacing the funding is the same as getting rid of them.” Trump is creating a bigger problem than he is solving.

  • The eviction moratorium is also problematic. As Politico reported, “the ban itself shields barely a quarter of the nation’s 44 million rental units — only residents of buildings that have federally guaranteed mortgages.” That leaves tens of millions of Americans vulnerable. The deferral of student loans is also flawed: It excludes nine million borrowers whose debt is held by private lenders.

All of this means that President Trump is undermining the constitutional order — again — but will probably have little to show for it.

This is in keeping with his now-tedious habit of prizing appearance over substance and ratings over effective action, his love of claiming “total authority” while often leaving states and cities to their own devices as they battle the coronavirus. Trump’s attempts at tyranny do nothing to solve the country’s problems, but they do compound the crisis of American democracy.

It’s the worst of both worlds.

30 thoughts on “Impotent Tyranny

  1. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    This weekend left me flabbergasted … ” Trump’s ‘executive orders’ last week, how he has overstepped his authority, shredded the Constitution yet again, and all for naught, for nothing he did is likely to help very many of the people who need help the most. He is all pomp, no substance, as is proven by the fact that rather than sign these orders in his office as would have been appropriate, he took them to his country club to sign them in front of a group of rich, old, white men sipping wine who applauded enthusiastically, for they have no horse in this race.” … please take a look!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jill, this is well said. We must reach out to our Senators and Congresspeople and beseech them:
    – what the president is beyond his authority, misguided and is not the way to do things.
    – they need to get in a room and work out a deal; Americans are struggling.
    – they need to stop the blame game and do their job. Everyone of them is at fault. Period.


    Liked by 1 person

    • they need to get in a room and work out a deal;

      This is unlikely to happen.

      An effective president might be able to persuade them to work out a deal. But we don’t have a president. We have a buffoon pretending to be president.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Keith. I thought he made the point quite well. Yes, Congress must … simply must … put aside partisan differences and consider the people, else they will all have blood on their hands the same as Trump already has.


      • Jill, it feels as if McConnell has handed over the reins to Mnuchin and Meadows. For some reason, I thought he was Senate Majority Leader. The previous post on the impotent executive actions is being realized. Congress needs to work this out with White House input. To me, McConnell is in the back seat or may not even be in the car. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • I thought the same. What I don’t understand, though, is why that leaves the democrats having to negotiate with Meadows, Mnuchin and Trump? What about the rest of the senators in Congress? We do, after all, have some 52 other republican senators whose votes, unless I’ve missed something, are equal to Mitch McConnell’s. Where are they? Cooling their heels at a beach somewhere? Home trying out new recipes or learning to knit? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Never before in my lifetime have we wasted so much taxpayer money on such a useless bunch of buffoons!


            • I’m amazed that he actually called you! And pleased that he said he would share your letter with the congressman, but like you, that tells me they don’t actually see most of what we write to them. Sigh.


  3. Everyone is talking about the problems. Is anypne doing anything about them? How does Congress take back control? Can they take back control?
    There will be no USA by November 3rd. How can a nation hold an election when there is no nation?
    Enquiring minde need to know!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sigh. And just what would you have us do, rawgod? Shall I take my butcher knife and start walking the 500+ mile journey to D.C.? I am on negativity overload right now as it is … don’t add to it, please. LuL


      • Sorry, I did not intend to add to the negativity in your life. I NEVER intend that. I was hoping to ask questions that caused others to ask questions, and so on until the right question IS ASKED. The question that can be answered. Call me a Mind Provocateur if you like, the bear-poker. I want people to think on deeper levels.
        People, not just you, not even necessarily you. As with Gronda so long ago, I generally speak on a general scale, although it sounds personal at times., but mostly it is not. I do not think you alone are the only hope this world has of surviving, and I sadly apologize for not noticing how negative you sometimes must feel. I get too wrapped up in saying what I want to say that I stop noticing my friends around me. You are one of my best friends. I do not mean to hurt you.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I know, dear Jerry … it’s just been a really rotten day and I’m out of energy, out of … everything. I’m actually longing for the day I can exit the human race. Sigh. No worries … I know you did not mean to add to my frustration or to hurt me … you’re a good friend. I’m just low today.


          • That was yesterday now, what can I do to cheer you up today? Shall I sing, and dance,
            “I knew a man Bojangles and he danced for you
            In worn out shoes
            Silver hair, a ragged shirt and baggy pants
            The old soft shoe

            He jumped so high
            He jumped so high
            Then he’d lightly touched down

            Mr Bojangles
            Mr Bojangles
            Mr Bojangles

            I met him in a cell in New Orleans I was
            Down and out
            He looked to me to be the eyes of age
            As he spoke right out

            He talked of life
            He talked of life
            He lightly slapped his leg instead

            He said the name Bojangles and he danced a lick
            Across the cell
            He grabbed his pants for a better stance
            He jumped so high
            He clicked his heels

            He let go a laugh
            He let go a laugh
            Shook back his clothes all around

            Mr Bojangles
            Mr Bojangles
            Mr Bojangles

            We danced for those at minstrel shows and county fairs
            Throughout the south
            We spoke in tears of fifteen years
            How his dog and him
            They travelled about

            His dog up and died
            He up and died
            After twenty years he still grieves

            They said I dance now at every chance and honky tonks
            For drinks and tips
            But most the time I spend behind these county bars
            Cause I drinks a bit

            He shook his head and as he shook his head
            I heard someone ask please

            Mr Bojangles
            Mr Bojangles
            Mr Bojangles

            Mr Bojangles
            Mr Bojangles
            Mr Bojangles

            Sorry, I guess I could have picked a happier song, but Mr. Bojangles I find to be cheery, bittersweet, maybe even a bit maudlin. It always put a wistful smile on my face
            Mr Bojangles
            Mr. Bo Jangles
            Mr. Beau Jangles
            Why don’t you dance

            Why don’t you dance

            Now there are tears in my eyes, blurring the screen, falling on my chest. Who am I crying for? You? Me? Mr Beau Jangles?
            I think I am crying for all the times that will never be again, when people actually could take the time to live, could take the time to love…
            Crying is good for the soul. Do not wipe the tears away…
            LuL. Jill, Love you Lots.

            Liked by 1 person

            • No no … I absolutely LOVE Mr. Bojangles and it did bring a smile to my face! There is sadness in life … it’s inevitable and we either rise above it or succumb to it. I shan’t succumb, for I cannot afford to, but neither do I seek happiness, which as most people define it, is but an illusion. Brief moments of joy exist in every life, but overall, I think the best we can hope for is to do something worthy in our lifetimes and to be relatively content. I have my days, but fortunately they don’t last long. Today, you have made me smile. Thank you!


  4. Now what do you suppose was sitting amidst my inbox today from The Week…and nearly forwarded to a certain someone?! Whenever Benjamin has permitted me a turn at “our” computer, I have spent it reading numerous columns on this topic from various sources and in all likelihood will continue to do so. I did find this particular column by Joel Mathis to be informative and well written. Thank-you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha ha … I wondered if that might not be the case, for the one you sent me a day or two ago is one I had bookmarked to “do something with” … that would be the one about pulling troops out of Germany! Sorry I’m behind on emailing you, my friend … been really low the past few days. I’ll catch up soon, though! WHAK!!!


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