How to buy an election

I did a recent post discussing Trump’s payroll tax cut (not authorized by Congress), which begins two months before the election. Yesterday, the CDC said we should prepare for a vaccine rollout two days before the election. (Perhaps justified, but the timing is suspicious.) Meanwhile Trump is splashing money on farmers who don’t need it:

Farmers in the US are in line for record handouts from Washington this year, sparking accusations that Donald Trump is trying to buy the agricultural vote ahead of the November election. . . .

The surge in government support for farmers comes as Mr Trump’s presidential campaign attempts to pull off a string of victories in November in farm states such as Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin, which helped propel him to the White House in 2016.

Neil Hamilton, a professor specialising in agricultural law at Drake University in Iowa, said: “It’s an amazingly egregious example of vote-buying.” . . .

Median income for farm households has increased by 24 per cent since 2018 to $89,674, reversing a trend of declining income, “largely because of increases in government payments to farm operations”, the ERS said.

Don’t politicians always do this in election years? Actually, no:

Trump really is unique. But hey, he’s going to save us from “socialism”.

PS. Just in case the trillions he’s throwing into the economy is not enough, Trump is asking his supporters to vote twice. Polls showing Trump behind miss the fact that his supporters will vote early and often.

In a banana republic, even election results are not trusted.

PPS. Trump says that American soldiers killed in WWII were losers and suckers:

When President Donald Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris in 2018, he blamed rain for the last-minute decision, saying that “the helicopter couldn’t fly” and that the Secret Service wouldn’t drive him there. Neither claim was true.

Trump rejected the idea of the visit because he feared his hair would become disheveled in the rain, and because he did not believe it important to honor American war dead, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the discussion that day. In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as “suckers” for getting killed.

No surprise there; recall what he said about John McCain’s service.

Is that enough Trump bashing for one day? Nope.

Trump’s aides actually voted for the man, but now they suggest he is a traitor who is trying to hide Russian attempts to interfere in our elections, and that he doesn’t even know that Puerto Rico is part of the US:

“There is a problem when a president can’t seem to have a conversation with certain words that remind him of criticism,” she continued. “His advisers have learned over time: Let’s not use those words. It’s not worth the pain of enduring a rant, or worse yet, he might just tell you not to do something. Cabinet members don’t want to bring up the whole issue with him, in case he might be having a bad day.”

It wasn’t just the terminology surrounding white supremacy that bothered Trump. Over the last four years, national security and intelligence officials said there are multiple subjects they often avoided bringing up in front of the president because they feared he would lash back at them in meetings or behind closed doors. The best-known example—the subject that was completely off limits from the start of the administration—was Russia, particularly Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“That was something that no one felt comfortable bringing up,” one former senior national security official said. “We tried to address the election security issue at the beginning of the administration and [Trump] never engaged on it. He actively avoided the topic.”

It’s not that Trump disagrees with the intel, he puts his fingers in his ears and goes nah nah nah until they stop annoying him with all this stuff about Russia. Trump doesn’t seem to realize that Russia is our enemy. So who’s going to tell Trump if there are 100 nuclear warheads on their way to the US, sent by a rogue Russian general? Who would have the nerve? Again, these are Trump’s own aides, people who voted for him.

Neumann and others accuse the president of being wholly ill prepared and unknowledgeable about major geopolitical matters, among them that Puerto Rico was a U.S. territory.

“After the hurricane, the president demonstrated ignorance about Puerto Rico’s status in the United States multiple times: Was it a territory? Were Puerto Ricans Americans? It seemed basically like his first time learning about Puerto Rico,” Taylor recalled. “It was a joke in the administration that he doesn’t understand it’s a U.S. territory, or even what it means to be a U.S. territory. It baffled us. It was one of those things that would have been amusing, if it weren’t also so terrifying.”

Read the whole thing. It would be laugh out loud funny if Trump were a character in a zany movie.

Some people think Gerald Ford lost the 1976 election based on a single gaff. In a debate, he suggested that under his administration there was no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. He presumably meant that the US did not accept that Russia had a right to control those countries (which 13 years later proved correct), but he bungled it. People were horrified. Just one idiotic statement, of the sort that Trump has been saying for almost every single day for the past 4 years.

How many of Obama’s aides voted for Mitt Romney in 2012? How many Trump aides will vote for Biden? How many will vote for neither Biden nor Trump?



14 Responses to “How to buy an election”

  1. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    4. September 2020 at 09:32


    You’ve said (correctly IMO) that presidents don’t matter a whole lot. Would you say it’s a bit different with this one? Will another 4 years matter a lot or only a little?

  2. Gravatar of Cartesian Theatrics Cartesian Theatrics
    4. September 2020 at 11:19

    Isn’t “buying” elections basically the new normal tho? In Canada, Trudeau has been dropping helicopter money all over the private sector for months. The Green New Deal is this times a million.

    In other news, I was very surprised by just how much backlash Andrew Sullivan got from his readers for his article calling to vote for Biden, making some of these same basic points you’ve been making. I continue feel like there’s no way Biden can win, polls must be wrong.

  3. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    4. September 2020 at 11:41

    The alleged vote-buying of the farmers is a bit too much framing for my taste. What would the numbers of a Democratic government look like in a Covid-19-year? My strong suspicion is: not one bit different.

    I have been taught, here on this blog, that in American politics all the money comes from Congress. Is that no longer the case? Does Trump pay for the expenses out of his personal assets? 37 billion dollars is a bit much even for his pocket.

    The money must be coming from Congress, it’s the billions that Congress expressly released for such “relief” efforts, where else would Trump get the money from. And now the Democrats are complaining that the government is spending the money according to the laws they have passed. That’s a bit too much hypocrisy. They shouldn’t have passed the laws in the first place, if they really were against it.

    The really funny thing about this information is that the 37 billion is still no comparison to the ludicrous sums that Europeans spend on their farmers every year. 37 billion was the EU money for farmers – but only direct payments, only the supra-national level, and from 10 years ago. I’d rather not look at the current figures. I always thought the EU and the US were about the same evil when it came down to agricultural subsidies. I was terribly wrong.

    Strangely enough, nobody in the EU is framing it as buying votes. In fact, it is worse, it is fascist autarkic delusional thinking and it is supposed to help keeping “bad” American, African and Asian competition away from the European single market. Instead, African small farmers are being driven into ruin and suicide because their market is being flooded with the massive EU overproduction.

  4. Gravatar of Josh Josh
    4. September 2020 at 14:27

    There’s a good reason presidents haven’t bought elections in the past: Article I of the Constitution – which grants congress the power of the purse – forbids it. This year is no different.

    In particular the CARES act (which is nearly all of that huge 2020 spike) was passed by both houses of Congress (one of which is controlled by a party that in no way wants to buy the election for Donald Trump).

    The farm largesse comes from funds approved by congress as well. Again, why did the democrat controlled house give Trump a blank check to spend on farmers in an election year?

    [I really can’t help but feel this is classic TDS. You know that the president can’t just spend money from the treasury without congressional approval yet you blame Trump for the spending anyway]

  5. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    5. September 2020 at 02:51

    TDS noted in Sumner. Actually Reagan was pretty ignorant too, but he acted more upscale. Trump is challenged to withhold his emotions, he’s like a 12 year old kid. That’s the main problem with Trump, and sufficient to vote against him.

    As for farming, indeed the subsidies are suspicious and uncalled for, but governments have been subsidizing farming for well over a generation. I recall reading James Bovard’s “Farm Trade Fiasco” a generation ago and being outraged over less than a couple of hundred billion on farm subsidies, whereas now the Fed just bought $2T in mortgages for their balance sheet. Where is Sumner’s outrage over the junk in the Fed balance sheet? Why not audit the Fed? Where is Sumner’s support for gold advocating, abolish-the-Fed candidate governor Judy Shelton? The silence is deafening.

  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. September 2020 at 08:05

    msgkings, It’s somewhat stochastic. On average, only about 3% of our country’s performance is due to the president, but FDR obviously mattered more than Coolidge.

    I’m actually much more concerned about the US becoming a banana republic than I am about Trump himself. Trump’s a symbol of a deeper rot in the system.

    Cartesian, Hard to imagine someone would like reading Sullivan and also support Trump.

    I haven’t followed Canada closely, but I’d distinguish between well meaning but flawed fiscal responses to the crisis with obvious stunts like canceling payroll taxes right before the election. And the farm aid graph speaks for itself–this really is new.

    The Green New Deal would be foolish, but it’s not primarily motivated by election politics.

    Christian, You said:

    “I have been taught, here on this blog, that in American politics all the money comes from Congress.”

    The US system is evolving toward an elected dictatorship—you need to keep up. Congress is also supposed to declare wars and set tariff rates—LOL.

    Josh, The Constitution gives Trump the right to cut payroll taxes two months before an election? Which article is that?

    You said:

    “Again, why did the democrat controlled house give Trump a blank check to spend on farmers in an election year?”

    Thanks for making my point, which you don’t seem to understand.

    Hello—I’m not a Democrat!!

  7. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    5. September 2020 at 09:32

    “Drug makers developing Covid-19 vaccines plan to issue a pledge not to seek government approval until the shots have proven to be safe and effective, an unusual joint move among rivals that comes as they work to address concerns over a rush to mass vaccination.”

    My guess is that this is because the FDA and CDC under Trump have lost so much credibility. PR and liability are also likely factors.

  8. Gravatar of Why is the Stock Market Rising? | Bayesian Investor Blog Why is the Stock Market Rising? | Bayesian Investor Blog
    5. September 2020 at 17:58

    […] politicians have been trying to buy votes by shoveling money to influential companies and people. There’s been some speculation that […]

  9. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    6. September 2020 at 05:29

    I realize this is the bad blog——-but can you do more than just repeat the same stuff we read in all anti-Trump media. I know you think the payroll tax cut is inefficient. And I know you are shocked that a GOP candidate would suggest one before an election. But you can at least add that Trump wants to permanently get rid of it in January—-even though you assume he is lying.

    And I know you know that “payroll taxes” are just taxes and that our Government has essentially a unified budget (all money in one pool) and that the SS Trust Fund is merely an accounting illusion—-which basically measures all past “payroll taxes” used for spending unrelated to SS. And IOUs need to be sold to the public to raise money—-because there is no money.

    Are you against tax cuts? I don’t think you are. I think you are more likely against Govt spending (meaning on the margin)but the latter requires more than Trump to happen—-Trump is like a traditional liberal and even Reagan—likes to spend. I can agree with that.

    But, he does like to make sure the “losers and suckers” have massive weaponry. Maybe we will find out it was said——although many have said it wasn’t. Anonymous sources? We have seen this for 4 years—-and you accept it uncritically. Maybe he paid off Bolton by buying 1 million books.

    Since high school I was aware that virtually all western style governments subsidize farming ——including US. We know why. They have disproportionate representation due to the Senate plus your hated EC. The chart you show looks like nominal dollars, but is unlabeled so I could be wrong. If so, it’s obviously designed to favor the message you prefer—-which is undoubtedly correct. Although we have spent more on everything this year—-so don’t know how to put farming in context.

    You still are stuck on Trump Russia collusion referencing quotes using “traitor”. That trope will never die I guess. Also, repeating the constant refrain that he is a dope—-even to the point of us being nuked by “rogue Russian Generals” due to his stupidity. Yes, of course he has no idea what Puerto Rico is.

    And you still cannot understand why Trump is hated by the lifers/“aides”. Of course they don’t like him. He does not like them. Whether he is a dope or not, he is not of the party system. Oddly, either are you. What would a true libertarian president do? Do you think the Vindmans of the world would like her?I think they would not.

  10. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. September 2020 at 08:33

    Michael, You said:

    “I realize this is the bad blog——-but can you do more than just repeat the same stuff we read in all anti-Trump media.”

    Fox News is reporting Trump’s trashing of soldiers who served in war. Is Fox News what you mean by the anti-Trump media?

    And given that Trump lies about 10 times a day, why would any sane person believe Trump over the media? I’m genuinely curious.

    You said:

    “Since high school I was aware that virtually all western style governments subsidize farming ——including US. We know why.”

    You really don’t get it, do you? Read the post again if you want a response to your comments.

  11. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    7. September 2020 at 17:30

    Triple yawn. Fox reported that Ms. Griffin, who is a good reporter, was aware of anonymous sources who stated that Trump said a bunch of statements that were crude—-except the kill shot by Goldberg of “losers and suckers” which she was not aware of. So, you did not quote Fox. Because they claim no knowledge specifically of anonymous source saying that quote by Trump. They reported the story, but not fake “confirmation “ of that quote.

    I agreed with you that payments to farmers did look higher than normal, even for an election year. Was pointing out four things. Unclear what dollars were used—constant or nominal—-which impacts comparison of election year (eg versus 2000 and other years) and was making the point in particular that world wide farmers are always paid off—-so was making that clear, and gave reason why/and finally, said we do not know how much was just proportional increase due to increased spending generally. I know what you said. You don’t know what I said.

    And you spend 2 seconds thinking about what you read. No one claims the media made up the losers and suckers quotes. Critics claim using anonymous sources has been proven incorrect many times against Trump. And there were 10-12 sources on record who like Bolton claimed they were there when decision was made when Trump supposedly said that. And Atlantic is a joke, who had sources who disagreed with names attached —who they didn’t quote. I am pretty sure you know the difference.

  12. Gravatar of Joseph Joseph
    8. September 2020 at 03:20

    Michael Rulle, +1

    How can one keep reading BS in The Atlantic etc. for 4 years and keep referencing it as though it was never proven to be BS is hard to fathom.

  13. Gravatar of Postkey Postkey
    8. September 2020 at 06:10

    Is there any ‘truth’ in this:

    ‘Trump says Pentagon chiefs are accommodating weapons makers
    “One cold-hearted globalist betrayal after another, that’s what it was,” the president says in talking about “endless wars.” ‘

  14. Gravatar of Gene Frenkle Gene Frenkle
    8. September 2020 at 08:04

    Postkey, at a superficial level the military appears to be another great institution that has failed America the last 20 years. However new information has come out about Colin Powell recently that puts him in a much better light with respect to the Iraq War although at the time he was a civilian cabinet official. So I believe civilian leadership failed the military and the military didn’t push back enough to stop two wars that cost us waaaaay too much blood and treasure. So another reason I support reparations is because we flushed trillions down a toilet in the Middle East…why not give a trillion to Americans instead of literally handing out money to Afghanis?!?

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