THIS WEEK IN NYC 
 
 

MANHATTAN CHRONICLES 
December, 2016 
by Alexandra Ares
 

Will Trump Deliver or Become the Next Obama?

The two Presidents hate each other and couldn’t be more different: from the color of their skin and the color of their hair, to their speech style and political affiliation. Yet, as heads of state, the test is how to reconcile the opposite needs of American people and the needs of various special interests that run both the US Congress and Government?

Here are some examples:

Americans are sick of war vs. Defense Factories Need more War

[The country has been depleted by years of financing war and can’t offer its citizens man of the services provided by countries with a low defense budget.]    

Americans need good jobs with benefits vs 94% of the jobs created under Obama were part time or have no benefits because of 1) Big Business vicious cost-cutting to please Wall Street 2) High healthcare costs bring ruin to employers.

Americana need an economy that works for them vs. the FED, Big Business and WS who want an economy that works for big capital.

Americans need affordable drugs vs. Big Pharma, which charges the biggest prices in the world, thwarts competition, and increases costs more than inflation, year after year.    

Americans want to end predatory healthcare practices, need affordable hospital care and transparent pricing vs Hospitals who try to extract as much money from each patient as humanely possible, charging the highest prices in the world for subpar healthcare.   

American people want single payer like in Canada, UK, or Germany, or at least the Public Option vs. a For-profit health Insurance system which auctions life and health to the highest bidder.

And the list goes on to include Education, which has become a heavy, burdensome tax on opportunity, the Internet and cable bundling/monopolies, which have become another burden on every household, and charge the highest prices in the world (about 15 times higher than in Romania for instance for lesser quality), Property Taxes, Rents, Cost of Living, Apparel, etc.

It will take genius to reconcile these staggering differences. The reason is:

Everything voters need for a better life means less profit for certain businesses and a dip in their stocks. These stocks are spread up in millions of portfolios where every negative change triggers a chain reaction that means loss for many. The entire US financial economy has become a gigantic Ponzi Scheme or a Daisy Chain, too big to fail, no matter how ruinous for the base.

Everything Business needs, business gets because the fund all political races, and congressmen, senators, and governors from both sides of the aisle consistently allow loopholes.

In between these two groups, mainstream media is not an innocent player. After all it survives on ads and donations sponsored by the same big corporations, and respond to board members who own stock in their company and in various other companies which they’d like to see it grow quarterly at any costs to the public. The result is a media who no longer is happy to report the news, but want to shape the very outcomes that are good for the elite and bad for everyone else.

The people who voted for Obama, as though he were the next incarnation of Jesus Christ who would save everyone, or those who awarded him the Nobel Prize before he actually did anything to earn it, hoped for Change. Instead, Obama artfully let them down at every step that followed:

No banker who’d caused the Wall Street Crash went to jail, one of the senators who presided over the banking system in the eight years leading to the crash was even promoted to Secretary of State, and helped to become Presidential Candidate and Obama-Heir-in Waiting, the American workers are still asked to fork over their savings to Wall Street in risky 401k accounts instead of guaranteed pensions, saving responsibly is still punished with nearly zero interest rates, the Affordable Care Act/ObamaCare was mainly written by and for the medical insurance industry and the public option was conspicuously left out, the mess in Iraq and  the duplicitous alliance with Saudi Arabia continued, and a new radical mess  called ISIS was born after CIA and British Intelligence trained yet another Muslim rebel group, this time to fight Assad, Saudi Arabia’s second nemesis after Saddam Hussein, which US helped remove. This new group, like Al Queda before it, went rogue to become the Islamic State.

Donald Trump won the Presidency because he's sold himself, like President Obama before him, as the change candidate versus Hillary Clinton’s more-of-the-same status quo candidate. It was a good tactic. Disappointed by Obama’s lethargy in fighting special interests, voters hoped that Trump’s fighting stamina would finally fix all the country’s ills.

But, apart from a few signature issues, like jobs, trade, veterans and the wall, will Trump put a good fight to fix all the pesky issues that no president seems to touch because the Congress is thoroughly lobbied out?

The best thing about his candidacy is that he talked about those pesky issues at all, which no presidential candidate except for Bernie Sanders addressed. In my lifetime these issues have been fudged around the edges, always skilfully dismissed or avoided: we can't have this and that, it cant be done, why even talk about this? 

However, after the Republican Convention in the summer of 2016, I’ve also noticed that some of Trump’s most appealing ‘change’ positions from a year ago had been removed from his marketing and fundraising emails, from his speeches, and from his policy positions on his website.

First, on healthcare: During the first primary debate Trump had candidly said that he had nothing against a Public Option, which worked pretty well in Canada. Later, he dropped this view and adopted the standard Republican position against the Public Option and against any form of not-for-profit health system. Back then, I also appreciated Trump’s crucial position to allow US government to negotiate bulk drug prices. At the time, none of the media seized upon this position and praise it, busy as they were to falsely describe him as a new Hitler, because the goal was not to encourage change and best candidate, the goal was to get the 'right' one - Clinton -  elected. And Clinton was silent on thorny issue of the price of drugs, perhaps at the request of her friend D-NJ Senator Cory Booker and of various big pharma donors. Soon enough, Trump’s position on drugs’ prices was taken down from his website. Since it had always been missing from Hillary’s website, I had been impressed to see it, ever so briefly on Trump’s. The position to ban US Government to negotiate bulk drug prices is worth trillions. Big Pharma had lobbied hard for it and Congress passed it during G.W. Bush’s first term. It was left untouched by the former “Angel of Hope” and “Change President” Barack Obama. Who asked or persuaded Donald Trump to remove it? Was it his old friend and supporter Governor Chris Christ of New Jersey, the state with the most pharmaceutical and biotech companies?

Second, after the same RNC, Trump pledged to increase the military budget and call it depleted was standard Republican text book. Most Americans do want a strong military but they don't want to throw even more money at it, they'd rather have it be more efficient. The United States has already been involved in and assisted too many regime changes since the end of WWII and already has a military budget bigger than the next 8 big countries combined, in time of peace. Last year Reuters reported that the U.S. Army fudged its accounts by trillions of dollars, and that 6.5 trillion dollars went missing from the Department of Defense books only in 2016! To pledge more money to this black hole, when such money are dearly needed for the reconstruction of America’s infrastructure for instance, was another sign that Trump perhaps bent to the pressures of his own party, alarming some of his voters that he might turn into a new Obama who largely ignored the will and the interests of his base.

We understand that in order to get elected any US President needs to forge a large coalition and do a lot of compromising with various groups until he is sworn in. In Romania there’s an old proverb: be friends with the Devil until you cross the bridge. Now that he crossed the bridge, will Donald Trump really fight for what used to be his outsider's good instincts when it came to policy, or will the "Devil" tame him? 

Alexandra Ares PhD is a Romanian-born, New York novelist, columnist and editor of Manhattan Chronicles.