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The Beginning

from Peter Radford

Already the Trump regime is taking shape. Or, rather, I ought say the agenda is taking shape since the cabinet that is supposed to be overseeing things is well behind schedule in arriving on station.

First things first.

Trump raised to cost of applying for a mortgage for low income people. He undid a recent reduction in the fees charged by the FHA. That reduction had been put in place because the FHA has a large surplus and wanted to pass along that prosperity to homeowners. Apparently Trump thinks that FHA mortgages should be more expensive. This is an attack on low income voters that is pure Republican thinking and not at all populist. Republicans hate the FHA. They always have. They don’t believe in any help for low income people other than charity.

Next: Trump signed an order calling for the abolition of Obamacare. This is meaningless since undoing Obamacare will take a long time. What the order could do, however, is to throw the insurance market into a bit of a mess and thus drive up premiums for everyone as insurance companies scramble to figure out how to ditch 20 million customers.

Third: Trump begins his attack on free trade by getting the US out of the Trans Pacific Partnership [TPP] and calling for the renegotiation of NAFTA. He also has made dark comments about imposing tariffs on imports. None of this will have a great deal of impact because the exchange rate ought offset most of it. TPP was a rotten deal because it was mainly, from the US point of view, a pro-big business boondoggle. It was first proposed during the Bush administration, and was opposed by many leaders on the left. Good riddance. Re-negotiating NAFTA will be much more tricky and probably will have little effect. Most of the shifts in employment, which seems to be Trump’s motivation, will not change because automation is making them anachronisms.  

Trump’s determination to end free trade will most likely end up driving up the value of the dollar which means that it will reduce imports and exports equally leaving the trade balance pretty much where it was before. Any attempt to redress “unfairness” in trade would be better based on less totemic efforts and on such things as currency manipulation and capital controls.

The problem Trump has, and doesn’t seem to understand, is that globalization has made trade very complex with parts of products being manufactured and shifted all over the place before final assembly and sale. Trump ‘s approach is simplistic and risks causing major price disruption for American consumers.

Then we have the muzzle on the EPA announced this morning: no new projects or grants until further notice.

Oh, and there’s the proposed abolition of the National Endowment for the Arts. Not reduction. Elimination. Because that makes sense to Trump voters?

There’s the obligatory freeze on Federal hiring. Because all those Federal workers are lazy and incompetent and paid too much with too many benefits. Or at least that’s what the Republicans say. Facts don’t agree, but we now live in a post-fact world.

Speaking of which: what was all the fuss that Trump made over attendance at his inauguration? His entire team made complete fools of themselves trying to deny what was quite obvious: the attendance was way down on that of Obama back in 2008. They even trotted out the totalitarian notion of “alternative facts” to try to support their case.

This is shaping top to be a very thin skinned presidency dominated by picayune and cheap policy decisions — as in if Obama did it we must undo it — where thought and strategy play a distinctly second place to ideology and a strange mix of plutocratic and populist emotion.

Still we will always have Putin to put it all right.

  1. patrick newman
    January 26, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Very Lewis Carroll – Off with their metaphorical heads! Sentence first, verdict afterwards said the Trump! I dont think thee essentially timid British PM, Mrs May, will say “Stuff and nonsense to King Donald. More likely to do a trade deal for the instruments of torture. “We British have centuries of experience” she would say speaking from a kneeling position!

  2. January 26, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    It’s the world upside down…

  3. January 26, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    Free trade is a wild card in 2017. For example; Is free trade raising chickens in the US and sending them to China for packaging to be sold in the US? Is it free trade when China’s comparative wage advantage obscure social environmental costs?

  4. January 27, 2017 at 1:53 am

    Trump’s action are far from unexpected. Those are his campaign promises. What nobody expected is that he actually started fulfilling his promises.

  5. January 27, 2017 at 10:14 am

    There is one kind of agenda I can see, and I would call it “globalisation is coming home”. When I say globalisation I am speaking about the neoliberal policies as first tested after the coup against Salvador Allend in Chile by Augusto Pinochet and his Chicago Boys. There has always been a difference in neoliberailsm outside the USA where it was imposed by the IMF and the World Bank, and the US style of neoliberalism. The template for the totalitarian exploitative form of international capitalism first implemented in chile, that did away with unions, left resistance, civil society, environmental protection and democracy was much more vicious than capitalism at home in the US.

    “Making America great again” means bringing home the jobs from Mexico, Bangladesh or Indonesia to the US and compete internationally with the absymal wages, environmental protection and working conditions in those “offshore” countries the US had created after this template. Globalisation was the successful plan to export the capitalistic exploitation that (even) americans Would not accept to the countires that could be bullied to do so. If he can, if nobody stops him, Trump will do away with any workers or left resistance, with free press, with environmental protection and the last remnants of social equality, welfare and democracy, just as US by proxy of the World Bank and the IMF did since the 70s.

    So this “protectionism” is not the end of “gobalisation”, but rather the opposite. Americans will be feeling the hurt that was inflicted on so many other in their name for decades. Maybe therefore Trump coud be the right president for the USA. His presidency is more honest in many ways than any of the previous decades administrations. From the outside looking at america, Trump may thus be the President that America deserves.

  6. January 28, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    When homo sapiens’ brain changed 70,000 years ago two things were added. Imagination and emotions. Both lead homo sapiens to have increased adaptability and creativity. These proved an evolutionary advantage. But as complexity of life on Earth increased these advantages changed to disadvantages. Humans use their emotions too much and too intensely. And they’ve imagined themselves into paranoia, racism, and murder. These have show themselves as not evolutionary advantages. Humans’ adaptability and creativity is declining. Its evolutionary path right now is clearly unsteady and uncertain. Most species that have gone extinct in the past have done so because they lost their evolutionary edge. Humans seem to be nearing that point. All the actions cited here support that conclusion.

  7. February 5, 2017 at 5:17 am

    • February 6, 2017 at 6:14 am

      I think we’ll need something stronger than Dramamine. Just to stop from upchucking.

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