This would not have been puzzling for Jonathan Swift

Stan Collender is puzzled by something.

This story from today’s The Washington Post about President Trump’s complete lack of understanding about the federal budget is both fascinating and very scary.

It shows that, two years in to his presidency, Trump still doesn’t understand enough about the federal budget to make informed choices about what it will take to reduce the deficit as he said before the election he wants to do.

It also demonstrates a complete failure by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and the rest of the Trump administration’s economic team. How is it possible that they have had so little influence with and impact on the president that, almost two years after he took the oath of office, he is so clueless?

But Jonathan Swift would not have been puzzled at all because as he wrote back in 1721, “Reasoning will never make a Man correct an ill Opinion, which by Reasoning he never acquired”, a sentiment that has been echoed and refined many times over the years and which is more popularly stated now in the form “You cannot reason a man out of what he never reasoned himself into”. That aphorism seems particularly suited to Trump, who today said that he does not believe his own government’s latest climate report.

Today General Motors announced that they are halting production at eight plants, four of them in the US (one in Ohio) and cutting its salaried workforce by 15%. On the same day, GM said that the Trump tariffs were costing them about $1 billion. Trump promised last year in Ohio that all these jobs in industry would come back, and his fans roared their approval. Trump will never acknowledge that he was wrong because in his mind that would be a sign of failure and he does not do failures. Trump simply decides to ignore everything that does not agree with what he already believes. And his fans love him for this trait. Trump has now threatened GM that they have to open a new plant in Ohio but he did not say what he would do if they didn’t. Let’s see how this drama plays out.

The real question is whether his delusional way of thinking poses a danger to the country and the world.


  1. kestrel says

    Ok. Stan. Why is he so clueless? Because narcissists never learn things, that’s why. They think they are already perfect.

    Does a delusional way of thinking harm the world? It does if you are president.

  2. microraptor says

    It confuses me that there are still people who think that The Orange actually cares about things like the deficit, national security, the economy, the environment, or, well, anything that isn’t The Orange.

  3. lorn says

    I wouldn’t go so far as saying that Trump is unreasoning. He just uses a different value system than might be normal.

    Years ago I got into an argument and it seemed illogical what the man was saying. He didn’t seem crazy, or entirely unreasonable but his statements was clearly contradicting my well studied assertions. We were arguing about healthcare and it all pivoted on the term efficiency. I argued that Medicare was much more efficient than private insurance. He said it wasn’t so.

    After a bit it was clear he wasn’t talking about efficiency the same way I was. I was using the common determination that efficiency is a measure of total spending and what proportion gets to the patient in the form of actual medical care. Couched that way Medicare is more efficient.

    So I asked how he judged efficiency. He pointed out that the goal of all business is return on investment. Judged by that standard Medicare, showing no profit at all, is highly inefficient.

    I was worried about sick people getting better. He was worried about investors making a profit.

    It comes down to what you value. Trump values things that make him, and his, money. And/or he values things that make him look good.

    Climate change may ultimately kill most of humanity. But Trump is over 70 and is unlikely to have to live through the worse of it. His kids, and the other people he cares about, are almost all very rich and as long as there are livable places left they will always be able to buy their way into that location. Suffering because of climate change, like taxes, is something the poor people worry about.

    Again and again his apparent stupidity is simply a matter of his caring about some people over others. For him black, brown, and most poor people, are not really ‘real Americans’. His slogan to Make America Great Again makes a lot of sense in light of his actions if you realize that in his eyes only wealthy white Christian males are real Americans. Let the babies starve, let the cities burn, let the poor live on whatever scraps they can find. None of that matters to him. None of that effects his tribe, the “real” Americans.

  4. file thirteen says

    Let the babies starve, let the cities burn, let the poor live on whatever scraps they can find.

    @lorn, you nailed it. The real thing of importance is that he makes a profit.

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