Trump’s model for America is corrupt, autocratic crony capitalism. Like in Russia.
Russia is corrupt and autocratic. It ranks 138th out of 180 countries for corruption (where a higher ranking means more corrupt) and 149th for freedom of the press (where a higher ranking means less freedom). In Russia, government policies benefit the ruling party’s allies and punish its opponents.
America used to condemn countries like Russia. Now, President Donald Trump openly expresses his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and other corrupt autocrats. Even worse, Trump and the GOP want America to become more like Russia.
Consider the very Republican state of Wyoming (Trump got 68% of the vote there in 2016, and the GOP controls its legislature and governorship.) A Berkshire Hathaway Energy company is being reamed by Wyoming Republicans for plans to close coal-fired plants in Wyoming that aren’t cost effective. Despite their party’s claim to believe in capitalism and to oppose socialism, Wyoming Republicans passed a law making it difficult to close the plants and are investigating Berkshire’s business plans.
The general message is “to hell with capitalism — we need these tax revenues and jobs!” In true autocratic crony-capitalist style, these GOP politicians view companies as a means to fund their political supporters and buy their votes.
Friend in high place for Trump allies
This isn’t a one-off. The Trumpified GOP increasingly meddles in our economy and legal system to punish its opponents and reward its supporters.
Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post (which refuses to toe the Trump party line) and is also the largest shareholder in Amazon, as well as its founder and CEO. The company says Trump aimed to punish Bezos by pressing the military to award Microsoft, rather than Amazon, a multibillion dollar cloud computing contract. Trump also accused Amazon of ripping off the U.S. Postal Service and demanded that it be charged “ MUCH MORE!”
This isn’t just about Bezos. Trump also lobbied the military to give a major building contract for his border wall to a GOP supporter.
Looking at the economy, the Federal Reserve found that Trump’s trade war with China and tariffs damaged many Americans. However, Trump and the GOP gave billions of our tax dollars to America’s farmers ( who mainly vote Republican) to ensure that the trade war doesn’t hurt them.
The GOP 2017 tax act was basically a tax cut for the rich who fund the party, full of special provisions to benefit corporate and wealthy supporters.
As for the news media, consider the disparate treatment of Rupert Murdoch/Fox News (consistent supporters of Trump) and CNN (which reports news, rather than cheerlead for Trump). CNN’s merger with AT&T was opposed by Trump and challenged by his Justice Department. A major merger of some Fox properties into Disney, expected to encounter antitrust challenges from the government, sailed through suspiciously smoothly.
As investigative journalist Jane Mayer commented, “Under Trump the government has consistently furthered Murdoch’s business interests, to the detriment of his rivals.”
Trump is also corrupting our criminal justice system. For example, he pardoned political supporter and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio under dubious circumstances. Trump also reversed the demotion of then-Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher, charged with several war crimes but convicted only of bringing discredit to the armed services, and vowed not to let the Navy remove him. Instead, Gallagher retired, and Trump met with him at Mar-a-Lago.
According to The Washington Post, Trump has also pressed government employees to break the law, promising them pardons if they’re caught. (A spokesman said Trump was joking, and Trump called the story “ totally Fake.”)
Attacks on those who tell the truth
This president, who routinely demands investigations and punishment of anyone he feels is disloyal to him, has been impeached for pressing Ukraine to investigate a political opponent. When Democrats didn’t give him a standing ovation during his 2018 State of the Union address, he called it treason.
Trump has also attacked career military and foreign service officers for telling the truth under oath. And in flagrant violation of U.S. government policy, Trump is attempting to out a whistleblower who reported on his nefarious activities. Let’s call this what it is — witness intimidation.
Trump and the GOP want to reduce civil service protections for government employees and regularly attack nonpartisan career civil servants (who are simply doing their jobs) for lacking loyalty to Trump and the GOP. Moreover, Trump and his Republican allies claim that the FBI is a deep state conspiracy that must be purged, while the evidence shows the FBI, like the civil servants, is just trying to do its job.
Trump has said that if he orders the military to commit war crimes, he expects them to do it. He also wants a justice system, civil service and media loyal to the Trumpified GOP. Meanwhile, his party has abandoned any pretense of trying to get the majority of Americans to vote Republican on the merits, relying instead on gerrymandering, voter suppression, the Electoral College and the Senate (where a small GOP state like Wyoming has the same number of votes as California) to maintain control.
I could keep giving examples, but I’ve made my point. If, as expected, Trump survives an impeachment trial in the Republican Senate and stays in office, we’ll have a simple choice in 2020.
If the Democrats win, America could become more like Canada or Germany (higher taxes, probably on the wealthy, and universal health insurance), but within a framework of the rule of law. If you’re an ideological conservative, you won’t like the Democrats’ proposals, but they might fail in Congress and/or the courts. And, you’ll get to vote for president again in 2024 (and beyond) — hopefully, for a law-abiding conservative.
Alternatively, if Trump and Republicans win, America could become more like Russia. Vote wisely.
Steven Strauss is a lecturer and visiting professor at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, an economic development specialist and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him Twitter: @Steven_Strauss
Originally published at https://www.usatoday.com and, is cross posted here with permission of the author.