Saturday, January 6, 2018

Trump Derangement Syndrome

Elisabeth Joy LaMotte practices psychotherapy in Washington, D. C. She has contributed a good op-ed column explaining that her patients are being eaten alive by the ambient political drama. And yet, she does not mention that Washington is a company town. People who do not work for the government depend on those who do. The upheavals that are inflicting government employees are direct and personal. For most Washingtonians, the soft comfortable world, a world where a government job was guaranteed lifetime employment has changed radically. From a president who believed it a sacred mission to care and tend for the bureaucracy, Washington finds itself with a president who wants to eliminate their jobs.

For Washingtonians, the Trump apocalypse is not just entertainment.

Anyway, LaMotte is seeing her clients become consumed by the circus. They are being consumed by their new habit of consuming more and more news. Whether on the left or the right, her clients have lost their bearings. They do not know what is happening and they do not like it. If anything they are looking for a return to normalcy.

LaMotte writes:

Trump voters in Washington feel like outcasts, shunned by family and friends. Democrats and Republicans who oppose the president are struggling with a sense of uncertainty. A remarkable number of clients report experiencing nightmares in which the president makes an appearance. It’s not unusual for clients to recount their personal challenges in a calm and contained tone and then burst into tears while describing their concern about our political climate.

Republicans feel shunned… for their political opinions. Democrats feel under attack by empowered Republicans. It reminds one of other parts of the country. But it also shows how much out politicians and the media have happily turned it all into a national drama.

Washingtonians have chosen to deal with it by doubling down on their addiction of news:

Clients frequently admit to excessively checking Twitter and social media, to the point that it interferes with their relationships and professional productivity. People struggling with these habits typically describe a growing sense of isolation, difficulty concentrating, increased anxiety and a feeling of distraction. A surprising number of couples in therapy are fighting with each other about their respective modes of news consumption. These couples report less sleep, growing disconnection and less sex. And this includes couples who share the same political views.

If these clients were merely becoming better informed, if they were reading the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and the Economist, they would be in far better condition. If they were immersing themselves in the business press they would gain a balanced view of the facts. They would have more information, less narrative, less drama. With that they could ward off the ambient drama in the city but the media machine that is stoking it.

LaMotte offers us a selection of comments by her clients. Read them at your peril:

“My housemate announced during a dinner party that I’m addicted to NPR. She actually asked our friends to support an intervention, I’m not kidding.”

“My boyfriend says he’s sick of me screaming at the television. I’ve started watching Fox to branch out of the so-called bubble and it’s all lies; I can’t stand it!”

“I’m disgusted — my husband says I should stop reading the paper. What is this? The 1950s? I’m an educated and informed woman; I thought that was what he loved about me.”

“I never thought I would hear my husband say he needs to stop following the news. Even worse, I never thought I would agree. But he definitely needs to step away. He says it is like political porn and he can’t stop. I’m seriously worried.”

Addiction to NPR… screaming at the television screen… denouncing Fox News as all lies… political porn.

Yes, indeed, these people could do with an intervention. They are losing their minds over political porn. It’s not a good thing.

Needless to say, people are so absorbed by the drama that they have turned off to other people. No one relates to anyone else any more. It’s not a good thing.

LaMotte continues:

Instead of keeping us grounded and self-aware, news consumption has kicked into overdrive and grown into a collective obsession that is creating barriers to relationship intimacy. The bizarre and intense news cycle is seriously messing with people’s lives. Individuals who used to say that morning coffee and reading the newspaper was a highlight of the day now describe impulsive, constant news consumption. Couples who used to enjoy Sunday mornings in bed, flipping through the paper and scrolling through news sites while sharing thoughtful conversation, now say they are concerned that one or both partners are “obsessed with” or “addicted to” the news.

What does the good therapist prescribe? She tells us:

Those experiencing tension or feelings of disconnection related to the news don’t need to take extreme measures such as indefinite news blackouts or canceling their cable and newspaper subscriptions. The goal is to recalibrate — to celebrate the underlying strength by reining it back into its proper place and replacing excessive news consumption with action.

Taking action that directs energy away from your Facebook feed and toward the underlying source of anxiety is essential. Volunteer in a local political campaign. Participate in a political activity of mutual interest with a friend or partner. Reach out to organizations that represent your values.

Her sentiments are clearly correct, but it feels a little like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. True enough, the way out of such an obsessive interest in the news is to take action… but for my part I would not advise getting more involved in politics. How about making a point of reading about Wall Street first. And then, replace some of the television talking heads and the Congressional grandstanders with some voices of reason. 

If these people are ignoring the sober commentators in favor of those whose writings function like a drug… they should redirect their consumption. On this blog I frequently quote people like Alan Dershowitz, Stephen Cohen, Jonathan Turley… because there are rational voices out there. One does need to seek them out and to read them carefully. 

Better yet, she should insist that all of the patients read this blog. That will set them straight... it's a fair, balanced and objective antidote for Trump Derangement Syndrome. And it costs less than Prozac.

For the sake of LaMotte’s clients, examine a couple of positive stories about the state of the world. The first from yesterday’s New York Times:

The bustling United States economy is beginning to benefit some American workers who have not gotten a taste of the recovery and have been most in need of relief.

That picture was reinforced by a report on Friday from the Labor Department, which showed an increase of 148,000 jobs last month. The figure fell short of economists’ expectations, but some of the most impressive job gains in the past year were in blue-collar and service industries that pay a decent salary.

Over all, average hourly earnings were 2.5 percent higher in December compared with the year before, scarcely keeping up with inflation. But other data shows that wages have increased most for the least-educated workers and for people in many industries that are generally low-paying.

“Growth is strong, and the benefits of this growth have been widely shared,” Jed Kolko, the chief economist for, a job-search site. “This has been a year in which some of the gaps in the economy that had been growing narrowed a bit.”

Manual-labor positions are the kinds of jobs that President Trump has promised to bring back in droves, so progress could be politically important. Hiring picked up fastest in construction and mining. Manufacturing, which lost jobs in 2016, expanded last year at a respectable clip, part of a global resurgence.

Reflecting the economy’s resilience, overall hiring in 2017 was only slightly lower than in 2016 — and it has risen for 87 consecutive months, a remarkable feat.

The unemployment rate was steady at 4.1 percent, a 17-year low. The numbers point to an economy that still has some room to grow.

And also:

Most economists say presidents do not generally determine the economy’s course, and it is too early to measure the hiring effects of the tax cut signed into law last month. But Mr. Trump’s agenda may be having an impact on the economy in other ways. His push to dismantle regulations on businesses seems to have emboldened corporations to start putting more money into machines and plants, the kind of spending that drives broad growth.

A separate survey of manufacturers released on Wednesday suggested that American factories have picked up their orders, production and hiring over the past year.

Democrats offered a less sanguine view of the labor market, asserting that most Americans were still enduring paltry raises and that the Republican tax plan was a boon only to the upper stratum of the country. Among the solutions advocated by Democrats is to increase the minimum wage, as 18 states did on Jan. 1.

And, from the Wall Street Journal editorial page:

Friday’s Labor Department report on the December jobs market was mostly ho-hum, with the economy creating 148,000 net new jobs and the unemployment rate staying flat at a low 4.1%. But one more hopeful figure leapt out at us and a few others: The unemployment rate for black Americans fell to its lowest rate ever at 6.8%.

That’s right. The jobless rate for African-Americans hasn’t been lower since 1972, the earliest date we could find in the Bureau of Labor Statistics data tables. The jobless rate for blacks has always been substantially higher than for whites, and it tends to fall faster later in the economic cycle as growth picks up steam. The black jobless rate fell into the 7%-8% range in 1999-2000, before the dot-com bubble burst, and briefly in 2007 before the financial panic. But it climbed back to as high as 16.8% in 2010 before a long, slow decline as the economy recovered.

Guess what, Chicken Little: The sky is not falling! At least, not yet.


James said...

Reality can be a bitch. These people in government (DC) are waking up to the fact that they are NOT the boss, the people are, yes even the unwashed ones. They in government are NOT the root of power, the people are. They forgot (insert one of about a thousand old adages here) all things pass, every dog has his day, etc etc. They forget that the suppliant hand they now out stretch for the peoples "compassion" once held a rod of punishment wielded with relish.
I have no empathy, compassion, nor inclination of mercy for them, this they themselves killed and now all they have for sustenance is the cup bitterness they brewed themselves.
All of this reminds me of the scene in Henry V of the revealing of Scrope's and etal treason. Now back tin foil land.

trigger warning said...

"Most economists say presidents do not generally determine the economy’s course..."

Well, despite the fact that "most economists do not generally determine" is an utterly vacuous phrase, I submit that anyone, "economist" or not, who fails to note the signal differences between the Carter and Reagan economies either wasn't paying attention or has something to hide.

trigger warning said...

Vacuous quote should have read: "Most economists say presidents do not generally determine".

whitney said...

It can be really crazy making. I had to do some things myself to get away from it. I watch no TV news. No social media news. No radio news. I only read so there never any talking heads and I do read some blogs but that's it. It means I can tune it all out. But I'm connected enough to be able to see that there is a madness overtaking the land

LordSomber said...

Small minds need their Emmanuel Goldsteins.

Anonymous said...

Easy for me because I consider that 70 percent of the MSM is "Fake News", 25 percent is dissembling and 5 percent comes close to the truth. I rate psychiatrists even lower. I have watch the profession of psychiatry grow more political over the last 30 years to the point that many make CNN look like a real news organization. The amount of damage they have done to people cannot be underestimated. The pendulum seems to have turned to the point where psychiatry is back to making diagnostics for money and political reasons. Have someone you want to take their place just have them deemed insane.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

“For Washingtonians, the Trump apocalypse is not just entertainment.“

Ah, but for many of us out here, it certainly is amusing to watch.

I’m with Whitney. I don’t watch news anymore. I haven’t since election night. When 90%+ of Trump coverage is negative, the pixelated freak out is completely predictable. Why watch? To be informed? About what, pray tell?

Similarly, when 93% of D.C. people vote for Hillary, I can’t say I’m interested in their fears and concerns. They’ve created their own fears and elevated them into nightmares. Meanwhile, life moves along for most of us. I don’t care what whining Millennials prattle-on about, either. Everyone’s got their stuff. You’re not special, folks.

What I see with my Lefty friends is unadulterated denial, boiling anger, and a condescending sanctimony that is repellent. All that energy, with nowhere to go. They and their friends just agree with each other, and the rest of us quietly enjoy the show. I hope they will all move on. What they cannot accept is that a large number of their fellow countrymen disagree with their view of the world.

What is expected of us? Are we supposed to just roll over, see “the light,” and just give in to their demands? The only way out of this is to end elections for representative government. Or bring back Obama. No, thank you. You’ll just have to get yourselves worked out.

What is most striking is that the apocalypse hath not yet begun. There is a storm that’s brewing on the horizon: the investigation of the professional bureaucracy and Obama’s Administration officials, and their criminal conspiracy to destroy the election of President Trump. They almost succeeded. This is a constitutional disaster, and exposes what D.C. has become. It’s worse than a swamp... it’s a cesspool.

So some of them scream and can’t sleep. So what? Maybe they should be afraid, given this political thuggery and disgrace of our highest civil servants. The weaponized bureaucrcy must be brought to heel, with criminal convictions and abundant public shaming.

Quit bitching. You want a fight? Bring it on. The end is near. And none too soon...

Sam L. said...

Oh NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. The NYT has gone over to THE DARK SIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111!!!!!
I don't watch the TV news nor the alphabets' TV shows. I'm glad to not live in the DC bubble, the East Coast bubble, and the West Coast bubble.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: The sky is not falling! At least, not yet.

Indeed. But I'd say the problem is not unpredictable meteorites but icebergs mostly hidden under the water, on a moonless night, with full speed ahead on the unsinkable Titanic. Yet we know icebergs don't sink ships immediately and the 1912 Titanic had survivors, so if you're wealthy, you just have to have your evacuation plan prepared, and enough cash to handle any difficulties you have along the way to your new home.

Trump is not responsible for icebergs, and we should accept America is too impatient to go any speed but the highest we can get away with no matter who is president. So President Trump is more of a "The Emperor's New Clothes" sort of moment, rather than the actual source of our future woes. He might just be bringing our day of reckoning a couple months earlier than otherwise. So we should all be preparing for something regardless of who is in charge.

And thanks to the new deficit-creating tax bill, now everyone in power agrees - (federal) deficits don't matter, so if it takes 20 or 30 trillion dollars of new fiat money to make the wealthy happy in the next crisis, we'll do that, just in case it works one more time.

And since we've now had nearly 9 straight years of economic growth and record "household net wealth", maybe this time it really is different, with our newly stable genius in the White House. The markets are now fool-proof, so all fools should jump in and join the party.

Anonymous said...

There is little to admire in predictions of a recession during growth, or vigorous growth following a recession (except during the Obama regime). Its definitional.

Give us a date.

Ares Olympus said...

Anonymous said... Give us a date.

That's what the Captain of the Titanic said - tell us where the icebergs are in the distance, and we'll have plenty of time to steer clear of them. ... Except rudder was too small.

Interest rates are the traditional way that we slow down a too-hot economy. Let's see where we are after 7 years of near zero interest rates, and is 1.3% now, with a historic average around 5%. So we're still pumping new money (debt) as fast as possible into the economy.

A goosed economy is not a strong economy. It is one that had large debts to pay in the future that no rational person believes will ever be paid. Default and inflation will average things out, but I can't guess in what order or who will pay the price first.

Many Boomer might do okay, until they have to sell their hard assets at fraction of what they think they have, and it'll only be wealthy people who have access to cheap debt who will be bidding to buy them up. I don't see the Millennials buying into the future, while they're already 20 years behind their parents and in debt slavery.

Anonymous said...

AO now is concerned about the deficit. About 8 years late to the party, bub.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

It's amusing to hear Democrats, who cheered when Obama added 9 trillion to the debt, now becoming deficit hawks!!

Ares Olympus said...

Whether we blame the corporate democrats or the corporate republicans, it doesn't matter. You know either will make sure the wealthy will get their much investments out of harms way first in the next crisis, helicopter bailouts ready, and the rich'll be buying back at the bottom after the fools and their retirement funds are parted, again.

I gave my first speech against deficit spending in 1992, but I've long accepted sovereign debt is the best sort of debt since you can in a pinch print your way of out it, but that doesn't mean there is no cost. The cost will be in the future when your currency is devalued by other nations, and the cost of your imports rise, which leads to inflation, and eventually a nation is a lot poorer. For now we're in a global race to the bottom, so maybe we can be last currency standing, although electing Trump should scare any foreigner from investing here.

Even if you accept the argument that modest deficit spending is harmless because economic growth (and slow gradual inflation) will erase the debt, the that only makes sense you're borrowing money as an investment in the future, spending on infrastructure, and education that will expand the future GDP.

I think we've learned how to cheat too well now so we have no idea what "normal" is or could be any more. GDP growth is now an illusion of growing money faster than real economic activity that doesn't disappear in a crisis. We've shown ourselves how to make 3 consecutive bubbles, the first crashing around 1999, the second around 2008, and now we're in the largest of the three, and we've done this by having the lowest historic interest rates for savers in the history of our country.

When I get my $3000 "tax relief" this year, do I put it in my savings account at 1% interest with luck, or do I think I need to pay some advisor to put it into the gambling casino of the stock market, just like everyone else who hopes to retire someday?

We're encouraging everyone to become gamblers, and when the next "too big to fail" industry fails under the weight of its own debts, and our retirement funds are threatened, we'll borrow another $20 trillion to try to get things back to "normal", and think the Republican $1.5 trillion deficit is small change.

And as I said, Trump and his brand isn't responsible for this, although he has benefited from it, so far. And if the third crash happens on the GOP watch, I'm sure the American people will rightfully or wrongfully blame the GOP for what they try to do about it.

Anonymous said...

Might give one the idea that democrats have no principles except the desire for power. I guess that happens when one polls to find out what issues they are for at any given moment.

trigger warning said...

Typical Ares; dude asks for a date and Ares delivers a bizarre rumination on the RMS Titanic.

But hey, I can appreciate the applicability of marine engineering to macroeconomics.

Shaun F said...

I can only suspect it's adult emotional children in what I would describe as failed relationships - (what else do adult emotional children create?) that are affected by this - Syndrome. The therapists will have a field day with these types. I actually would be quite flatter if I affected people to the degree that they named a syndrome after me. There is still time.