Previous posts in this discussion:
PostWhy is Trump Aggravating the World? From Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA, 10/14/18 3:58 am)
Ric Mauricio writes:
To answer Istvan Simon (October 11th), when I quoted from the Mises article about US sanctions on Japan in 1941, it was to illustrate how sanctions may lead to actions that lead to escalation, in this case, war. Do not read into this as my condoning the actions of the Japanese.
Indeed, I see the reason for the US government sanctioning the Imperial Government of Japan. Like Germany in Europe, their nationalistic fervor in taking imperialistic action against other Asian nations was not condonable at all.
But like two bullies in a playground or road rage on the highways, an action (sanctions) can lead to a reaction. In this case, it was quite catastrophic, and I think FDR may have underestimated the fury of the Japanese Empire. And their arrogance.
Now here's a premise that I believe no one has explored. Why is the current administration aggravating the world? Examples are the Iran treaty, the tariff war, and moving the official capital of Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It is well known that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, with most of its official government operations established there. But to keep the peace, the Israelis pretend that Tel Aviv is the capital.
Talking about tariffs, I just bought office supplies for my gym and found that prices had gone up 25%. Thus my bottom line is being affected. Yes, watch for your bottom line to be greatly affected by increased prices.
So back to the question on why the current administration is aggravating the world. Well, you see, history tends to admire leaders in war (the winners like George Washington, FDR, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill) and dub them "great." Guess whose ego wants history to remember him as "great"? And he will push and push (yes, through sanctions and tariffs), until he gets what he wants.
And, no, I do not condone the arrogance of the Land of the Rising Sun. Just look at what they did in Nanking, China and the Philippines will just make one's blood boil. But my original premise is that sanctions can be an act of war.
JE comments: Yes, the History Channel rarely does a series on "Great Peacetime Presidents." The archival footage would be too boring, perhaps? Trump has a track record for ego. Is there any reason to believe that after trying his hand at politics, he won't want to give war a chance? Let us hope that Ric Mauricio's theory proves false.
Why is Trump Aggravating the World?
(Istvan Simon, USA
10/15/18 2:47 PM)
I appreciate Ric Mauricio's response (October 14th) to my post on sanctions and Japan in 1941.
Ric raises another issue, which is something I have been thinking a lot about, so I'd like to take a crack at it. Ric asks why Trump is aggravating the world. I present my theory on this subject.
The strategy that unfortunately elected president Trump is not his. It is a strategy concocted by the sinister duo of America gutter politics: Bob and Rebecca Mercer, the owners of the fake news factory Breitbart News, employers of Steve Bannon, Kelly Anne Conway, Sebastian Gorka, and so many other names closely associated with Trump. The Mercers were also the main owners of Cambridge Analytica, at the center of the fake social media cyber-campaign that helped Trump get elected. Cambridge Analytica went out of business as a result of the scandal of its role in the US 2016 election, but the Mercers already funded a replacement.
Trump based his vile campaign on exploiting his celebrity status, and careful political analysis of rural America. Trump lost big time in practically every metropolitan area in the country, but won the rural regions in the critical states of the Rust Belt, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and the Southern states where Trump sold his racism and fanned the flames of racial hatred against non-white immigrants.
That Trump does not particularly care about illegal immigration is evidenced by the fact that his own wife was an illegal immigrant. Nor does he care about what he railed against as chain immigration, which he attacks politically, but Melania's parents immigrated to this country exactly through the same preferential treatment of our immigration legislation.
Trump's base is mostly white, and racist, what Hillary Clinton called the "deplorables," a comment that though true, Trump exploited for his political advantage.
Trump criminally colluded with the Russians, one of the main pillars of the Mueller investigation. Why the insane Russia policy? It appears that there are 2 reasons:
1. Putin indeed "owns" Trump. There is much independent confirmation that the Steele dossier is true, at least largely true. Probably all of it true.
2. Corruption. Russia is governed by a corrupt government, an unholy association of billionaire oligarchs and the ex-KGB that takes care of murdering any inconvenient opposition. Trump is also thoroughly corrupt--that is the reason he did not release his tax returns--which should have been disqualifying to any candidate, but so far he got away with it.
The New York Times in an extraordinarily thorough well-documented case of investigative journalism, detailed the illegal tax evasion schemes that Trump has been using for many years. Rachel Maddow, the excellent Stanford-educated NBC journalist, detailed the hair-raising story of Trump tower in Azerbaijan and the corruption involved in its construction, which is illegal under US legislation, punishable by prison. The Azerbaijan Trump Tower story has connections to money laundering for Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which in turn were used to evade international commercial sanctions on Iran orchestrated by the US. There is a lot of rot in this story.
So this is the background for Trump's election. So why is it that Trump is aggravating the world in insane ways?
Trump is caught in his web of lies and rhetoric during his vile campaign. He can't change the insane policies that he advocated during his campaign, because they excite his base of political support. His Iran policy is a case in point. It is an insane policy, but because he campaigned on denouncing the Iran nuclear deal as the worst deal in history, he withdrew the United States from the deal. This is insane, because even though the Iran deal was not perfect, it did restrain Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons for 14 years, which is better than nothing. Iran is not bound by it to continue this policy forever, but without the deal, Iran was not constrained at all, which is clearly much worse from our point of view. So removing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal was plain stupid and a huge mistake.
Now consider North Korea. Trump attacked Kim Jong Un as "Rocket Man," and threatened North Korea with nuclear holocaust, bragging that his nuclear button is bigger than Kim Jong Un's. Obviously this is completely irrelevant for anyone but a vain narcissist like Trump. But more recently he declared that he loves Kim Jong Un. That is quite a distance from his previous position and one wonders why the GOP is not up in arms about the gap between these two extremes.
In any case, Trump did the summit with Kim Jong Un, at which he was completely upstaged and outmaneuvered by the murderous fat boy of North Korea. I wrote about this before so I don't want to repeat it here, but the essence of it is that Kim Jong Un promised de-nuclearization, but has not destroyed a single nuke nor will he ever do so. Compare this to the detailed inspections on a myriad important details of the Iran nuclear deal. What Trump signed with North Korea does not even come close--it is a ridiculous, nothing-concrete agreement. The insanity of his nuclear policies becomes evident with this comparison. The deal that he thinks is great that he signed with North Korea is an empty promise, versus detailed inspections in Iran. There are no inspections in North Korea at all, not a time table, nothing. Clearly it is impossible to come to Trump's conclusion that his deal with North Korea is somehow better, yet that is what Trump advocates.
What about tariffs and his China policy? Once again Trump's policy can only be characterized as insane, and deeply harmful to the United States. And again the GOP, the Wall Street Journal, the conservative establishment is totally and irresponsibly silent in opposing these policies in any serious way, even though this is anathema to free trade, a fundamental tenet of conservative capitalist ideology.
The United States has some legitimate complaints against some of China's commercial policies, in particular China's disregard of intellectual property. But it does not follow that a trade war that Trump started is in our interest. It is not in our interest, and there is no way that Trump can win this trade war. China has and will retaliate and there will be also many measures some already being taken to evade Trump's tariffs. We are going to see a lot of goods coming presumably from other countries, but in reality originating in part or in whole in China.
Consider the economic effects of his steel tariffs. The motivation for this is not economic but political. It is designed for Pennsylvania's steel industry that will benefit from the tariffs. In terms of jobs, it will preserve a few thousand jobs in steel-producing states that would be otherwise lost. But it will create inflation, as everything that uses steel, from automobiles to refrigerators, appliances, buildings, bridges and so on will increase in price. This will make thousands of American products less competitive, and therefore have a large negative effect on our exports, which will become more expensive, and make imports cheaper. Which in turn will result in huge job losses for the United States. This analysis is obvious to any intelligent person, yet it is not being emphasized by either the cowardly GOP or the cowardly conservative media.
What about his insane policies regarding our traditional allies? He attacked Australia, Canada, our NATO allies in a series of embarrassing unwise insults to our best allies. What could explain such moves? Once again I think it is politics--he is catering to his deplorable core base. Once again he is caught by his rhetoric during his campaign and the image of disrupter in his supposedly "America First" stated policy.
Clearly, the trouble with "America First" is that it invites country X to pursue the "X first" policy in turn, which is very much against the interests of the United States. Once again, people can readily see this, it does not take to be a genius to foresee the effects of such aggressive bullying and insulting policies. It has already and will further backfire. Countries do not like to be bullied by an overbearing rude insulting president of the United States. They will adapt in ways ultimately negative to our interests.
The Dow Jones index fell 5% in two days last week, wiping out most of this year's gains. It is unclear at this point if it signals the end of the bull market and the beginning of a bear market, but it is at least partly the result of the above economic analysis. The Fed will increase interest rates to prevent inflation in a tight labor market, and that in turn will impact stocks.
The best thing that could happen in this country on November 6, less than a month away, is an enormous blue tsunami that would decimate the GOP at every level of government. If that comes to pass, it will be the first step in finally putting a check on this president's insane policies, as intended by our Constitution, a responsibility abdicated by the current GOP controlled Congress. They will pay a heavy price for their cowardice to uphold the national interest.
JE comments: One thing we've learned about Trump: the normal rules do not apply. Istvan Simon is the first to bring up last week's bloodbath in the US markets. What do WAISers think: are we on the eve of a new recession?
- Jerusalem as Israel's Capital (Timothy Brown, USA 10/16/18 3:43 AM)
In his post of October 14th ("Why is Trump Aggravating the World?"), Ric Mauricio (October 14th) cited the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
During my years in the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, I never met an Israeli who thought our Embassy was there because Tel Aviv was Israel's real capital. They knew full well why we were there--for political and policy reasons, including the rest of the region's trade and travel embargoes.
JE comments: There's an interesting discussion to be had on former capitals, and the political reasons for their loss of status. Not long ago, Richard Hancock mentioned Oklahoma's first capital, Guthrie, which is now a tiny and rather insignificant city. Some capitals (Philadelphia, Rio de Janeiro) were replaced by newly built, "national" cities. Some nations went the other direction, from new to old. In this sense Tel Aviv/Jerusalem would be more akin to Bonn/Berlin, although far more controversial.
A history question: for how long was Lancaster, Pennsylvania the US capital? Pick one: a) seven months; b) two years; c) one month and six days; d) one day. No Googling allowed.
- Jerusalem as Israel's Capital (Timothy Brown, USA 10/16/18 3:43 AM)