Blog No. 121.
The world after Trump Part 1. Domestic Policy outcomes.
After just a short period in office, questions are already being asked about how successful Trump will be in reaching the ambitious domestic objectives he has set himself. The declared aim of his presidency is to give America’s struggling ‘upper working class’ full and well-paid employment. Given how dire are the straits in which neo-liberalism has left this large segment of the American population, the cure that Trump is trying to effect, will inevitably be deemed ‘drastic’ by those accustomed to calling the shots and not themselves, in dire straits.
1. What are the chances of Trump succeeding?
2. What will be the consequences for American society should he fail?
3. What will be the consequences for the rest of the world of his attempts to attain his goal?
A simple way of interpreting what is happening in America today, is to view the ructions in Washington as a conflict between the two factions into which the more visible, outer-circle of the American deep state has now split. The larger (perhaps 60-70%) faction, consisting of Democrat neo-liberals and the military faction of the Republican neo-cons, is arguing for the continuation and (dream-on) expansion of the American military and economic global empire. The smaller, “paleo-conservative,” “tea-party” faction, to which Trump belongs, rejects globalisation and wishes to return to a more selfish, nationalistic, isolationist fortress America.
The larger portion of the American Deep State, with which Trump now finds himself at war, is a truly fearsome opponent. His declaration of war can be read here. https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2016/10/25/the-speech-to-save-a-nation/ (A highly recommended read for those bemused by the anti-Trump propaganda that prevails throughout the western world.) It gives the lie to those who argue he is so inarticulate that he can only think (or his speech writers, only write) in Tweet-sized bites. His far-too-well-established opponents have recognised his declaration for what it is, a threat to their continued existence, and are responding accordingly.
As Trump’s opponents have the ability to influence almost all of the American and most of the western world’s media, they can sway public opinion with ease. Within the first hours of assuming office, Trump has found himself at war with both the machinery of government, with American public opinion and with opinion throughout America’s global empire.
However, do not make the mistake of writing Trump off. Not all the trend is against Trump. On stage, his speech-writers are getting their act together http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/03/01/president-trumps-best-speech.html?utm_source=Gingrich+Productions+List&utm_campaign=c192413a85-jointaddress_2017_03_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_bd29bdc370-c192413a85-51776517 Behind the scenes, there are indications that the deepest, inner circle of the deep state supports Trump. In particular, this relates to his (or their) policy of detente with Russia (viewing Russia as a natural US ally in a (forlorn hope) Kissinger-inspired ploy to drive a wedge through the China/Russia axis.) Another interesting indicator of the way things are moving, is the developing decline in the profitability of the offshore operations of American multinational companies. Neo-liberalism’s corporate globalisation is running out of steam. http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21715660-global-firms-are-surprisingly-vulnerable-attack-multinational-company-trouble
Trump’s chances of success.
The fact that Trump got down to business so immediately on entering office, indicates that he is fully aware that there is going to be no quick fix to the problem he has set himself to solve. The most immediate threat that he faces is that he will not be allowed to complete the two, four year terms a US President is entitled to expect. If his presidency is ended prematurely, it is most unlikely that his successor, even if it is Vice-President Pence, would continue the same programme with the same objectives and the same vigour.
Excluding ill-health, voluntary retirement or nuclear war, there are five factors that could cut short the Trump presidency (listed in declining order of probability.)
1. Bogged down in litigation to the point at which his attempts to throw off his tormentors, lead to his impeachment – with Pence succeeding him.
2. Voted-out of office at the end of his first term.
4. Military coup.
5. Armed insurrection.
Litigation/Impeachment. At this early stage of his administration, blunders will come easily to a man as ill-informed as the new President, who is unused to handling the levers of Washington power and in a fearful hurry (he has only his first term in which to demonstrate that his radically different policies are achieving the results promised to his electorate.) Litigious delays and obstacles, if possible leading to impeachment, will be the option of choice for Trump’s opponents.
The American constitution was written to provide checks on executive power. While the executive power was being wielded by previous presidents, who supported the establishment’s preferred policies, a blind eye could be turned to abuse of such power. Now, with a president pursuing policies disagreeable to the majority of the establishment, all those constitutional checks are likely to be called into play. Trump will be tied down by a thousand Lilliputian devices. Everything will be done to frustrate his initiatives.
In preparation for the next presidential election, the neo-liberal and neo-con establishments are mobilising all their well-developed media assets with the intention of maximising domestic and international opposition to Trump’s policies. In the shorter term, he is surrounded by officials, whose recruitment has been selectively filtered by neo-liberal governments over several decades. Most of these are Trump’s ideological opponents, who would be happy to see, and contribute to his agenda’s failure. He has to rely on these opponents not only for the implementation of his policies but also, for much of the information on which he bases them.
To overcome this problem, Newt Gingrich, who has Trump’s ear, believes Trump will have to follow the precedent set by President Lincoln and implement a programme of wholesale personnel replacements in uncooperative government departments. http://www.gingrichproductions.com/2017/02/presidents-trump-and-lincoln-and-managing-the-bureaucracies/?utm_source=Gingrich+Productions+List&utm_campaign=8574bc57b7-lincoln_2017_02_10&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_bd29bdc370-8574bc57b7-51776517
Should replacement prove impossible and Trump be forced to stick with the bureaucracy he inherited, his whole programme will be in acute jeopardy. Someone, as ignorant about affairs as Trump appears to be (who believes that climate change is a hoax, that Israel is an asset to America and that Iran is the main practitioner of global terrorism) will prove all too easy to bog down in a treacle-trap of litigation at home or ill-advised military adventure abroad.
In the meantime, Vice-President Mike Pence, who has already been instrumental in the ouster of Michael Flynn, would be a replacement thoroughly acceptable and amenable to that large section of the Republican establishment to whom Trump is an unwelcome interloper. As soon as the deep state’s propaganda machine has succeeded in its present attempts to make Trump look like a Russian dupe, or otherwise temperamentally unsuited to the post, it is possible to envisage Pence being persuaded to ‘come to the rescue’ of his country. With the backing of other members of the cabinet, he could well cite Section 4 of the 25th Amendment in an attempt to prematurely oust Trump from office. It is, however, doubtful that Trump would go as peacefully as did Nixon when faced with a similar set of circumstances. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty-fifth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution
Mike Pence – just a heartbeat away from the presidency
A one-term presidency. Such a radical departure from the established pattern of US policy has only one term’s grace, in which to demonstrate its success. The electorate that elected a President promising a sea-change in policy, did so by only the narrowest of margins. For the coming four years, Trump’s person and policies will be continuously assaulted by a main-stream media heavily under the influence of his opponents. Re-election will not be easy: it is a daunting task that he has set himself.
Assassination. This is not without precedent. In each of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy (who wanted a detente with Russia) his brother Bobby (who looked as though he would succeed President Johnson into the Oval Office and would then, not only call for a more rigourous investigation into his brother’s murder, but also, like him, pursue a peace with Russia) and Martin Luther King (who looked as though his ideas might transform American society, thereby reducing its susceptibility to the exploitation of the privileged elite) it was claimed that the fatal shot/shots were fired by a loner, misfit. In each case, the preponderance of evidence (as I will explain in a future blog) points to the involvement of one or several government agencies. If Trump is assassinated, expect it to be at the hands of a loner, misfit (in this instance, probably a Moslem) as the patsy to provide the Deep State with the cover required.
Military Coup. This too is not without precedent. The times were strangely similar, in the 1930s when retired General Smedley Butler was approached by some Wall Street bankers and asked to overthrow President Roosevelt, who, with his new-deal was, like Trump, backing society’s under-privileged. (The plot never got off the ground, as Butler dobbed in the would-be conspirators.) http://www.salon.com/2014/04/18/the_plot_to_overthrow_fdr_how_the_new_deal_sent_conservatives_into_a_rage_partner/ Though there have been several recent examples of military executive action ordered from some Pentagon office in the knowledge that they did not coincide with the Presidents ‘too pacific’ polices, http://www.khakispecs.com/?p=2712 it is a very long stretch of the imagination to believe that the US armed forces could ever get so far out of control as to engineer a coup against their President/Commander-in-chief. Nevertheless a wise president finds ways to keep his hounds both well fed and exercised. (Trump seems to be fully sensitive to this requirement and balances his arguments for détente with Russia with boosted defence budgets, promises to maintain or reinforce that War on Terror (that so keeps on giving) and indications of belligerence towards Iran and China.)
Armed insurrection. The Founding Fathers allowed the populace to retain their weapons to enable them to resist, should central government attempt to usurp the constitution and move from democracy to dictatorship. The weapons are still out there and in private hands. Though it is not difficult to envisage the present schism between the haves and have-nots in American society giving rise to occasional acts of terrorism during the Trump presidency, the possible development of a full-blown armed insurrection stretches credulity too far. Both American loyalty to the flag and the well-developed apparatus of Homeland Security, should ensure that, barring some unprecedented circumstances, such an event could not materialise (at least on a horizon of just two presidential terms.)
This is one much-read blogger’s view of the threat to Trump’s presidency. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46356.htm The Saker’s suggestion that Trump’s trump card, should he dare play it, would be to re-open the inquiry into 9/11, would also, most probably, guarantee his early demise. It would do such damage to Americans’ delusional self-image that Trump’s re-election hopes would vanish. The extraordinary extent of America’s self-denial is well illustrated by the recent, ‘moral-equivalence’ furor over Trump’s retort that the USA was itself ‘not so pure’ to the proposition put forward by the Fox News anchor that ‘Putin is a killer.’ At least, in this respect, Trump would appear to have a firmer grip on reality than the majority of his fellow Americans. https://www.rt.com/usa/376357-trump-putin-interview-killer/
Efficacy of Trump’s policy initiatives.
Assuming that Trump is allowed to remain in power and execute his favoured policies, what are their chances of success?
Trump’s first priority must be to ensure that he stays in power and retains the ability to implement the policies designed to ensure his re-election for a second term. To be re-elected, he has to demonstrate to the victims of neo-liberalism’s lob-sided distribution of the economic cake, who placed him in the Oval Office, that his policies are going to provide them with more and better-paying jobs.
The criterion against which the probable success, or otherwise, of Trump’s policies should be judged is whether they are more, or less, likely to help him retain power during his first term and whether they are more, or less, likely to deliver a bigger slice of America’s economic cake into the pockets of those who voted for him.
Trump starts off at a considerable disadvantage. His policy objectives are anathema to the group who have been running the USA since the Reagan years and who still provide the majority of the senior management of the federal administration and the defence and security establishments. When he tugs the levers in one direction, they will be tugging in the opposite.
Furthermore, Trump’s expertise is in the field of making and managing a significant fortune in businesses based on property and entertainment. He has no more understanding of affairs of state than the average, red-necked, American tycoon. Having surrounded himself with a similarly inexperienced team, Trump is not only the victim of common American delusions in regard to the global reality in which America exists, but is also vulnerable to deliberately placed misinformation and false guidance. Consequently, some of the policies he so enthusiastically instigates are likely to have results wide of those intended.
Here are some of the Trump policies already distinguishable, categorised as to whether or not they are conducive to achieving his aims.
Build a barrier along the Mexican border. The neo-liberal establishment welcomes Mexican immigrants as it can exploit their cheap labour and use it to keep down the wages of Trump’s electorate. Trump’s policy of cutting off this supply of cheap, immigrant labour is essential to the achievement of his goal of a second term. (In the long history of US/Mexican relations, there have been several periods in which such a policy was deemed necessary – this is not a first time event.)
Change the US tax laws. The main reason why Trump’s electorate are so dissatisfied with the status quo is that the neo-liberal establishment has been exporting their jobs to lower wage economies overseas. If Trump wishes to reverse this process, he has to make manufacturing in the USA as attractive as possible. His proposal to cut company tax from 35% to 15% would appear to be supportive of his intention – provided the budget can bear the cost.
If reducing the tax on profits is one arm of the policy, the other is to increase tariffs, so that American companies working on the now well-established business plan of manufacturing overseas and importing their cost-reduced goods for profitable retail into the USA, face a major disincentive. Other overseas manufacturers will also face heightened tariff barriers. Unilaterally imposed tariffs on imports into the USA will result in similar retaliatory tariffs being imposed on US exports to other countries
Theoretically, American workers sheltering behind a tariff barrier will have improved prospects. The tariffs might indeed further Trump’s long term objective, but in the short term, and given that current trading patterns are so well established, the new policy will cut multiple links in international supply chains and be extremely disruptive to businesses. (For instance, 80% of Mexico’s exports are destined for the USA – but 40% of their content has already been imported from the USA. In China, another target on Trump’s list for tariff discrimination, the situation is even more complex. See Part II.)
The short-term pain that American businesses will experience will swell the ranks of those arguing that Trump should not be allowed to complete his first term.
Invest in the USA’s crumbling infrastructure. Such investment is long overdue and the recent and not so recent lack of it must handicap the development of the US economy. More importantly, it will provide an instant boost to employment and, given the intended absence of cheap Mexican labour, the jobs offered should be reasonably well paid. The fact that this will be done with public-private partnerships, rather than out of federal funds, will also help appease the business community. This, in the short-term, will help Trump achieve his aim.
Boost expenditure on defence. Defence industry jobs tend to be well-paying. Increasing them, helps provide an immediate fix for Trump’s problem. However, feeding the gorilla in the cage is all well and good, but the time will come when the gorilla feels so feisty that it insists it be allowed out for exercise. In the short term, the policy is sensible in that it will help reconcile the military establishment to Trump’s presidency. It may also enable some advantageous trade negotiations with those nations threatened, or comforted by increased American military muscle. In the longer term, it is a policy of supping with the devil that risks dire consequences. The other aspect to this policy is the effect on the national budget. Military expenditure impressively increases GDP but contributes relatively little to the treasury or to measures of a society’s well-being and quality of life. Already the USA spends more on ‘defence’ than the next five nations put together.
Fight terrorism. In America, fighting this endless and self-perpetuating war is a universally popular activity. The fact that for the American in the street, the war is largely mythical is not important. Other than 9/11, to which there is much evidence pointing to it having been an American own-goal, casualties of the war on terror within the USA are considerably less than those of the war on lightning strike. Talking tough about terrorism is always going to win votes. Better still, inventing a foreign enemy is the classic stratagem for welding a nation into unity behind a less than popular leader.
Given his aims and provided its pursuit is conducted intelligently, this is a sensible policy for Trump to pursue in the shorter term – and dumb in the longer! His first two commonsensical moves, to cooperate with Russia in this war and to throw out the previous administration’s daft policy of replacing the secular Syrian president with a jihadist of some shape or colour, cannot be faulted.
His third policy, of making life difficult for would be travellers from six Moslem countries, can be faulted. Its deeply flawed implementation has offered a clear demonstration of his administration’s incompetence and has gratuitously provided ammunition for his enemies. Worse, it demonstrates a profound ignorance of the realities of Islamic terrorism. The vast majority of the populations black-listed, appear to have been Shia. These are the same countries as those that were scheduled for regime change under Bush and Cheney. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RC1Mepk_Sw Listing Libya makes sense, but if any other nations were to be targeted in this indiscriminate manner, it should have been the predominantly Sunni populations of Saudi-Arabia, the UAE, Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Egypt, which provide the sea in which Jihadist terrorist fish spawn. There has never been a Shia terrorist attack carried out on US soil and Iraq’s Shia militias are an essential ally in the fight against ISIS.
Ignore Climate Change and ignore environment considerations where they interfere with economic growth. This belief that climate change is a hoax is shared with a fast declining minority of Americans – it is now only around an amazingly deluded 35% of Americans, who have been sufficiently impressed by the propaganda of Big Oil to hold onto this view. In the short term, boosting petroleum and coal production and consumption will create jobs and therefore help toward Trump’s primary goal. However, it will alarm large sections of the international community, as well as better informed and politically active Americans, strengthening their determination to frustrate and/or cut short his presidency.
Economically, it makes little or no sense. The now rapidly developing solar disruption will make alternative energy cheaper than fossil fuels within the very near future and will render all investment in the latter obsolete. Had the investment instead been made in alternatives, America’s technological competitiveness would have been maintained, or augmented. Sometime over the next decade, the damage that climate change is poised to inflict on the American way of life will become all too apparent to all Americans. The Trump presidency will be universally held responsible.
Cut the federal government’s work force. This is a policy that works contrary to Trump’s aim of increasing the number of well-paid jobs open to Americans! Almost all of his announced policy initiatives call for more, rather than fewer federal employees. A case in point is the planned and differential tariff increases and the abandonment of multilateral trade agreements in favour of multiple bi-lateral agreements. Present staffing levels will ensure any attempted implementation of these policies becomes chaotic. In fact, Trump might well further reduce the federal pay-roll by inspiring massive resignations from bewildered, overworked and traumatised staff.
Conclusion – Trump will fail.
Part II of this blog, will look at the international reactions to Trump’s policies – all of which will feed-back into how he conducts his domestic policy. My overall reading of the situation is that Trump will fail. The forces raised against him are too strong and his ignorance and administrative incompetence are such that in many instances he seems to be fighting on the side of his enemies.
Even if he survives the political assault on his presidency, he will fail economically. His policies are as likely to make his target electorate worse off, as better off. His public-private partnerships for infrastructure and education will increase costs to consumers. His increased tariffs will raise the price of imported goods. The dearth of cheap immigrant labour will likewise raise domestic prices. The increased costs of manufacturing in the USA, as opposed to overseas, will inspire American manufacturers, protected by new tariff barriers, to raise their prices. Furthermore, the digital disruption will lead manufacturers to invest in robots rather than a less reliable human workforce. Many of the jobs Trump believes his policies will create, will not materialise.
If the above prognosis is correct, Trump’s planned expenditure will further drain the nation’s coffers and the federal budget will come under severe pressure. Interest rates will rise for a segment of the population that is already heavily indebted. Private American indebtedness is already approaching the same level it was immediately preceding the 2008 crash. As interest rates rise, so too will the exchange rate of the USD, thereby cutting US manufactures and services out of international markets. If the dollar exchange rate increases significantly, countries overseas, such as Italy and Japan, which are heavily indebted in USD, will have difficulties meeting interest payments. These economies are already fragile and this, as well as the myriad other reasons to lose confidence in US leadership, might well suffice to push the Euro and the global economy over the edge. A severe recession in one major player would have a domino effect around the world and would ultimately come back to reside in the US economy.
However, in such a situation of declining international confidence, there almost certainly would be a rush of flight-capital from overseas, seeking a momentary safe haven in the USA. This will not only drive the USD higher still, but may also buy Trump a short breathing space. Any respite granted by an influx of flight capital from overseas, is likely to be short-lived and the indications are that Trump might well not last long enough to benefit from any such event. His opponents are already conducting themselves as though it is a foregone conclusion that he is a gone-burger.
What will be the consequences for American society should, or when Trump fails? After the failure of the Trump, paleo-con initiative, the question has to be asked, what will happen to America?
Trump’s acceptance of his National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn’s resignation, so soon after his inauguration, is a clear indicator that the deep state has Trump’s neutering and premature removal from power, well in hand. This short video clip by a former Democratic presidential candidate tells a lot http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46450.htm
Michael Flynn (Photo: Business Insider)
Trump’s submission to this coup, executed by his intelligence agencies against his strongest ally, is an indication that the anti-Trump faction of the deep state has regained some of the initiative and that the Washington swamp is that much less likely to be drained on Trump’s watch. Whatever Trump’s fate, by the time he leaves the Oval Office, serious and perhaps irreversible damage, will already have been done, to America’s standing overseas, to its economy and to political confidence in its democracy at home.
A new president (rumour has it that Mark Zuckerberg is planning to step up) will be elected, but will find the damage done is such, that a return to the neo-liberal status ante bellum is impossible. America has been split down the centre and the people’s eyes will have been opened to the sham that is their democracy and to the massive corruption and greed of their ruling elite.
The American Empire, though the Trump interlude will leave it grievously wounded, is not yet dead. However, its days of unassailable primacy are finished and historians will mark the Trump interlude as the point at which the cavalry charge to glory first wavered and started its retreat. No doubt, some gallant rear-guard actions will still be fought, but the tide has turned and, the Empire has probably done its dash.
The question remaining is just how much more carnage remains to be done before ‘Old Glory’ finally leaves the field? When it does, as they become one with those of Ozymandias, it will take with it the noble dreams of America’s Founding Fathers and the fantasies and ignoble dreams of their more recent successors.
The Light Brigade – another bloody dash!