Teri Kanefield @Teri_Kanefield Author, lawyer (U.C. Berkeley). I tweet about the law, books, politics, and history. All my threads are here as blog entries: t.co/vdLoEAoLvv Apr. 01, 2019 4 min read

(Thread) Getting out of this mess

Some of you feel we’re facing something new in America.👇“It’s never been this bad before,” you say.

I’d like to remind you all about slavery. And Jim Crow.
And women as chattel.

Let’s take a look backwards—then consider how we move forward.

1/When Friedrich Trump, DJT’s grandfather, arrived in the US from Germany in 1885, white men could pretty much do as they pleased—especially if they headed West, which is what Friedrich did.

Out west he figured out that “mining the miners” was more lucrative than mining for gold

2/ He ran taverns and brothels. After earning a small fortune, he got married, and settled in Queens, NY.

He had a premonition that Queens (then rural and sparsely populated) would see a building boom, so he bought a few choice pieces of real estate.

3/ He died before he could build a real estate empire.

Fred Trump, DJT’s father, made a large fortune when he figured out how to cheat.

Returning WWII soldiers were eligible for home loans under the new GI bill. There was thus a need for single family homes.

(same sources)

4/ The FHA offered building loans, and allowed builders to recoup part of their expenses, so Fred set up shell equipment companies.

He rented himself equipment at inflated prices and billed the government for tacked on expenses that never occurred.

(same sources)

5/ When Fred T. submitted costs, he added a 5% architect’s fee even though there was no architect.

He submitted falsely high estimates, did the work for millions less, and pocketed the difference. When he was hauled before the Senate probe into public corruption . . .

6/. . .he escaped punishment because there were no specific laws against what he did (now there are).

So he got away with it because of a Constitutional protection against ex post facto laws. If there's no law against it, you can’t be convicted.
 https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/ex_post_facto 

7/ You see, the Trumps had never actually added value; they took advantage of situations.

They were clever about making money in ways that were shady but not illegal.

A few facts about criminal law and Rule of Law: Not everything immoral is illegal.
For that matter . . .

8/ . . .not everything illegal is immoral: I can find you dozens of historical examples of things that were illegal but not immoral (like helping runaway slaves)

Also not every lawbreaker can be brought to justice. It can’t happen—unless you want everyone constantly surveilled.

9/ Prosecutors choose which crimes to investigate and prosecute.

This is called prosecutorial discretion. In autocracies, the autocrat decides who should be investigated and prosecuted. A pillar of our system is that prosecutors decide.
 https://definitions.uslegal.com/p/prosecutorial-discretion/ 

10/ Prosecutors don’t always get it right. The system is not perfect because people are not perfect, and times change.

There were times when many people believed that women who got abortions were a greater danger to society than people who cheated on their taxes.

11/ There are still people who believe this.

If you think “it’s never been this bad before” I invite you consider life in America for African Americans or native Americans in 1855, or a factory worker in the 1920s.

In the 20s, income inequality looked much like it looks now👇

12/ College was generally available only to those in the top 5%.
There was no social security.
Factory workers who labored all their lives died in poverty without access to doctors.
Injured workers were left to starve.
There was no minimum wage or 40 hour workweek.

13/ If you want to know something about rape and sexual harassment laws back then, see:

Now Trump and pals are trying hard to turn America into an oligarchy.

Prof. Richardson (see next tweet) argues that we’ve had 2 oligarchies in US history.

14/ The first was slavery, when a small group of slaveowners held disproportionate power in the U.S.👇

(The 3/5 rule gave them a lock on Congress; most of the presidents in our first 100 years were pro-slavery; as a result the Supreme Court was stacked with pro-slavery justices)

15/ The second was the age of robber barons, when laissez faire economics created a class of oppressed workers and a few wealthy business owners.

OK, so where do we go from here?

Income inequality today is approaching the same levels we saw in the 1920s👇

16/ How do we get out?

The same way we got out of the Great Depression and the age of robber barons.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt taught us how to do that.

So we follow his example.

17/ This thread is long enough, so I am planning 2 more:

1: Sometimes the wheels turn slowly: Susan B. Anthony
2. Sometimes the wheels turn fast: Franklin D. Roosevelt

Unless something big drops in the news, I’ll do those over the next week.

/end

All of my threads are blogposts. You can read this one here:  https://terikanefield-blog.com/some-perspective/ 

My blogposts are also organized and indexed by topic.


You can follow @Teri_Kanefield.



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