One of the central propositions of the Obama presidency, along with closing Guantanamo Bay and shooting Osama Bin Laden in the face, was to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in US foreign policy. In both Prague in 2009 and Hiroshima in May, the president called for “a world without nuclear weapons.” Until that world is ours, though, the United States reserves the right to nuke first and ask questions later, presumably while pouring water over a rag stuffed in your mouth. The Times reports today that national security advisors have convinced the president to abandon plans to foreswear first use of nuclear weapons in combat. As of today, but also as of 1945, you don’t have to nuke the US for the US to nuke you.
Character in a journalism student’s fantasy Donald Trump made headlines yesterday, because he said the United States should close its borders to Muslims. At press time, he keeps saying it. Finally, someone has the guts to tell it like it is. America has gone without a strong, loud, stupid leader for too long, and it’s also been too long since we made laws about kinds of people. Every time we made a law about a kind of people in this country—Indian removal, Jim Crow, Japanese internment—was a time Trump voters consider better than now. Yes, even Japanese internment. “What I’m doing is no different from FDR,” Trump told Good Morning America, referring to the worst thing FDR ever did. I know we recently said Trump had gone full racist, but now that he’s accused a domestic religious minority of conspiring with foreign enemies to obstruct his plan to make America great again, he has technically gone full Hitler. Unless, of course, he doesn’t really mean it.
Now that a new Congress has convened and pledged itself to beating back the deficit we accumulated out of nowhere in the last two years, we have to think about poor people. Personally, that’s something I try to limit to the ten or so minutes it takes me to get in and out of Taco Bell, but it so happens that A) poor people are where we’re going to trim the deficit, since wars, social security and tax cuts for the rich are utterly indispensable, and B) present conditions mean that there are a lot more of them. It turns out that a high school dropout and a 40 of Old English isn’t the only way to make new poor people. You can also do it with a massive economic contraction. As any recently unemployed person will tell you, those are the good kind of poor people: the ones who love work and being responsible, but who through no fault of their own have been temporarily deprived of their opportunity to do either. Such hard-working, down-on-their-luck Americans are the ones we are obliged to help. But how to do it without also giving professional poor people a free ride?
It’s a new year, and that means we’re incrementally closer to a terrifying future only imaginable to our grandchildren, whose brains will have much more highly-evolved nightmare centers. Or not—it depends on how the economy shakes out. In Europe, where the economy has been shaking out into a fine dust since the Marshall Plan, things are not looking so good. A few weeks ago, we discussed student riots in Britain over proposed hikes in university tuition. Yesterday, the New York Times ran this story containing the quote in our headline, in which Italy’s Francesca Esposito—who totally knows where to get ecstasy, by the way, but does not want to meet you at your hostel—laments her position as a 29 year-old penta-ligual with master’s and law degrees who can’t find a paying job. Instead, she works as an unpaid “legal trainee” for the Italian government—in their social security administration, no less. Like a lot of young people in southern Europe, Esposito gets paid in irony, and she’s pissed.
In the aftermath of the phrase “the aftermath of Tuesday’s elections” almost passing out of use, the United States must now turn to its most pressing problem: our hideously unfair treatment of the rich. If TAoTE has taught us anything, it’s that the American people will not stand for socialized medicine, handouts for the poor or even many public schools. No—the common man has spoken, and he demands lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of their various petro-boilers and chicken confinements. As usual, the common man is distinguished by his generosity. For although the rich have suffered terribly since FDR, weathering gales of progressive income taxes and share-the-weatlh schemes, they now command a share of this country’s wealth normally seen only in third-world nations. According to Nicholas Kristof, who appears to be biting his lip in his new headshot, “the richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976.”