James Howard Kunstler – Trumptopia is here, and it’s going to be a long, hard slog til daybreak.
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If the first forty-eight hours are any measure of the alleged Trumptopia-to-come, the leading man in this national melodrama appears to be meshuga. A more charitable view might be that his behavior does not comport with the job description: president. If he keeps it up, I stick to my call that we will see him removed by extraordinary action within a few months. It might be a lawful continuity-of-government procedure according to the 25th Amendment — various high officials declaring him “incapacited” — or it might be a straight-up old school coup d’état (“You’re fired”).
I believe the trigger for that may be an overwhelming financial crisis in the early second quarter of the year. In the first case, under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, it works like this:
Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Or else, it will be an orchestrated cabal of military and intelligence officers — not necessarily evil men — who fear for the safety of the nation with the aforesaid meshuganer in the White House, who is summarily arrested, sequestered, and replaced by an “acting president,” pending a call for an extraordinary new election to replace him by democratic means. I’m not promoting this scenario as necessarily desirable, but that’s how I think it will go down. It will be a sad moment in this country’s history, worse than the shock of John Kennedy’s assassination, which happened against the background of an economically stable Republic. History is perverse and life is tragic. And shit happens.
Returning to the first forty-eight hours of the new regime, first the ceremony itself: there was, to my mind, the disturbing sight of Donald Trump, deep in the Capitol in the grim runway leading out onto the inaugural dais. He lumbered along, so conspicuously alone between the praetorian ranks front and back, overcoat open, that long red slash of necktie dangling ominously, with a mad gleam in his eyes like an old bull being led out to a sacrificial altar. His speech to the multitudes was not exactly what had once passed for presidential oratory. It was not an “address.” It was blunt, direct, unadorned, and simple, a warning to the assembled luminaries meant to prepare them for disempowerment. Surely it was received by many as a threat.
Indeed an awful lot of official behavior has to change if this country expects to carry on as a civilized polity, and Trump’s plain statement was at face value consistent with that idea. But the disassembly of such a vast matrix of rackets is unlikely to be managed without generating a lot of dangerous friction. Such a tall order would require, at least, some finesse. Virtually all the powers of the Deep State are arrayed against him, and he can’t resist taunting them, a dangerous game. Despite the show of an orderly transition, a state of war exists between them. Anyway, given Trump’s cabinet appointments, his “swamp draining” campaign looks like one set of rackets is due to be replaced by a new and perhaps worse set.
Trump was correct that the ruins of industry stand like tombstones on the landscape. The reality may be that an industrial economy is a one-shot deal. When it’s gone, it’s over. Even assuming the money exists to rebuild the factories of the 20th century, how would things be produced in them? By robotics or by brawny men paid $15-an-hour? If it’s robotics, who will the customers be? If it’s low-wage workers, how are they going to pay for the cars and washing machines? If the brawny men are paid $40 an hour, how would we sell our cars and washing machines in foreign markets that pay their workers the equivalent of $1.50 an hour. How can American industry stay afloat with no export market? If we don’t let foreign products into the US, how will Americans buy cars that are far more costly to make here than the products we’ve been getting? There’s no indication that Trump and his people have thought through any of this.
Trump can pull out the stops (literally, the regulations) to promote oil production, but he can’t alter the declining energy return on investment that is bringing down the curtain on industrial society. In fact, pumping more oil now at all costs will only hasten the decline of affordable oil. His oft-stated wish to simply “take” the oil from Middle Eastern countries would probably lead to sabotage of their oil infrastructure and the cruel death of millions. He would do better to prepare Americans for the project of de-suburbanizing the nation, but I doubt that the concept has ever entered his mind.
The problems with Obamacare, and so-called health care generally, are burdened with so many layers of arrant racketeering that the system may only be fixable if it is destroyed in its current form — the overgrown centralized hospitals, the overpaid insurance and hospital executives, the sore-beset physicians carrying six-figure college-and-med-school loans, the incomprehensible and extortionate pricing system for care, the cruel and insulting bureaucratic barriers to obtain care, the disgraceful behavior of the pharmaceutical companies, all add up to something no less than a colossal hostage racket, robbing and swindling people at their most vulnerable. So far, nobody has advanced a coherent plan for changing it. Loosing the Department of Justice to prosecute the medical racketeers directly would be a good start. Overcharging and defrauding sick people ought to be a criminal act. But don’t expect that to happen in a culture where anything goes and nothing matters. A financial crisis could be the trigger for ending the massive medical grift machine. Then what? Back to locally organized clinic-scale medicine… if we should be so lucky.
Saturday afternoon, Trump paid a call at CIA headquarters, ostensibly to begin mending fences with what may be his domestic arch-enemies. What did he do? He peeved and pouted about press reports of the lowish attendance at his swearing in. Maximum meshuga. I’m surprised that some veteran of The Company’s Suriname outpost didn’t take him out with a blowgun dart garnished with the toxic secretions of tree frogs.
Do you suppose Trump is going to improve? That was the hope after the election: that he’d take on some POTUS polish. No, what you see is what you get. I can only imagine that what’s going on behind the scenes in various halls of power would make a Matt Damon Bourne movie look like a sensitivity training session — grave professional men and women on all fours with their hair on fire howling into the acoustical ceiling tiles.
Don’t forget that it was the dismal failure of Democratic “progressive” politics that gave us Trump. His infantile lies and foolish tweets were made possible by a mendacious political culture that excuses illegal immigrants as “the undocumented,” refuses to identify radical Islamic terror by name, shuts down free speech on campus, made Michael Brown of Ferguson a secular saint, claims that there’s no biological basis for gender, and allowed Wall Street to pound the American middle class down a rat hole like so much sand.
You think this is the dark night of the national soul? The sun only went down a few minutes ago and it’s a long hard slog to daybreak.
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Praise for A History of the Future:
“Kunstler skewers everything from kitsch to greed, prejudice, bloodshed, and brainwashing in this wily, funny, rip-roaring, and profoundly provocative page- turner, leaving no doubt that the prescriptive yet devilishly satiric A World Made by Hand series will continue.” — Booklist
(Originally appeared at Clusterfuck Nation. Now more timely than ever.)