From trade to immigration to debt to income inequality, you’ll find Trump, Republicans or both on the wrong side of the facts and the future.
Someday President Trump will be gone, along with all of his chaos and sleaze, relatives, cronies and Republican enablers. But they will still be with us in the form of an economic legacy so misguided that national decline is staring us in the face.
Has there ever been a collection of leaders so oblivious to facts, data, history and the future? Have there ever been so many bad economic choices inflicted on America? Trump and his “conservative” majorities in Congress don’t agree on everything, but between them they are taking the country in every wrong direction.
The latest is the trade war Trump has all but guaranteed with his plan to slap tariffs of 25% on imported steel and 10% on aluminum. “Trade wars are good, and easy to win,” President Wharton Grad tweeted before 6 a.m. the morning after his announcement. And yet, the Weekly Standard called it the wrong war at the wrong time against the wrong enemies. The Wall Street Journal editorial board called it “the biggest policy blunder of his presidency.” The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 420 points in a day. Other nations immediately threatened retaliation, and there were reports that White House economic adviser Gary Cohn might resign.
It’s a replay of Trump’s moves to revive coal, an industry that is inexorably dying amid the rise of cleaner natural gas and renewable energy. As the Journal noted, Trump does not seem to understand that “steel-using industries in the U.S. employ some 6.5 million Americans, while steel makers employ about 140,000.”
It’s not the first time Trump has played the short game — the one-inch game — on trade. His anti-trade views have taken us off the board in Asia and threatened trade agreements with South Korea, Mexico and Canada, and are all but guaranteed to make life harder for farmers (likely targets of retaliation) and people who make and drink beer (aluminum will be more expensive, as will cans of beer). Hmm. Aren’t these the rural and blue-collar voters who backed Trump?
Trade policy is just a single damning example. Wherever there is a consensus of experts and economists, you will find Trump, Republicans or both on the wrong side.
The most hypocritical reversal is today’s Republican enthusiasm for deficits and debt. Bill Clinton took conservative alarm to heart in the 1990s and managed to balance the budget. He was good at explaining why “in the end we have to get back to the deficit” — to pay less in interest on borrowed money, to make more money available for private and government investment, to drive down interest rates on loans for education, homes and businesses, to reduce dependence on foreign funds. When George W. Bush slashed taxes, increased defense spending and drove up the deficit, Republicans mostly went along. But they returned to being sanctimonious scolds during the Obama administration and voted en masse against the deficit spending almost every economist said was needed to counter the Great Recession that had started under Bush.
Now, once again with a GOP president and another massive tax cut, they don’t care anymore. And I mean they REALLY don’t care. The Center for a Responsible Federal Budget projects an annual $2.4 trillion deficit by 2028 — more than three times what it is now — and an accumulated debt of 113% of Gross Domestic Product. That is “clearly unsustainable,” the group said. I’d call it downright terrifying. In 1993, Clinton was worried about debt mounting to 80% of GDP 10 years down the road.
Hostility to immigration is another destructive turnabout for Trump and the GOP. The evidence shows that immigrants commit less crime and start more businesses than native-born Americans, and that sharp reductions in immigration will shrink the workforce and weaken Social Security (which is financed with payroll taxes collected from workers).
Many Republicans once embraced immigrants and immigration (Bush and John McCain come to mind) and were instrumental in getting a bipartisan immigration reform package through the Senate 68-32 in 2013. Then came Trump, who routinely links immigrants to crime and gangs and cheating (white) Americans out of jobs and money. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently removed the phrase “nation of immigrants” from its mission statement. It shouldn’t have been shocking, but it was.
POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media
The president and his party also exhibit complete disregard for the implications of income inequality and wage stagnation. Many Americans have trouble rising up the ladder and America compares badly with its peers on indicators like infant mortality and life expectancy. That’s in no small part because despite all we spend on health care, as a study of maternal mortality in Texas highlighted, there is a dramatically uneven distribution of resources.
Obama made a start at trying to level the playing field by raising taxes on wealthy Americans, signing the Affordable Care Act (with its Medicaid expansion and private insurance subsidies for many families), establishing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to go after payday lenders, banks and others that prey on consumers, and raising pay for millions with changes to a badly outdated overtime rule. Trump and his party are reversing and gutting and chipping away at all of it.
To summarize, Trump, the GOP or both are anti-immigrant and pro-deficit, anti-trade and pro-income inequality, anti-future and pro-past. It will take extraordinary leaders to restore America’s fiscal health and rightful place in the world economy.
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2oOGDME