Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Twitterverse of Hysteria

On Friday Donald Trump delivered himself of another rambling word salad to CNBC's fawning Joe Kernen.  As usual, there was little substance in his remarks, but the closing upset a lot of people, particularly people who hadn't read it.  Or people who can't read; take your pick.

Kernen approached his quarry cautiously:
JOE KERNEN: Do I dare-- one last question.


JOE KERNEN: Entitlements ever be on your plate?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: At some point they will be. We have tremendous growth. We’re going to have tremendous growth. This next year I-- it’ll be toward the end of the year. The growth is going to be incredible. And at the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look, cause it’s such a--

JOE KERNEN: If you’re willing--

PRESIDENT TRUMP: --big percentage.

JOE KERNEN: --to do some of the things that you said you wouldn’t do in the past, though, in terms of Medicare--

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, we’re going-- we’re going[,] look. We also have-- assets that we’ve never had. I mean we’ve never had growth like this. We never had a consumer that was taking in, through-- different means, over $10,000 a family. We never had the kind of-- the kind of things that we have. Look, our country is the hottest in the world. We have the hottest economy in the world....
Some people on Twitter have suggested that Trump doesn't know what "entitlements" are.  That's plausible, but it seems more likely to me that he just wasn't listening, and he didn't let himself be diverted by Kernen's attempt to drive him the way he wanted him to go.  Trump didn't take up the subject of entitlements, and Kernen gave up on it.

However, some on Twitter panicked; I'm not sure why.  One business journalist, Pedro Nicolasi da Costa, said flatly "Trump told CNBC he wants to cut Social Security."  I imagine he does want to, but he didn't say so to Kernen.  For backup he retweeted a tweet from something called The Bridge Project: "realDonaldTrump admitted he’s coming for your Medicare and SocialSecurity at the 'end of the year.'"  No, he didn't, but who cares?  We've got an endless election campaign going on here, and there can be no lily-livered white-feather conscientious objectors.

Two main themes emerged in replies.  One was that Trump and the GOP want to get rid of Social Security and Medicare, and his base of old white people are stupid to support him because he's taking away their money and OMFG we have to vote Democrat in November!  It's true that the GOP wants to get rid of Social Security, Medicare, and your little Medicaid too, but so do elite Democrats.  The current Democratic favorite among older voters, Joe Biden, has been trying to cut these programs for forty years.  How will voting for Biden benefit me on this issue?  I spent some time pointing this out, and the few people who answered me said that Trump must go and they will Vote Blue No Matter Who so don't bother me with this trivia.  

They simply ignored the little problem of Biden, though I liked the person who wrote: "Interesting some claim Joe Biden is for cutting Social Security but ignore that Trump AND [McConnell]have been saying it for months and ARE CUTTING SSDI & EBT now. They openly say they will cut SS if they win the 2020 election. It should be a major scandal but is ignored!"  "Some claim" - that's funny, because Biden's record on cutting Social Security is well-documented, but his campaign claims that the videos have been misleadingly edited and are Fake News.  Even such Trumpian tactics are acceptable when Democrats use them.

Not only that, but Barack Obama wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare, blaming them for the deficitHe failed because the Congressional GOP was so determined to block him that they wouldn't accept a gift they'd long wanted.  (One person answered me, claiming that yes, Obama wanted to, but he failed and he realized he was wrong, so it doesn't count.  First, it's not true, Obama never changed his position; and second, this is exactly the argument Trump's defenders have made: that yes, he wanted to withhold military aid from Ukraine, but he didn't get the investigation he asked for, and he released the aid in the end, so it doesn't count.  Again, it's okay to use such a worthless defense for Obama, but not for Trump.)  Trump's willfully blind base have nothing on these people.

The other theme was the familiar one about how Social Security and Medicare are not "entitlements," they're "earned benefits," and anyway, it's our money that we worked for and paid, so they are entitlements and we are entitled, so there, too!  If you don't like it, I want my money back!  You'll remember the suggestion that Trump doesn't know what "entitlement" means?  Well, neither do Democrats.  (To be quite honest, I'm not sure it's only Democrats who say this; pro-Trump Republicans do too, if they think a Democrat wants to put his government hands on their Medicare and Social Security.)

But really, the worst part -- both hilarious and terrifying -- is the claim that Democrats will protect our Social Security and Medicare so Vote Blue No Matter Who.  What Obama tried to do is down the memory hole, if they ever noticed it -- and it's not as if Obama weren't open about it and it weren't covered in the mainstream media.  Bill Clinton also tried, but was blocked by his impeachment.  But what must not be cannot be.