Friday, August 17, 2018

The Enigma of Orwellian Donald Trump: How Does He Get Away with It so Easily?



Friday, August 17, 2018

The Enigma of Orwellian Donald Trump: How Does He Get Away with It so Easily?
By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay


Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people [journalists], the fake newsJust remember, what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening. 
Donald Trump (1946- ), American President, (in remarks made during a campaign rally with Veterans of Foreign Wars, in Kansas City, July 24, 2018)

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”
George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) (1903-1950), English novelist, essayist, and social critic, (in ‘1984’, Ch. 7, 1949)

This is a White House where everybody lies.” Omarosa Manigault Newman (1974- ), former White House aide to President Donald Trump, (on Sunday August 12, 2018, while releasing tapes recording conversations with Donald Trump.)

I am a mortal enemy to arbitrary government and unlimited power.” Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), American inventor and US Founding Father, (in ‘Words of the Founding Fathers’, 2012).

In this day and age, with instant information, how does a politician succeed in double-talking, in bragging, in scapegoating and in shamefully distorting the truth, most of the time, without being unmasked as a charlatan and discredited? Why? That is the mysterious and enigmatic question that one may ask about U. S. President Donald Trump, as a politician.

The most obvious answer is the fact that Trump’s one-issue and cult-like followers do not care what he does or says and whether or not he has declared a war on truth and reality, provided he delivers the political and financial benefits they demand of him, based on their ideological or pecuniary interests. These groups of voters live in their own reality and only their personal interests count.

1-   Four groups of one-issue voters behind Trump

There are four groups of one-issue voters to whom President Donald Trump has delivered the goodies:

Christian religious right voters, whose main political issue is to fill the U. S. Supreme Court with ultra conservative judges. On that score, Donald Trump has been true to them by naming one such judge and in nominating a second one.

Super rich Zionists and the Pro-Israel Lobby, whose obsession is the state of Israel. Again, on that score, President Donald Trump has fulfilled his promise to them and he has unilaterally moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in addition to attacking the Palestinians and tearing up the ‘Iran Deal’.

The one-percent Income earners and some corporate owners, whose main demand to Trump was substantial tax cuts and deregulation. Once again, President Trump has fulfilled this group’s wishes with huge tax cuts, mainly financed with future public debt increases, which are going to be paid for by all taxpayers.

The NRA and the Pro-Gun Lobby, whose main obsession is to have the right to arm themselves to the teeth, including with military assault weapons, with as few strings attached as possible. Here again President Donald Trump has sided with them and against students who are increasingly in the line of fire in American schools.

With the strong support of these four monolithic lobbieshis electoral basepolitician Donald Trump can count on the indefectible support of between 35 percent and 40 percent of the American electorate. It is ironic that some of Trump’s other policies, like reducing health care coverage and the raising of import taxes, will hurt the poor and the middle class, even though some of Trump’s victims can be considered members of the above lobbies.

Moreover, some of Trump’s supporters regularly rely on hypocrisy and on excuses to exonerate their favorite but flawed politician of choice. If any other politician from a different party were to say and do half of what Donald Trump does and says, they would be asking for his impeachment.

There are three other reasons why Trump's rants, his record-breaking lies, his untruths, his deceptions and his dictatorial-style attempts to control information, in the eyes of his fanatical supporters, at least, are like water on the back of a duck. (— For the record, according to the Washington Post, as of early August, President Trump has made some 4,229 false claims, which amount to 7.6 a day, since his inauguration.)

a- The first reason can be found in Trump’s view that politics and even government business are first and foremost another form of entertainment, i.e. a sort of TV reality show, which must be scripted and acted upon. Trump thinks that is OK to lie and to ask his assistants to lie. In this new immoral world, the Trump phenomenon could be seen a sign of post-democracy.

b- The second one can be found in Trump’s artful and cunning tactics to unbalance and manipulate the media to increase his visibility to the general public and to turn them into his own tools of propaganda. When Trump attacks the media, he is in fact coaxing them to give him free coverage to spread his insults, his fake accusations, his provocations, his constant threats, his denials or reversals, his convenient changes of subject or his political spins. Indeed, with his outrageous statements, his gratuitous accusations and his attacks ‘ad hominem’, and by constantly bullying and insulting adversaries at home and foreign heads of states abroad, and by issuing threats in repetition, right and left, Trump has forced the media to talk and journalists to write about him constantly, on a daily basis, 24/7.

That suits him perfectly well because he likes to be the center of attention. That is how he can change the political rhetoric when any negative issue gets too close to him. In the coming weeks and months, as the Special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s report is likely to be released, Donald Trump is not above resorting to some sort of “Wag the Dog” political trickery, to change the topic and to possibly push the damaging report off the headlines.

In such a circumstance, it is not impossible that launching an illegal war of choice, say against Iran (a pet project of Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton), could then look very convenient to a crafty politician like Donald Trump and to his warmonger advisors. Therefore, observers should be on the lookout to spot any development of the sort in the coming weeks.

That one man and his entourage could whimsically consider launching a war of aggression is a throwback to ancient times and is a sure indication of the level of depravity to which current politics has fallen. This should be a justified and clear case for impeachment.

c- Finally, some far-right media outlets, such as Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting, have taken it upon themselves to systematically present Trump’s lies and misrepresentations as some ‘alternative’ truths and facts.

Indeed, ever since 1987, when the Reagan administration abolished the Fairness Doctrine for licensing public radio and TV waves, and since a Republican dominated Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which allowed for the mass conglomeration of local broadcasting in the United States, extreme conservative news outlets, such as the Fox and Sinclair networks, have sprung up. They are well financed, and they have essentially become powerful political propaganda machines, erasing the line between facts and fiction, and regularly presenting fictitious alternative facts as the truth.

In so doing, they have pushed public debates in the United States away from facts, reason and logic, at least for those listeners and viewers for whom such outlets are the only source of information. It is not surprising that such far-right media have also made Donald Trump the champion of their cause, maliciously branding anything inconvenient as ‘fake’ news, as Trump has done in his own anti-media campaign and his sustained assault on the free press.

2-   Show Politics and public affairs as a form of entertainment

Donald Trump does not seem to take politics and public affairs very seriously, at least when his own personal interests are involved. Therefore, when things go bad, he never volunteers to take personal responsibility, contrary to what a true leader would do, and he conveniently shifts the blame on somebody else. This is a sign of immaturity or cowardice. Paraphrasing President Harry Truman, “the buck never stops at his desk.“

Donald Trump essentially has the traits of a typical showman diva, behaving in politics just as he did when he was the host of a TV show. Indeed, if one considers politics and public affairs as no more than a reality show, this means that they are really entertainment, and politicians are first and foremost entertainers or comedians.

3- Trump VS the media and the journalists

Donald Trump is the first U.S. president who rarely holds scheduled press conferences. Why would he, since he considers journalists to be his “enemies”! It doesn’t seem to matter to him that freedom of the press is guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution by the First Amendment. He prefers to rely on one-directional so-called ‘tweets’ to express unfiltered personal ideas and emotions (as if he were a private person), and to use them as his main public relations channel of communication.

The ABC News network has calculated that, as of last July, Trump has tweeted more than 3,500 times, slightly more than seven tweets a day. How could he have time left to do anything productive! Coincidently, Donald Trump’s number of tweets is not far away from the number of outright lies and misleading claims that he has told and made since his inauguration. The Washington Post has counted no less than 3,251 lies or misleading claims of his, through the end of May of this year, —an average of 6.5 such misstatements per day of his presidency. Fun fact: Trump seems to accelerate the pace of his lies. Last year, he told 5.5 lies per day, on average. Is it possible to have a more cynical view of politics!

 

The media in general, (and not only American ones), then serve more or less voluntarily as so many resonance boxes for his daily 'tweets', most of which are often devoid of any thought and logic.

Such a practice has the consequence of demeaning the public discourse in the pursuit of the common good and the general welfare of the people to the level of a frivolous private enterprise, where expertise, research and competence can easily be replaced by improvisation, whimsical arbitrariness and charlatanry. In such a climate, only the short run counts, at the expense of planning for the long run.

Conclusion

All this leads to this conclusion: Trump’s approach is not the way to run an efficient government. Notwithstanding the U.S. Constitution and what it says about the need to have “checks and balances” among different government branches, President Donald Trump has de facto pushed aside the U.S. Congress and the civil servants in important government Departments, even his own Cabinet, whose formal meetings under Trump have been little more than photo-up happenings, to grab the central political stage for himself. If such a development does not represent an ominous threat to American democracy, what does?

The centralization of power in the hands of one man is bound to have serious political consequences, both for the current administration and for future ones.


To read COMMENTS on this article, please go to top right, under “Pages”,
and click on COMMENTS.

____________________________________________

International economist Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, and of “The New American Empire.

Please visit Dr. Tremblay’s sites:

Posted, Friday, August 17, 2018, at 8:30 am

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Under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial reproduction and distribution of the work, in any medium, provided the original work is not altered or transformed in any way, and that the work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact carole.jean1@yahoo.ca.
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© 2018, by Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay, economist.













Sunday, June 3, 2018

Is Donald Trump a New Herbert Hoover?



Tuesday, June 5, 2018
(Please scroll down at right to read COMMENTS.)

Is Donald Trump a New Herbert Hoover, With his Policy of Isolationism and Protectionism?
By Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay

To treat [U.S.] auto imports like a national security threat would be a self-inflicted economic disaster for American consumers, dealers, and dealership employees,” Cody Lusk, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, Wednesday, on May 23, 2018.

Lots of countries have resorted to protectionism when their economies were doing badly. It almost never works. But Trump may be the first leader ever to do it when the economy is booming. He’s trying to fix a problem that ain’t broke. The auto industry is healthy.” Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, on Wed., May 23, 2018

The 1929 depression was so wide, so deep, and so long because the international economic system was rendered unstable by British inability and U.S. unwillingness to assume responsibility for stabilizing it by discharging five functions:
(1) Maintaining a relatively open market for distress goods; (2) providing countercyclical, or at least stable, long term lending;
(3) policing a relatively stable system of exchange rates;
(4) ensuring the coordination of macroeconomic policies;
(5) acting as a lender of last resort by discounting or otherwise providing liquidity in financial crisis. Charles Kindleberger (1910-2003), American economic historian, and author of The Great Depression 1929-1939, 1973, revised and enlarged in 1986.

When every country turned to protect its own private interest, the world public interest went down the drain, and with it the private interests of all. Charles Kindleberger (1910-2003), American economic historian, and author of The Great Depression 1929-1939, 1973, revised and enlarged in 1986.

American president Donald Trump seems intent to isolate the U.S. economy from neighboring economies, and even from the world economy, and thus to break with three quarters of a century of closer economic cooperation between countries, established after World War II. There is a clear danger that the international economic system could become structurally unsettled for years to come, which does not mean that such a system is not in need of reform.

What worries many economists is Donald Trump’s approach to international economic cooperation, or lack of it, which appears to be a dangerous throwback to the 1930’s. — If his administration were to continue in that direction, the negative economic and industrial dislocations and consequences, both for the American economy and for other economies, would be severe, potentially very severe, considering how closely intertwined modern economies are today, through investment, industrial and technological cooperation, and through reciprocal international trade.

Trump: a Sorcerer’s Apprentice in international trade?

Is it possible that American president Donald Trump is some sort of a Sorcerer’s Apprentice, as far as his protectionist trade policy is concerned? He seems bent on instigating a trade war with other countries, from neighboring Canada, to Europe and to China. In so doing, however, he may start a sequence of events, which could be impossible to control or to stop once set in motion, with very negative economic outcomes. Such outcomes could be a severe economic recession, similar to the 2008-2009 Great Recession, and potentially, in the most extreme case, an economic depression, similar to the one the world experienced before World War II.

Indeed, during the ten years of the 1929-1939 Great Depression, international trade measured in dollars plummeted 65 percent, total U.S. production fell by 47 percent, wages fell 42 percent and the unemployment rate rose to 25 percent. This was truly an economic disaster, mainly brought about by bad public economic policies. Who would want to repeat such a failure?

Is Donald Trump set to repeat the mistakes of the 1930s?

By now, most everybody knows that hotel and casino owner Donald Trump is an extremely self-centered individual who operates in government as he did in his own business, when he was known, in New York, as being a ruthless private real estate negotiator, constantly trying to pull the blanket over to his side, and not hesitating to violate rules and contracts when that suited him. — But a government is not a private corporation. Citizen Trump does not “own” the U.S. government. The U.S. government belongs to the American people and its main function is to pursue policies that promote the common good, not the private interests of a megalomaniac politician or the financial interests of his immediate family, or those of his rich donors.

We have some indication of the troubled economic thinking of Donald Trump, when we consider what he said in a tweet, on March 2, that international “trade wars are good, and easy to win”! I have never heard a statement as outrageous and as irresponsible as this one coming from a head of state, although in Trump’s case, this seems to have become customary.

Trump seems to be oblivious to basic facts of history or basic economics. He doesn’t seem to have a clue about the way international trade and international investment function. He doesn’t seem to understand that the reason the U.S. dollar is widely used as a means of payment internationally, and as a key currency for other countries’ central banks, is a direct consequence of the United States promoting harmonious and multilateral international economic relations. The United States collects important economic and financial benefits from this privileged situation.

Trump’s economic ideas are primitive, obsolete and mercantilist. Let us consider his pretention that for a country to “win” when it trades with other economies, it must have a trade surplus with everyone. In a multilaterally trading world, this is practically impossible. In a given year, a country may have current account surpluses with a number of countries, but will likely have current account deficits with other countries. And this is the normal outcome, if we assume that there are no capital movements between countries.

However, when there are capital movements between countries, as it is the case nowadays, a country can finance an excess of domestic investment over its domestic savings (without inflation) and reap the benefits of faster economic growth. In which case, a net borrowing country will register a current account deficit to counterbalance its net capital inflow, in any given year. That is because a country does not only borrow capital or savings from abroad, it borrows an excess of goods and services from other countries over its own domestic production, and this is paid for with an increase in its net foreign debt (foreign liabilities minus foreign assets). When this new capital is well invested, the country takes advantage of a faster rate of economic growth.

At the end of 2017, the United States had a net foreign debt equal to $ $7,845.8 billion. If the Trump administration were serious in wanting the U.S. economy to generate a trade surplus with the rest of the world, it would stop borrowing heavily from other countries to finance its budget deficit ($440 billion in 2018) and it would take measures to increase domestic savings to cover the needs of all U.S. domestic investments.

But the United States is a net borrower of foreign savings, in a given year, and that is the reason it has a current account deficit. No pronouncements from American politicians can change that reality.

The general principle here is that the balance of payments of a country always balances and there is an economic adjustment, (through interest rates, exchanges rates and incomes), which makes sure that this the case.

That an individual who is the head of state of an important government like the United States does not seem to understand these simple economic and accounting principles is a scandal in itself.

Donald Trump goes rogue on international trade and border taxes

Thursday, May 31, 2018, could be known as the date when Donald Trump launched a trade war with a host of countries, many of them close allies of the United States either in NORAD, as is the case with Canada, or in NATO, as is the case with many European countries. And Trump had the gall to pretend that he is raising tariffs on imports from Canada and from European countries for “national security” reasons, relying on an obscure section 232 of the 1962 trade law (the Trade Expansion Act of 1962), without having Congress vote on the issue!

In Canada’s case, one of Trump’s demands to maintain the 1994 North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) is to insert a sunset clause to automatically terminate and renegotiate the trade agreement each five (5) years. Considering that companies plan their investments twenty or thirty years in advance, only bad faith or mischievous intentions would explain why such an impractical demand has even been considered.

What are the likely negative consequences of an open trade war for its participants?

- First of all, U.S. export industries, their production and their employment, will be heavily penalized and disrupted by the new border taxes and similar taxes imposed by other countries, in retaliation, on American exports.
- Secondly, U.S. import industries will face higher prices for their supplies, thus raising prices for the consumers and raising the overall rate of inflation. Don’t forget that border taxes are taxes, and that they are ultimately paid by the consumers when they buy goods, from the purchase of jeans to buying houses.
- Thirdly, American companies operating worldwide will see their chain of supplies perturbed. They may also face a less welcoming regulatory climate in some countries, as a result of the Trump administration’s hostile economic policies. —Their profit line is most likely to suffer. For instance, for the year 2012 (the last year for which data are available), American corporations reported that profits earned by their US-controlled subsidiaries abroad amounted to more than one trillion US$. American investors profit directly for such foreign incomes.
- Fourthly, a rise in domestic inflation is bound to translate into higher interest rates, which are bound, sooner or later, to derail the stock market, with heavy losses to be expected, and possibly an overshoot on the way down.
- Fifthly, as economic uncertainly spreads, productive investments will decline, possibly resulting in a self-reinforcing general downward economic spiral, with lower productivity growth, lower incomes, lower employment and lower consumer spending.
Other countries will suffer similar contractions in their economies, causing negative multiplier effects worldwide.

This is a doomsday scenario that the world has seen before and has lived to regret. I do not know a single economist who would advise a course of action such as the one the Trump administration seems to be willing to take.

People who ignore history are bound to repeat it.

Indeed, the Republican Trump administration’s frontal attacks against multilateral trade looks as reckless and as irresponsible as the much reviled Republican Herbert Hoover administration’s move against international trade, in 1930. On June 17, 1930, indeed, President Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley Act into law, — a law that imposed stiff tariffs on imports. First, American imports plummeted. And secondly, other countries raised their own tariffs in retaliation against American exports. The end result was a dramatic contraction of international trade, which transformed an economic recession into a full-blown worldwide economic depression, which lasted ten years.

It is relatively easy for politicians to start a trade war. It is much more difficult to end one. Donald Trump has no knowledge or competence in international economics and finance, and he probably also is ignorant of the damage that the Republican Herbert Hoover administration did to the U.S. economy, when it precipitated a drop in international trade and international financial flows.

That Donald Trump wants to repeat, 88 years later, the mistakes of the Hoover administration is difficult to understand. [N.B. Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) defeated President Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) in a landslide, in the 1932 U.S. presidential election.]
Indeed, why would Donald Trump impose economic, and eventually, political isolationism, on the United States, with his improvised and destructive attacks on international trade and world economic prosperity? He should know that in so doing, he will do a lot of damage to the U.S. economy, to U.S. corporations, to American workers and to American consumers, and to the world economy as well.

In fact, the Trump administration risks destroying the post World War II system of international economic cooperation, which has been so beneficial to the United States, and which has contributed to raise the standards of living of people, not only in the United States, but in many other countries. American corporations and American banks, and their employees, have especially benefited from the economies of scale, from economic specialisation and from the productivity gains (reduction in production costs) that the opening and stability of international markets have allowed.

Trump’s partisan political motivations

What could motivate the Trump Administration to adopt the risky protectionist policies of the 1930s? This is certainly not for immediate economic reasons, since the U.S. economy is currently operating at full capacity... Unless, of course, what really guides Donald Trump is his political obsession regarding the U.S. mid-term elections of next November. Polls indicate that Trump's tax policies and other policies put forward for the benefit of the ultra rich, and financed through future increases in public debt, are not very popular among the general population.

Therefore, the enactment of populist trade policies could appeal to the Republicans, at least in the short term and especially in some rust-belt states. In other words, Donald Trump and the Republican Party might believe it to be to their political advantage to ride a wave of economic nationalism and of trade protectionism, in some key industrial states. It will take several months before the negative effects of a trade war will be visible to the American public.

If that were the case, it would be an example of partisan political expediency to reap political gains; a case of short-term political gain for some, at the cost of longer-term economic pain for everybody else.

Conclusion


The conclusion is straightforward. It would be most irresponsible for Donald Trump to initiate a trade war, especially against allied nations, when the American economy is already prosperous. As a general rule, politicians should not play with the economy for their own narrow political benefits. Most Americans, workers or consumers, will pay a high price when American companies will be subjected to the new trade taxes, and will have to raise their prices. The same can be said for the citizens in other trading nations. Trade protectionism has been tried before, and it does not work.

To read COMMENTS on this article, please go to top right, under “Pages”,

and click on COMMENTS.
_________________________________________


International economist Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay is the author of the book “The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles” and of “The New American Empire.

Please visit Dr. Tremblay’s new WEB site:

Posted, Tuesday, June 5, 2018, at 8:30 am



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N.B.: This article can be reproduced with permission or license from the author. This article is not intended in any way as personal advice of any sort. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
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© 2018 by Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay, economist.