The Winds of Trade War and Impeachment

President Donald Trump will spend today at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit, and it will likely be an comfortable affair for all involved.
The summit is in London, where Trump has not been a welcome guest during his past two visits, and he’s expected to further publicly and bluntly harangue the allies about how much they’re spending on defense, and many of the allies will more privately and politely but forcefully express their differences with his policies regarding Turkey and Syria and Russia and Ukraine and other matters. One of those matters will surely be Trump’s ongoing trade wars with pretty much everybody.
Before jetting off Trump announced punitive tariffs on industrial metals from Brazil and Argentina for their alleged currency manipulations, and issued a threat of up to 100 percent tariffs on NATO member France’s wine and cheese and cosmetics and other fancy French product, apparently in retaliation for passing an internet tax law Trump thinks unfair to American businesses. This comes as Trump continues his brinksmanship with the ruthless dictator running the very importantly enormous Chinese economy, and Trump will probably spend part of his trip publicly grousing about how the European automobile industries are cheating America’s workers.
Trump will continue to boast about how America is once again respected around the world, as the country at long last has a wised-up leader and we’re no longer anybody’s sucker, but it clearly hasn’t helped America’s reputation as a good global neighbor. The military and trade political alliances that have a fairly good job of sustaining peace and prosperity in the post-World War II epoch are strained, and Trump and everyone else seem to be planning for a post-Pax Americana world.
Nor does it seem to have yielded any tangible economic results. The brinksmanship with the ruthless dictator in control of China’s very consequentially huge economy hurtles toward an inevitable brink, none of those greatest trade deals ever have yet been sealed, and so far even the rather minor revisions to the re-branded North American Free Trade Agreement haven’t been ratified by any of the three governments involved. The economy continues to grow at the same 2 percent or so it did back in the bad old days of President Barack Obama, and the stock markets were hitting record highs not so very long ago, but that seems to be in spite of rather than because of Trump’s policies.
The smart money on the stock markets seems to agree, here and around the world, as all the indexes dipped precipitously after his latest trade war escalations, as they always do whenever he does that. This time around the dip was also driven by yet another report on Trump’s beloved manufacturing, which continues for yet another quarter at negative growth. The markets usually recover when Trump announces light at the end of the tunnel and peace with honor, and Trump’s fans stick with him through thick and thin, and even if the allies have no respect for Trump they’re fearful of and dependent on America and usually only object ever so politely, but we worry that it can’t go on forever.
The smart money on Wall Street and all those funny-sounding foreign exchanges is hedging its bets, all those Euro-weenie leaders will be ganging on up on Trump in London, where he’ll need extra security just to get back to the fancy hotel, and those wily Chinese seem unfazed by Trump’s mastery of the deal. They all follow American politics, and know that there’s an impeachment and it’s going badly enough that polls show half the country wants Trump out of office now, and that will likely complicate all his dealings with foreign leaders, no matter how that turns out.
Trump fans love it when he feuds with those Euro-weenies and wily Chinese and the smart money on Wall Street and the “fake news” media and the damned Democrats and all of the rest of the rascals in the globalist “deep state” conspiracy, but we doubt they’re tired of winning yet. The farmers are getting welfare checks that don’t quite make up for the honest money they used to make on the global market, the factory workers are losing jobs in a sinking sector hard-hit by Trump’s steel tariffs, and we worry some damned Democrat and self-proclaimed socialist such as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders might convince them they’ve played for the world’s biggest suckers.
Although it’s hard to imagine a happy outcome, we’ll hope for the best.

— Bud Norman

Debating to a Desultory Draw

Two of America’s most widely reviled people had a 90-minute nationally televised argument Monday night about which one of them is the worst, and expectations are that the audience was bigger than anything since the series finale of Jerry Seinfeld’s show about nothing. Even our happily apolitical brother in Colorado called shortly beforehand to say he was skipping the evening’s National Football League contest to watch the first presidential debate, which is saying something, but we expect that the massive audience was as disappointed as we were.
The so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters of Republican nominee Donald Trump were no doubt disappointed that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton didn’t keel over or drop dead or at least require an extended bathroom break during the ordeal, as all their latest health rumors had predicted, and at the end of the 90 minutes she was even able to riposte Trump’s question’s about her stamina with a plausible boast about all the miles she’d logged and the hours of congressional inquiries about her various scandals she’d survived. Clinton was feisty enough for the hour-and-a-half to get in a few digs that had Trump on the defensive, make a disarmingly apologetic answer about that ongoing e-mail scandal, spin some heartwarming yarns about her small businessman pop and her toddler granddaughter, and generally strike that middle note between presidential and shrill.
Although we doubt that any of Trump’s so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters were swayed by Clinton’s performance, we expect that anyone still undecided about about which of these two widely reviled people is worst considered it the abject humiliation that Trump promised as he taunted his way through debates with a wide field of vastly more qualified Republican opponents. Clinton’s more reluctant supporters will probably concede, meanwhile, will have to concede that she also didn’t score any knock-outs.
Trump didn’t go on any racist tirades or mock anyone’s handicaps or boast about his penis size, as he did during his successful run through those vastly more qualified candidates on his way to the Republican nomination, and he even made a show of addressing his opponent as “Secretary.” He got in a few digs of his own, and even if none of them will be widely-looped soundbites today neither will be any of his already-familiar gaffes. After a half-hour or so When he finished with a boast about his superior presidential temperament it got a laugh from the studio audience, which had mostly been as quiet as instructed, but we doubt many were tuned in by that point.
Anyone paying any attention to the more substantive parts of the so-called debate were likely the most disappointed. The boring part started off with Trump asserting that since the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed American manufacturing employment had declined, Clinton failing to note that American manufacturing output has also increased since then due to the technological innovations that have actually had more to do with that employment decline, and neither candidate sounding at all like the understood the economic realities of the moment. Clinton blasted the “Trumped-up trickle down economics” of her opponents tax plan, he failed to defend the Reagan economic record or make the arguments about her soak-the-rich nonsense, and it all devolved into a shouting match about how much money his rich dad had loaned him to start his much bragged-about business. Trump denied having “tweeted” that global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese, which he actually did, and although we think it is a hoax we doubt it invented by the Chinese and have to score that a desultory draw. He criticized her awful decision to topple the Libyan dictatorship of the undeniably awful yet largely defanged Moammar Gaddafi, which led to all the lies she told about the lives lost in the aftermath in Benghazi, but she rightly pointed out that he had advocated the same policy, and we have no doubt he would have told the same sort of lies about the aftermath, so we now have to score even that deplorable and disqualifying episode in her career as a draw.
Clinton actually struck our old-fashioned Republican sensibilities as far more sane than Trump when she talked about the importance of honoring America’s treaty commitments and credit obligations, and we doubt that Trump’s “America First” isolation will have any appeal to her reluctant leftist supporters. Trump seemed more reasonable on the slightly-less-old-fashioned “law and order” theme, but we doubt that his appeals to America’s minorities will prove persuasive. Both caught the other on a couple of outright falsehoods, such as Trump’s oft-repeated lie that he was against taking out Gaddafi and Clinton’s newly-minted claim that crime rates haven’t been rising in New York City, but we expect that few people will bother to look any of it up. Clinton seemed to score a point when the conversation got around to Trump’s year’s long efforts to prove that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and his recent admission that “Barack Obama was born in the United States, period,” and after Trump spent several moments trying to claim that Clinton was responsible and that he deserved credit for proving Obama’s native birth Clinton got another laugh from the generally well-behaved crowd by simply responding “Just listen to what you heard.”
The next round of polling will deliver the final score, and in this crazy year we hesitate to offer any predictions, but we’ll be so bold as to call it a draw. Our brother called us before the big event because we used to be involved in high school and collegiate debate and we wanted our insights how it might work out, but we told this wasn’t any sort of debate we were used to but rather a reality television show that both of the participants knew better than we ever wanted to know. Our scant familiarity with the format suggests that the women Trump is doing poorly with didn’t like how he kept interrupting her, based on our experiences with women, and that the men Trump is leading with didn’t like the way she kept talking, based on our experiences with men, and that this is how presidential elections are elections now decided, based on our observations of how very awful things are these days.

— Bud Norman

Something To Talk About

Almost everyone we know is quite happy not to talk about abortion. The weather, the fortunes of the local sports team, the scandalous behavior of a neighbor, something amusing from the previous night’s television programs, even the medical complaints of older people, all are vastly more popular conversational fodder than abortion. The only possible explanation for the Democratic party’s sudden enthusiasm for the topic, then, is that they’d rather not talk about the economy.

A slew of bad economic news was vying for newspaper space and air time Tuesday as the Democrats opened their quadrennial convention, and even the cheerleaders in the national media were admitting that it cast a pall over the festivities. As the first speakers started up the orating the national debt passed the eye-popping $16 trillion mark, and despite the $5.4 trillion of borrowing during the Obama administration all the data suggest that the economy is slowing from its previously sluggish pace. Manufacturing has declined for three straights and most recently at the fastest pace in more than three years, construction spending has dropped, jobless claims are rising, what jobs are being created are mostly low-paying and unpleasant, median household income has declined by 7.3 percent, gas prices are rising, food stamp use is at an all-time high, and the best grade that Obama can give himself on economics is “incomplete.” All of this has caused consumer confidence to plummet, and because most voters are consumers the president’s poll numbers have also been on the decline.

Which is why the Democrats would prefer to talk about how the Republicans are plotting to keep women barefoot, pregnant, and chained to a stove. The Republicans don’t actually plan to do that, or at least they’re not campaigning on that plan, possibly because they sense the economy is a better issue, but the Democrats need something to talk about over three days. There’s also the issue of Mitt Romney’s taxes, although it’s hard to make the case for the president who appointed Timothy Geithner to head the Treasury Department on the basis that his opponent merely paid what was legally required, The convention has already featured lots of talk about higher taxes on the rich in general, a pet obsession of the Democrats’, but thus far they have offered no explanation of how that’s going to improve the economy.

In their zeal for abortion, same-sex marriage, and the more permissive positions on other social issues the Democrats could move farther along the secular path than the country at large is willing to go. The platform committee has proudly omitted a reference to “God-given rights” from the party’s statement of principles, possibly because the notion of a God is just too gauche, possibly because the notion of rights that don’t involve sexual intercourse is problematic, but running as the godless Democrats isn’t likely to win over many swing voters. God still has a lot of fans in this country, probably even more than Obama still has, and almost everybody enjoys the rights He granted.

People like having jobs and a solvent government, too, and sooner or later the Democrats will have to give them a reason to think that things are going to get better if we just keep doing what we’ve been doing.

— Bud Norman