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.