Progressives Every Day: Trump Is a Particularly Nasty Symptom

But the disease is deeper

Welcome to the Monday evening edition of Progressives Everywhere!

I am swamped with last-minute work on our big new project, which will launch tomorrow night during the presidential debate! With that self-imposed deadline fast approaching, I’m going to make this a relatively quick edition of the newsletter — after all, I don’t have crooked bankers and foreign dictators that can bail me out any time I need a helping hand.

That was a topical joke.


Outrage and Then Inspiration

By now I’m sure that you have read and re-read the blockbuster New York Times story about what a laughable business failure and blatant tax cheat Donald Trump is. You’ve digested the most absurd and enraging numbers ($70k deduction for the taxidermy job on his head, etc) and retweeted some mix of pissed off and sarcastic tweets. You’re probably in the middle of watching an MSNBC segment about how Trump is likely in deep debt to every malignant dictator and foreign interest in the world. These things have settled into a predictable lifecycle.

We knew that Trump was a fraud and a thief. None of this, as an overall concept, is a surprise. What gets under my skin the most is not what Trump did or didn’t pay, but how many people helped him pull off decades of decadent deceit. The banks and lawyers who found the loopholes, backed up his lies, and encouraged his abuse — they don’t just work for Trump. This is an entire industry, designed to rip off the rest of us.

Certainly, not every millionaire or billionaire bilks the system. There are those who pay their fair share of taxes, donate their wealth to good causes, and try to use the money they have to better the world. But needless to say, it’s only millionaires and billionaires who are given the opportunity to steal and cheat their fellow Americans. And they do it to the tune of $266 billion (and likely even more than that) a year.

At the same time, it’s incredibly expensive to be poor.

I’ve watched loved ones go through painful multi-year bankruptcies in which banks, creditors, and trustees went after them for every single cent they had and didn’t have (and they usually didn’t have anything, which is what bankrupt means). I’ve seen people close to me kicked out of rehab early due to insurance issues, only to relapse and then not have insurance at all. When you don’t have a lot of money, they’ll begrudgingly take your will to live instead.

Ever since being laid off in March, I’ve spent just about every waking moment of my days busting my ass on freelance work. I hardly have fun anymore, and I’m definitely not taking private jets to my money-losing golf clubs, propped up by loans from corrupt bankers and tax rebates based on lies.

And I’m one of the lucky ones. I have health insurance, thanks to my wife’s job. The cardiologist I saw last week for my regular check-up and the medication I take daily won’t bankrupt me, as those things do for so many Americans. I’m not going to be one of the tens of millions of people to be kicked out of their homes within the next six months because they can’t just refinance their rent or mortgage on the credit of their cursed name.

Working people are gouged by weekly rents and payday loans and predatory pharmaceutical companies every single day. They are accountable for every single dollar and cent they earn and spend. They are slaves to the grind until they are ground down into nothing. It costs too much to be one of those people who don’t have to pay for anything.

The era of vulture capitalism and tax cheats has denied the rest of us any sort of dignity and comfort. Between the more than quarter trillion dollars a year in personal taxes and the even more egregious corporate tax avoidance schemes (Amazon rarely pays corporate taxes!), the richest Americans can buy off politicians and ensure that our public schools are starved, our public housing is decrepit, our bridges collapse, our hospitals close, and every law is stacked against anyone trying to make it out of financial hell.

I don’t know if the stories of Trump’s tax fraud and shell game empire will change any of his supporters’ minds. But I do know that it reminded me why I spend so much of my time fighting tooth and nail to advance progressive change and support the candidates who want to enact it.


Important News You Should Read

Georgia: We got a few big legal decisions in the most notorious voter suppression state in the country (outside of Florida, of course).

  • First, a US District Court judge ruled that every polling place in Georgia has to have paper records of all registered voters and whether they voted early or via absentee ballot.

  • This is key because it acts as insurance for the digital systems in place that tend to crash and get confusing for poll workers. Good ol’ fashioned paper records will help ensure that those eligible to vote can do so while also keeping the line moving. Avoiding a repeat of the disastrous June primary in the state is essential.

  • Want to see something infuriating? I mean, something else infuriating? Here’s a quote from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    • “Totenberg’s 67-page ruling recounts problems that voters have faced in elections since 2018.

      Some voters showed up at the polls but weren’t listed as registered on check-in computers. Others found wrong addresses displayed or were told they had to go to another polling place to vote. Poll workers at times didn’t offer provisional ballots as they should have to voters whose registration information was in doubt.

      In addition, computer voter registration systems showed that some voters had already cast their ballots when they hadn’t.”

  • If only they could also sub in paper ballots for the crappy digital voting machines on which Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger blew $100 million.

  • In more good news (really!), a Fulton County judge dismissed a lawsuit that sought to purge another 14,000 voters from the rolls ahead of the November election. The plaintiffs alleged, with no real evidence, that all those voters had moved out of the county. The whole no real evidence thing is what did them in.

  • But remember, this is a silver lining — Georgia has become the voter purge capital of the country. Earlier this month, an ACLU study found that the state wrongly purged over 200,000 eligible voters in 2019 alone.

Pennsylvania: A new poll shows Biden with a steady nine-point lead over Trump in the state. The nomination of right-wing idealogue Amy Coney to the Supreme Court hasn’t helped Trump, to say the least. Some interesting numbers:

New York: This particular tweet is from a (very progressive!) New York State Senator, but it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re voting by mail in most places. Only 18 states provide prepaid postage on their absentee/mail ballots and there’s no obvious guideline on what works for the rest:

Seattle: While gig economy companies pour hundreds of millions of dollars into Prop 22, which would strip their drivers of employee status and basically screw gig (and many other!) workers across the state, Seattle is moving toward assuring Uber/Lyft drivers a minimum wage.

  • Last week, the City Council’s Finance and Housing Committee moved forward a bill championed by Mayor Jenny Durkan (no big progressive!) that uses a somewhat complicated formula to compensate drivers for the time they drive.

  • Gig drivers often spend much of their time looking for passengers, and right now, they’re not paid for any of that time. This would change that.

National: Tomorrow is the first debate between Trump and Biden. It should be messy. If I can’t help myself, I’ll be live-tweeting it at @JordanZakarin. If anyone’s interested in participating in a thread here, we can do that too!


Wait, before you go!

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