Trump, from democracy to oligarchical theocracy

This video from the USA says about itself:

Billionaire Oligarch Christian Fundamentalist Approved For Education Secretary

8 February 2017

The nomination of billionaire heiress Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education is one vote shy of failing in the Republican-controlled Senate. One thing that could come to her aid is that she and the entire DeVos family are massive Republican Party donors who helped fund the election of the remaining senators who will decide her fate.

By Ed Hightower in the USA:

Trump proposes tax break for church political activities

8 February 2017

President Donald Trump made a bizarre and rambling speech at the National Prayer Breakfast last week attacking the bedrock democratic principle of the separation of church and state, by promising to eliminate restrictions under the tax code on political activities by religious groups.

Trump told the audience of religious and political leaders that he would “get rid [of] and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.”

The president was referring to a section of the tax code that makes the tax-exempt status of religious or charitable organizations dependent on their refraining from endorsing candidates for office or from otherwise engaging in partisan electoral politics. The rule, part of the 1954 version of the Internal Revenue Code and bearing the name of then-senator Lyndon Johnson, was regarded for decades as spelling out in the language of tax law the longstanding custom that church groups did not engage in overt political campaigns.

Only in the last 25 years have politically active right-wing Christian fundamentalists and Republican politicians begun to paint the Johnson Amendment as a violation of freedom of speech and religion. This turns reality on its head.

The Johnson Amendment applies only to organizations that are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions, such as churches and synagogues, universities, or any number of charities e.g. the Salvation Army, Goodwill, the Red Cross and so on. Since 1917 American tax law has favored such enterprises on the grounds that they serve a public good. In order to encourage donations to organizations that will provide important social services, the tax code has allowed taxpayers to deduct from their taxable income a certain amount of funds they donate to such groups. These 501(c)3 organizations—named for the section of the tax code that applies to them—are essentially subsidized by the federal government through the tax revenue that it gives up.

There are 29 categories of non-profit organizations in section 501 of the tax code, covering everything from professional organizations, chambers of commerce, athletic leagues and social clubs, political parties, all of which can avoid paying taxes on the money they collect from members. Those who donate to most of these groups, however, are not be able to take a tax deduction for it. Only 501c(3) and 501(c)4 organizations offer this substantial benefit to their donors.

The Johnson Amendment allows the Internal Revenue Service to revoke an organization’s 501c(3) or 501(c)4 status if it endorses a political candidate or otherwise engages in partisan politics. This does not prohibit an organization from taking a position on a political issue. For example, the Catholic Church opposes abortion, says so openly and constantly, and maintains its tax status, receiving money that can be deducted from the donor’s taxable income. A priest or bishop can vote for whatever candidate or party, and can even speak at a political event if they refrain from doing so in their capacity as a religious leader. This happens every day in the United States without a single federal agent raising an eyebrow.

The law does not prohibit the aforementioned political activities, it only imposes an indirect financial penalty, because the church organization that engaged in electoral campaigns and other partisan activities would lose contributions from donors who only gave in order to gain the tax deduction.

It should be noted that Johnson proposed the amendment to the tax code in 1954 not out of a deep commitment to constitutional principles, but rather out of political expediency. (At the time, certain religious leaders in Texas supported his opponent in a primary campaign.) The Amendment served basically to codify what had been the relationship between religious groups and the IRS.

For decades, the Johnson Amendment was a complete political non-issue. However, politicization of the evangelical protestant churches, most notably the Southern Baptists, which developed in reaction to Supreme Court decisions desegregating public schools (1954), striking down school prayer (1962), permitting marriage betweens persons of different races (1967) and legalizing access to abortion (1973).

In 1979 the right-wing minister Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority, which opposed homosexuality, abortion, and secularism in thoroughly political terms, jettisoning the traditional Baptist position of abstention from partisan politics. The organization served to integrate the new Christian fundamentalist movement into the Republican Party. Politically active evangelical churches now form the principal social base of the Republicans.

Evangelical churches brought court cases challenging the Johnson Amendment but lost in the Supreme Court on numerous occasions. Finally, in 2008, they began a campaign of open defiance, seeking to provoke a confrontation with the IRS by preaching partisan political sermons on a coordinated, advertised day. With the tacit approval of the Obama White House, the IRS took no action against any of the churches involved. Only one in 2,000 instances of “pulpit freedom Sundays,” as they were called, resulted in an audit. At the same time, the Republican Party adopted the repeal of the Johnson Amendment as part of its political platform.

Trump, who had little prior connection to the Christian Right, made repeal of the Johnson Amendment part of his 2016 presidential campaign to curry favor with this reactionary constituency and its leaders.

While the Johnson Amendment did not represent a very significant advance for secularism, its removal would have immediate and substantial consequences for the separation of church and state. Repeal of the Amendment would turn “faith leaders” and religious outfits into entities with more rights than normal citizens, especially if those citizens are disinclined to support any religion at all.

The Trump administration is making every effort to mold the most debased sections of society into a fascistic base of support for social policies that will devastate the working class and broad layers of the middle class. Paeans to the clergy, the appointment of pro-life judges, the curtailing of the rights of religious minorities and foreign nationals, these are the political chum thrown out to mobilize support for dictatorship.

17 thoughts on “Trump, from democracy to oligarchical theocracy

  1. Thursday 9th February 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    Our hatred for all things Donald Trump reveals an uncomfortable truth, writes RAMZY BAROUD

    I FEAR that many of us hate Donald Trump for the wrong reasons.

    Multitudes are being swayed by mainstream media-inspired demonisation of the new US president, based on selective assumptions and half-truths.

    US mainstream media, which rarely deviates from supporting the US government’s conduct, however reckless, is now presenting Trump as an aberration of otherwise egalitarian, sensible, and peace-loving US policies at home and abroad.

    Trump may be described with all the demeaning terminology that one’s livid imagination can muster: evil, wicked, tyrannical, misogynist, war-mongering, rich buffoon, “insulting our allies,” infatuating with “dictators,” etc.

    But do not miss the point.

    If you chant in the street: “I am with her,” with reference to the defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, it means that you are entirely missing the point.

    To reminisce about the days of Barack Obama, his oratory skills, clean diplomacy and model “relatable” family means that you have bought into the mass deception, the intellectual demagoguery, stifling group-think that pushed us to these extremes, in the first place.

    And, within this context, “missing the point” can be quite dangerous, even deadly.

    It is interesting how the lives of Yemenis suddenly matter, after the US military’s botched raid late last month against an alleged al-Qaida stronghold in that country, killing mostly civilians.

    A beautiful eight-year-old girl, Nawar al-Awlaki, was killed in the operation — planned under the Obama administration, but approved by Trump. Many chose to ignore that Nawar’s 16-year-old brother — both US citizens — was killed by the US military under Obama, a few years earlier.

    Yemen has been a target in the so-called “war on terror” for many years. Many civilians have been killed, their deaths only being questioned by human rights groups, seldom mainstream media.

    Yemen is one of the seven Muslim-majority countries whose citizens are now being barred from entering the US by Trump’s ban.

    The emotional mass response by hundreds of thousands of protesters rejecting such an abhorrent decision is heartening but also puzzling.

    The US military under Obama shied away from leading major wars but instead instigated numerous smaller conflicts.

    “The whole concept of war has changed under Obama,” the LA Times quoted a Middle East expert as saying.

    Obama “got the country out of ‘war,’ at least as we used to see it,” Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said. “We’re now wrapped up in all these different conflicts, at a low level and with no end in sight.”

    In a numerical context, the Obama administration dropped 26,171 bombs in 2016 alone. Countries that were bombed included Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Somalia, five of the seven countries whose citizens are now denied entry by Trump.

    The harm that Obama did to devastate some of the poorest, war-torn countries on earth by far exceeds what Trump has done, so far.

    Iraq and Libya were not always poor. Their oil, natural gas and other strategic reasoning made them targets for US wars, under four different administrations prior to Trump’s infamous arrival.

    Libya was the richest country in Africa, and relatively stable until Hillary Clinton decided otherwise. Clinton was secretary of state during Obama’s first term in office.

    In 2011 she craved war. A New York Times report citing 50 top US officials left no doubt that Clinton was the “catalyst” in the decision to go to war.

    Former secretary of defence Robert Gates, furious about her support for a “broader mission” in Libya, told Obama and Clinton that his army was already engaged in enough wars.

    “Can I finish the two wars I’m already in before you guys go looking for a third one?” Gates reportedly said.

    Now, we are being led to believe that the war enthusiasts of the past are peacemakers, because Trump’s antics are simply too much to bear.

    The hypocrisy of it all should be obvious, but some insist on ignoring it.

    Party tribalism and gender politics aside, Trump is a mere extension and a natural progression of previous US administrations’ agendas that launched avoidable, unjust wars, embedded fear, fanned the flames of Islamophobia, hate for immigrants etc.

    There is hardly a single bad deed that Trump has carried — or intends to carry out — that does not have roots in another policy championed by previous administrations.

    Trump’s intention to build a wall at the US-Mexico border is the brainchild of president Bill Clinton. In fact, when Clinton proposed the wall and a crackdown on illegal immigrants in his 1995 State of the Union address, the Democrats gave him a standing ovation.

    As for Muslims, they have been an easy target for at least 20 years.

    Muslims were mainly the target of the 1996 Secret Evidence Act, and “suspected” Muslims were either jailed indefinitely or deported without their lawyers being informed of their charges.

    It was then called the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, later expanded to give immigration authorities the right to deport even green card holding permanent residents.

    Few protested the undemocratic, no due-process law — and the media barely covered it — as most of those held were Palestinian activists, intellectuals and university professors.

    The 1996 Act morphed into the Patriot Act following the attacks of September 11 2001. The new Act undermined the US constitution itself, giving the government unprecedented domestic authority to arrest, detain people, and spy on whoever they wished, with no legal consequences.

    The Obama administration had no qualms using and abusing such undemocratic, unconstitutional powers.

    But where were the millions protesting “fascism,” as they are doing now? Was Obama simply too elegant and articulate to be called “fascist,” although he engendered the same domestic policy outlook as Trump?

    Trump is extremely wealthy, but if one is to examine the US wealth inequality gap under Obama, one perceives some uncomfortable truth.

    While the rich got richer under Obama, “inequality in America (grew) even at the top,” reports In fact, the gap between the rich and the super-rich continued to expand, barely phased out by the great recession of 2008.

    In 2014, a Mother Jones headline summed up the tragic story of unfair distribution of wealth in the US: “The richest 0.1 per cent is about to control more wealth than the bottom 90 per cent.”

    Therefore, Trump is but merely one profiteer from an economy driven by real-estate gamblers and financial chancers.

    The truth is, today’s political conflict in the US is not a clash over “values” but an elites v elites war par excellence.

    It is also a war of brands. Obama spent eight years reversing George W Bush’s bad brand. Yet, Obama did so without reversing any of Bush’s disreputable deeds. On the contrary, he redefined and expanded war, advanced the nuclear arms race and destabilised more countries.

    Trump is also a brand, an unpromising one. The product — whether military aggressions, racism, Islamophobia, anti-immigration policies, economic inequality, etc — remains unchanged. And that is the uncomfortable truth.

    Dr Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for more than 20 years. He is author of several books and the founder of,-same-old-imperialism#.WJwtzPKbIdU


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