Celebrate the Facts!
Now is an ideal time to increase infrastructure investment since the return on that investment is substantially more significant than the government's cost of financing. Thirty-year Treasury yields are less than 2%, while the return on almost any public infrastructure project is likely to be 5%. Rationales for opposition to that measure include hobbling the current administration on ideological grounds and the possibility that foreigners would gobble up debt securities necessary to fund it, giving them undue leverage over the United States. Joe Biden's legacy depends on the passage of the American Jobs Plan.
The American Jobs Plan is a sweeping bill incorporating a variety of actions:
Traditional infrastructure definitions include the fundamental physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, power supplies) needed to operate a society or enterprise. That definition leaves much wiggle room for interpretation, and the American Jobs Plan certainly takes some liberties by including non-traditional items on the menu. Presumably, the Biden administration included some of these items as sacrificial lambs during negotiation necessary to ensure passage of the bill.
The American Jobs Plan, as proposed initially, included an increase in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. Biden administration officials presented calculations concluding that a tax increase would pay for the plan's costs in 15 years. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget this would result in a 10-year deficit of $900 billion. Moody’s Analytics came up with a slightly lower estimate 10-year deficit of $850 billion, although when accounting for the projected economic benefits of the plan, Moody’s predicted an even lower $625 billion deficit.
It does not seem like a massive leap of logic to conclude corporations will benefit by improved transportation, ports, airports, power grids, and subsidized child care for workers, and so should help shoulder some of the costs of such. Regardless, corporations and their corporate lobbyists will resist tax increases and instruct politicians of both parties financially beholden to them for campaign contributions. Thus, the proposed funding by a corporate tax increase is a political football and will be an item of negotiation to achieve some bipartisan consensus.
Federal, state, and local government spending on infrastructure peaked at about 6% gross domestic product (GDP) in the 1950s and 1960s with construction of the Interstate Highway System. It fell sharply in the 1970s and after the financial crisis of 2008. Infrastructure investment as a share of GDP is currently well below 2% of GDP, the lowest in the data available since World War II.
Policymakers have worked to limit any increase in government spending as a share of GDP, and as non-discretionary government spending has increased, most significantly on healthcare, it has squeezed out discretionary spending, including infrastructure. In addition, the federal gasoline tax, an essential source of revenue to fund transportation infrastructure spending, has remained at 18.3 cents per gallon since 1993. Inflation-adjusted to 2021 values that gasoline tax would be 35 cents per gallon in June 2021, coincidentally a subsidy for the hydrocarbon industry, who can sell the product more cheaply as a result.
Some indicators of the state of United States infrastructure:
America’s roads, bridges, and tunnels are critical components of the economy and American quality of life, but the country has not maintained them. At least $170 billion of annual capital investment would address deterioration, performance, and highway congestion, but the United States currently spends a little more than half that amount. The need for additional spending is intensifying.
Economic models predict that implementing the American Jobs Plan (using the initial plan as a basis for modeling) would result in a much stronger economy over the coming decade, with higher GDP, more jobs, and lower unemployment. The most immediate impact in early 2022 would be to marginally reduce growth, as the proposed higher corporate taxes would take effect right away while the government would not spend the until later in the year.
However, by 2023 and the midpart of the decade, the ramp-up in infrastructure spending would significantly lift growth. The apex in the boost to gain would be in 2024, when real GDP would increase to 3.8%, compared with 2.2% if there were no plan.
According to the same models, as the plan's cost would exceed the revenue return from tax increases, deficits and debt load would increase. On a static basis, the 10-year cumulative deficit would increase by nearly $850 billion. On a dynamic basis (accounting for the benefits of the more robust economy on government revenues and expenditures), the 10-year cumulative deficit would be about $625 billion, adding about five basis points to 10-year Treasury yields on average over the next decade.
The United States debt is composed of debt held by the public and intragovernmental debt held by federal trust funds. To finance the publicly held debt, the United States Treasury sells securities:
Foreign holdings consist of official (governmental investment) and private sources. Foreign governments hold about 59% ($4.1 trillion) of United States federal debt, and foreign private investors own the other 41% ($2.8 trillion).
As of December 2020, there was $21.6 trillion of publicly-held United States debt, up from $14.4 trillion in December 2016, a $7.2 trillion increase. During that time, foreign holdings of debt increased by $1 trillion to about $7 trillion. After rising for several years, overall foreign holdings were relatively flat from 2013 to 2018 before rising again in 2019 and 2020. Because the total United States debt has increased faster than the debt held by foreigners, the share of federal debt held by foreigners has declined in recent years. In December 2020, foreigners owned 33% of the publicly-held debt with interest payments of about $137 billion.
Including private investors and governments, the top three foreign holders of federal debt by country, as of December 2020, were:
The federal government must send United States income abroad to foreigners to finance that debt. If the overall economy is larger because of federal borrowing (because the borrowing stimulated economic recovery or increased productivity), the United States is better off despite the transfer of income abroad. Without foreign borrowing, the United States income would be lower than it currently is net of foreign interest payments, so the foreign purchase of United States debt has some good elements.
United States debt securities are a safe and portable investment for foreign investors. After the 2008 financial crisis and then again during the COVID pandemic, demand for Treasury securities increased as investors undertook a flight to safety. The low default risk and greater liquidity than virtually any alternative asset help make Treasury securities even more attractive. Foreign investors also view the threat from exchange rate changes of holding dollar-denominated assets lower than alternative assets.
Since 1986, the United States has had net foreign debt, and by theory, the growth in net foreign debt should not continuously grow faster than GDP, as it has done in recent decades. This net foreign debt has not imposed any burden on Americans thus far, however, because the United States has consistently earned more income on its foreign assets than it has paid on its foreign debt, even though foreigners owned more United States assets than Americans owned foreign investments.
The foreign-held portion of the United States debt is a substantial portion of the total and likely a positive aspect in several respects. First, interrelation increases global cooperation as the debtor and the note-holder have some mutual interests in economic health. Second, the spread of nations who hold United States securities is broad, and China, with only 15%, does not possess enough to provide significant leverage.
Thoughts posed by this investigation:
The United States has become a plutocracy where the wealthy, albeit indirectly, govern the bulk of the population. The rich stack the deck by ensuring they not only retain their money but grow it, with little check by legislators beholden primarily to them by loads of ‘dark money.’ In America, the wealthy enjoy extraordinary lives and get to enjoy it for longer, as they live longer, and that trend is increasing. The ingrained tendency to categorize people along racial lines obscures the real issue – in the United States, it is rich vs. poor, and the Devil very much takes the hindmost early.
-The American lens tends to break down trendlines in public health by demographic: men, women, African-American, Caucasian-American, indigenous, and Latino, among others, but that lens focuses on details, and so obscures the truth. Race is a social construct, not a biological division of humanity.
Historical treatment of race meant separating the species of man, Homo Sapiens, into racial taxons. Started in the 18th century by white people, this grouping was twinned with racist theories about supposed abilities and disabilities of those racial groups. Later science-based disciplines of genetics and evolutionary biology have shown that human race taxonomy has no scientific basis. Instead, race categories are social constructs created from prevailing social perceptions without scientific evidence. Yet, despite modern proof that race is an arbitrary fiction, demographers and governments still use racial taxons.
Separation of people by race allows and supports common categorical misperceptions and ultimately racist philosophies and helped create the incredibly divisive political climate in the United States.
Arguably the elite classes are pleased with such division as it consumes the public discourse and mitigates the honest discussions about fundamental economic inequity and generational poverty. A good example is the current discussion of Critical Race Theory by the Infotainment Industrial complex.
These sidebars take the place of discussion of the real problem. In America, there are poor rich, poor people, and not much in between. If you are poor, you are likely to die at a much younger age.
Although life expectancy has generally been increasing over time in the United States, with a notable exception for the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have long documented that it is lower for poor people than for the rich. The why’s of this include:
Cohorts of Americans born more recently are experiencing wider gaps in life expectancy. In addition, individuals with lower lifetime earnings are living shorter lives than their counterparts with higher lifetime earnings — and this gap has continued to widen.
For men born in 1930, individuals in the top 20% of income (quintile) can expect to live 5.1 years longer at age 50 than men in the lowest income quintile. But the real story is that this gap has increased over time. For example, for men born in 1960, those in the top income quintile can expect to live 12.7 years longer at age 50 than men in the bottom income quintile. And there are similar patterns for women: the life expectancy gap at age 50 between the bottom and top income quintiles of women expanded from 3.9 years for the 1930 birth cohort to 13.6 years for the 1960 birth cohort.
While the wealthy can anticipate living longer than their predecessor cohorts, but that is not true of the poor, whose life expectancy has remained static. Between 2001 and 2014, life expectancy increased by 2.34 years for men and 2.91 years for women in the top 5% of the income distribution but increased by only 0.32 years for men and 0.04 years for women in the bottom 5%
The changes in life expectancy by income pose more problems than simple academic arguments about better health care. With their extraordinary gains in life expectancy, higher earners will collect Social Security benefits over increasingly more extended periods than the lowest-earning groups, who have experienced little to no progress in additional years lived. The increased life spans of the rich also will consume many unanticipated costs.
Commonly proposed resolutions include proposals that increase the retirement age or increase Social Security tax rates. These policies would further erode the progressivity of retirement benefits, a long-standing goal of the program, which aims for poor people to receive a higher return on their lifetime contributions than rich people. An increased retirement age means fewer years without work and far fewer years of leisure for the poor.
Recent federal legislation will help, although the actual ground game will remain unchanged absent substantial real-wage growth across the board.
The American Rescue Plan of 2021 expanded the Child Tax Credit to help children from eligible low-income families. The credit increased from $2,000 per child in 2020 to $3,600 for each child under age 6, from $2,000 to $3,000 age six to 16, and made 17-year-olds eligible for a $3,000 credit. The United States federal government is now distributing these funds in monthly payments, reducing economic pressure on low-income families and presumably allowing better health care and nutrition.
Due to COVID-19, 2021 enrollment on Affordable Care Act exchanges increased 6.6 percent over 2020. The American Rescue Plan also provided additional subsidies for people who procured insurance through the Affordable Care Act and opened enrollment on the exchanges through a Special Enrollment Period available until August 15, 2021. Despite the inefficiencies of industrial medicine in the United States, this should positively affect health.
We are in a revolution, a topic of a previous investigation. Revolutions are not pretty, and the divisiveness and hatred fomented by Infotainment have set the playing field as race and issue-based, not class-based conflict. Infotainment, also known as Hate, Inc., loves those discussions as they lead to revenue. Abortion access, packing the court, gun control, Black Lives Matter protests, hydrofracturing, climate change, and the like are entertaining but devoid of substance. The honest discussion is the rich vs. poor. Whether the revolution solves such is difficult to predict.
Politicians need agents to do the dirty work, and there seem to be plenty of volunteers for the job. Typically disposable, these scapegoats stand front and center until their usefulness ends. Recent noxious Trump cheerleaders such as Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Barr, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, and Steven Miller hopped on the Trump escalator and rode it up, but the end of the trail is not so cool. The likes of Kellyanne Conway, Ivanka Trump, and Kayleigh McEnaney are hard-to-endure, but these people are irritating bit players compared to similar historical figures. What happens to these political entrepreneurs is the subject of this investigation – and they all seem to follow a similar story arc to a rather dark end.
David Stockman played a crucial role in the Reagan administration promoting the corrosive effects of 'shareholder values' mantras and selective tax cuts that have resulted in an unsustainable disparity of wealth in the United States, as detailed in a previous investigation.
Stockman parlayed a B.A. in history from Michigan State University, graduate studies at Harvard Divinity School, and a dogmatic proto-Libertarian view of tax abatement for the wealthy and constraint of the Federal government into his moment in dark American history. Stockman won a Michigan Congressional seat in 1976, then resigned in 1981 to become the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under President Ronald Reagan, serving from 1981 until August 1985. Stockman was the youngest cabinet member in the 20th century, and his inexperience showed.
Stockman was one of the most controversial OMB directors ever appointed, also known as the 'Father of Reaganomics.' Committed to the long-discredited doctrine of trickle-down economics, he assisted in passing the 'Reagan Budget' (the Gramm-Latta Budget), which Stockman hoped would curtail the 'welfare state.' Unfortunately, during his term, he also oversaw enormous budget deficits.
After his time in public office, Stockman attempted to monetize his political career with work at Salomon and Blackstone with some success. In 2003 Stockman became CEO of Collins & Aikman Corporation, a Detroit-based manufacturer of automotive interior components. However, Collins & Aikman fired Stockman just before it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2005.
In 2007 United States prosecutors charged Stockman with fraud related to alleged financial misdeeds at Collins & Aikman. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission also brought civil charges against Stockman. The United States dropped the charges in 2009 while Stockman suffered a personal financial loss of over $13 million.
Stockman has enhanced his checkered past with a literary effort riffing Libertarian themes to lukewarm receptions and attempting to stay relevant with a boutique web presence. Stockman's work features simplistic and dogmatic free-market ideology, but one wonders if that is more about excusing his past deeds than providing any sincere commentary.
Colin Powell played an outsized role in history, helping legitimize the incredibly poorly-advised United States invasion of Iraq in 2003. The George W. Bush administration pushed the attack on implausible Iraqi connections to Al-Qaeda and laughable claims Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
Powell was a retired four-star general who served as the 65th United States Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005, becoming the first African-American Secretary of State. Up to his engagements on behalf of the Bush administration, Powell had a stellar reputation. Thus, one might surmise that a man of this education, experience, and temperament would avoid poor judgments in his future.
As United States Secretary of State, Powell appeared before the United Nations, presenting the Bush administration's case, thereby cementing his place in history as an enabler of the invasion. Despite stating in February 2001 that Iraq had not developed "any significant capability" regarding WMDs, and despite intense behind-the-scenes arguments about the validity of WMD charges, Powell made the case in front of the United Nations for a United States-led invasion of Iraq based on Iraq's possession of WMDs. Powell not only made the case but presented 'evidence' of such allegations. Unfortunately, Powell's presentation of the 'evidence' was a case study of sketchy bits of information duct-taped together with conjecture and misinformation, leading to an erroneous conclusion.
There were no WMDs in Iraq, and the United States had adequate ability to ascertain such due to satellite surveillance and overflights by U2 aircraft and certainly knew such assertions were fallacious. Thus, Powell's advocacy of such a case seems inexplicable, and his explanations seem hard to understand in an honest empirical evaluation.
After resigning as Secretary of State, Powell has made a career as a 'talking head' on Infotainment shows, has written a book, and has shown support for liberal or centrist causes. One wonders if this is his effort to whitewash his role in the disastrous Iraq invasion, the resultant incredible deaths of Americans and Iraqis, and the permanent stain on the credibility of the United States.
Oliver North was definitely in over his skis in his role in the Ronald Reagan Iran-Contra affair where he was the intermediary in the 'arms for hostages' scandal and, as a result, took a drastic fall. Reagan's anti-communist dogmatism involved military intervention, support of brutal ragtag militias, and violation of virtually every international standard of decency. North directed the diversion of profits from the arms sales to support the Contras in Nicaragua, part of Reagan's dogmatic push against socialist movements in Latin America, as detailed in a previous investigation.
North traded limited immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying before Congress about the scheme. As a result, North joined the convict club with three felony convictions for his role in breaking Federal laws, but courts reversed the convictions in 1991 because of legal technicalities related to his Congressional immunity.
North became a talking head on the Fox network Infotainment products and was the host of a right-wing radio show before taking an eleven-month stint as President of the National Rifle Association. Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive, ousted him after a public squabble over financial differences.
tpHenry Kissinger was a consequential United States Secretary of State under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and had positive accomplishments as he helped to open relations with China and played a role in a détente with the Soviet Union. However, history will revile Kissinger as the public advocate for a series of illegitimate international interventions and for his support of autocratic regimes who committed atrocities.
Kissinger was a German immigrant whose family had fled Nazi persecution as they were Jewish. He was an Army veteran who received three degrees from Harvard University, including his Ph.D., and then remained on faculty teaching. Kissinger became foreign policy advisor to Nelson Rockefeller, a serial presidential candidate in 1960, 1964, and 1968. In 1968 Kissinger referred to Richard Nixon as 'the most dangerous of all the men running to have as president.'
Regardless of his contempt for Nixon, Kissinger became Nixon's National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State, where his mastery of guile and intrigue led to excesses that arguably made him a war criminal, as outlined in Christopher Hitchens' masterful work titled The Trial of Henry Kissinger.
Kissinger took dual roles in the Nixon administration's second term and later Ford Administration as both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. In his first two years as Secretary of State, he helped Richard Nixon sabotage Vietnamese peace talks for his political gain, expanded the Viet Nam war into Laos and Cambodia, paving the way for the rise of the Khmer Rouge and the death of two million people, and advocated the bombing of 'anything that moves.'
In 1971, Kissinger backed Pakistan in its war against Bangladesh; in 1973, he orchestrated a military coup against the democratically-elected but socialist President of Chile Salvador Allende, installing the violently oppressive Pinochet dictatorship. Pinochet and his henchmen proceeded to murder and otherwise repress their political opposition.
In 1975, as Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under Ford, Kissinger lent his support to President Suharto of Indonesia, a known madman already accountable for the mass murders of hundreds of thousands in the deadly conquest of East Timor. In a 1975 meeting of the National Security Council attended by President Ford Henry Kissinger, ' It is an act of insanity and national humiliation to have a law prohibiting the President from ordering assassination.'
Kissinger has spent his remaining time on earth monetizing his fame and opining on his accomplishments. Kissinger is still alive at age 98 at the time of this investigation. Kissinger seems to be trying a bit too hard as if somewhere there is a conscience or some bit of guilt.
Joe McCarthy changed the face of American politics, entertainment, and media, and not in a good way. American politicians have adopted his branding of anti-communism to this day and used it to smear opponents with impossible-to-dispute claims. In concert with another consequential evildoer, Roy Cohn, he created a national frenzy and ended his career loathed and despised.
Joe McCarthy was the son of Wisconsin dairy farmers and attended Marquette University from 1930 to 1935. McCarthy received a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1935 from Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1942 McCarthy joined the United States Marine Corps, and his college degree qualified him for a direct commission as a first lieutenant. McCarthy served as an intelligence officer in the South Pacific. McCarthy volunteered to fly 12 combat missions as a gunner-observer and somewhat safe, but regardless, he self-branded himself with the nickname 'Tail-Gunner Joe.'
McCarthy successfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 1946, defeating Robert M. La Follette Jr. in the Republican primary, who had inherited his father's seat. McCarthy assailed his Democratic opponent, Howard McMurray, as a man so desperate for the election that he would accept communist support. The baseless charge worked, and McCarthy trounced McMurray and, in 1947, became the junior United States senator from Wisconsin.
McCarthy rose to infamy in February 1950, when he said he had a list of 'members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring' employed in the State Department. Of course, no such list existed. In the modern era, this would have been trending on Twitter. The United States initiated a generational anti-communism free fall that extends to this moment. McCarthy had a unique ability to sense the political pulse and an insane desire to channel outward his sense of self-loathing.
After his 1950 speech, McCarthy made accusations of Communist infiltration into the State Department, Hollywood, the administration of President Harry S. Truman, the Voice of America, and the United States Army. In addition, McCarthy used various charges of communism, communist sympathies, disloyalty, or sex crimes to attack politicians and other individuals. Finally, McCarthy initiated a 'Lavender Scare' against suspected homosexuals, once again using an anti-communism cover, used to torture and malign innocent people.
McCarthy did not live long enough to whitewash his infamous history of hate as he died at 48 in 1957. His death certificate listed the cause of death as 'hepatitis, acute, cause unknown,' almost certainly due to alcoholism.
The findings of this investigation are clear. There is no good end to political sycophancy and misrepresentation. The outcomes of such endeavor, commonly known as karma, are predictable and not fulsome. Such figures seem to understand their failures and seem to spend their days finding public rationales for their misdeeds and failing. In the light of later evaluation, such sycophancy results in a miserable end.
The ugly underside of America rose again in its most significant surge since 1968 with the election of Donald J. Trump in 2016. Trump formed a Republican coalition following the traditional Mitt Romney wing, Tea Party Libertarians, and white racists to ride a narrow electoral college win against perhaps the weakest opponent in American history. Despite the fervent wishes of the Republican party to cling to power, it is likely this event was singular and the roar of the last Tyrannosaurus.
It takes some measure of wizardry and a confluence of unfortunate events to become a one-term President. In the modern era, defined here as post World War II, there were only three one-term Presidents until Donald J. Trump joined the club in 2020.
The most recent one-term President was George H. W. Bush. Bush was a long-time Republican party operative, serving numerous party sinecures, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director under President Gerald Ford, and Vice-President under Ronald Reagan. Elected President in 1988, Bush succumbed to the temptation to invade Kuwait after Saddam Hussein's invasion in 1990. Bush took his eye off managing a formerly robust domestic economy while he played military hero, and the resultant economic recession primarily resulted in his defeat by Bill Clinton in 1992.
Jimmy Carter won the 1976 election, defeating Gerald Ford, but inherited systemic inflation and subsumed, seeming helpless to change the outcome, to the Iran Hostage Crisis. Ronald Reagan routed Carter in the 1980 election by aligning Evangelical Christians and the traditional Republican base.
Vice President Gerald Ford became President after Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974. However, Ford's controversial pardon of Nixon, systemic inflation, the Arab oil embargo, a tepid economy, and the fall of South Vietnam cost him reelection.
Donald J. Trump formed a massive television following through his successful television franchise The Apprentice, which ran from 2004 to 2017 on NBC. The show portrayed competitors with various professional experiences in an elimination-style rivalry to become an apprentice to a capitalist titan. During this engagement, Trump developed unique styles pandering to audiences and ingrained an identity as an authoritative and successful businessperson.
Trump papered over his sketchy record of bankruptcies, litigation, tax avoidance, and otherwise failed business ventures with the imaginary realism of The Apprentice. Trump parlayed his television gameshow host presence with social media outreach via the Twitter and Facebook platforms, solidifying a political reality and outlook with almost immediate feedback, allowing him to tune his message and find his populist base.
Trump's unique public persona was arguably sadistic, narcissistic, malignantly aggressive, and vengeful. Trump was not the first President diagnosable with personality disorders. Perhaps the leader of an Empire must have some degree of megalomania.
Dismissing Trump as a nouveau-riche party boy turned President is an over-simplification. Perhaps a mad genius would be a more appropriate analogy with the emphasis on mad. Trump test drove his conspiracy theory tactics with his support of the birther movement, casting doubt on Barrack Obama's birth in Hawaii, and found it resonated and was difficult to dispute. Many historians have found through similar battles with Holocaust deniers that fighting conspiracy theorists is frustrating and requires constant attention.
There is a strong argument that Trump would have garnered another term if he had managed the coronavirus in a reasonably responsible manner. Even a tepid personality such as George W. Bush was able to rally the United States in almost universal acclamation in response to the 9/11 attacks, invade Afghanistan, and even initiate the most implausible invasion of Iraq based on manufactured evidence' of 'weapons of mass destruction.'
All mad geniuses have their Achilles Heel, and in Trump's case, it was strategy on managing coronavirus. He could have borrowed from his predecessors' successful management of crises and made fighting the pandemic a patriotic, even nationalistic, cause. Instead, he chose to use it as a divisive issue, making hygiene and mask use a political issue and doubling down on his 'base' to deliver. Despite his base turning out in record numbers, Joe Biden routed him in the general election tabulation, primarily due to the electorate's revulsion to his personality and political strategies.
Political pundits make money from division and conflict, and the current punching bags are numerous for both sides. The Republican party has some fundamental concerns about future viability, mainly because of the lack of bench strength in senior leadership roles. The party now is a minority party clinging to life by attempting to stitch together fundamentally different groups of people.
The old-school Republicans are typically white, educated, suburban and rural, conservative socially, per-military, and quietly racist. This cohort is shrinking as a percentage of the population for various reasons, but most notably due to mortality due to aging and low birth rates.
The Tea Party wing, inspired by AstroTurf movements sponsored by libertarian business interests, is led by extremist House Representatives elected from highly gerrymandered congressional districts and Senators such as Rand Paul from very conservative states. The Tea Party wing has been powerful enough to grind legislative governance to a halt, in many respects achieving the dreams of its sponsors, and will remain a fundamentally obstructive force.
The disenfranchised poor whites, the core of the group mocked by liberal elites, consists of strongly pro-Trump white people who strongly identify with Donald Trump as a political savior intent on helping them. Left behind by mechanization, deindustrialization, and poor educational attainment, these people had not much left to lose, whether they realized it or not, and went all-in with Trump, adopting branding and talking points fed to them by their leader by social media.
Since Dwight Eisenhower's Presidency, Evangelical Christians, a force in Republican party politics, achieved their goals by packing the Supreme Court with young hyper-conservative justices who will be around for decades. With abortion access now essentially a matter of geography, it is hard to imagine other rallying cries strong enough to mobilize this group, and like the old-school Republicans, they are becoming a smaller demographic cohort due to aging and low birth rates.
Post-election defeats usually prompt a move to the middle in terms of platform, but the Republican party has not shown such endeavor and, while still in the thrall of Donald Trump, likely will not.
Mitch McConnell and his ancient and rather feeble colleagues have no natural choice but to maintain the status quo as a coalition reactionary party with no actual proposals and not much of an agenda. To advocate anything provocative would be to tempt losing one of the cohorts to a third party, rendering the Republican party perhaps even more obsolete and powerless and mortal. While many people doubt that the end of the Republican party could occur, American political parties have dissolved before.
To regain relevancy in the absence of a move to the middle, now occupied by the Democratic party, the Republicans require a firebrand to ignite its disparate groups of followers. It is difficult to imagine an intellectually challenged figure such as Marjorie Taylor Greene finding much of a broad appeal. Ted Cruz, resembling an overfed groundhog with the charisma of a two-by-four, seems equally implausible. A gender-fluid Josh Hawley looks unappealing to the lower-class white Trump followers and certainly not spontaneous enough. Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, has a tin ear for the winds of a political movement, and is pugnacious enough, and might be able to cobble together the coalition, but absent charisma, seems a doomed possibility. The Trump children, despicable enough, also seem unable and disinterested in creating a family political dynasty.
We are in consequential times, but it is indeed likely the Trump administration was the roar of the last Tyrannosaurus.
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.