Trump’s version of protectionism is wrong

We here in have been arguing for years for the protection of U.S. manufacturing from foreign trade adversaries, which fight Trump appears to have adopted as the signature issue of his presidency.  Unfortunately, his solutions – threatening crippling tariffs – if enacted will certainly lead to a trade war from which the world would take a long time to recover.

What is needed is a new American doctrine – that 51% of all major manufactured products sold in the U.S. must be American made – but grants countries 5, 7 or 10 years to comply with.  Only those countries that refuse to comply will see tariffs at the earliest five years from now.  And the requirement does not mandate that foreign manufacturers do the physical manufacturing in the U.S.  They could elect to contract with manufacturers in the U.S. to do the manufacturing for them.

Today, Mother’s Day, 2018, I remember my late mother who taught me not to hold back my tongue and my pen when I have something I consider important to tell.

     I used to hate the Chinese with a passion for its adventurism in the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal.  I worried that China’s artificial islands would give that country a springboard for eventual domination of the Philippines due to the proximity of its forces to our shores and of the whole South China Sea.
     But then I read that the Chinese are courting the Philippines and other countries in the region through offers of infrastructure building and economic development loans.  I don’t know if any of those offers have resulted in actual projects being implemented.  The mere fact that offers, serious offers were made is encouraging to me.
     Then came the thawing in the relationship between North and South Korea – just weeks after Kim Jung-Un’s visit to Beijing and talks with China’s president for life Xi Jinping.  It is obvious to anyone that the fateful meeting between Kim and Xi led eventually to North Korea stopping its testing of missiles capable of reaching the U.S., which missiles could be equipped with nuclear warheads.  It has led to a planned meeting between Trump and Kim Jung-Un in Singapore next month.
     China has joined Europe and Russia in an attempt to salvage the Iran Nuclear Agreement, a deal that Trump has attempted to scuttle.  China is the leading force now in the Trans-Pacific partnership, with the U.S. pulling out of it.  It is the dominant player in the Paris climate accord, from which the U.S. (Trump) has withdrawn.
     Almost on cue from the first day of Trump’s ascension to what used to be the most important political office bar none, Trump has been making moves that wittingly or unwittingly will certainly reduce the influence of the U.S. in the world..  What past presidents in the modern world built over more than a century, Trump’s policy decisions, born out of foolish pride and the desire to undo what his predecessor, Barack Obama, accomplished, will most certainly reduce the role of the U.S. in near and distant shores.
     I came to the U.S. in 1967, when there were two superpowers in the world and then watched in amazement in 1989 and 1990 the dissolution of the Soviet empire, thanks to a brave and prescient Ronald Reagan.  Since 1990 America has been the sole superpower in the world.  But, with Trump stumbling into the presidency in 2016, the U.S. role in the world is now undefined.  The uncertain future that people have predicted – the U.S. being overtaken by China economically, the U.S. influence in world affairs being reduced, the U.S. being the sole superpower successfully rendered questionable through Chinese and Russian moves in the South China Sea and the Baltic Sea and Iran’s looming blockade of the Strait of Ormuz – is here today, thanks to Trump.
     Nicolas Kristof calls the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement a vandalism by Trump.  Trump knows that singlehandedly he cannot sink the nuclear agreement so he vandalizes it, weakening its foundation.  Vandalism seems to be Trump’s weapon of choice, as witness his attempts to weaken Obamacare, which he is unable to destroy.  By starving Obamacare of much needed funds, Trump has successfully vandalized it, successfully halting the country’s slow dance with the concept of universal health care which nearly all advanced countries have and which Trump has temporarily put out of reach because the U.S. economy is seriously overextended now that Trump and the Republicans have successfully enacted a law that reduces the taxes of the top 1% of the population (83% of the tax cuts are going to the top 1% of the American population) and will result in an additional $1.5 trillion in government deficits, leading to a situation that puts the U.S. in Greek territory almost, i.e., a national debt being way more than 100% of its gross national product.
     With the U.S. government unable to invest in infrastructure repair and modernization, the condition of U.S. infrastructure looks more like second-tier than first-world with the emergence of gleaming cities in China, Japan, Singapore and Europe.
     There are grumblings in the world markets that the dollar has become unreliable and the Chinese yuan might be its eventual replacement as the denomination of choice in international commerce.  Rather than making sure that this does not happen, Trump’s policy decisions have hastened the dollar’s demise.  Can you imagine having to buy yuans with an increasingly worthless dollar every time we have to take a trip to a foreign country?  Until recently I couldn’t, but it seems that those days are inevitable..  We are inexorably being drawn into a world  where the Chinese yuan reigns supreme.
     Even a small country like Norway, if it has not already, will surpass the U.S. in terms of desirability for those seeking to relocate.  Why?  Because Norway, like Germany and other European countries, has its financial house in order and, unlike the U.S., is far from a mythical bankruptcy – mythical only because countries cannot declare bankruptcy.
     Speaking of Norway.  It is a heavily socialistic and liberal country that is also capitalistic in its economy and democratic in its politics.  It is doing more than OK by all accounts and measures.
     When we look at China, we see a behemoth that is communistic and authoritarian but is also capitalistic and with pockets that are ruled democratically, such as Hong Kong and Macau.  Because of the decline of the U.S. capitalistic-democratic system, China has emerged as the model system to which a lot of countries are beginning to aspire, especially in the area of governance.  Authoritarian systems in Russia, the Philippines, Turkey and many countries in Africa and Asia are showing us Americans that our experiment in pure democracy, which has resulted in gridlock as the two major parties refuse to govern together, is beginning to look like an abject failure.
     These developments are not lost on Trump, who is flirting with authoritarianism, even flippantly commenting that the U.S. perhaps could have a president for life such as China’s.  He is known to be a strong admirer of Russia’s Putin and the Philippines’ Duterte.  It is obvious that Trump does not value pure democracy and is in the process of converting the U.S. system to an aristocracy, where power and bounty rest in the top 1% of American society.  His every move preserves, even increases the wealth of that top 1%, who even now have started to rule the country as if they own it and that the rest – the 99% – have become their vassals, fighting for crumbs that fall from the 1%’s dinner table.
     With the Chinese system heavily influencing the top leadership in America the death of democracy in the U.S. seems to be only a matter of time.  What could change the trajectory, of course, is if Trump is succeeded by a leader who will transform the country into a mirror image of Norway – socialistic and liberal, capitalistic in its economy, democratic in its institutions. This will require that the country provides cradle to grave protections, heavily taxing those that society have enriched, an educational system that is easily affordable but also superior to other countries’ and a road, rail, bridges and highway system that is comparable to those found in advanced societies.
     To finance the transformation, the U.S. must pull back from its commitments to other nations for their security.  It means that many foreign military bases are closed, with the responsibility for protection of territory and people transferred from the U.S. to the shoulders of the countries which are now being protected.  The resultant budget savings will not be enough to finance the modernization and repair of U.S. infrastructure, but it will be an important start.
     And we need a new kind of leader.  We need a charismatic socialistic-democratic leader who will be a cross between Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy.  Such a leader will not surrender to the forces that are moving the world toward autocratic systems such as China’s, Russia’s and Turkeys, but will change the country’s trajectory towards Norway’s system.  And did I mention the French and German systems?


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