|President Trump, Inc.
How Big Business and Neoliberalism Empower Populism and the Far-Right
T.J. Coles, Clairview Books Ltd., 2017 ISBN 978-1-905570-87-4
One of the callouts on the back cover of this book reads: “Coles succeeds in addressing the issues clearly, while also making the whole situation quaintly amusing in a sort of goth-horror style.” Exactly. I couldn’t agree more.
This book is the most recent publication by Axis of Logic columnist T.J. Coles. [NB. If you read the article published on Axis of Logic September 4, 2017, you’ll note there is another book close behind. We’ll review that one as well when it’s ready.]
Coles begins this book with a ‘Propaganda Translator’ which, he notes, is because “[p}oliticians and business people use words to make us think they mean one thing (up) when in fact they mean something else, often the exact opposite (down).” So as a helpful courtesy to the reader, Coles provides this ‘translator’ to make clear what a word or a phrase means when used by the likes of, say, Donald Trump, or Nigel Farage, or Marine Le Pen.
As the title might suggest, Coles appears to think of Trump as an institution rather than as a person. Or even as a President. And, of course, he would be right about that.
The book begins with a long Introduction entitled ‘Big Money and Bigotry’. This is followed by two parts entitled ‘Background to the Crises’ and ‘The Trump Deception’. There is a concluding section delightfully called ‘Coup d’Trump’ and, as always with this author, extensive footnotes and index - some 46 pages of these - provide the background and the sources relied upon in writing this book.
[Before I go further, let me declare my prejudices and say that I have always been impressed by the thorough and detailed research that go into to Mr Coles’s books and articles. Once again, he doesn’t disappoint. He and I have had offline correspondence from time to time - sometimes of a personal nature - and it’s probably fair to say we like one another. However, my analysis of his work is not clouded by that relationship. So before I even get to the meat of this review, I’m encouraging readers to buy this book. You will not be disappointed.]
Coles describes in the Preface what he sets out to demonstrate.
In Part 1, he addresses the present dominant economic policy - Neoliberalism - and dissects the outcome of such a policy. That is:
All of these result in gross domestic product balloons, national debt balloons, and huge profits for the elite while the middle class stagnates and the poor become even more poor.
- the making of money from money as opposed to actually producing any product or service via labour;
- the rewriting of the rules that allow corporations to prosper from highly risky behaviour (deregulation)**;
- the reduction of social spending;
- the protection of those enterprises dubbed ‘too big to fail’.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank for short) is a general litmus test for US politicians. The Act itself was the first in decades to attempt (feebly) to impose some measure of control over the financial sector. How strong or weak a candidate’s support for Dodd-Frank is/was seen as a measure of the dedication of the candidate to good financial management of the nation. in reality, of course, it is/was nothing of the sort. Still, it provided a shorthand for media reporters and government spokespeople.
Coles also demonstrates how much of neoliberal agenda is allowed to occur because of the willingness of corporate media, and even some government-owned media (Canada’s CBC and Britain’s BBC spring to mind), to overlook any regard for good journalism.
And, of course, there is much material in this section that addresses where Trump fits into all this.
Part 2: The Trump Deception - is dedicated to exploding the myths about the man himself, from the myth that he won the US popular vote in 2016, to the myths behind almost everything he promised during his election campaign.
At the beginning of each chapter, Coles includes quotes from The Donald himself as a way of showing how the man thinks - or doesn’t - and as a way of measuring how he stands up to the standards he allegedly sets for himself.
To include a few of these:
“The New York Stock Exchange happens to be the biggest casino in the world … if you allow people to gamble in the stock market … I see nothing terribly different about permitting people to bet on blackjack.”
Donald J. Trump (with Tony Schwartz,
Trump: The Art of the Deal (1987).
“Hungry people work harder and are much more motivated to make great strides forward in life. If you are satisfied with your current financial situation, what is going to motivate you to do all the things you need to do to become rich and successful?”
Donald J. Trump and Bill Zanker,
Think Big (2007)
“This country is a magnet for many of the smartest, hardest-working people born in other countries, yet we make it difficult for these bright people who follow the laws to settle here … Let me state this clearly: I am not against immigration … I love immigration … What I don’t like is the concept of illegal immigration … I don’t mind putting a big, beautiful door in that [US-Mexico] wall so people can come in and out LEGALLY.”
Donald J. Trump, Great again (2015)
(emphasis in the original)
“It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep”
quoted by Donald J. Trump Twitter Feb 28, 2016
“We are incredibly blessed to live in a nation where 97 percent of those considered poor own a color telvision and have the electricity to power it.”
Donald J. Trump,
Time to get Tough (2016)
“Because we are such a kind nation, it’s hard for us to believe that some people around the world don’t actually like us - that we have enemies dead set against us.”
Donald J. Trump (with Dave Shiflett),
The America We Deserve (2000)
In Part 2, Coles masterfully dissects many of the myths about Trump and shows what is reality (and what is Trump's reality - not always the same as for the rest of us). He even manages to find some good in this president … Trump is such a polarizing figure that many in the US have raised their heads and started to pay attention to what is going on around them. That could/should lead to the mobilization of voters and interest groups getting their collective heads out of their collective rear-ends to attempt bringing their country back to what they believe it should be. Left unsaid, of course, is whether the US has EVER been the country it should be.
It is clear to almost everyone these days that Donald J. Trump will prove to be either the catalyst that finally brings the already weakened US to a full collapse, or the catalyst for a reawakened US citizenry. Much of the hope resting on either of these eventualities does, of course depend on how Trump’s puppet-masters handle him. That Trump is being driven by others doesn’t seem to be in question; but the strength of the varying forces tugging at his strings are still not tested fully. Some of those strings will eventually fray while others will show themselves to be strong, at least for a while.
When Trump was first elected in 2016, I said to many of my friends and colleagues that this president would be an utter disaster for at least one group of Americans - if not all - and possibly bring about a complete meltdown of the world order. Either way, you have to remember the man is an entertainer and this will be interesting.
T.J. Coles has done an excellent analysis of what is known and not known about Trump and the world’s economic and political future, and offers some hope that the best of all possible worlds is not what's presently hovering at our front doors.
For a very fine and easily read review of where we were, where we are, and where we’re going - and how much of the credit/blame for that goes to Donald J. Trump, you cannot go wrong with this book.
I give it an unqualified thumbs up.
[** The author's credentials with respect to economic matters are solid. As a Director of a local Credit Union, these economic challenges and realities must be front-of-mind for me as well. In that regard, I do claim to have at least a modest credibility on the subject.]
T.J. Coles was awarded a PhD.from Plymouth University (UK) in 2017 for work on the aesthetic experiences of blind and visually impaired people, with particular reference to the philosophy of neuroscience and cognitive psychology. A columnist with Axis of Logic, Coles is the author of Britain's Secret Wars and The Great Brexit Swindle (both 2016) [see Axis of Logic reviews here and here] and the editor of the forthcoming anthology Voices for Peace (2017). His articles have appeared in Newsweek, The New Statesman, teleSUR and Z Magazine, and in 2013 he was short-listed for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for a series of articles about Libya.
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