The Biggest Con


About a month after the nation elected Donald Trump as president, a poll shows that some are probably regretting that vote already.  Some may be even concealing a sense that they have been conned by a man who knows well how to gain the people’s confidence whom it expects to exploit for financial or political gain.

I find it astounding that so many people could be deceived to vote for a person whose entire life has had one central focus.  Himself.  Did they honestly think he’d change to genuinely deal with their concerns?

People desperate for change are easy marks for professional con men.  As more and more Americans expressed their outrage with how Washington was accommodating Wall Street while ignoring Main street they created an opening for a demagogue like Trump to lull them into his fantasy world, claiming as he did that he alone could fix what was ailing America.

“Suckers “ is the word that P.T. Barnum used to describe the  easy prey who were easily convinced of things beyond their comprehension and willing to give of themselves to be enthralled by the possibilities that carnivals conveyed.  And let there be no doubt, carnival is what Trump does best

Let’s face it though.  Many voters likely felt that it couldn’t be any worse than what’s being offered by other politicians and if all else fails, it at least it sends a dire message to the powers-that-be, not unlike “Networks” fictional character Howard Beale.


Trump’s election was indeed a wake up call for the status quo but in reality this election of a confidence man is what my mother used say was like “cutting off your nose to spite your face”.  A pact has been made with the devil and we are all now confronted with dealing with it over at least the next 4 years.

In a moment of despair and weakness people traded in rational common sense for gut level emotions that can only happen after years of sustained job losses, wage stagnation and increased homelessness from home foreclosures that all resulted from the greed of Wall Street financial institutions and the political powers in Washington that were aided in large measure through specific deregulations of the finance industry.

But truth be known, the explosion of faux news sites on the internet that had persuasive influence on people’s perception’s  this election cycle manifested, and some say even created, ambiguous and even false notions of what’s wrong in America.  Our ability to be factually informed has likely damaged beyond repair with this plethora of false news sites, especially if our traditional main stream media sources gets caught up in this hoax. Journalistic ethics risk taking a back seat on corporate news sites that many of us used to fervently watch, long before the advent of the internet and cable TV.

“We’ve been arguing for some time now that plurality of news media is good. Diversity is good. Critiquing the mainstream media is good. But now… it’s gone wildly out of control.”  – Charlie Beckett, professor in the school of media and communications at the London School of Economics


The reason the aforementioned poll is showing displeasure in Trump’s selections for his administration is because it is a betrayal of his campaign promise to ”clean the swamp” of lobbyists and others who prey on Washington politicians with money to influence their vote.  It was a promise that money would no longer be a factor in how policies were to be formulated and written.  And yet basically the same Wall Street types that have filled cabinet and lower post in the White House for decades are once again taking their seat next to the man with the world’s greatest power.

  One of those positions being filled is the Secretary of Health and Human services by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), a man who has eyed the Social Security and Medicare Trusts with envy for years.  Envy that this money is not benefitting his rich Wall Street friends who would rather see these million$ going into their trading companies in the stock market with the get rich euphoria that is a long time fantasy with professional investors.

In his position as Secretary of HHS Price can present what he calls  “reform” to entitlement programs that he feels are the biggest drag on our debt.  As chair of the House Budget Committee he authored a paper that singled out “Federal Government’s entitlement programs “ expressing in alarming tones how such spending on these programs “is unrestrained”.  Ill-informed people who don’t closely review federal policies and who have already demonized all bureaucracy in government take such alarms from people like Price at face value with no option but to follow his “experienced wisdom” in how best to handle them.

Now it’s true that Social Security and Medicare come under mandatory spending which unlike discretionary spending – which is where the military budget sits – is not funded each year through the annual appropriations process. Discretionary spending levels are set each year by Congress.

Mandatory spending on the other hand, as outlined by the National Priorities Project, “is spending that Congress legislates outside of the annual appropriations process, usually less than once a year.  Many mandatory programs’ spending levels are determined by eligibility rules. Congress therefore does not decide each year to increase or decrease the budget for Social Security or other earned benefit programs. Instead, it periodically reviews the eligibility rules and may change them in order to exclude or include more people, or offer more or less generous benefits to those who are eligible, and therefore change the amount spent on the program.”

Rep. Price, having conveniently excluded our military debt from his analysis implies by default that it is nowhere near as high as what we spend on entitlement programs.  But a small search of the facts reveals that military spending combined with what is spent on Homeland Security is on par with what is spent on entitlement programs.

In 2016 Social Security paid out $888 billion in benefits while Medicare paid out $546 billion, totaling $1,434 trillion while the combined military and homeland security spending amounted to $997.2 billion,  with an increase request of $1038.1 trillion for 2017.

Yes, the $560 billion dollar difference between total defense spending and total Medicare/Social Security is significant but keep this mind.  The bulk of this spending for these entitlement programs comes from direct payments retires pay into all of their working life.   That’s why they are referenced as “entitlements”.   The military spending does not benefit from monthly deductions from payroll checks thus making it more of a burden on all taxpayers

But this important fact will be passed over as Price attempts to privatize Social Security and Medicare as part of his reform efforts.  What Price will be doing as I indicated earlier is what wealthy financial interests have been attempting to do since Social Security started back in 1936.  They would love to get their greedy paws on these million$ being put in the Social Security trust, a system that has for 80 years faithfully paid benefits as promised to those who contributed to the system all their lives.  Instead of a guaranteed sum each month Price and his Wall Street comrades want you to invest in the stock market that promises higher rates of return.  A promise however not supported by the facts.

Privatization advocates like to stress the appeal of “individual choice” and “personal control,” while assuming in their forecasts that everyone’s accounts will match the overall performance of the stock market. But studies by Yale economist Robert J. Shiller and others have demonstrated that individual investors are far more likely to do worse than the market generally, even excluding the cost of commissions and administrative expenses. Indeed, research by Princeton University economist Burton Malkiel found that even professional money managers over time significantly underperformed indexes of the entire market.

Moreover, a number of surveys show that most people lack the knowledge to make even basic decisions about investing. For example, a Securities and Exchange Commission report synthesizing surveys of investors found that only 14 percent knew the difference between a growth stock and an income stock, and just 38 percent understood that when interest rates rise, bond prices go down. Almost half of all investors believed incorrectly that diversification guarantees that their portfolio won’t suffer if the market drops and 40 percent thought that a mutual fund’s operating costs have no impact on the returns they receive.   SOURCE

For those who still remain doubtful that privatization will prove hurtful to retires one only needs to look at those employees who invested their money in Trump’s casinos (at his request).

Trump’s company encouraged its employees to invest their retirement savings in company stock, according to a class-action lawsuit filed by employees against Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts following its 2004 bankruptcy. Then, when the stock price was near its nadir as bankruptcy loomed, the company forced the employees to sell their stock at a huge loss. More than 400 employees lost a total of more than $2 million from their retirement accounts, the lawsuit states.   SOURCE

And there is this recent development that finds Texas congressional Republican Sam Johnson “reforming” Social Security down the road that further diminishes benefits, with full support from billionaire Pete Peterson who is a rabid advocate of eliminating Social  Security altogether.

The hyperbole employed by conservatives doesn’t seem to get noticed by voters however.  The scariest pitch, true or not, is what gets noticed by a poorly informed public and it was this knowledge that spurred Trump’s campaign.  One that he never expected to be the Republican nominee of, much less president, but one that he also claimed he never even wanted.   So why not go ahead and make outrageous claims.  It was to him after all the carnival aspects of it that he enjoyed the most.

As historian David Kaiser has pointed out, “We have left ourselves vulnerable to a demagogue like [Trump].  He will decide what the consequences will be.”  Demagogue indeed, or worse, a two-bit dictator.

12 responses to “The Biggest Con

  1. Another excellent post…..privatization has been nothing but a bummer for the country…everything that has been privatized has been a disaster….looking more and more like a plutocracy…moire so than in the past…..the country will pay dearly for their stupidity. Have a great day my friend and keep the thoughts coming….chuq

  2. For many, valid, reasons 2016 has been a difficult year. I shall be very glad to see it pass. Yet I don’t think I have ever been so nervous, scared would not be too strong a word, at what the New Year might be bringing. A sobering assessment from you, Tony.

  3. Trump knew what buttons to push, and those buttons spoke volumes about the character of certain Americans who were willing to throw fellow citizens under the bus in the hopes of bettering their own lives.

    I, too, share the same sentiments as Paul.

      • The interesting thing is — Trump did not con them regarding his character. He didn’t lie about being a bigot, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist and/or misogynistic. Some were equally bigoted, homophobic sexist and/or misogynistic. Some overlooked his inhumanity because they didn’t think it would impact them, personally. Some, who didn’t vote Republican, but rather “voted their conscience”or to protest, knowing it was a tight race, and what was at stake, are also accountable. Hopefully, they will do some serious introspection after they realize they will soon join those they threw under the bus.

      • “He didn’t lie about being a bigot, xenophobic, homophobic, sexist and/or misogynistic. Some were equally bigoted, homophobic sexist and/or misogynistic.”

        Good point neuro but there lies a distinction. He took advantage of their biases, playing on them to win support. He never openly exposed his own biases as much as he railed against political correctness. People may have not liked what he said but his emphasis on so-called “free speech” allowed them to accept him with all his bullshit

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