Saturday, August 04, 2018

Turning The Deficits Hysteria Table On The GOP


I was speaking to a congressional campaign manager yesterday who had just finished a poll of which issues were resonating in his rural district. Some of the issues were what you'd expect: Medicare expansion and Social Security being the top two. But two I didn't see coming-- at least so high up on the list: the trade deficit and the budget deficit. Both have been growing exponentially under Trump's steerage of the ship of state. These are traditionally Republican concerns that have neem weaponized against Democrats in elections. It looks like the GOP is about to get a taste of its own medicine.

On Friday Jeffry Bartask reported for MarketWatch that in June the trade deficit rose 7%-- from $46.3 billion from $43.2 billion. That's a lot and it keeps the U.S. "on track to post the largest annual gap in a decade even as the Trump White House escalates tariffs in an effort to bring it down." Imagine if Trump has actually gone to Wharton and studied economics instead of a "special" real estate program his father paid for. So why? What happened?
U.S. exports fell 0.6% to $213.8 billion just a month after hitting a record high. The biggest drop was in new cars and trucks. Exports of drugs, jewelry and passenger planes also declined.

Soybean exports surged again following a similar spike in May as buyers sought to stock up before retaliatory tariffs took effect.

Soybean shipments were nearly 50% higher in the first six months of this year as compared with the comparable period in 2017: $15.2 billion vs. $10.9 billion. Exports could soon taper off sharply, though, as the tariffs kick in.

Imports rose 0.6% to $260.2 billion. The U.S. imported more oil and pharmaceutical drugs. Oil imports were the highest in 3½ years.

Drug imports were significantly higher compared with a year earlier, in perhaps another case of pre-tariff buying.

Tariffs imposed by President Trump on foreign steel and aluminum appeared to have an effect. Imports of both metals sank in June.

Although Trump claimed last week that his administration had cut the trade deficit, it’s actually still going up.

Part of the reason is that the U.S. economy is doing well compared to other countries. Americans can afford to buy more imports. The rising value of the dollar has also made American exports more expensive for foreign customers to buy.

The U.S. has run trade deficits for years, and it’s unlikely that any president could quickly reduce them. The U.S. doesn’t even produce many of the goods, such as cellphones, that it imports from China in mass quantities.

An intensifying trade war with Chinese is a wild card, but most economists predict the trade gap will increase a bit faster in the second half of the year. If does, the annual deficit could surpass last year’s total of $552 billion and hit the highest level since 2008.
The Swamp by Nancy Ohanian

Writing for USA Today Friday, Mindy Finn asserted that Trump has built a pyramid scheme of public fraud-- a taxpayer-backed cash grab. Short version: "It's an orchestrated, unprecedented scheme to enrich a president, his family and his friends."
Even after warnings that tariffs would wreak havoc on the economy, Donald Trump has staked his presidency on a series of trade wars that are now coming home to roost. With economic ruin looming over American farmers-- a key constituency-- he refuses to change course. Instead, he’s mulling a policy of clientelism, a $12 billion cash handout to the victims of his own bad ideas.

It’s a surprising development for many, especially the conservatives who have long lamented bailouts and subsidies, but it’s hardly out of character. On the contrary, it’s a natural fit for a White House that encourages corruption, exploitation and fraud in exchange for loyalty. As with his cabinet officials, he expects that the allure of taxpayer-funded kickbacks will be enough to keep farmers from holding him accountable for his own corruption and failures. It’s not an accident, it’s a strategy: grease the wheels of government so heavily that they spin in place.

Far from draining the swamp, Trump and his coterie of grifters, fraudsters and co-conspirators have filled it in entirely, dividing the land into personal fiefdoms to exploit.

Team Trump has been playing dirty

The result has been an open season for public funds, private payoffs, and abuses of office. It’s almost quaint to remember that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was fired for using private jets for official travel. The now-resigned Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt exclusively travels in first class, while Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is fond of chartered flights. To say nothing of Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s use of military planes to see a solar eclipse with his wife.

It isn’t just about luxury. Zinke’s involved in a land deal with Halliburton which is likely to benefit him directly. Pruitt reveled in petty grift, taking discounted rent from lobbyists and using his government security and employees as personal servants. Pruitt even used his position to try to find his wife a job.

Following the president’s lead, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has been less than honest about divesting his assets. The man helming Trump’s global trade war is profiting from it, even short-selling his stocks in a Kremlin-backed shipping company when he learned reporters were writing a story about it.

The taxpayer-backed cash grab radiates even outside government officials. Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski opened a business selling his access to the president, even potentially to foreign governments. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen did similarly, trading a direct connection to Trump for six-figure checks.

All of this is not only permissible to the president, it’s encouraged. That’s what makes our current situation unprecedented. This is an orchestrated effort to enrich the president, his family, and his friends. That’s why the Trump hotel in Washington is now a favorite location for foreign emissaries, reaping tens of millions of dollars from those seeking audience with the president. Membership at Mar-a-Lago doubled in price, because lobbyists and influence peddlers will pay anything to catch the president’s ear. And Trump condos are flying off the market as foreign governments pay exorbitant prices to gain the president’s favor. Even his own party pays the piper. The GOP and affiliated political groups have spent over $3 million at Trump properties since he took office.

In short, Trump has built a clearly organized machine for largesse and corruption. It’s a pyramid scheme of public fraud, and the president gleefully sits at its top, reaping the rewards and doling out the shares.

A new level of corruption in Washington

Still, the president and his defenders deny anything is wrong. Many throw up their hands and say “Washington has always been this way.” That’s certainly what Trump would have us believe. In truth, this level of corruption is rampant in dictatorships across the globe, but unprecedented here.

It’s disturbing to see the president ripping this page from the authoritarian textbook, though entirely in character. All around him he’s traded his blessing of corrupt dealings for a weakening of the agencies which might hold some check on him. Now, as key voters threaten to rebel over his policies, it’s only natural that he’d seek the same bargain with them.

But the American people aren’t so easily bought. We’ve already waged and won numerous battles against the president’s corruption, but our fight is far from over. We must reinvigorate the institutions of transparency and accountability in our government. We must hold our leaders to an even higher ethical standard. And, especially when it starts to feel fruitless, we must do so with Donald Trump.

Robert Mueller: Into the Swamp by Nancy Ohanian

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At 7:22 PM, Anonymous Hone said...

Holy smokes, we are a banana republic. The most amazing thing about Trump is how fast this is all going under his rule. In less than two years, he has ruined many aspects of our government, our democracy, our country and our people. Quite a feat for a fucking idiot.

At 1:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The American People are the fucking idiots, Hone. They elected that criminal in the primaries. Republicans who might have been more honest were swept away. Republican electoral fraud and voter intimidation and intimidation efforts weren't challenged.

And they accepted Hillary as the other choice with hardly a whimper.

At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone and 1:26... I feel you.

Fact is, der fuhrer didn't do much more than what was already in motion already. It's been religious dogma that when a new prez takes office, he cuts taxes for the rich by a trillion or so. Obamanation had a crash to stare at with his thumbs up his ass which is the only reason he didn't cut taxes more than the 250 bil in his 'stim'. Reagan, bush, bush and drumpf all did it to joyful celebration by everyone that got nuthin at all from them.

And $hillbillary, in a move to secure a percent of the Nazi voters, probably would've cut taxes too. Prolly only a half tril... cuz democraps are lesser evil.

We're worse than a banana republic. We're hardly a republic any more and we are truly a political shithole where people only ever vote for greedy assholes and Christian assholes. sorry for the redundancy.

Once the weight of debt and our hollow industries tip the economy over for good, we'll be the dumbest AND poorest (most indebted) shithole in the history of humankind.


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