Nov. 17, 2017:
The Economic Implications of Trump’s Trade & Tax Policies
Sept. 8, 2017:
The American military empire: Is Trump its would-be emperor?
June 23, 2017:
A Thought for the Fourth of July: Can the U.S. Constitution Accommodate a Rogue President?
April 7, 2017:
From the Trump Administration, Expect an Erratic Flip-Flop Foreign Policy, a Return to Gunboat Diplomacy and more Illegal Wars of Aggression
Feb. 17, 2017:
The Imperial Presidency of Donald Trump: a Threat to American Democracy and an Agent of Chaos in the World?
Jan. 20, 2017:
What to Expect from the Trump Administration: A Protectionist and Pro-Corporate America Government
Friday, November 17, 2017
The Economic Implications of Trump’s Trade & Tax Policies
By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay
“As the leader of the West and as a country that has become great and rich because of economic freedom, America must be an unrelenting advocate of free trade.”
President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), in an address before a Joint Session of the Congress on the State of the Union, January 25, 1983.
“We should be trying to foster the growth of two-way trade, not trying to put up roadblocks, to open foreign markets, not close our own.”
President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), in a radio address to the Nation on free and fair trade and the budget deficit, May 16, 1987.
“Genuine free traders look at free markets and trade, domestic or international, from the point of view of the consumer (that is, all of us), the mercantilist, of the 16th century or [of] today, looks at trade from the point of view of the power elite, big business in league with the government.”
Murray Rothbard (1926-1995), American economist, (in a 1983 article, ‘The NAFTA Myth’, Mises Daily, Nov. 30, 2013)
“…I do think we’re much safer and I hope that [another financial crisis] will not be in our lifetimes and I don’t believe it will be.”
Janet Yellen (1946- ), U.S. Federal Reserve Chair, (statement made on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, in London U.K.)
Sudden changes in trade and tax policies, the likes of those considered by the Trump administration, could be very disruptive to macroeconomic equilibrium, especially if they result in a sudden burst of inflation and in rapid interest rate hikes. Indeed, raising taxes on imports, repatriating large corporate profits parked overseas and increasing the fiscal deficit, when the economy is running at close to full capacity, can result in both demand-led and supply-led inflation. This could come much faster than most people expect, if all these measures are implemented in the coming years.
After 35 years of declining inflation and declining nominal and real interest rates since 1982, the tide is about to turn, partly as a consequence of the populist and protectionist policies of the Trump administration. With widely unexpected higher inflation rates and higher interest rates just around the corner, protectionist trade policies and higher fiscal deficits just as the Fed embarks upon a series of interest rates increases could have recessionary consequences. Moreover, since the end of the 2008-09 recession in June 2009, the influence of the 9.2 years economic cycle cannot be underestimated.
Let us see why.
1. Trump’s trade policies will be inflationary
For President Donald Trump and his advisors, international trade is some sort of a zero-sum game. It is, in their eyes, a win/lose proposition. When countries enter into multilateral international trade and investment agreements, some countries are said to “win” and some other countries are said to “lose”. Over time, such a trade theory has been completely discredited. Indeed, nothing can be further from the truth, because in most cases, international trade is a win/win proposition, in which workers, investors and consumers win on both sides.
International trade is what makes economies prosper, and all countries benefit from international trade, to various degrees. Most economists agree that, in the current state of economic development of most industrial countries, trade protectionism is a dead end, which can be dangerous for the U.S. economy and its trading partners, such as Canada.
However, what Donald Trump seems to believe in—judging by his pronouncements at least—is ‘managed international trade’ and government planning, preferably in a bilateral way, not in one particular economic sector for social and economic reasons, but for all sectors of the economy. Such a system was tried in the old Soviet Union, and that economic system collapsed in 1991. In fact, Donald Trump professes to want to repudiate sixty years of increased multilateral economic cooperation between countries, based on economic laws and macroeconomic accounting. His goal is to adopt a mercantilist and protectionist approach to international economic relations, i.e. develop a positive trade balance with other countries. Such an approach would be a throwback to a theory that was prevalent in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe. In other words, this has been tried many times before.
If the Trump administration were to get his protectionist way and were allowed by the U.S. Congress to play the apprentice sorcerer with international trade and international investment, the latter will contract, labor productivity will fall and costs of production will rise, jobs will be lost, real incomes will decline even though some money wages would increase, inflation will rise and the same for nominal interest rates. It would only be a matter of time before there would be a return to a 1970-style stagflation.
2. Trade facts regarding the United States.
In 2016, total U.S. trade deficit in goods and services was $502 billion. Indeed, during that year, the U.S. imported for $2.711 trillion of goods and services while exporting $2.209 trillion.
In the same year, the U.S. registered a deficit in goods only totaling $750 billion, while realizing a trade surplus of $248 billion in service trade (financial, insurance and banking services, royalties and license fees, transport and business services, etc.). This is an indication that the U.S. service industry is very competitive in the global market and this has created a lot of jobs in the United States. This services trade surplus helps offset the deficit in goods.
3. Adjustments in the overall U.S. balance of payments
Of course, this is not the end of the story. The reason the U.S. economy can buy more goods than it makes, in a given year, is due to the fact that it borrows capital (savings) from other countries, on a net basis. Such net borrowings from foreign lenders helped cover its current account deficit and kept American consumption spending high. This also helped to finance part of the huge fiscal deficits registered year after year by the U.S. government. In 2016, for example, the U.S. government domestic fiscal deficit was $552 billion.
Thus, the main reason why the United States, as a country, has a trade deficit is because it overspends and does not save enough, especially its government with its multiple costly wars abroad (US$5.6 trillion spent on wars, directly and indirectly, since 2001).
The United States as a whole is spending more money than it makes. This results in a chronic domestic fiscal deficit, and this means also that the United States, as a country, must borrow from foreign lenders to finance its external deficit. In other words, the United States lives beyond its means. However, American politicians want to lower taxes by a whooping $1.5 trillion US, over the next ten years, and increase the central government’s fiscal deficit. They do not seem to see the link between their public dissaving and their external indebtedness and external trade deficit.
President Donald Trump professes to want to correct U.S. trade deficits in goods and services by unilaterally reducing American imports and by increasing exports. But international trade is a two-way street: countries pay for their imports with their exports. Such a beggar-thy-neighbor approach could easily lead to trade wars, and the result could be catastrophic. If this were to happen, indeed, the entire international trade system would contract and this would bring about a worldwide economic downturn from which no country would escape.
The Trump administration should avoid making rash decisions regarding the North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took years to be negotiated and implemented. The very idea of killing a successful and functioning trade agreement in the hope of starting from scratch is a most hazardous proposition. It could have dire economic and political consequences. Such a rash decision would carry a lot of risks and would not be a wise move.
Basically, if a particular country really wants to reduce its trade deficit with other countries, it would need to borrow less and save more. Tinkering with border excise taxes and other protectionist policies would not change the basic underlying cause of the foreign deficit.
4. The U.S. dollar role as an international currency could be in jeopardy
Part of the U.S.’s annual trade deficit with the rest of the world results from the fact that a big chunk of multilateral international trade is financed in U.S. dollars and that the U.S. dollar is used as a reserve currency by many countries. Other countries pay the United States for using banking services in U.S. dollars. Such external revenues are called seigniorage. This allows the United States to import more goods than it exports and to borrow funds from abroad at a subsidized rate.
Indeed, the United States, because of the size of its money and capital markets, is the owner of a global reserve currency, the American dollar. This ensures a strong demand for U.S. dollars and for U.S. debt instruments. Imagine what the cost of imported goods in the U.S. would be if there was a drop in the demand for the U.S. dollar?
Some countries have attempted recently to use other currencies to finance their international trade. For instance, China has pressed Saudi Arabia to accept its currency, the yuan, as a mode of payment for its oil imports. In addition, the International Monetary Fund presently recognizes the Chinese currency as an international reserve currency. If the U.S. were to withdraw from its policy of international economic cooperation, its economic and financial influence would decline and some other country could likely pick up the relay.
5. Tax policies can be inflationary if they over-stimulate an economy already running at full capacity
The Trump administration and its allies in Congress would like to substantially reduce personal and corporate taxes and seem willing to accept a substantial rise in the yearly fiscal deficit and in the U.S. public debt. Ironically, if this fiscal policy were to lead to more U.S. foreign borrowings, it would partly contradict the objectives pursued with the trade policy. Indeed, such increased borrowing abroad would strengthen the foreign exchange value of the U.S. dollar, and would encourage imports while hurting exports. A larger fiscal deficit would also put pressures on interest rates. Financial markets (bonds and stocks) would suffer and this would have a recessionary effect on the economy.
All this would happen, when income and wealth inequalities in the U.S. are the highest in a century and when the huge speculative bubble in the financial markets could burst at any moment.
I would recommend that the Trump administration coordinate its trade and tax policies. It should be careful not to upset the economic apple cart when it deals with the existing system of international trade and investment, and it should be careful not to overheat an economy running at close to full capacity. Otherwise, it may be sowing the seeds of the next economic recession.
Friday, September 8, 2017
The American military empire: Is Trump its would-be emperor?
By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay
“Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood, … in which a massed-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.” Robert Paxton (1932- ), American historian, (in his book The Anatomy of Fascism, 2004)
“When and if fascism comes to America, it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, “Americanism.” Halford Edward Luccock (1885–1961), American Methodist minister and professor, (in Keeping Life out of Confusion, 1938)
“Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.” Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), German-born, Jewish-American political theorist, (in The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1951)
By now, most observers have finally realized who President Donald Trump really is. After close to eight months in the White House, Trump has clearly demonstrated that he has serious character defects in his public role as an American “showman” president. His behavior, so far, has been more than bizarre. It has been clearly aberrant and frightening.
For example, people are accustomed to be lied to by politicians, but Donald Trump seems to have elevated the art of lying to new heights. He speaks and acts as if he were living in some sort of permanent fantasyland, and his first natural instinct is to invent lies. This goes hand in hand with another art that Trump has cultivated and developed to the utmost, and it is the art of bullying to get his way, with anybody, members of Congress, foreign leaders, even his own staff and subordinates, from whom he enjoys extracting public praise regarding his own persona.
What may be the most frightening realization of all, for an American president with such responsibilities, in charge of nuclear weapons, is the fact that Donald Trump seems to be a person who adopts the views of the last person he talks to, be it somebody from his immediate family who has been appointed to an official rank in his administration, or one of the generals whom he has appointed close to himself. — He seems not to have any firm political ideas of his own. — It all depends on whether or not he’s reading from a teleprompter.
On the last point, Trump may have reached a Summum of irresponsibility, for a democratic leader, when he transferred basic military policy on important foreign policy decisions to the military brass. I suspect that is a ploy to shed responsibility for future failures, for which he could conveniently blame the military.
This points to the fact that President Trump will be the puppet of his military junta in the coming months, as the besieged president retreats into his cocoon. He will be happy to let generals run the show in near complete secrecy, and with hardly any input from Congress, as the representatives of the people. The pretext this time around: “America’s enemies must never know our plans”, says Trump. Indeed, an empire cannot be democratic and open. It must be run in secrecy, with no, or hardly any, democratic debate.
As for now, the Pentagon has divided the world into six separate geographic so-called Unified Combatant Commands to oversee and impose by force a global “Pax Americana”. For instance, Canada is assigned to the USNORTHCOM, and countries such as Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and France are assigned to the USEUCOM, Japan and China are assigned to the USPACOM, as well as tiny Vanuatu, etc. According to Pew Research and government statistics, the U.S. still has 73,206 troops in Asia, 62,635 troops in Europe, and 25,124 troops in the Middle East and North Africa.
This is the basic infrastructure. Then, there are operational plans to use it.
Of course, such a global military development requires a lot of resources, which have to be diverted from other domestic uses. This creates the type of “military-industrial complex”, which establishes a symbiosis between U.S. military industries and the Pentagon. That is precisely what President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the American people against, in his farewell speech of January 17, 1961.
The transformation has been long in the making. But with Trump as a would-be autocratic emperor, it is a fait accompli, notwithstanding what the U.S. Constitution says or calls for, in terms of checks and balances and the division of powers, and notwithstanding the basic wishes of the American people.
The conclusion is inescapable. Americans must recognize that the United States has become a de facto military empire, even if not yet a de jure empire, and Donald Trump is its current megalomaniac figurehead, a near neo-fascist would-be emperor. Where that will lead is anybody’s guess, but this is most unprecedented and most ominous.
Empires are very costly to maintain
However, as with any empire in quest of global hegemony, the ultimate danger is overextension. Military empires are very costly to maintain and they are subject to the law of diminishing returns, i.e. military investments result in lower and lower net economic returns, as negative reactions increase and the cost-benefit ratio rises. The collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991 can serve as a reminder of such a scenario. Sooner or later, indeed, the same cause and effect equation is bound to confront the current neocon-inspired American adventure as a world empire.
Considering the above, it is not surprising that little leeway is left in the U.S. fiscal budget for social programs on the domestic front. In the short run, this may hardly matter, since Donald Trump does not seem to be talking to anybody in Congress, after having insulted most of its leaders and having created a vacuum around himself and his office. In the long run, however, this could be a harbinger of social troubles ahead.
Currently, Donald Trump is bound to accomplish very little as far as domestic policies are concerned. Trying to bully the Senate with ludicrous threats to shut down the U.S. government if the former does not vote his way in appropriating $1.6 billion in border wall money, may insulate Trump even more, even if such irresponsible talk pleases his electoral base. Indeed, if the President were to carry out his threat of “closing down our government” by vetoing any spending bill that does not include funding for his pet project of building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, this would represent some dangerous brinkmanship rarely seen in politics.
Also, with the ominous threat of a possibly devastating report from U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller, sometime late in the fall or in early 2018, a president-under-siege’s main political way out may be to coach his generals into launching or expanding overseas wars. Indeed, this could be in the Middle East and/or in Asia, or even against Venezuela — it doesn’t much matter — while hoping that his unsophisticated political base, establishment journalists and the U.S. media in general will appreciate the show, and that the public’s attention can be somewhat diverted from his ineptitude.
Friday, April 7, 2017
From the Trump Administration, Expect an Erratic Flip-Flop Foreign Policy, a Return to Gunboat Diplomacy and more Illegal Wars of Aggression
By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay
(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics”, and
“Fool me once, shame on you; but fool me twice, shame on me.” Ancient proverb, (sometimes attributed to an Italian, Russian or Chinese proverb)
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius, and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Ernst F. Schumacher (1911-1977) (in ‘Small is Beautiful’, an essay, in The Radical Humanist, Aug. 1973, p. 22)
“The powers-that-be understand that to create the appropriate atmosphere for war, it’s necessary to create within the general populace a hatred, fear or mistrust of others regardless of whether those others belong to a certain group of people or to a religion or a nation.” James Morcan (1978- ) (in ‘The Orphan Conspiracies: 29 Conspiracy Theories from The Orphan Trilogy’, 2014).
“Almost all wars begin with false flag operations.” Larry Chin, (in ‘False Flagging the World towards War. The CIA Weaponizes Hollywood’, Global Research, Dec. 27, 2014)
Another terrible war crime against Syrian civilians has taken place in Syria, on top of multiple war crimes committed in that country torn apart by six years of a civil war marked by foreign interventions. On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, a chemical attack killed more than 70 people, including women and children. No neutral official investigation has yet taken place, but two versions of events have surfaced.
- The first version, advanced by the American Trump administration and other Western governments, and seemingly the only version retained by most Western media, points to a bombing by the Syrian government at Khan Cheikhoun, in the Idlib province, as the culprit. The fact that a Syrian plane was seemingly involved would support this version. However, what benefit would the Assad regime gain from such a crime is less than obvious.
- The second version, advanced by the Russian Putin government and by other analysts is that a bomb launched by a Syrian plane would have accidently hit a depot of chemical weapons in the rebel-held territory and caused the carnage. Islamist rebels would have exploited the accident to stage a very effective mediated coup against the Assad regime. In the absence of conclusive physical evidence, the ‘Cui Bono’ argument (‘who benefits’) could be used to support that version.
It is good to recall that a similar war crime, among many others, took place at Ghouta, in the Damascus suburb, on August 31, 2013. In that case, it was strongly suspected that the horrific chemical attacks, which killed hundreds of people, including many children, was likely a criminal ‘false flag operation’, staged by Al Qaeda rebels anxious to provoke U.S. President Barack Obama to intervene militarily on their side in the Syrian conflict. A ‘false flag operation’ is defined as “a horrific, staged event, — blamed on a political enemy — and used as pretext to start a war or to enact draconian laws in the name of national security.”
International law is being more and more discarded in favor of international anarchy
It is a sad fact that in totalitarian states, but also in our so-called democracies, it seems that wars of aggression are now based and sold with official lies and fraudulent fabrications in order to fool the people. Warmongers in government know that people do not like wars, especially illegal wars of aggression, against countries that have not attacked them. That is why their first choice is to attempt to drag the people along with lies and false pretexts for war, and by dehumanizing any potential enemy through crude propaganda.
Historically, there have been numerous instances when a ‘false flag operation’ was used to justify a “humanitarian” military intervention against a country or a regime. (Let us also remember that under the United Nations Charter, which is the foundation of international law, no country has a right to attack another one, no matter the pretext used, except in self-defense.)
Suffice here to recall two famous cases.
Case No. 1
Indeed, there are many historical precedents. Of course, the most recent one is George W. Bush administration’s use of a pretext to launch a so-called “pre-emptive” war of aggression against Iraq, pretending that there were chemical “weapons of mass destruction” in that country. It asserted that such WMDs posed a threat to neighboring countries and to the U.S. — It turned out that not only this act of international military aggression was illegal, but also that it was a lie, a pure fabrication, since no such weapons were discovered after the U.S.-led military invasion of Iraq.
Case No. 2
On February 15, 1898, the battleship USS Maine, on a friendly visit to Cuba, caught fire and sank in the Havana Harbor, seemingly because of an internal explosion of one of its torpedoes aboard. A purely American-run investigation concluded, however, that the explosion was not a terrible internal accident, but was caused externally by a naval mine in the harbor.
Republican President William McKinley (1843-1901), pushed by influent New York newspapers, (the Hearst and Pulitzer newspapers), accused the colonial government of Spain, in Cuba, of being responsible for the explosion and used that pretext to issue an ultimatum to Spain. The U.S Congress declared war against Spain on April 20, 1898. — That was the beginning of the Spanish-American War, which ended up with the U.S. occupying Cuba, Porto Rico, the Island of Guam and the Philippines.
Donald Trump’s new conversion to war
Politicians in disfavor can also find in foreign wars a way to improve their domestic political status. Indeed, if circumstances permit, what does an ambitious politician do, when facing a falling popularity at home? Chances are that he may be tempted to find a pretext to start a war, any war, and without any regard to international law.
It might seem bizarre that President Donald Trump has completely reversed his position regarding U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict. But he is languishing in the polls, and even the Republican-controlled Congress is distancing itself from the White House. What better way, especially in the United States where wars abroad are a rallying point, to move the attention from domestic affairs to foreign affairs?
Whatever the motive behind the move, President Trump’s hasty decision to resort to an act of war in bombing the country of Syria, on Friday morning, April 7, has been met with hurrahs by many members of Congress. The American people may be more divided on the issue, but it can reasonably be expected that in the coming weeks Trump’s popularity, presently around 35 percent, will rise under the general approval that he will surely receive from the concentrated American media. He also is likely to receive a more positive collaboration from Congress for his more controversial domestic agenda.
It may be sad to say, but in the United States, the quickest road to popularity for a politician in difficulty, at least initially, is to launch a war abroad. For example, President George W. Bush’s popularity went from around 50 percent to more than 90 percent when he initiated his war against Iraq in 2002-2003. At the end of his second term, however, his approval rating had fallen below 30 percent. [For a description of the period, see my book The New American Empire, 2004.]
The unfolding of events in the Middle East would seem to reinforce my personal assessment of last February that an unpredictable President Donald Trump risks becoming “a threat to American Democracy and an agent of chaos in the world”, and even more so now that Congressional Democrats seem ready to jump on his war bandwagon (as they did with President George W. Bush).
Friday, February 17, 2017
The Imperial Presidency of Donald Trump: a Threat to American Democracy and an Agent of Chaos in the World?
By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay
(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics”
“In order to obtain and hold power a man must love it. Thus the effort to get it is not likely to be coupled with goodness, but with the opposite qualities of pride, craft and cruelty. Without exalting self and abasing others, without hypocrisy, lying, prisons, fortresses, penalties, killing, no power can arise or hold its own.” Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), (in 'The Kingdom of God is Within You’ 1894.)
“The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history.” Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), (in The Conquest of Happiness, ch. 1, 1930.)
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. ” Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th President of the United States, 1861-65; (N. B.: Originally found and attributed to Lincoln in a biography entitled “Abraham Lincoln, the Backwoods Boy” by Horatio Alger Jr., pub. in 1883.)
“Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged against provisions against danger, real or pretended from abroad.” James Madison (1751-1836), Father of the US Constitution, 4th American President, (in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, May 13, 1798.)
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951), (It Can't Happen Here, 1935, a novel about the election of a fascist to the American presidency.)
When 46.1% of Americans who voted, in November 2016, to elect a real estate magnate in the person of Donald Trump as U.S. President, they did not know precisely what they were buying, because, as the quote above says, we really know how a politician will behave only once he or she assumes power. Americans surely did not expect that the promised “change” the Republican presidential candidate envisioned and promised was going to be, in fact, “chaos” and “turmoil” in the U.S. government.
President Donald Trump (1946- ) has surrounded himself with three politically inexperienced Rasputin-like advisers, i.e. his young pro-Israel Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner (1981- ), advising on foreign policy and acting as a speech writer, and his far right media executive and chief political strategist Steve Bannon (1953- ) with an apocalyptic worldview, who is, moreover, a voting permanent member of the National Security Council (NSC). Stephen Miller (1985- ), 31, also a young inexperienced senior White House adviser, completes the trio. He is working with Jared Kushner for domestic affairs and is also a Trump speechwriter.
Three weeks after his inauguration, President Trump has turned out to be a much more erratic politician than could have been expected, even after all the inanities he uttered during the U.S. Presidential campaign. I, for one, thought that once elected president and installed in the White House, he would abandon his tweeting eccentricities. —I was wrong.
In fact, for a few weeks after inauguration day, on January 20, 2017, before the nominated secretaries of various government departments were confirmed by the Senate, and anxious to "get the show going", the Trump White House behaved like an imperial junta, issuing a string of executive orders and memos. The objective, seemingly, was to force the hands of the responsible departments and of the elected Congress, and to bend the entire U.S. bureaucracy to its agenda. It may have gone too far.
Indeed, when the heads of important departments like the Department of Defense (James Mattis) and the State Department (Rex Tillerson) were confirmed and assumed their functions, President Trump changed his mind on many policies about Israel, China, the Iran Deal …etc.
U.S. courts have also thrown a monkey wrench in the blanket executive order closing the U.S. borders without recourse to the citizens of seven Muslim countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen), for spurious “security reasons”.
Let us recall how the inexperienced Trump White House has created chaos during the first weeks following inauguration day.
• President Donald Trump has shown a propensity to govern by decree with a minimum input from government departments and from the elected Congress
A dangerous and potentially disastrous approach to government, in a democracy, occurs when a leader adopts the practice of governing by decree, without constitutional constraints, thus forcing the hands of responsible departments, of the elected Congress and submitting the entire U.S. bureaucracy to his will by governing as an autocrat. If it were to continue on that road, the Trump administration could turn out to be more like a would-be imperial presidency than a responsible democratic government.
This term was first coined by historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in his 1973 book The Imperial Presidency, in response to President Richard Nixon’s attempt to extend the power of the U.S. president, declaring “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal”. In my own 2003 book The New American Empire, I dealt with the issue of American presidents having usurped over time the power to adopt a policy of global intervention, and the power to launch wars of aggression at will, with a minimum input from Congress.
President Trump seems to want to outdo President Nixon in considering the White House as the primary center of political power within the American government, contrary to what the U.S. Constitution says about the separation of powers.
To be sure, other American presidents have issued executive orders and presidential memos early in their administration, but this was mainly to re-establish procedures that a previous administration had abandoned. They usually did not deal with fundamental and complex policies without debate, although many did.
In the case of President Trump, his executive orders and presidential memos have not only been multiple, they also have dealt with fundamental policies, without consulting and requesting the professional input of the Secretary and of the department responsible, be it on healthcare, abortion, international trade, immigration, oil exploration, justice, etc., and without producing policy papers to explain the rationale behind the policy changes and without outlining the objectives being pursued.
When such a development of governing by decree has occurred in other countries, democracy was the loser, and the consequences for the leader and his country turned out to be disastrous.
• President Donald Trump seems to be anxious to find pretexts to pick fights with other countries: For him, it seems to be the U.S. against the world
In a March 2007 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the future presidential candidate Donald Trump said that President George W. Bush had been a disaster in foreign relations and that he was “the worst American president in the history of the United States”, adding that he “should have been impeached” because he lied his way into a war of aggression against Iraq and sent thousands of people to their death. This is an assessment that he has repeated on numerous occasions.
However, ironically, President Donald Trump seems to be on the same track as George W. Bush regarding the country of Iran, using lies and false claims to pick a fight with that country, and in so doing, echoing the hysterical rhetoric of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has also recklessly insulted the heads of a half dozen countries, even going so far as to threaten the President of Mexico to invade his country. As to his criticism of President George W. Bush, it seems that really, “it takes one to know one”!
President Trump should be reminded of what he promised as a presidential candidate. In a foreign policy speech delivered on Wednesday April 27, 2016, he declared “Unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct. You cannot have a foreign policy without diplomacy. A superpower understands that caution and restraint are really truly signs of strength. Although not in government service, I was totally against the war in Iraq, very proudly, saying for many years that it would destabilize the Middle East.”
• President Donald Trump has been less than candid regarding the influence of the Wall Street lobby on politicians, including himself
During the 2016 Presidential political campaign, candidate Donald Trump was very critical of politicians who do the heavy lifting for Wall Street firms in Washington D.C. On many occasions, Mr. Trump said that Wall Street is a symbol of a corrupt establishment that has been robbing America's working class and enriching the elite. He also tweeted point blank, on July 28, 2016, that Secretary Hillary Clinton was “owned by Wall Street” and that Wall Street banks had “total, total control” over his rivals Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, implying that they were unfit for the Office of the President. On October 19, 2016, Mr. Trump tweeted that “crooked Hillary is nothing more than a Wall Street Puppet”, thus presenting himself as the populist defender of the working class against the financial elite.
But guess what? One of Mr. Trump’s first moves as President was to order the undoing of the banking regulations known as the Dodd-Frank legislation, which was adopted in 2010, after the 2008 subprime financial crisis. President Trump thus quickly answered the main request made by the very Wall Street mega banks that he had accused previously of corrupting Washington politicians. He went even further when he named a former Goldman Sachs banker, Steven Mnuchin, as his Treasury Secretary.
Also, Mr. Trump has reached to the mega-bank Goldman Sachs for help and support. He name Mr. Gary Cohn (1960- ), president of Goldman Sachs, head of the President’s National Economic Council, thus making sure that Wall Street bankers will have a big say in his administration’s economic and financial policies.
Was his lambasting of his opponents as Wall Street banks’ puppets simply campaign rhetoric without substance? That is certainly a question worth asking.
• President Donald Trump’s continuous attacks against the free press and against independent judges who rule against his policies is an authoritarian approach to government and is a violation of the separation of powers
On Monday February 6, President Trump launched a barrage of off-the-cuff intimidating insults at the American news media, accusing them of “refusing to report on terrorist attacks”, without providing any evidence to back up such serious accusations. He has also attempted to intimidate judges who have to rule on the constitutionality of some of his decrees and threatened their judiciary independence.
Such behavior is a violation of, and contempt for the separation of powers clause in the U.S. Constitution and is a frontal attack against the free press.
This is not a trivial matter, because when an authoritarian regime wants to establish itself and avoid accountability, it usually attacks the legislative and the judiciary branches of government to pressure them to toe the line of the executive branch, and it tries to silence the very institutions that can put the false statements of politicians to the test.
• President Donald Trump has a mercantilist view of international trade, which is rejected by nearly all economists
President Donald Trump seems to think that his country should have trade surpluses on goods and services vis-à-vis other countries, the latter being saddled with trade deficits, whatever the overall balance of payments of the United States, especially its capital account, and whatever the domestic and foreign economic circumstances. This is economically false. That is not the way adjustments in the balance of payments of a country work, in a multilateral world.
When Donald Trump places all the emphasis on only one part of the balance of payments, the trade balance, he misses the point. For example, if a country lives beyond its means and borrows money from abroad, such foreign borrowing appears as an inflow of foreign capital in the country. Such an inflow of foreign capital causes an excess of domestic spending over its production, and that helps finance an excess of imports over exports of goods and services with the rest of the world. The capital account of the country shows a surplus, while the trade balance (more precisely the current account) indicates a deficit, thus balancing more or less each other.
The main reason why the United States is registering trade deficits is because it borrows too much from abroad.
This is partly due to the fact that the U.S. government runs huge fiscal deficits, spending more than its tax revenues, and borrowing money both from the private sector and from foreigners, thus increasing the public debt. Such deficits often are the result of tax reductions and of increased military expenditures. The fact that the world economy uses the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency represents an interest-free loan that the rest of the world makes to the United States, which allows the USA to have a chronic trade deficit. Mr. Trump and his advisers would be wise to understand these truths of international finance.
If his administration wants to reduce the annual U.S. trade deficit with the rest of the world, the U.S. government should balance its books and reduce its foreign borrowings. Trade wars will not improve the U.S. trade balance if the country keeps over-spending and keeps borrowing from abroad. They would only make matters worse.
For many decades now, the U.S. government has piled up debt upon debt while running continuous fiscal deficits, mainly due to the fact that it has been waging costly wars abroad, while financing such interventions with foreign money. This is a problem that American politicians must understand if they don’t want their country to go bankrupt. This has happened in the past to other overextended empires, and there is no reason why it should not happen today when a country continuously spends more than it produces. And wars do not produce anything, except death and destruction.
• Hopes of putting an end to the Middle East chaos have greatly diminished
One of the positive results of the Trump election was the promise to end the deadly chaos in the Middle East. During the presidential campaign and once in power, Mr. Trump threw some cold water on that promise.
Firstly, in his March 21, 2016 speech to AIPAC, he flattered his rich Zionist donors by announcing his intention to break with the half-century policy of most western nations that considers the city of Jerusalem a United Nations protected zone and an international city occupied by Arabs, Christians and Jews. He declared “we will move the American embassy [from Tel Aviv] to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem.”
Secondly, on Thursday December 15, 2016, to make sure that everybody understands that he is one-sided in the more than half a century old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, President-elect Trump announced his choice of a hardliner pro-Israeli settlements on privately-owned Palestinian lands for U.S. ambassador to Israel (in fact, David Friedman, his former bankruptcy lawyer). The new ambassador didn’t waste any time in professing that he was looking forward to doing his job “from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”
And, thirdly, seemingly forgetting that he had criticized Secretary Clinton for proposing a similar dangerously reckless policy, President Trump announced, on January 25, that he “will absolutely do safe zones in Syria”, seemingly without considering if it was legal to do so without the consent of the Syrian government, and without consulting with the three principal countries (Russia, Turkey and Iran), which had just concluded a peace plan for Syria. He opted instead to talk to leaders of Saudi Arabia and of the United Arab Emirates— two countries known to be sponsoring terrorism in Syria.
• The world is afraid of President Donald Trump: Doomsday Clock scientists have concluded that humanity is just two-and-a-half minutes from the apocalypse
Late in January, the scientists in charge of the Doomsday Clock set the clock at just two-and-a-half minutes from the apocalypse, allegedly because of Donald Trump. They said that the businessman turned politician, with his disturbing and ill-considered pronouncements and policies, has the potential to drive the Planet to oblivion. This means that they consider that the Earth is now closer to oblivion than it has ever been since 1953, at the height of the nuclear confrontation between the USA and the Soviet Union. The existential threats facing the Earth now come from the loose talk about using nuclear weapons and the proliferation of such weapons, as well as the observed acceleration of climate change.
All considered, the turn of events since the election of Donald Trump has raised a number of fears that a lot of things could go wrong in the coming years. Many of the policies advanced by the Trump administration are the wrong remedies for the problems facing the United States and the world. In fact, many of these ill-conceived policies are more likely to make matters worse, possibly much worse, than to improve them.
Things seem to have begun to change somewhat with the arrival of newly confirmed secretaries in the decision-making process and new advisers. Let us hope that cooler heads will bring experience, knowledge and competence to a Trump administration that cruelly needs it.
Friday, January 20, 2017
What to Expect from the Trump Administration: A Protectionist and Pro-Corporate America Government
By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay
(Author of the books “The Code for Global Ethics”, and
“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”
Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), Italian politician, journalist, and leader of the National Fascist Party. (As quoted in Mats Erik Olshammar’s book Dragon Flame, 2008, p. 253)
“The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what [Adolf] Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. — With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”
Henry A. Wallace (1888-1965), American politician, 33rd Vice President of the United States, 1941-1945, (in ‘The Danger of American Fascism’, The New York Times, April 9, 1944, and in ‘Democracy Reborn’, 1944, p. 259)
"Demagogue: one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots."
“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! »
Donald Trump (1946- ), on January 3, 2017, after House Republicans voted 119-74 to place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under the control of the House of Representatives. (N.B.: They reversed their position after Mr. Trump’s criticism)
Presidential candidate Donald Trump raised the hopes of many Americans when he criticized his political opponents for their close ties to Wall Street and, above all, when he promised to 'drain the swamp' in Washington D.C. He may still fulfill that last promise, but as the quote above indicates, he may have to fight House Republicans on that central issue. Candidate Trump also raised the hopes of many when he promised to end costly wars abroad and to concentrate rather on preventing jobs from moving offshore, on creating more middle-class jobs at home and on preventing the American middle class from shrinking any further.
No doubt the cabinet he has assembled is filled with well-intentioned and capable persons. And, it is only normal that a new president surrounds himself with loyal supporters and people with whom he feels comfortable ideologically and personally. And, let us be fair. Not many progressives or academics supported Donald Trump during the November 2016 election. However, on paper at least, it can be said that Trump’s cabinet looks to be more to the right than himself.
Nevertheless, the Trump administration will probably be the most pro-business administration and the wealthiest in American history. This is somewhat ironical because, during the November 2016 presidential election, Mr. Trump prevailed in poor, economically challenged cities, while Ms. Clinton drew her support in more affluent cities and counties.
The overall image that emerges, indeed, is a U.S. government fit for an inward-looking industrial-financial-military complex, made up, to a large extent, of billionaires and of Wall Street financiers (Ross, Mnuchin, Cohn, Clayton, etc.), of known warmongers (Mattis, Flynn, etc.), and of known Zionists (Bolton, Friedman, Greenblatt, etc.). However, this is a corporate government that is hostile to large American international corporations (GM, Coca-Cola, etc.), hostile to economic regulations and to economic globalization in general.
There is a clear possibility, considering its composition, that the pro-domestic-business Trump administration could herald a new Robber Baron era of laissez faire capitalism within the United States, somewhat similar to the one that led, in reaction, to the passage of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890. If so, history could repeat itself. Only time will tell.
A genuine desire for radical change
There is no doubt that the 2016 U.S presidential election revealed a desire for radical change on the part of a large segment of the U.S. electorate, discontent and dissatisfied with the way things are these days with the political gridlock in Washington D.C. and with the relatively stalled U.S. economy.
The economic policies espoused by the U.S. establishment over the last quarter century have resulted in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, with the result also that economic and social mobility for average American families has declined and is now much lower than in other advanced economies. This has been an important cause for disillusion and anger among many Americans who feel that the economic system is rigged against them and in favor of the very rich.
Can President Trump succeed in bringing about fundamental, even revolutionary change, especially in reducing political corruption and in bringing more economic and social justice for American workers, or will he be engulfed in the morass of politics as usual in Washington D.C.? Here again, only time will tell.
On the other hand, President Trump can hardly pretend to have received an overwhelming political mandate for change from the electorate, considering that he got 2,865,000 fewer votes than Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The last time that this happened was in 2000 when Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush received about 540,000 fewer votes than his adversary Al Gore, but he was nevertheless elected president by the U.S. Electoral College.
Moreover, by professing to want to cumulate his responsibilities as U.S. President and those as a de facto head of his own international real-estate company, and by refusing to park his private business interests in a blind trust, thus creating a permanent conflict of interests, President Donald Trump is sending the wrong signal. And transferring the daily executive responsibilities to his sons does not pass the smell test.
During the 2016 campaign, candidate Trump clearly said that “[I]f I become president, I couldn’t care less about my company. It’s peanuts… I wouldn’t ever be involved because I wouldn’t care about anything but our country, anything.” Public interest, indeed, is not the same as private personal interests, and it is difficult to believe that Mr. Trump has had a change of mind on such an important issue. People should expect their politicians not to use their positions, directly or indirectly, to enrich themselves. Period.
Let us consider how a strong pro-business Trump administration could have some beneficial results in the short run, but could also be very disruptive in the long run, both for the United States and for the world.
1. Donald Trump’s authoritarian approach may endanger American democracy
American democracy may be seriously tested in the coming months and years, as a President Donald Trump administration begins implementing a fundamental shift in American domestic and foreign policies. This could be either for better or for worse.
That is because the new U.S. president, Donald J. Trump (1946- ), is a businessman, in fact, an international real-estate mogul who owns hotels, golf courses and casinos in many countries, who has no government experience of his own and who has run his family business with total control. Moreover, businessman Donald Trump has tended to trust his business instincts more than his head in making important decisions, and he is also inclined to act in a self-serving manner. He is a person who, temperamentally and on occasion, does not hesitate to denigrate, humiliate and bully people around to get his way. Indeed, his modus operandi in his dealings with people seems to rely on intimidation and on bluffing in order to exact concessions on their part and to obtain some benefits for himself.
Some fifteen years ago, another businessman was elected to the American presidency, i.e. Texan oilman George W. Bush (1946- ), who also boasted that he made decisions with his guts. That did not turned out too well for the United States, as Bush II ended up being one of the worse presidents the U.S. ever had. Presidential candidate Trump even said publicly that George W. Bush was “the worst President in history”, and said he should have been impeached because he lied about the presence of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq with the clear intention of tricking the American public into supporting a war against that country.
It’s true that George W. Bush did not hide his intentions of governing in an authoritarian way when he declared, "I'm the commander in chief, see, I don't need to explain, I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting part about being president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation", as this was documented in Bob Woodward's book 'Bush at War', 2002. Will President Trump take such a statement as a precedent, or will he be more open to outside ideas to improve things?
2. Fears of trade wars and disruptive protectionism looming ahead
President Donald Trump has made no qualms about being a trade protectionist. His spokespersons have repeatedly said that the new administration is a protectionist one. It is one thing to adopt ad hoc protectionist measures; it is another matter to adopt an overall protectionist policy that could lead to widespread economic disintegration, and trigger costly economic dislocations, uncertainty and, possibly, risk a worldwide economic depression.
This could also mean bringing forward destructive laws, similar to the protectionist 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff, which imposed high tariffs and other barriers to the importation of foreign-produced goods.
There are, however, international trade laws that prevent one country from singling out another country for punitive tariffs or trade impediments without cause. If the Trump administration were to violate those laws, other national governments could be expected to retaliate, and this could wreak havoc with international trade and world prosperity. In the 1930s, protectionist “beggar-thy-neighbor policies" raised unemployment and intensified the Great Depression. Nobody can be absolutely sure that this would not be repeated if similar policies were pursued today.
In fact, it is far from certain that increasing duties on imports would be beneficial to the U.S. economy. Such impediments to trade would push up the prices of goods in the United States, thus making it harder for workers on low salaries to buy them. American exports could also suffer when other countries retaliate and raise tariffs on goods produced in the U.S. and shipped from the U.S., creating unemployment in many American exporting industries, notably in the agricultural sector.
With American protectionist policies raising prices, the Fed could then be expected to raise interest rates faster, thus slowing down interest-rate sensitive industries such as the construction industry, while higher U.S. interest rates could appreciate the U.S. dollar vis-à-vis other currencies, resulting in a further decline of U.S. exports abroad and negating the expected objective of protectionism.
Indeed, President Trump and his advisers could learn some lessons in economics in 2017-2018, when they see an extraordinary strong U.S. dollar, boosted by their expected protectionist policies, destroying American exports and possibly also tanking the stock market. Large American international companies could be expected to suffer the most, and those who work for them or own stocks in them would also suffer, both from the artificially strong dollar and from retaliations from other countries.
Therefore, it is far from a sure thing that the jobs created in American import-substituting industries would not be counterbalanced by the loss of jobs in American export industries. The result could be net negative for the U.S. economy as a whole. Protectionist policies could also lower American overall productivity, in the long run, because of a reduction in economies of scale caused by a contraction of U.S. export industries and in their investments.
3. The North American economy could be disturbed and political relations could possibly turn sour
The United States needs allies and friends in the world, and there is no better friend of the United States than neighboring Canada. In 1988, the Reagan administration reached a free trade agreement (FTA) with Canada, a country with a similar free market economy and standard of living, which has benefited both countries. In 1994, the Clinton administration enlarged the Canada-US free trade Agreement to include Mexico, the latter country having a standard of living that is less than one third the American standard of living. That was NAFTA.
The Trump administration intends not only to cancel the already signed trade agreement (TPP) with Asiatic countries and to end negotiations for establishing a transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), but President Trump would also like to reopen and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Such isolationist moves are bound to create unnecessary economic and political frictions besides creating a lot of uncertainty. For neighboring Canada and Mexico, this has the potential of disrupting their economies. Let us hope that cooler heads will prevail and that the baby of economic cooperation won’t be thrown out with the bathwater of trade irritants.
Mr. Trump and his advisers should know that trade is a two-way street and that a country pays for its imports with its exports. They must know, therefore, that Canada is the U.S.’s number one trading partner and that there are 35 U.S. states (New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Alaska, etc.) for whom the number one export country for their goods and services is Canada.
In 2015, for the record, the United States exported goods and services to Canada for a total value of $337.3 billion, and imported from Canada goods and services valued at $325.4 billion, for a net U.S. surplus equal to $11.9 billion. In 2015, Canada was the United States' number-one goods export market. Moreover, American companies had direct investments worth $386.1 billion in Canada, in 2014, while Canadian companies had direct investments in the United States worth $261.2 billion in the same year.
The Trump administration should know that, in 2015, nearly 9 million American jobs depended on U.S. trade and investment with Canada. Therefore, Canada is not a country posing a trade problem to the United States and Mr. Trump and other U.S. politicians should know it. The Canadian and American economies are well integrated and are complementary to each other.
The motto should be: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
4. Drastic U.S domestic policy changes may hurt the poor and enrich the already super rich, thus exasperating inequality, if they are not replaced by better policies
Presidential candidate Trump promised to lower U.S. corporate tax on corporate profits from 35% to 15%. Even though the real corporate tax rate paid by most American corporations is much lower than the posted rate, being closer to 12%, such a drastic drop in the official corporate taxation rate is bound to make the rich richer. In fact, the post-November-8 stock market rally is largely a reflection of that promise to lower the corporate tax rate.
Similarly, candidate Donald Trump has promised to deregulate U.S. mega banks, which were at the center of the 2008 subprime loan financial crisis, and especially end the Dodd-Frank rules, which require banks to hold more capital as an insurance against catastrophic failures. Here we go again: politicians pandering to those who can give them money, while risking the stability of the entire financial system and the jobs of millions of Americans. If this comes to pass, the next financial crisis may be called the ‘Trump financial crisis’.
On the social side, Trump’s promise to dismantle the Obamacare program, without advancing a credible replacement, may end up hurting the poorest Americans. Indeed, what would happen to the some 20 million Americans who previously had been left out of secured access to health services through employer-sponsored insurance? In politics, it is usually easier to dismantle something than to build something of value.
5. U.S. economic and political clashes with China may be very disruptive to world peace
The Chinese government is a communist and authoritarian government, even though it has moved, since 1978, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997), to a more decentralized market-oriented socialist economy. The biggest economic step for China came on December 11, 2001, when it officially abandoned protectionism as a policy and joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), thus integrating the world economy.
It is true that the U.S. has a trade deficit with China. In 2015, for example, American exports to China amounted to $116.1 billion while the U.S. imported goods from China valued at $483.2 billion, leaving a trade deficit equal to $367.1 billion. That is party due to the fact that many U.S. companies have invested in China, and they imported goods from China. This is partly due to the fact that the U.S. government has a large fiscal deficit, and some of it translates into an external trade deficit. Of course, it is true that China is also a large low-wage country, and its products are very price-competitive.
An important point of contention between the U.S. and China has been the value of the latter country’s currency, the Yuan. Critics have argued that the Chinese currency has been kept artificially undervalued, thus reducing the price of Chinese goods on international markets and stimulating its exports. The Chinese government has argued that the Yuan exchange rate reflects its own economic conditions, i.e. low labor costs, and that the value of the Yuan, in fact, has been appreciating over the last twenty years and that the country runs trade deficits with other countries.
Such an issue should be settled by a panel of international monetary experts, and should not be a pretext for a trade war.
6. The Trump administration, by siding even more openly with Israel than previous American administrations, may make matters worse in the Middle East
During the electoral campaign, candidate Trump said, on many occasions, that he wanted to reduce congressional term limits, fight political corruption and stop the influence of the tens of thousands of lobbies in Washington D.C.
Ironically, on Monday evening, March 21, 2016, Mr. Trump appeared in front of the most powerful foreign policy lobby in the U.S., the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an umbrella lobbying organization that boasts of having access to a vast pool of political donors. He then delivered the most demagogic and the most pandering speech that a politician can make to get votes and money from a lobbying organization. So much so that, the next day, AIPAC president Lillian Pinkus had to apologize for some of Mr. Trump’s remarks.
During his speech, Mr. Trump went on to please his listeners by declaring that he was prepared to turn a blind eye to the issue of illegal Israeli settlements that the Israeli government has allowed on the occupied lands Palestinians want for their future state. He went even further and said that he would veto “100 percent”, as U.S. President, any attempt by the United Nations to impose a Palestinian state on Israel, provoking cheers and applause. Mr. Trump went on promising to “move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem”, a shift of policy that would be denounced by most other countries, even if this was met with cheers and applause by the AIPAC delegates.
Soon after his AIPAC speech, not surprisingly, prominent American billionaires, such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, casino owner Phil Ruffin, activist investor Carl Icahn, etc. became prominent donors to the Trump campaign. So much for draining the swamp!
7. President Trump has made incendiary and false statements about Iran
Candidate Trump, in his pandering speech to AIPAC, promised to “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran”. He even repeated the lie that the U.S. government “gave” $150 billion to Iran. In fact, that sum was Iran’s own funds that had been frozen in American financial institutions because of unilateral sanctions. This was not a “gift”. It was restitution.
It was said of the George W. Bush administration that it made “its own reality”. Would the Donald Trump administration be on the same track in creating “its own facts”?
Let us remind ourselves what the Iran Deal was.
It was an agreement reached by six countries (France, Germany, the U.K., Russia, China, and the United States), which removed the possibility that Iran develop nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. Would President Trump insult all these countries and opt to go to war with Iran to please his rich donors? I hope not. That would be crazy. I doubt very much that this is the type of “change” that American voters want, i.e. more neocon-inspired wars of aggression abroad.
8. The Trump administration is expected to show little respect for the environment
Scott Pruitt, the new Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (APA) is openly a denier of climate science and of clean air legislation. As Attorney General of the state of Oklahoma, he opposed the Environmental Protection Agency (APA) over its Clean Power Plan. He can be expected to encourage highly polluting coal burning.
Indeed, it is one thing to be a climate change skeptic, and another to be pro- air pollution. There are economic activities that generate pollution costs to the entire population and cause diseases. Such social external costs are not included in the market prices of private goods. They should be.
People have only to look at some Chinese cities, like Beijing, to see how destructive air pollution can be, when people have to wear masks when going outside their homes. In particular, burning coal on a large scale creates smog and is a recipe to generate deadly air pollution. That is what China is learning the hard way, as this results in thousands of premature deaths.
Numerous members of the Trump administration are climate change deniers and are opposed to climate scientists’ recommendations. For one, Rick Perry, the former Republican Governor of Texas and President Trump’s choice for Energy Secretary, denies that climate change is happening or that it is caused by greenhouse gas emissions. It is undeniable, for example, that the year 2016 was the warmest ever and that the trend toward a warming climate will continue as CO2 emissions keep increasing.
On the environment, therefore, the Trump administration can be expected to be anti-intellectualism and anti-science.
9. After statements made to that effect, the Trump administration is expected to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with far-right judges
Presidential candidate Donald Trump is on record as willing to pack the U.S. Supreme Court with far right pro-life judges. Mr. Trump is known to have been, for most of his life, pro-choice, although he has expressed a personal dislike for abortion, except for three exceptions, i.e. when the health of a woman is in danger, in case of rape, and in case of incest. In 1999, for example, he told NBC ‘Meet The Press, “I'm very pro-choice.”
However, during the last presidential campaign, on August 1, 2016, Mr. Trump went further and said that “I will pick great Supreme Court Justices”, …similar in philosophy to the late Justice Antonin Scalia (1936-2016), one of the most far right judges ever to have sat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The most contentious proposals of the Trump administration will undoubtedly be the type of judges it nominates for confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
10. On the positive side, the Trump administration is bound to end the Washington Neocons’ New Cold War with Russia
In international affairs, the main positive contribution that the Trump administration could bring to the world would be to put an end to the artificially created New Cold War with Russia that Washington Neocons have initiated from scratch in recent years, within the Obama administration. Indeed, President Donald Trump has been most clear in expressing his desire to adopt a more peaceful approach to Russia and President Vladimir Putin. In many areas, he even considers Russia to be an ally of the U.S., not the dangerous adversary that the Neocon establishment in Washington D.C. has tried to portray it to be in recent years. If this New Détente with Russia can be achieved, it would be a major accomplishment for world peace and for American prosperity.
One of the weak characteristics of democracy is that, in practice, it pushes politicians to pander to special interests for votes and money, at the expense of public interest and the common good.
From what we know so far, the Trump administration is geared to be the most pro-domestic-business, the most economically isolationist and protectionist, and the most pro-special interests American administration, ever. This could spell trouble for the United States and for the world if it truly acts in that direction.
As an economist, indeed, I fear that an inexperienced Trump administration would go too far, too fast in dislocating American international corporations and in raising domestic tariffs on imports. The end-result could be some disastrous trade wars that would create stagflation and that would hurt both the American and foreign national economies.
This is an administration that should heed a few words of caution, and it should refrain from being an extremist administration.