Tuesday, October 20, 2020 – Week 32 of the Quarantine
The excitement! A real cliffhanger!
The Dow closed down about 400 points yesterday as investors sat on the edge of their seats. Today is the deadline set by Madam Pelosi.
This morning, there is still no bailout agreement. But the House Speaker said they are making progress:
“We may not like this, we may not like that, but let’s see on balance if we can go forward.”
Inadvertently, Ms. Pelosi described the state of partisan politics circa 2020… and sealed the fate of the nation.
Republicans and Democrats might disagree on the details, but they will go forward, hand in hand, over the cliff… together.
On the table is a $2.2 trillion spending lalapalooza – a Christmas pudding with something in it for almost everyone. The president revealed that he is willing to go along with whatever wild and crazy boondoggle the Democrats come up with.
But – at least, as of midday Eastern Standard Time – the great dealmaker hasn’t been able to make a deal.
Of course, if no deal is made, it’s not necessarily Trump’s fault. There are trends in motion that no one can contradict, least of all Donald J. Trump.
In the news this morning is this headline from CNN:
A son drove his 94-year-old mother more than 300 miles each way so she could vote
Why? Will it make any difference? Who will win? What will it mean?
Today, we examine the record of Mr. Donald Trump’s presidency. Does the Big Man deserve re-election? And what will happen if he is defeated?
Of course, we’ve been on the president’s case since the get-go. But here, we attempt an impartial review, intending neither to bow down before him nor to spit upon his political grave…
Instead, we will uncover a far more disagreeable truth, which we will get to presently…
So, let’s turn to the record.
In 2016, Mr. Trump set forth a set of goals and promises, somewhat incoherent, but which could be broadly summarized as follows…
Build a wall (widely interpreted as a metaphor for tighter border controls, less immigration, and more protection for native-born Americanos)…
Pull out of the unwinnable, imperial wars in the MidEast…
Reduce the trade deficit (and thereby favor domestic manufacturers)…
Drain the Swamp (that is, reduce the “permanent government” of lobbyists, cronies, hacks, and has-beens, aka The Deep State)…
Put China in her place…
“Repeal and replace” Obamacare…
Balance the budget and pay off the federal debt…
Making no judgment as to whether they were worth doing or not, what happened?
As near as we can tell, at least superficially, all were failures.
There is no wall. The forever wars continue. The trade deficit is higher than ever. The Swamp is deeper than ever. China is stronger than ever. Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) is still the law of the land. The budget is more out of balance than ever. And the federal debt is greater than ever.
Of course, there are extenuating circumstances in every case. We can perfectly well believe Mr. Trump sincerely wanted to do these things. But like the Pelosi bailout scheme… he just couldn’t make them happen.
The Democrats wouldn’t go along with his wall, for example. He had to take money from the military.
He says he is bringing the troops home from Afghanistan by Christmas (four years after taking his seat in the Oval Office)… but he seems to have forgotten to tell the Pentagon.
Meanwhile, he keeps doing his tough-guy act, threatening even more forever wars with Iran and China.
Trying to revive manufacturing in the U.S. was a good idea. But Mr. Trump never understood what had caused its death in the first place.
And he surrounded himself with incompetents and nitwits, such as Peter Navarro, and wasted his time renegotiating trade deals… rather than attacking the real source of the problem – America’s fake money system.
It’s easier to print dollars than to make automobiles or TV screens. So, Americans pay in dollars… and let foreigners do the hard work.
This year, the dollars gushed like never before. Between the Federal Reserve and the deficits, there was almost $6 trillion in potential extra liquidity.
What happened? Did entrepreneurs rush to build factories, hire machinists, or compete with the foreigners? No, they bought more stuff from overseas… and the trade deficit swelled to a new record.
Drain the Swamp? There might have been a little evaporation early on as a number of regulations were cut back. But then, the Swamp got two major floods of greasy cash.
First, the trade wars themselves were worth hundreds of billions to the Swamp critters.
Tariffs brought endless litigation and non-stop lobbying… as companies had to angle for special subsidies, dispensations, exclusions, and the like.
Some 3,500 companies – including Tesla and Home Depot – have filed suit over the tariffs, a gold mine for Washington law firms, think tanks, political funds, and lobbyists.
Then came the biggest Swamp-filler ever: COVID-19. As the bug approached, The Donald was bamboozled by his own public health apparatchiks.
Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx, and Robert Redfield – all are on his payroll. They’re part of the executive branch; as chief executive, he is their boss.
As soon as it became clear that the coronavirus was not a threat to the nation, approximately a week after he issued his “national emergency” declaration in mid-March, the president should have fired them all and gotten a new team.
Instead, the Coronavirus Cavalry ran roughshod over the Constitution and the economy… stifling the lives of 300 million in order, supposedly, to protect the 30 million who were actually at risk.
But numbers have since shown that the “Lockdown” approach doesn’t seem to work. Some states locked down hard… others, lightly. The results are all over the place.
And, according to the World Health Organization, not known for its extreme libertarian positions, lockdowns may do more harm than good (millions of poor people may die early). And they should only be used as a last resort.
Rules and Regulations
But while the lockdowns stunted lives and caused trillions in economic losses, they were honeysuckle to the Swamp bees.
And now… Washington is abuzz with regulations, disputes, rules, laws, and court cases. What’s an essential business? What’s essential travel?
Will you be allowed to have Thanksgiving? Is it protected by the right of assembly? What if you only invite family? Is a brother-in-law or a second cousin considered family?
Can employees be required to come back to work? Will they have to take the vaccine? What if people are made sick by it?
Washington lawyers drool in the reflecting pool. “Health” bureaucrats get battlefield promotions. And pharma industry executives are already calling their architects, developing plans for even bigger and more hideous palaces in Palm Beach and Aspen.
Nor did Mr. Trump succeed in repealing or replacing Obamacare. He may have improved it by eliminating the mandatory coverage requirement, but Obamacare is still the law of the land.
As for putting China in her place… polls show the Middle Kingdom rising in world esteem, as the U.S. falls. Here’s the Financial Times:
China’s economy expanded 4.9 per cent year on year in the third quarter as industrial growth powered the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The expansion in gross domestic product missed expectations but was well ahead of a 3.2 per cent increase in the second quarter and represented a sharp turnaround from a historic decline at the start of the year.
The recovery in the world’s second-largest economy, which has been stoked by a state-backed industrial boom, now shows signs of extending to consumption at a time when global growth remains under severe pressure.
Industrial production in China leapt 6.9 per cent in September – its highest level this year and the same rate as in December before the coronavirus outbreak.
By comparison, U.S. GDP fell at a 31% rate in the second quarter. It is now believed to be down about 9%. And its recovery is stalling.
Was any of this Mr. Trump’s fault? Yes and no.
Of course, he was stymied by the Democrats. But he was also particularly unsuited to be the nation’s chief executive. He was easily distracted… and seemed to lack any clear idea of what to do or how to do it.
And he had some very bad ideas to start with. His was a kind of “improv government”… mixed with America’s funniest political videos. Moving quickly from tweet to tweet, he had no time to think or to develop a coherent plan. Nor did he have the patience to stick with it.
With no firm hand on the rudder, like a drunken boat, the ship of state drifted downriver… swirling around in pointless eddies… running aground in swamps and on sandbanks…
…going with the flow – as the Bush and Obama vessels did before it – towards bigger government, more debt, and more dopey meddling.
And then, even before the coronavirus hit, the poor, confused bark was headed for the chutes…
Could a stronger captain have done better? Yes, of course. As we will see, almost anyone might have done better.
But would it make any difference? Or are the currents so strong, they can’t be resisted?
Let us pause here to catch our breath. This is the story we’ve been following for the last nearly four years. It deserves more than a paragraph or two…
We’ll pick it up again tomorrow.
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