What Swamp Is Being Drained?

Reactions to Trump’s proposed budget from the country’s much-disparaged “elites” has been unremittingly negative, for obvious reasons–if such a budget actually passed, it would eviscerate support for science, the arts, medical research, children’s health, urban redevelopment and transportation, not to mention food for the poor.

As many policy analysts have pointed out, this budget would wreak havoc for huge numbers of Trump voters, which raises an obvious question: why would the administration  risk proposing massive cuts to the very programs that benefit his base?

A recent post to Washington Monthly  by Nancy LeTourneau offered a chilling answer to that question.

She begins by referencing an article about the budget by Damian Paletta and Robert Costa:

The budget, in its deeply conservative framework, risks alarming some of the president’s supporters…

But a White House official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Trump saw the shrinking of the “welfare state” as a necessary component of his nationalist, working-class appeal and part of his pledge to “drain the swamp.”

The unnamed official was almost certainly Bannon, who has been quoted as promising that Trump would bring “capitalism” to the inner cities. Bannon’s version of capitalism bears a striking resemblance to Social Darwinism’s “survival of the fittest.” (It certainly doesn’t include government action to level the playing field for people who would otherwise be excluded.) His is a savage, unregulated version of capitalism, and for Bannon, it applies primarily if not exclusively to inner cities.

“Inner city” is code, as LeTourneau notes, for people of color.

That kind of argument works once you have identified the recipients of government programs as the undeserving “them” who are separate from the deserving “us.” That is the divisive lie that Paul Waldman zeroed in on today.

The whole point here is to set “taxpayers” against the supposedly undeserving whose scams and schemes can be stopped with only indiscriminate cuts to social programs. Watching Mulvaney answer questions from the press this morning, that idea came through again and again. Every time he’d get a question about a specific cut the administration proposes — to Social Security disability, to food stamps, to Medicaid — Mulvaney would say that the only people who would suffer would be those who don’t deserve to get the benefit in the first place. “We are not kicking anybody off of any program who really needs it,” he said.

By now, most sentient beings should recognize that as the kind of code Lee Atwater explained when talking about the Southern Strategy.

As LeTourneau points out, this budget gives “draining the swamp” a whole new meaning. The phrase no longer applies to our maligned bureaucracy, or to the people (like the President himself) who have enriched themselves by taking advantage of government programs and tax loopholes; it applies instead to “those (dark) people” who are undeserving parasites living off hardworking taxpayers.

As Gabe Ortiz explains:

Sure, the new 2018 budget slashes billions from food assistance, cancer research, and disability benefits, but the Trump regime has still miraculously found plenty of taxpayer money for two of his favorite, racist pet projects. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney unveiled a budget proposal asking for billions to terrorize immigrant families, expand Trump’s mass deportation force that has been targeting moms and dads with no criminal record, and to build some of that f*cking wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for.

As LeTourneau  reminds us, none of this is new.

It is all Republican rhetoric from the past that is being warmed up and repackaged for the present. These are the tactics they have been using for decades now to win over the support of white working class voters and, for the most part, they’ve worked. Why change course now?

Support for “draining the swamp” all depends upon who you think inhabits the swamp.


  1. The working class white voters who supported Trump – and by extension, the Republican ideology – are still being duped by the insistence that cuts to safety net programs will weed out those of color who are undeserving of benefits, thereby saving taxpayer money.
    Sadly, it’s the very politicians for whom they vote who need to be cut off. Their greed is the true cost to taxpayers, and that sum dwarfs the tax bill for social services.

    I would say that Trump supporters have cut of their noses to spite their faces, but it has become increasingly clear that Trump and the Republicans have convinced their base that only minority’s noses will be affected.

  2. I keep waiting for the Trump voters’ warning lights to turn on but it has been a pretty meager response so far. Even after the Trump Don’t Care II vote many of those potentially impacted haven’t responded. Is it blind faith or do they just not understand?

  3. “As many policy analysts have pointed out, this budget would wreak havoc for huge numbers of Trump voters, which raises an obvious question: why would the administration risk proposing massive cuts to the very programs that benefit his base?”

    The answer is simple; because they CAN! If you watched the Trump rallies; those for the 2016 election and the current rallies for his reelection in 2020, you will see they are comprised primarily of white faces who believed his rants that only “other races” and immigrants are getting government “handouts” and draining our resources. They haven’t yet realized that THEY are also his targets for those massive cuts to programs; which includes current health care we are paying for, prepaid Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, public education, et al, on which THEY/WE rely in large numbers. They somehow believe their status quo will remain, untouched by their illustrious leader. The term staunch is not used relating to Republicans for naught. They are unmovable; they are also unrealistic in believing they are the party of President Abraham Lincoln while at the same time supporting the “good old boy”, southern sovereignty, White Nationalists (originally the Democratic party) who claim states rights while not understanding that they do not apply when they defy the Constitution of the United States.

    “Support for “draining the swamp” all depends upon who you think inhabits the swamp.”

    We are currently up to our ass in alligators; if the current “swamp is drained”, they will drag us down with them.

  4. I can still remember Ronald Reagan using the terms, “welfare queens” and “young bucks” in the early 1980’s. These are code words for people of color.

    Our new Attorney General wants to double-down on maximum sentences for drug charges which are obvious attacks against people of color. Although, Bill Clinton sent more blacks to prison than any other president when he went to bed with private prison industry.

    The Southern Strategy works for rural Indiana and white suburbia. The donut ring around Indy love austerity and tax cuts. They also love being able to use public school dollars to send their darlings to private schools.

    Did you think Trump was going to drain the Washington and Wall Street “Swamps”??

    He never was a populist…he just conned his way into the White House. The anti-politician rhetoric was just that – rhetoric. Quite frankly, the insiders who started down this road with Trump said none of them believed this would work. Trump did it to build up his brand. But as he kept scoring big with his schtick during the debates, he began to believe.

    The folks in the donut ring around Indy question Trump while the poor white trash loyalists and Evangelists believe he walks on water.

    America is in a serious state of decline. The political strategy will hurt capitalism because our free markets are lacking sufficient demand. Amazon is wiping out storefronts. Technology allows us to do more with less. Globalism gives us all access to world markets.

    Yet, our political strategy via the corrupted two-party corporate owned parties uses their power to oppress Americans. It’s flawed short term thinking.

    Our country should have universal free health care education and be debating how best to apply a base universal income system to all legal citizens. We should all have access to the free high-speed broadband internet.

    We’re nowhere close and it’s sad.

  5. Some of it can still be put down to denial. No one wants to admit they have been duped. Trump voters are still not willing to admit their mistake. It takes a while, but it will happen eventually. When it starts hitting home that their lives are being impacted negatively, that they are losing the very things that were promised that they could keep or that they would get more or “better” of…

  6. It is my sincere belief that Drumpf’s supporters aren’t conscious enough to realize what he is doing to them. They vote against their own best interests time after time. And we are supposed to listen to these angry voters? No thanks.

  7. Can Sheila or anyone else on this blog tell me how Breitbart and Fox gathered their followers and became so powerful?

    I am unable to imagine that we can convince the people who watch those two networks that they have been and continue to be duped.

    Where did all of this start? Was it actually the Koch brothers and their numerous fake nonprofit organizations?

  8. I actually live pretty close to the swamp, so believe me when I say, when you drain the swamp everybody gets eaten by the alligators and the pythons.

  9. “Drain the swamp” fits right in with all of those other dubious sales pitches like “lifetime warranty, satisfaction guaranteed, and easily assembled.”

    This old woman looks at the Trump supporters and can only think “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

  10. Todd – Excellente! And in a nutshell! The undeserving are those of all colors on Wall Street. The undrained swamp is in the White House and growing deeper by the hour. Trump’s Divide and Conquer strategy is reminiscent of Nixon’s Southern Strategy and finds support (though for different reasons) in suburbia among the 50 dollar an hour class and among those in rural America who make minimum wages (if working) and are in desperate need of scapegoats to explain their plight. Trump will figure all this out and make America great again, by crackey!

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch of reality, Merkel has assumed the mantle of leadership of the Western World (with the approval of her domestic opponents), a position vacated by Trump with his mouth and tweets and apparent blackmailed position with his Russian connections, who sees foreign policy through the windshield of a golf cart where protection of his economic and political posterior comes before country. Putin could never have guessed that he could disrupt the democracy of the West and dismantle NATO and perhaps even remove the dollar as the world’s reserve currency so easily.

    I think the blackmail in this case is a mutual one. Putin keeps his mouth shut about Trump’s connections with Russian banks and oligarchs and Trump keeps his mouth shut about Putin’s money laundering via the Bank of Cyprus, a well-known money laundering operation for rubles into dollars destined for Western investments from a “bank” whose co-managers were formerly a Russian and Wilbur Ross, now Trump’s Secretary of Commerce who, by virtue of his office and among other duties, is heavily involved in policing sanctions against Iran and, you guessed it, Russia. See any problems? I do. The odor in this Moscow-Washington axis on the executive level has graduated from faint to stench but, by crackey, we’re gonna make Russia great again. Yesiree!

  11. I see the problem now. Fake President Trump’s followers thought he promised to bring capitalism to the inner city. What he really promised to bring was cannibalism. An easy mistake to make when trying to take your cues from a man who has difficulty with the English language. Or any kind of language.

  12. Nancy – Let me cast a ray of light on your questions at 7:52am.
    I’ve just been reviewing the work of some writers of the Victorian Age basically the time of our Civil War to the dawn of the 20th Century, in other words roughly a century ago.
    Great works of English literature were created in this period of enlightenment. A biographer of Victorian Sir William Schwenck Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan fame wrote:
    “About 1860 or 1865 the Victorians began to break from the hold of Evangelicalism……their stress on morality and progress seemed at times to reach smugness, self-satisfaction and complacency…”
    Nancy, are you amused as I am that the biographer’s words can apply to the Trump Era? Is our 21st Century society “breaking from the hold of Evangelicalism”, and “are we smug and self-satisfied”?

  13. Great comments today! The thing that drives this conversation and the United States’ headlong dash toward third-world status with its own tin-pot dictator is the death-like embrace of the Hayak/Friedman/Reagan economics philosophy. Supply-side economics REQUIRES that the general population be poor, uneducated and leaderless so that the oligarchs can have it all.

    Friedman’s supply-side economics has proven over and over to be an abject failure in every country in which it’s been implemented. Every one! Yet, our oligarchs have invested heavily in our political structure to the point where this assured poverty is almost certain to be the outcome.

    Must reading for all interested parties include my books (Amazon.com), Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine” and Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money”. Understand that the Republican party has assumed the mantle of capitalism on steroids; capitalism without restraint; free-market capitalism. These are the very things Karl Marx saw as the elements to the self-destruction of capitalism.

    Remember, FDR saved capitalism by employing Keynesean economics. Regulate greed and keep money in the system for as many citizens as possible. These are the things that breed stability and success. But, no. Our undereducated and slothful electorate will just keep electing the bribed politicians who will stab them in the back and in the wallet.

  14. If Trump wants people to focus their anger on other than billionaires like himself, he just gives them a different target – the working poor, the disabled, children, and the elderly.
    Meanwhile he has flooded the swamp with the likes of Goldman Sachs folks who surround him in Washington.

    Corporate tax loopholes and corporate welfare are the real welfare royalty.

  15. im 62 and ive been fighting for increased wages since reagan.the hacking down of unions only served to make the working class ignorant of what a job should pay, the pay scale stupid? we use to,on the non union jobs compare what was a acceptable wages.eliminate the scale,you get cheap rhetoric instead, if the working class feels they owe their job a sacrafice, try looking at the stock markets the last 9 years, when the bottom came rushing up, in 2008,it fell from 13,500 points to about 8400.and after 9 years of a recession, it regained 9000 points,to a all time high of 18.500 prior election 2016. Now who the hell is fooling who? the jobs given or demanded to take it or leave it, (thats how it is done)were mere poverty wage jobs, and showned nothing but contempt at Obama.the congress and corprate media reasoned better ways with the very side of the isle in congress who was actully screwing the working class. The republicans and the corprate democrates who, ran the congress and supported corprate america under the guise of being for tax cuts, bettter jobs,and health care? all rallied the working class into a prapaganda state, to divide the working class,into the haves and have nots. those who believe those people who,dont work are loafers,scouderals, and lazy. think again assholes, they are in a rut, wages that pay little to nothing for being in a part of the country that has a high cost of living, and no matter how you size it, it doesnt work. besides how many living wage jobs did you create TODAY? if your just sitting there poking a finger at the very class of people who work next to you, and you judge by any means, your the problem to wage growth..The fact, were devided,by, the corprate heads who, pay money,alot of it, to figure out how we tick,how we react to a few cheap,words and or cheap media rehetoric and you gleefully eat it like candy. people like the koch brothers rail on the likes of stupid working class,and a congress today forcing people into taking minimum wage jobs,and seeing their cheap ass cronies gain more money on the very stock markets that make their profit on your over worked ass, for cheap wages. you can not grow a economy on cheap wages. the fact, the working class today cant save a dime,owes money to a bank, and why we cant afford healthcare in 2017 is a travisty in its own words. YOU have decided the fate of our democracy with your own cheap greed,by ignoring the full content of what has been going on since reaganomics, the only trickel down is when trump in the penthouse flushes his toilet,and the working class below gets the shower. and thats trumps plan, the same plan wall street has handed us for 30 years,except,now the working class gave congress the final signature on any thing that will send us all into pverty in the next 20 years,while wall streets minions laugh at our sorry asses for taking the bait..If the SEC did their job back in 2009 people from goldman sacks would be in those private prisons they so gleefully endorced,and make the filthiest profit from a human tragedy. or take the 0% intrest rate the federal reserve gave wall street, i bet they day traded themselves into a orgy of profit off our backs while giving us,the very people who do the jobs,and make the profit, the poverty wages they set,with help,from your republican side of the isle. Obama had his hands tied,and was given a shit pie when he entered his job as president, im sure the forces that be on wall street still led the way this all worked out,and it didnt do squat for the working class. the republicans still, continue useless investigations into past investigations for no,other reason to have it on the burner for the next election, i.e. bengazie and fetal tissue,planed parenthood. seems they like wasting your tax money on such crap after 3-5 times over and over again, but, it is, campaign money for thier noble cause, at the taxpayers expense. Im paying to support republicans indirectly,so he can screw me again. wake up, with the increase in the cost of living, in about 20 years,the working class,all of it will be next to poverty level. do the math. get the greed and congress out of wall street,we,, as the biggest voting block in america,the working class,should be helping each other over come this new mob in washington and taking America back. as the working class, our democracy,and as Americans. get involved,write that rep,get that point across, were tired of being second class citizens because we work for a living….

  16. Speaking of draining the swamp, we can start with Kushner, the president’s son-in-law. We will be hampered by the likes of McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, who in the defense of Kushner’s attempt to “back channel” communications with Russia away from the prying eyes of our intelligence agencies, has said that we have “back channels” with many countries, as though Kushner’s efforts are no big deal. What McMaster didn’t say was that such “back channels” we may have with other countries are our allies with whom we regularly trade intelligence reports (or did, before Trump started broadcasting “highly classified” intelligence recently), not, we can be assured, with the likes of Russia and Iran. McMaster neglected to make such a distinction, so I will make it for him. Would we have “back channeled” intelligence with Hitler during WW II? With bin Laden during Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan? With the Kaiser in WW I? Come on, McMaster, you can come up with a better spin to cover Kushner’s seditious conduct than that. How about telling the truth – that Kushner, among other things, wants to figure out a new money laundering technique now that the good old days of Russian money laundering through the Bank of Cyprus to buy Trump’s real estate and branding has been unveiled and the press (aka the enemy of the people per Trump) is watching them like a hawk. I have a question, Mr. Kushner. When are you going to move your real estate office out of the Oval Office and start paying for office rent somewhere else?

  17. According to a a HuffPost/YouGov poll asked which two issues are most important to you. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/republicans-health-bill-remains-as-unpopular-as-ever_us_5925e5a5e4b0265790f4a71f?mv9

    All those polled responded with 47% listed healthcare as #1 and # 2, 38% answered the economy, immigration was third with 20%. Trump’s relationship with Russia is a distant #6 with just 12%.

    Clinton Voters in order of importance ranked Health Care as #1, with 55% and Trump’s relationship with Russia at # 2 with 31%. Trump Voters responded and the # 1 answer was the economy at 56%, with immigration at # 2, 42%, Health Care was # 3 at 31%.

    Those who did not vote or voted for third parties, listed Health Care as the # 1 priority 51%, and at # 2, 35% said the economy. Trump’s relation with Russia is # 6 at 8%.

    Former Democratic Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner is worried that Americans are being “left behind” because Congress and the media are seemingly consumed by “Russia, Russia, Russia.” Turner is not the first to suggest that Congressional Democrats are jumping on the Russia controversy to avoid supporting populist economic solutions, such as Medicare-for-All.

    New York Times columnist Gail Collins. “But people need to see the Democratic line on the ballot and think of something more than Not as Dreadful.”

  18. OMG, I believe evangelical preachers have been shoving their rhetoric more loudly than ever over the past 15 years as they realize that their followers have been leaving them in droves. What upsets me about this is that those who escaped are still somehow held accountable by relatives who have shunned them for leaving the fold.

    This seems to have kept those who had the courage and forethought to leave that awful religious sect from becoming empowered citizens that should be voting against everything the evangelicals stand for. Shame for leaving the sect seems to have power over them and keeps them silent for fear of ruffling too many feathers in their families.

    I just don’t understand how we, the supposedly sane people, have allowed evangelicals to take over powerful positions in our government. This has happened at both the state and federal levels. As many say, Indiana is the Alabama of the Midwest. We live in bible thumping purgatory.

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