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Scheer Intelligence

David Cay Johnston on Damage by Trump (Transcript, Audio)

David Cay Johnston at the 2017 Tax March in San Francisco. (Tom Hilton / Wikimedia)

David Cay Johnston is an expert on Donald Trump. The 69-year-old investigative journalist and author has reported on Trump for decades and has written two books about the president. “The Making of Donald Trump,” which was published in 2016, became a New York Times bestseller, as did his latest, “It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America,” published this year.

Johnston sat down with Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer for the second part of an interview on “Scheer Intelligence” and shared his thoughts on how the Trump administration is making America worse again.

The media, Johnston explains, is a big part of the problem. Journalists helped Trump get elected by covering his campaign in a shallow way, and now the media is doing more of the same, focusing on Trump administration’s “palace intrigue” instead of the actions that are hurting America.

“Nobody is covering what matters,” Johnston says, “what matters to you, to whether you have a job and have savings, and whether you are safe, and whether your children are going to get cancer and lung disease from pollution, what kind of taxes you are going to pay. None of that is being covered in any serious way.”

Johnston adds that Trump’s policies are turning against the very people who helped elect him. Even so, Johnston believes American citizens will cast aside their concerns about ethics and vote Trump into a second term if they believe their incomes are rising.

“Donald has no moral core of any kind,” said Johnston, who is the founder and editor of DCreport.org, a nonprofit news service.

Listen to the full interview in the player above and read the transcript below. You can also find past editions of “Scheer Intelligence” here.

Listen to the first part of Scheer’s interview with Johnston here.

RS: Hi, I’m Robert Scheer, and this is Scheer Intelligence, where the intelligence presumably will come from my guests. There’s no question today; it is journalist and author David Cay Johnston. And I want to say, this is Part 2 of an interview we began, a podcast that you can go get, in September of 2016. The improbable had happened; Donald Trump was the presidential candidate of the Republican Party. David Johnston had covered Trump when he was a younger reporter in Philadelphia; he covered the casinos, the gambling years, and all that, has followed him all his life. And you at that time were pretty harsh in predicting what would happen. I can’t remember, did you actually think it could happen that he would be president?

DCJ: Yes. No, what I said was, you don’t know ‘til the votes are counted, and it matters who turns out. And the day he announced—his latest announcement, ‘cause he’s been talking about it since 1985—when he announced in June of ‘15, I said immediately, “He’s serious this time.” And I wrote pieces aimed at fellow journalists, like “21 Questions for Donald Trump;” I called editors at The New York Times and the LA Times where I used to work. And I couldn’t get anybody to treat him seriously.

RS: Yeah, I had to say, and we actually overlapped at the LA Times, as you know. And I had the same experience with everyone, everyone, including my wife, whom we both worked for at the LA Times where she was higher up the hierarchy. But your current book—and this is Part 2 of this interview, and we’ll sort of connect them—It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America. And it’s a kind of year-end report that has landed you right on the, close to the No. 1 book on the bestseller list.

DCJ: Yeah, No. 2 on the New York Times Bestseller List, but we’re working on No. 1.

RS: OK. Well, maybe we can help here today. And what’s great about it is, you know, just to properly introduce you to the audience, I think you are—I don’t want to just say you’re an investigative reporter, which you are; you’re a great investigative reporter. But I think you’re also a brilliant economist. And I’m somebody who went to graduate school in economics and all that, so I know something about the profession. But in terms of making, cutting through the malarkey, of getting us to understand what all of these things, whether it’s the tax code or regulation, how it really impacts the lives of ordinary people—I don’t think anyone has done a better job than you have over the years.

DCJ: Well, thank you. Thank you, Bob. Worked very hard for 50 years to try and turn this stuff into plain English for people.

RS: Well, it’s not just English, but that it matters. And I think, I’ve always felt that the economists deliberately make it obscure, partially so they’ll have a scientific profession when it really isn’t, and also they’re very often in the service of banks and other people who want to obscure the reality.

DCJ: Absolutely. And you know, Donald Trump’s degree, which he was given by Penn, is in economics. Believe it or not, economics. Technically, he was in the real estate economics department at Penn, which had one professor.

RS: Well, one of the things we learned later, not just about the business schools, but also the law schools and a lot of other divisions, they really didn’t have classes in ethics.

DCJ: No. And it wouldn’t have had any impact on Donald; Donald has no moral core of any kind, so.

RS: Yeah. But before we get to Donald, I want to talk to David Cay Johnston. And I think what’s interesting about you, you’ve been also a professor; you’ve actually gone back and looked at regulation in previous societies and so forth. You’ve made yourself sort of an expert.

DCJ: Yeah, for eight and a half years I taught the Law of the Ancient World at Syracuse. And I’m not a lawyer; I don’t call myself an economist, ‘cause I don’t have a degree in economics; but I taught the regulatory law, the business law of the ancient world, and I taught another course, the Property and Tax Law of the Ancient World. And it was really a way to teach law students and graduate business students, why is the law the way it is today? How did we get here? I mean, it didn’t just appear out of nowhere; there’s experience, and there’s reasons we have these laws, based on our experience, how humans behave.

RS: Yeah, but also, the law is basically written to benefit the powerful. And in a capitalist—

DCJ: The haves tend to write the law, not the have nots, absolutely!

RS: Yeah. And the haves write the law, and then they can sugar-coat it, they can dignify it, and they can make it obscure. And there are some exceptions; obviously with the Great Depression, the Roosevelt administration, we got a whole new set of regulatory laws. And then under democrats and republicans after that—I think Clinton was particularly at fault with his financial deregulation—they shredded a lot of that regulation. So my opening question to you in Part 2 of this interview, your book is entitled It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America. Is it worse than what you, David Cay Johnston, expected? Knowing what a hustler he was?

DCJ: Ah, no, it’s pretty much sort of what I expected. The point of the title is that even if you diligently follow the news, the press corp, the political reporters, or I call them politics reporters, did a terrible job of covering him in the campaign. They never explored all of his criminal background that we talked about in Part 1 of this interview, and the horrible things he’s done. But once he got into the White House, the coverage of the White House—the tweets, the racist comments, the nonsense, the palace intrigues—I actually think it’s been excellent. The problem is, nobody’s covering what matters. What matters to you, to whether you have a job and have savings, and whether you’re safe, and whether your children are going to get cancer or lung disease from pollution, what kind of taxes you’re going to pay—none of that is being covered in any serious way. And so what I set out to do, once the electoral college put Trump in office—the electoral college the framers of the Constitution put in place so that if the popular mob, as they thought of the people, put a madman in office, he would be blocked by the electoral college—I said, well, we got to focus on covering what he does, what the government is doing. And that’s what nobody has been covering. So I started with my, friends of mine, a nonprofit, nonadvertising news service called D.C. Report, and then I went to work on this book. And basically, what Trump’s team has done—’cause Donald’s lazy, he doesn’t do much of this stuff, and he doesn’t know anything—but the team of people he brought in, they have loosed political termites into the structure of our government. And you know, termites eat away at your house; you don’t know they’re there until you put your foot through the floor.

RS: OK, but let me ask you about this team. Because Bannon and a few others are out, waving the wild flags and so forth. Are they really different than the others? Bill Clinton brought Robert Rubin in from Goldman Sachs, and he left to go take over at, or be very active at Citigroup—

DCJ: Sure. They’re—Bob, they’re very different, and let me explain why. Clinton was, I think, not a good president; certainly in economic issues, for ordinary people, he was terrible. I mean, I often refer to the democrats as republican-lite, as in beer, L-I-T-E. But Bob Rubin is a good example. Bob Rubin’s a big, rich banker; he comes in, he does things that he sees as helping bankers, then he goes back to, he goes to Citibank and makes another fortune. This administration is different because, as Steve Bannon said: I’m a Leninist and we’re here to deconstruct the administrative state. They are here to destroy the things that are in our government that are there to protect your health, your safety, you know, the national security. They quite literally hate the government of the United States. They have brought in the worst people possible. This is what the ancient Greeks called a kakistocracy: a government by the worst of us, by the most venal, the most corrupt, the most incompetent. And in that sense, they’re different. You know, Bob Rubin did stuff to benefit the establishment.

RS: And himself.

DCJ: And himself. And you and I can like or dislike that, and we both dislike it. But his purpose was to tilt the government rules in favor of the haves; it wasn’t to totally vanquish the have-nots and destroy the government. And these folks, that’s what they’re doing. When you see Trump say, “We got rid of all these regulations”—one of the areas I taught—the regulations they got rid of were things like, hey, dumping toxic wastes from a coal fired power plant? That’s OK! Go dump ‘em, and do it in, not the modern, safest way to do it, ‘cause you’re going to have toxic wastes from them, but in the most awful, hundred-year-old way that’s going to put your health in danger. That’s what they’re doing, and that’s dramatically different. This is an assault on our government. And let’s keep in mind, it’s our government. One of the principles I operate from is, we own it—we ought to act like owners. Donald Trump is our employee. We have temporarily imbued him with power. But he is accountable to us, and he is supposed to act on our behalf, and he’s not. And his administration is acting directly contrary to our interests on every level imaginable, from conspiring with the Kremlin—’cause Donald Trump is not a loyal American. And it’s right in the email he got, they got from Rob Goldstone, you know. That says, “As part of Russia’s efforts to help”—that’s not a “would you like us to help,” that’s a “here’s what we’re going to do next together!” To going after veterans and proposing in the budget to cut disabled veterans’ pay by as much as two-thirds when they reach retirement age, and plunge them into poverty at $13,000 a year instead of 35. To police officers, firefighters, EMTs, first responders, who Donald always says he loves, taking away from them under the Trump tax bill the ability to deduct the cost of buying their uniforms, their Sam Brownes, guns. Taking away from teachers the ability to deduct tuition to get an advanced degree, so you can be a better teacher. This is an all-out assault on the very people Donald Trump said he came into office to save. You know, “I alone can save you,” says Donald Trump; well, he’s doing the exact opposite.

RS: OK. So, but let me ask you about the really powerful people. They have voted with their dollars, not just in the United States, but internationally.

DCJ: Yup.

RS: Ah, we’ve had, as I talk to you we’ve had a few dark days in the market. It seems to have bounced back, but generally the first year of Donald Trump has been an incredible vote of approval.

DCJ: Oh, I disagree with you about that. Totally. And let me tell you why. The market has gone up slower than it did under Obama. Remember, the stock market has been growing now for nine years. And Obama inherited a terrible set of cards, remember how bad the economy was. By some measures, in 2008 we were in worse shape than in 1929. The economy was on the mend. The average number of jobs created once job loss ended—and when Obama took office, that very month we lost about seven hundred, 750,000 jobs. Since Trump came into office, job growth has been slower. We should expect it to be, because the economy is nearing full employment. But he hasn’t really made these things better. But if Donald wants to live by the stock market going up to new highs, what’s he gonna do when it drops? And it will. That’s the nature of markets. They go up, they go down. Over the long run, they go up, but they don’t get there on an even plane, like those little stupid charts that the mutual fund companies send you. They go up and down; it’s a real jagged ride. What’s he gonna do if the stock market drops from a Dow of 25,000 down to a Dow of 18,000?

RS: Well, then he’ll do what some of his predecessors have done, he’ll find a war to fight and wave the patriotism—

DCJ: Well, and he’ll also say, “Fake news!”

RS: Yeah—

DCJ: Of course, I don’t know how you say “fake news” when you can check the prices every day.

RS: But let me push this a little further. And I accept your authority in this area, and the book is, the details are really the important thing, and the examples you offer are irrefutable, the damage that’s being done; there’s no question. And people should get the book, which is It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America. Because it really does it a disservice to think we can just summarize it with a few sentences. What’s great about you is you are an investigative reporter, and you are fact-based and logic-based, and I applaud you for that. So this is not a book that—I don’t see how anybody could ignore it—

DCJ: Well, and—

RS: —I think the damage is real. However, I do want to stick to one point here.

DCJ: Sure.

RS: I think the damage is real for the bottom 80 percent—

DCJ: Yes.

RS: That, they don’t own stocks, they’re not going to benefit from Apple bringing its money back and distributing it to some of its employees, and the other things that are being done, and so forth. But I’m talking about for this elite part of our culture, the people who are driving up the housing market in places like San Francisco and New York and everywhere else. It seems to me Donald Trump is crazy as a fox here, that he’s a great demagogue, and not just because he can tell the masses what they may want to hear but then he betrays them; but he’s also giving well-connected, powerful people a lot of reason not to be unhappy. He has on foreign policy tilted toward Saudi Arabia and Israel, which I consider to be an unholy alliance; but nonetheless, you know, he’s singing that and moved the embassy; that will confuse some Democratic Party contributors. But in terms of the economy, you know, we forget the benefit from the income tax things he’s done really are bound to the top. And the runup of the market, particularly, the 401(k)s, you know, makes a lot of people in the top 20 percent feel more comfortable about their retirement, but stock ownership for the bottom 80 percent is miniscule.

DCJ: Absolutely right. Donald is—and the republicans in Congress have done some very smart things politically. The tax bill—you just mentioned Apple bringing money back; one of the things we have at DCReport.org, singular, “DCReport,” is that Apple’s not bringing the money back. You read that on the front page of The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and the LA Times, and it’s not true! ‘Cause the reporters didn’t read the bill. All that money that’s offshore was money syphoned out of the U.S., primarily, on which no taxes have been paid. And what multinational corporations have been able to do since 1987 is hold profits and not pay the taxes on those profits. That’s a zero-interest loan from the government. Just imagine if all the money that comes out of your paycheck, you could keep it and pay it 30 years from now with no interest, and you could invest it and keep the investment earnings. You’d be doing really well. Well, that’s what these companies do. Apple is bringing, is paying a tax of, on eight percent of the $38 billion that it says it’s going to pay this year, and they’ll pay the last 50 percent in ‘24 and ‘25. But in the short run, ordinary people who haven’t had a pay raise in years are suddenly going to have 10, 20, 30, 40 dollars a week more in their paycheck. That’s going to really matter to a lot of families, and they’re going to say, oh, look what the republicans have done for me. And what they may not think about is that 82 percent of the benefits go to the one percent, which starts at about $500,000 a year of income. And of that, the vast majority goes to the one in a thousand households—the tenth of one percent—those people who make over $2 million a year. They’re making out like bandits, and you’re getting a few little crumbs. But if you think you weren’t going to get anything, you may think this is great. And the way it’s going to boomerang on you, the republicans have already told us. They’re going to take away the things you get from the government that help you in the future. One thing I’ll say for the republicans, Bob—and I’m a registered republican, have been for many years—is that the republicans have a clear economic message: the rich don’t have nearly enough; the rich won’t create jobs ‘til we get them a lot more money; couples who only have one personal jet need to have two, ‘cause this tax bill increases the subsidies to personal jets, and we need to have more families like Sheldon Adelson and his wife, who have his-and-her 747 jets. That’s their goal. And what they don’t talk about is how they’re going to pay for it. And the way they’re going to pay for it is, they’re going to take from children, the disabled, the elderly, and the sick. People who can’t fight back. And are the democrats up to fighting back, or not? We’re going to find out real soon.

RS: [omission, station break] This is basically, this whole thing we’re doing today is sort of Part 2 of an interview we began in September of 2016, this great shock, Donald Trump was going to be the candidate for president. Now, David Johnston at that time—I must say, by the way, I also had the view that Trump was a more formidable candidate, ‘cause the pain out there was great—

DCJ: Was great. That’s right.

RS: —and Hillary Clinton certainly wasn’t going to address it at all. And she’s tone deaf on that issue. And so we had an interesting conversation, and now you’ve written a book that is a great best seller, It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America. And I guess it’s like the scene in Casablanca; I wonder, are you really shocked—“shocked, shocked”—

DCJ: [Laughs]

RS: And my own, my own view of this—and I want to throw this out here—is I think Trump is an embarrassment as a matter of manners. And he says things, and he’s crude, and he’s boorish. But isn’t this really business as usual? Fattening the wallets of the super-wealthy; you mentioned the Adelsons, and having his-and-her jets, and—

DCJ: Seven-forty-sevens.

RS: —seven-forty-sevens, OK. But come on! You know, we slipped over it earlier. You know, Bill Clinton came in and he turned to this guy from Goldman Sachs, Robert Rubin, and the others, and said “What can I do to make you guys like the democrats?”

DCJ: Right.

RS: And they say, get rid of these pesky regulations that control banks. And you say, you’re absolutely correct, Barack Obama inherited a terrible economy; it was on the level of the Depression in some ways, but who put him there? It was the deregulation, bipartisan, that couldn’t have been passed by the republicans alone; it required Bill Clinton coming in. And you know that, and you’re written that.

DCJ: Absolutely, and Bill Clinton did terrible things to our economy, and Barack Obama—and I was the first journalist to write a tough piece about him, nine days after he took office, for not walking his talk—Barack Obama, instead of going after the bankers—there should have been thousands of bankers who would have gone to prison—went on TV and told 60 Minutes: Well, this is all terrible, but it’s not really a crime. Excuse me? Fraud is everywhere and always a crime. Eric Holder lied—and I mean lied; that is, he knowingly told untruths—because he was told by the inspector general’s office that what he was saying was untrue, and for 10 more months he kept saying: We’re prosecuting a bunch of bankers; they weren’t. So this is a bipartisan problem of government representing the rich. But with Donald Trump, you have a whole new, wholescale new level where two things are happening. Not only does the man who promised to “drain the swamp” turn it into a paradise for swamp monsters, and bring in six Goldman Sachs people and all sorts of polluters or lobbyists for bad banks, et cetera, in a way that is way beyond anything any of these other folks did. But secondly, what I lay out in the book are things that haven’t been in the news, or they’ve been glancingly in the news, some of them, where they are turning on the very people that put Trump in office. And those people have real grievances. You know, Donald Trump’s economic platform, not his racist platform but his economic platform, came right out of a trilogy of books that I wrote, bestselling books and award-winning books: Perfectly Legal, Free Lunch, and The Fine Print. And Donald, who I know watched me on television, distilled out of that his basic message, you know; that the Washington elites are taking care of themselves, and they are picking your pocket. And he doesn’t know exactly what’s in the books, ‘cause he doesn’t read books, but he got the basic message. And I said in 2012, somebody runs for president on the economic platform in these books, they will get elected. He did.

RS: Well, let me ask you a critical question here. Because this stuff won’t work. You can, you know, what, fool all the people all the time, some of the time but not all the time. And let me say, you know, he’s made promises about life getting better; the republicans have done that for a long time.

DCJ: Yup.

RS: Trickle down, you know, get the crumbs off the table. And it does, and reading your book, it’s compellingly persuasive. It’s even worse than you think it is; I felt that way, it’s worse than even I thought, and I thought I followed this pretty closely. The meanness, the stupidity, the pettiness, the harm you bring to vulnerable people, and the savings are not there; there’s not enough money, you’re just doing it out of kind of a meanness. It’s like saying you’re going to keep Guantanamo open; it has no functional value, it’s a symbol of some of the most disgraceful moments. But he goes on his State of the Union, you know, and the republicans applaud him.

DCJ: And many of the things he’s going are actually going to raise costs, and are bad for taxpayers if you want to save money.

RS: I get that. But I just want to be clear about one thing: how he is a shrewd politician, and he definitely wants a second term, and he wants to be remembered well. As you pointed out previously, he’s an egomaniac, a narcissist, and you know, and he wants to be loved. And so what’s he going to tell these folks when he shows up with his red hat at the county fair, and they haven’t gotten a better deal? And you know, OK, we cracked down on immigrants; you know, guess what, you know, they were helping the economy, not hurting it. You know, sorry we got that one wrong. And one thing that concerns me—and it’s not really in the direct area of your book, but you’re a smart fellow—it seems to me he’s got the Roman circus in mind, and that’s the military. And one place where he hasn’t, he’s not against big government, is this increase in the military budget. He keeps saying he wants to give the Defense Department, and Boeing and Lockheed and all these people, everything they want. And you have to really wonder, for a shrewd politician and a shrewd demagogue, what’s the demagogue going to do when you can’t put more stuff on the table that people want to eat? Then you get war and you get patriotism and you get jingoism.

DCJ: Well, Trump said during the campaign repeatedly: I’m good at war, I know more about war than the, more about ISIS than the generals; I can learn, I’m so smart, everything you need to know about nuclear missiles I can learn in 90 minutes. And he also said, significantly, that we’re going to use nuclear weapons—of course we’ll use nukes! And he’s been looking, I mean, it should be obvious to everyone by now, he’s trying to find an excuse to use nuclear weapons, because he believes that will enhance his power. And we should be very worried. Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the whole world. I just, Bob, went effectively around the world twice in the fall, 51,000 actual air miles, and lecture on five continents on five Fridays. And the people I talked to, government officials, academics, students, the chambermaid who made up my room in South Africa or Australia, taxi drivers—everybody I talked to, all around the world, the same basic message I was hearing: Who is this crazy person and what does that say about America? What’s gone wrong with your country? Is he going to start a nuclear war? And what can we do to stop him? And is American democracy over? I mean, is he going to seize power? I don’t think he can seize power anymore, ‘cause the surveys are showing the military officer corps doesn’t like him and doesn’t support what he’s doing. But the rest of it? Oh, yeah. And if he can find a way to use nuclear weapons, he thinks it’ll enhance his power, and he’ll do it. He will absolutely do it, unless he’s stopped by the military. And he may be stopped; they may refuse to do so. General Hyten, the chief nuclear officer of our armed forces, told Congress that of course the military has thought through what to do and what protocol to have if they get an illegal order to use a nuclear weapon. And by the way, my belief is he would use a tactical weapon, that is, one that’ll take out a city block, not a strategic—

RS: What is an “illegal order” to use a nuclear weapon? He has the power to use a nuclear weapon.

DCJ: Ah, no. He does not flat—he has the power to defend the United States, and we’ve never renounced first strike. But that doesn’t mean that any order by him to use a nuclear weapon is lawful.

RS: Well, wait a second. We have refused to renounce first strike, we have accepted the idea of a preventive attack to take out their missiles, and I think—again, I keep getting back to this point—yes, this guy is scary as hell. OK, we all know that, all right? But we—

DCJ: A lot of us don’t know it, that’s part of the problem.

RS: Well, I happened to have John Dean and Daniel Ellsberg in my class last night. Ellsberg’s just written a book about all the near misses and everything of the nuclear threat, and how close we’ve come; John Dean was in the White House—

DCJ: Right.

RS: —with a guy he knows was unstable, and now that we have all these tapes, we know just how unstable. And—

DCJ: But trust me, Bob. There are—I get emails and calls. There are lots of people who believe Donald Trump is not a demagogue, but a demigod. They really believe he is the greatest American president of all time, and that he alone is going to save them, and they are absolutely convinced of this.

RS: I want to ask you about the role of greed. You’ve spent your whole life examining greed. And you know, we already had, you know, the whole Republican Party basically went with Donald Trump once he wiped them out in the primaries. But you know, he’s been giving Wall Street, he’s been giving powerful rich people a lot of what they want, and including people who we don’t think as rich, that top 20 percent, you know, 401(k)s, people—

DCJ: Right, absolutely.

RS: —teaching at a college like both of us have done, and you’re totally dependent for your retirement on your 401(k), and this guy is lifting it up, and every month you’re saying, well, you know, something that’s not so bad, right?

DCJ: Yup.

RS: OK. And it seems to me Trump is great at stoking greed. And what he did with allowing Apple and these other companies to get more control over their money, which as you pointed out exactly what I was talking about, and avoid taxes, ah, these people you thought might be critical of Trump because he’s so boorish and all that—Eric Schmidt, after all, of Google supported, you know, Hillary Clinton and so forth. But isn’t it working, isn’t he milking the greed factor effectively—

DCJ: Oh, I think he’s absolutely doing that, and let me be clear, it is possible Donald Trump will be elected to a second term. Just because the polls show these terrible numbers for him, doesn’t mean he may not get a second term, which I think would be devastating for this country. Donald Trump understands that a lot of people will forget any sense of principles or morality if their incomes are rising, or if they think their incomes are rising, if they think they’re better off. And he’s appealing to that. And you know, he ran for office on this phony image that he’s a great businessman. Donald Trump is like a locust. You know, Warren Buffett is a great businessman; he creates wealth. There’s a lot of bad things he’s done that I’ve chronicled, but he created a lot of wealth. Donald Trump, look at his businesses. They fail. Why do they fail? Because he’s in the cash extraction business. He reaches into businesses and pulls money out of them, as much as he can, and then they collapse, and he leaves a mess for other people. He doesn’t pay his bills. Right now he’s just filed another action to not have to pay the property taxes that the government says are owed on his Jupiter golf course near Mar-a-Lago in Florida. He gets people to not pay attention to those things—they’ve gotten almost no national attention—and to focus on, look, the stock market’s up, wages are rising. Wages started rising in 2013. I every year do deep analysis of wages and incomes in this country; they started rising in 2013. By the way, that’s the year the Bush tax cuts ceased to be in effect for the one percent. But Trump claims credit for things, and he focuses on “you’re better off because of me.” And you know, way back in the 1950s, there was a political scientist named V.O. Key. And he wrote, basically, that what the record seemed to show in American presidential elections is that people voted their pocketbooks. And Donald gets that.

RS: We’re going to have to wrap this up. I just want to say, I’ve been interviewed David Cay Johnston, it’s the second part of an interview we began when Donald Trump just got the nomination. You should read, or listen to the first part, and then this second. And you’ll see, this is the one human being in the United States that gets it right about the economy, and do him the justice of reading It’s Even Worse Than You Think. But I can’t let this go, ‘cause in the car I’ll go, why, there’s one thing you said I have to ask you about, because people listening will want to ask you: why are you still a republican?

DCJ: I’m not a republican. I’m registered with the Republican Party ‘cause I can vote in their primaries, which where I live in western New York are the only interesting primaries. And to be a little cynical, I mean, I had the opportunity to vote for a presidential candidate four years ago who believes humans and dinosaurs played together and that cinnamon buns cure diabetes. I mean, you know, who can pass up that kind of opportunity, Bob? [Laughs]

RS: OK. So you’re a registered republican for amusement, to get the mailings or something. OK, well, that clears up that mystery.

DCJ: [Laughs]

RS: And I want to thank you. That’s it for Scheer Intelligence. Thanks to my guest, David Cay Johnston, whose latest book is It’s Even Worse Than You [Think]: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America. The producers of Scheer Intelligence are Rebecca Mooney and Josh Scheer. Our engineers at KCRW are Kat Yore and Mario Diaz. I’m Robert Scheer. See you next week.

–Posted by Eric Ortiz.

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