Christmas with a lying, erratic, destructive president

On this Christmas, the feeling of yuletide joy is missing, thanks to the destructive actions of a president gone mad in the White House and the greetings of the season are less than celebratory.

With some thousands of federal employees affected by the partial closing of the government last Friday at midnight, many of them spend this Christmas pondering the return to gifts to help pay mortgages and bills.

President Donald Trump’s Christmas morning appearance in the Oval Office was primarily a threat to keep the federal government closed until he gets his way.

“I can’t tell you when the government is going to reopen,” he said. “I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it. I’ll call it whatever they want. But it’s all the same thing. It’s a barrier from people pouring into our country.”

Writes three-time Pulitzer Prize winning correspondent Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times:

Trump’s behavior has become so erratic, his lying so persistent, his willingness to fulfill the basic functions of the presidency — like reading briefing books, consulting government experts before making major changes and appointing a competent staff — so absent, his readiness to accommodate Russia and spurn allies so disturbing and his obsession with himself and his ego over all other considerations so consistent, two more years of him in office could pose a real threat to our nation.

His recommendation?

I believe that the only responsible choice for the Republican Party today is an intervention with the president that makes clear that if there is not a radical change in how he conducts himself — and I think that is unlikely — the party’s leadership will have no choice but to press for his resignation or join calls for his impeachment.

Our sources on Capitol Hill says a slowly increasing number of Republicans — especially in the Senate — are muttering the same thing in closed-door gatherings.

They realize Trump is out of control.  It’s only a matter of time before they start coming out.

Fact-checking services report 7,546 outright false or misleading statements and claims by Trump in 700 days in office.

“If America starts to behave as a selfish, shameless, lying grifter like Trump, you simply cannot imagine how unstable — how disruptive — world markets and geopolitics may become,” writes Friedman. “We cannot afford to find out.”

Nobel Memorial Prize recipient Paul Krugman says a future with Trump as president is not promising:

The reality that presidential unfitness matters for investors seems to have started setting in only about three weeks (and around 4,000 points on the Dow) ago. First came the realization that Trump’s much-hyped deal with China existed only in his imagination. Then came his televised meltdown in a meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, his abrupt pullout from Syria, his firing of Jim Mattis and his shutdown of the government because Congress won’t cater to his edifice complex and build a pointless wall. And now there’s buzz that he wants to fire Jerome Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Oh, and along the way we learned that Trump has been engaging in raw obstruction of justice, pressuring his acting attorney general (who is himself a piece of work) over the Mueller investigation as the tally of convictions, confessions and forced resignations mounts.

Over at The Washington Post, columnist Eugene Robinson writes:

The chaos all around us is what happens when the nation elects an incompetent, narcissistic, impulsive and amoral man as president. This Christmas, heaven help us all.

Paul Waldman adds:

Trump has shown himself to be even more of a despicable human being than he appeared then, and utterly incapable of growing into the office. He is just as petty, just as impulsive, just as narcissistic, just as dishonest and, perhaps, even more corrupt than we realized. Not only does he seem to be using every available opportunity to exploit the presidency to enrich himself and his family, but a recent, meticulously documented investigation showed that Trump, his father, and his siblings engaged in a years-long scheme to commit tax fraud on an absolutely massive scale, a story that, in the endless waves of White House madness, has been almost forgotten.

Not a lot of Christmas cheer floating around on what is supposed to be a day of celebration.

Trump claims he has supports from those he put out of work with the government shutdown.

“Many of those workers have said to me, communicated — stay out until you get the funding for the wall,” Trump added. “These federal workers want the wall.”

Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 150,000 of those federal workers, disputes that claim.

“Federal employees should not have to pay the personal price for all of this dysfunction,” Reardon said in response to Trump’s claim. “This shutdown is a travesty. Congress and the White House have not done their fundamental jobs of keeping the government open.”

No rank and file federal worker affected by the shutdown has come forward to say he or she supports Trump or the shutdown.

In other words, another lie from a lying president.

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Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue

Don’t expect a quick economic recovery

Hunting for jobs in Pheonix (AFP)

The pillars of Americans’ financial security — jobs and home values — will stay shaky well into 2011, according to an Associated Press survey of leading economists.

The findings of the new AP Economy Survey, released Monday, point to an economic recovery that will move slowly and fitfully this year and next. As a result, the Federal Reserve will be forced to keep interest rates near zero until at least the final quarter of this year, three-fourths of the economists said.

The new AP survey, which will be conducted quarterly, compiles forecasts of leading private, corporate and academic economists on a range of indicators, including employment, home prices and inflation. Among the first survey’s key findings:

• The unemployment rate will stay stubbornly high the next two years. It will inch down to 9.3 percent by the end of this year and to 8.4 percent by the end of 2011. The rate has been 9.7 percent since January. When the recession started in December 2007, unemployment was 5 percent.

• Home prices will remain almost flat for the next two years, even after plunging an average 30 percent nationally since their peak in 2006. The economists forecast no rise this year and a 2.3 percent gain next year.

• The economy will grow 3 percent this year, which is less than usual during the early phase of a recovery and the reason unemployment will stay high. It takes growth of 5 percent for a year to lower the jobless rate by 1 percentage point, economists say.

The economy began growing again last summer, 18 months after the recession started. To keep the recovery on track, the soonest the Federal Reserve will begin raising short-term interest rates is the fourth quarter, 34 of the 44 economists surveyed told the AP.

Those continued low rates will help stimulate home sales.

Economists think sales of previously occupied homes, the biggest chunk of the market, will tick up to 5.4 million this year and to 5.9 million in 2011. That would mark continued improvement from the low of 4.9 million in 2008 and be in line with sales in a healthy economy.

But there’s a catch. Sales are forecast to rise in part because of another anticipated wave of foreclosures. That will keep prices from rising — and consumers from spending freely. Surging home equity spurred spending during the housing boom of the last decade.

“Our houses are no longer cash machines,” says Allen Sinai, chief economist at Decision Economics, who took part in the AP survey.

By keeping interest rates at record lows, the Fed intends to encourage people and companies to spend more and invigorate the recovery. But anxiety over unemployment, and a reluctance or inability to borrow, will also restrain consumer spending, economists say.

“We’re not going to see any irrational exuberance from consumers this year,” says Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors, another survey participant.

Like many Americans, Michaela O’Brien of Northampton, Mass., is trying to cope with personal damage from the worst recession since the 1930s. O’Brien’s husband, Nathaniel Reade, 51, lost his job two years ago as a magazine editor. Since then, they’ve seen the value of their home slip. So they’re spending less.

Gone are the health club memberships, ski passes and camp for their two children. “We mostly cut back on what people would consider frivolous things,” O’Brien says.

She gets around in a 2000 Toyota Corolla, her husband in a 13-year old Subaru.

“We hope we don’t have to buy a car anytime soon,” says O’Brien, 49, a self-employed publicist. Still, she says they are fortunate because they’re able to pay their mortgage.

Economists say it may take until at least the middle of the decade for home values to begin rising normally again. The biggest asset for many Americans, homes have appreciated an average 4 percent a year since World War II, economists say.

National house prices have never remained flat while the economy was growing, says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, which reviewed data going back to 1969. Adjusted for inflation, however, home prices were essentially flat throughout the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, says Zandi, who also took part in the survey.

The recession wiped out 8.2 million jobs. Zandi and other economists had previously forecast that unemployment, which reached 10.1 percent in October, would peak at 11 percent this year. Zandi now expects joblessness to climb again from the current 9.7 percent and reach 10.2 percent by December. That’s because many people who have quit looking for work and aren’t counted as unemployed will start looking again and because job creation will remain weak.

Employers have begun to add jobs recently, including 162,000 in March. Economists surveyed foresee additional job creation over the next three months, but not enough to reduce the unemployment rate significantly. They predict job gains of roughly 200,000 in April, 250,000 in May and 125,000 in June.

About 125,000 new jobs are needed each month just to keep up with population growth and prevent the unemployment rate from rising. To reduce the jobless rate significantly, employers would need to consistently add 200,000 to 300,000 a month.

“The labor market is the scar left over from the economic trauma that we’ve been through,” says Sean Snaith, economics professor at the University of Central Florida, who took part in the survey. “It will be slow to fade.”

Ann DeRoo, 40, of Fairfield, Ohio, began digging into savings to pay home and car loans after her husband was laid off from a trucking job earlier this year. DeRoo, who has three children, has also put off buying new clothes or shoes. Her son, who graduates from college in June, may have to move back home if he can’t find a job.

“We just have to really watch what we’re doing and worry about getting through today,” DeRoo says.

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AP Business Writer Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

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