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The Trade Wars and the Rest of It

President Donald Trump’s fellow reality show star Kim Kardashian visited the White House on Thursday, and he pardoned a less famous conservative writer and filmmaker and hinted at future pardons for a couple of past “Celebrity Apprentice” contestants who’d been locked up by some of the same federal prosecutors he has since fired and a few who are now investing his own campaign. Despite the tawdriness and star power of it all, as far as the stock markets and other more sober observers were concerned the biggest story of the day was the trade war that Trump seems to have started with some of our most longstanding and stalwart and essential allies
Trump has claimed “national security” authority to impose steep tariffs on various products from Mexico, Canada and the Euoropean Union, and by Thursday all three had announced their inevitable retaliatory tariffs on some specifically targeted American products, and a trade war seemed well underway. More sober-minded observers on both the left and right regard it as bad economic policy, and a further complication of all the already complicated geo-pollitics about the ongoing problem of North Korea’s and Iran’s nutcase dictatorships nuclear ambitions, and a bigger threat to Trump’s poll numbers than even the latest celebrity scandals or that porn star thing or even the “Russia thing.”
The stock markets and the leaders of our most longstanding and stalwart allies and objective observers such as ourselves agree that it’s bad economic policy. Those 25 percent tariffs Trump has imposed on foreign wood and steel and aluminum will ultimately be paid by home-buyers and furniture-buyers and applianc-buyers, not to mention the wood- and steel- and aluminum–buying industries that dwarf the wood -and steel- and aluminum-bying industries, so it seems exactly the sort of economy-crippling tax hike that Republicans used to grouse about. Mexico and Canada and the European Union might yet yield to Trump’s “America First” agenda, making America great again in the process, but for now both we and the smart money on Wall Street aren’t betting on it.
Most Americans pay little attention to economics and geopolitics or even domestic politics, or the latest tawdry celebrity scandals, but they’re more attentive of the bottoms lines on their 401K programs and other retirement schemes, or even all those porn star and “Russia thing” and all the stories about about has how Trump’s negotiations with adversarial China has yielded several copyrights to his daughter and a $500 million investment in a a Trump-branded amusement park in Indonesia.
So far Trump has gotten away with a lot of of scandals about dalliances with porn stars and Russian operatives and various other scandals because the economy had been healthy and the stock markets have been up and the nutcase North Korean dictator has once again agree to a meeting that might yet prove historic and heroic.
The wise old hands on the stock market and the left and right are betting against it, though, and we also don’t see it turning out well for Trump. America is a formidable force even in the age of Trump, but especially in the age of Trump the rest of the world seems pretty damned formidable as well.

— Bud Norman

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