Home' Greymouth Star : November 11th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
8 - Saturday, November 11, 2017
Trump’s first year
He has failed to pass legislation, is under a legal cloud and facing threats of
impeachment, but that is not the end of the story. Donald Trump is on a high,
writes BRUCE WOLPE.
onald Trump is the
president at this stage
of his tenure than any
president in modern American
history. But that is not the end of
He has not secured passage of
one major piece of legislation
through Congress, failing
spectacularly in his efforts to
repeal Obamacare. He has
presided over a precipitous
decline in America’s standing
in the world, and has engaged
in ugly exchanges with world
leaders from the United
Kingdom to Australia.
He is under withering fire
in media coverage and op-ed
columns from coast to coast. The
“ I” word — impeachment — is
uttered weekly in the halls of
His former campaign chairman
Paul Manafort has been indicted,
and the special prosecutor clearly
has other targets.
He is attacked by fellow
Republicans on Capitol Hill as
unfit for office.
Trump has lost his chief of
staff, chief strategist, press
secretary, national security
adviser, head of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, and a
cabinet officer within the first
eight months in office, and
has publicly and repeatedly
humiliated two other members
He regularly insults the
Republican leaders in Congress.
He has brought the United
States to the edge of war with
But make no mistake — after
the anniversary of Mr Trump’s
election last November 8, and
notwithstanding the legal clouds
looming over the White House,
Trump is at his zenith astride
Washington and his party.
Trump’s great strength is his
fidelity to what he said he would
do in the campaign. While
he has failed at governing in
partnership with Congress —
even though the Republicans
control the White House and
both houses of Congress — he
has ruthlessly pursued the policy
and political agenda he outlined
At home, he is enforcing
his agenda through executive
power and the bully pulpit,
pushing his cabinet to go full
throttle on erasing the Obama
legacy : defunding Obamacare
and the financing essential
to maintaining insurance
coverage for millions; slashing
immigration intake and slowing
access to America at the borders;
repealing anti-carbon pollution
rules and efforts to fight global
warming; opening up national
parks to energy development;
undercutting support for public
Every judicial appointment,
from the Supreme Court down,
has been a bedrock conser vative,
starting with where they stand
on the constitutional right
(under present rulings) to
abortion. His man will run the
Federal Reser ve.
Abroad, Trump has walked
away from the Paris climate
agreement; has initiated talks
that will likely terminate the free
trade agreement between the US,
Canada and Mexico; brought the
US to the brink of withdrawing
from the nuclear agreement with
Iran; and reduced US support for
Nato — all core elements of his
In terms of America’s political
culture, Trump has relentlessly
pushed the populist and nativist
buttons that drew millions to
his rallies: viciously attacking
the media, labelling journalists
“enemies” of the American
people, and threatening to silence
a major television network;
railing against immigrants
and continuing to push for
construction of the wall with
Mexico; using the players of the
National Football League as foils
in the debate over the state of
race and justice in the country;
and unmistakably aligning
himself with white nationalists,
the National Rifle Association,
and anti-abortion forces.
All of them know they have a
friend in the White House.
Critics leaving the field
Taken together, Trump is
maximising the underlying
strength of the presidency and its
executive power - and channelling
it to maintain the support of
those who put him in office.
In 2016, Trump engineered
a hostile takeover of the
Republican Party by prevailing
over a dozen competitors who
divided the field and ultimately
could not counter the solid core
of Mr Trump’s grassroot support.
In 2017, Mr Trump has
consolidated his control over the
party, and those who oppose him
It is telling that Mr Trump’s
most vocal Republican critics
are retiring and leaving the field.
Trump’s hardline strategist, Steve
Bannon, is waging a political
cleansing war on conser vatives
who are not Trump partisans.
At the same time, no
Republican leader in Congress
has broken with the Trump
agenda. There is no movement
among Republicans to “take
back” their party from Mr
Trump and his America First
vision - to reclaim the traditional
Republican mantle of fiscal
responsibility, free trade, open
markets, internationalism, and
multiculturalism and tolerance.
At the ballot box, Democrats
have not won one special election
since last November — there
have been no gains in their seats
There is no Senate Estimates-
style oversight by Republicans in
Congress over what Mr Trump
is doing, and whether he is,
pursuant to his oath of office,
taking care that the laws are
The House and Senate
investigations of Russia and its
interference in the 2016 election,
and whether officials in the
Trump campaign committed
treason in colluding with the
Russians, have ground to a halt.
The mood in Washington
right now is that even if Special
Counsel Robert Mueller finds
criminal activity at the highest
levels of the Trump campaign,
including possible obstruction
of justice by trying to shut down
the probe, the Republicans in the
House will not vote to impeach
Trump is not going anywhere.
He is prosecuting his agenda with
abandon. He has overpowered
those in his party in Congress
who resist his leadership.
Democrats have not translated
Trump’s unpopularity into a
potent political counterforce.
For those who voted for Trump,
their man is on the hustings
keeping full faith with his
campaign policies and blaming
all those standing in his way
— Republicans and Democrats
— for not getting with the
programme. The economy is
growing at 3%. The stock market
is near record highs.
One year on from his shock
election over Hillary Clinton,
this is Trump at his zenith.
Bruce Wolpe worked with
the Democrats in Congress in
Barack Obama’s first term. He
is chief of staff to former prime
minister Julia Gillard.
Paradise Papers reveal tension
between rock stars and taxman
“ It ’s one for you, 19 for me” ran George
Harrison’s scabrous jibe at the taxman in
1966, a bitter riposte to the 95% supertax
that Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s
Labour government had imposed on the
Although top rates of tax are now
substantially lower across the developed
world (under 50% in the United Kingdom
and Australia), it is hardly surprising that
the latest international tax avoidance
scandal — the Paradise Papers — should
feature rock stars in its cast.
The leaked papers reveal Michael
Hutchence’s estate tied up in offshore tax
havens — to the possible exclusion of his
sur viving family.
U2’s Bono has also been found to have
Lithuanian shopping mall.
While they are far from the only such
cases, what distinguishes them in the public
mind is the disjunction between public
image and private affairs. These exposes
throw into sharp relief the inconsistencies
in romanticising rock.
Free-sprited creativity is seen working
hand-in-glove with the “suits”.
Sex and drugs and rock and roll, following
Ian Dury’s coinage, might seem like a
natural fit. Corporate-style tax avoidance
and rock and roll less so. Rock has long
railed against The Man on stage, but the
current cases reveal a well-established and
more specific hostility between stars and
The grubby, druggy aesthetic of the
Rolling Stones’ c lassic Exile on Main
Street, recorded on the French Riviera,
belied the fact that the eponymous
banishment was in fact the band fleeing a
tax bill and liabilities as residents in Britain.
Bill Wyman recalled: “ We owed money
to the Inland Revenue. There was no way
could make enough money to get ourselves
out of trouble, we’d be paying like 93% tax
and there was no way we could earn enough
to pay back what we owed.”
This decision was informed by the
band’s business manager, Prince Rupert
Loewenstein. His financial stewardship
helped to turn them into a global brand,
not least through careful choices of touring,
rehearsal and recording locations to
minimise tax bills.
If these stratagems seem to cut across
the “devil may care” rebellion or heartfelt
sincerity of rock, they also reveal a paradox
at its core as a mass-produced, commercial
form of music that inherited an anti-
establishment ideology from the folk
movements of the 1940s and 50s.
With the Beatles’ and Stones’ upending of
previous commercial and aesthetic norms
aligned with a generational shift, it was,
writes Professor Simon Frith, “easy enough
for 1960s rock fans . . . to claim that even if
their music was commercial, it nevertheless
symbolised a community”.
This tension between “art” and
“commerce” is woven throughout popular
music. The brightest stars of the musical
firmament have battalions of lawyers,
managers and accountants to conduct
their affairs. The skills needed to negotiate
the complexities of multi-million-dollar
enterprises are, after all, rather different to
those for recording and performing hits.
It’s perhaps to be expected, as appears to
have been the case with Hutchence, that
some musicians have less-than-granular
knowledge of how their often internecine
concerns are set up.
There’s a long and ignominious history
of musicians falling prey to their business
Sting’s financial adviser, for instance, lost
£4.8 million ($9.08 million) on investments
that included restaurants in Australia and
plans to adapt Russian military planes into
Billy Joel’s former manager, likewise, lost
millions on failed investments, and gave
out loans of over $US2.5m ($3.59m) to real
estate and horse breeding enterprises.
All without their clients’ knowledge.
Bono has been caught in this paradox.
Keen to put distance between himself and
the mechanics of U2’s business interests
when challenged in 2015, he stated that
they were “just some smart people we have
. . . trying to be sensible about the way we’re
More recently, he expressed distress at the
possibility that his investments have been
“anything less than exemplary”.
Given that such stars’ appeal — and
therefore partly their commercial success
— resides in a sense of something beyond
the sharp-edged logistics of the corporate
world, it should not be a shock that
accusations of hypocrisy follow a whiff of
chicanery around their business dealings.
Pop and rock, though, have been
thoroughly tied up in the intricacies of
international trade for decades, and the
creative industries are increasingly important
to governments’ economic strategies.
The issue runs deeper than wealthy artists
who make a play on their gritty roots, like
the Arctic Monkeys being propelled to
fame via trenchant obser vations of Sheffield
street life and then taken to task over a
previous tranche of tax revelations, which
also included George Michael and Katie
Melua. They were all found to have invested
in a scheme called Liberty, recently shut
down by the British government.
The scheme was set up offshore via a
company created in the Cayman Islands,
which they then used to avoid taxes on
The perception of authenticity at the heart
of international stardom is rooted in the
commonality that, at the end of the day,
taxes exist to support.
Sustaining it commercially involves
traversing a web of jurisdictions. If these
contradictions have been built into rock
from the outset, perhaps a sense of betrayal
The current travails over superstar taxes
are unlikely to be the last.
— The Conversation-NZ Herald
Bono in action with U2.
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