Nel's New Day

January 20, 2020

Will Trade Deals Overcome Impeachment?

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has gloated about how good he is at making business deals; he even hired a writer for The Art of the Deal with his name as author. Last week, Congress signed a “replacement” for NAFTA, and DDT signed “phase one” in a trade deal with China. 

Former White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn said DDT’s tariffs “hurt the U.S.” and didn’t help trade deal negotiation. The steel and aluminum tariffs didn’t help the economy, said DDT’s former appointee, partly the reason he left his job. Cohn also said that tariffs didn’t help DDT pass either trade deal.

DDT maintained that China promised to make huge purchases of U.S. goods, including soybeans and pork, but the agreement has a loophole for China about “market conditions.” Skepticism about the deal caused soybean prices to fall, and tariffs on U.S. farm exports worth billions of dollars remain. U.S. farm goods sales to China in 2018 were $9.1 billion, a 50 percent drop from a year earlier and much lower than the peak of $26 billion in 2012. They have a long way to go.

The China deal failed to fulfill DDT’s campaign promise, to force China into changing its economic policies, the ones that DDT said disadvantaged workers and companies. Missing are any changes to China’s huge subsidies to Chinese companies which has greatly benefited the family of Elaine Choe, Transportation Secretary and wife to the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and the agreement keeps some tariffs that cost U.S. consumers.

China also reinstated semiannual talks about reform and disputes that DDT had discontinued. Marc Busch, professor of international business diplomacy at Georgetown University, called the deal “more a cessation of hostilities, phase one, coupled with some barter” instead of a trade agreement. Other experts doubted whether DDT will achieve a “phase two.” Scott Kennedy, senior adviser and trustee chair of Chinese business and economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, called it a “very narrow deal. It’s far short of the administration’s original goals, and the US and the international community has paid a very large price for what is a relatively modest deal.” The next time around, DDT may not say that trade wars are good and easy to win as he swivels his focus to tariffs on France and Germany.

In the meantime, the “deal” that DDT made with China returns it to the status quo before he was inaugurated.

The number of DDT’s lies and misleading claims have spiked since he was inaugurated. Of the 16,241 falsehoods during his first three years, 1,999 (six a day) were in 2017, 5,689 (almost 16 a day) in 2018, and the remaining 8,155 (over 22 a day) were in 2019. Here’s a breakdown.

Many of these lies were in his speech to the Farm Bureau’s Annual Convention last Sunday in Austin (TX). DDT claimed that farmer income fell under President Obama when it topped out at the highest it’s ever been in 2013. Taking credit for the $30 billion increase in net farm income, he didn’t point out the $22.4 billion were government subsidies. Last year, farm subsidies hit their highest levels–$22.4 billion and one-fifth of farmer’s money—in over a decade during George W. Bush’s second term, bailouts going primarily to corporate farms. Farmer suicides increased under DDT, and equipment costs went up while farmers with smaller farm lost money.

DDT told farmers that he had also provided “unprecedented support” to the ethanol industry, but he had to change his policy after protests from Midwestern lawmakers and lobbying groups. The visa program also doesn’t allow for enough farmworkers. He falsely suggested that Canadian dairy tariffs were eliminated and that the deal with Japan to reduce tariffs on $7 billion of farm products was a “$40 billion deal.” 

DDT bragged at the conference that the GOP had never been stronger, a claim negated by shifts to Democrats since his inauguration. An awkward part of his speech came from his claim that he fought for farmers’ water rights and ability to control their own usage. DDT is presently suing to take land from ranchers and farmers to build his wall—some of the land owned since before Texas became a state.

DDT’s trade deal with Mexico and Canada keeps almost 90 percent of its predecessor, NAFTA, which DDT proclaimed “the worst trade deal ever made.” The other ten percent comes from the Trans-Pacific Partnership which DDT called a “disaster” and a “rape of our country.” The trade agreement raises auto prices and hurts the U.S. auto industry, according to a federal government analysis.

Both these deals increase trade barriers rather than removing them—and without providing great benefits. Instead of the GOP’s philosophy of anti-tax and pro-market, the Chinese deal does both. Tariffs (aka taxes) remain on $360 billion of Chinese goods, taxes that are paid by U.S. consumers, raise costs for U.S. companies to do business, and risk U.S. jobs. DDT’s tariffs tax products that U.S. manufacturers use to make their goods, and manufacturing has reacted by being in a recession for almost half a year. Despite farm subsidies that were double the amount of the 2009 auto bailout (which DDT constantly criticized), farmer bankruptcies went up 24 percent last year. And the auto industry paid back the loans they received.

Catherine Rampell described the effect of DDT’s trade wars after two years:

“They’ve fractured our international alliances, imposed tens of billions of dollars of new taxes on Americans, resulted in two expensive agricultural bailouts, multiplied farmer bankruptcies and landed the manufacturing sector in a recession.”

This week, DDT is spending another $3.4 million of taxpayer money to give a speech at the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. To help spend the $1 million for lodging, some members of the White House entourage will be staying at the Steigenberger Grandhotel Belvédère, a historic luxury hotel near the city center. The Secret Service will pay more than $400,000 for agents to stay at the Bad Ragaz, a five-star resort featuring indoor and outdoor thermal spas. Costs on top of the $3.4 million are security expenses, salaries, and another $2.2 million for the Air Force round trip between the U.S. and Zurich and the Marine One helicopter between Zurich and Davos.

DDT landed at the resort today and then flies out after his speech (watch for more lies!) before the meeting does its business, working on the problem of climate change. His company includes Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer, Labor secretary Eugene Scalia, and Transportation secretary Elaine Chao along with daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner. Last year, DDT canceled his appearance at the last minute because of the government shutdown, but still cost taxpayers $3.2 million in unused hotel rooms and rental cars.

His keynote speech tomorrow is on the opening day of his impeachment trial in the Senate. Republicans have a new defense for DDT beyond denial and the “so-what” response: Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) came up with “things happen.” In one interview, he moved from DDT didn’t seek foreign election assistance to he did do that but it wasn’t important, and finished by calling DDT’s actions a “mistake” but who cares.

In “Is the Oath a Joke,” conservatives William Kristol and Jeffrey K. Tulis wrote about GOP senators who declared their votes in favor of DDT before they swore under oath to “do impartial justice”:

“Human beings will still be fallible, opinionated, even prejudiced. Indeed our Founders expected no less. But there is a big difference between lamentably falling short of the highest standard and actively scorning it. Might citizens press their Senators to summon up some buried residue of decency and a modicum of impartiality?”

The impeachment trial begins tomorrow at 1:00 EST, beginning with procedural questions. Senate Majority Leader McConnell issued draconian rules today that will likely be debated, for example 24 hours for each side over two days. The possibility of witnesses is still up in the air. Every dissension requires a vote with a simple majority for passing the proposals. The Senate has 47 Democrats and Independents. The vote on accepting witnesses comes after open argument from each side and 16 hours set aside for written questions from senators, according to McConnell. Schumer said that the rules “don’t even allow the simple, basic step of admitting the House record into evidence at the trial.”

The Senate controls the videoing of the trial which means limited views, and the setting will appear more like a courtroom than a legislative assembly. Reporters are permitted in seats above the central rostrum but cannot bring cameras, laptops, cell phones, or any other electronic devices. No cameras or media are allowed in closed session for Senate debate. TV correspondent are on the first floor of the Senate side. Outside the chamber, reporters are penned off behind a velvet rope. C-SPAN and the Fox network plan gavel-to-gavel coverage, and CNN will stream the proceedings online. PBS will cover the proceedings and return to it after the nightly NewsHour broadcast. Senators are not allowed to talk, tweet, or text. Questions must be written and handed to Roberts.

McConnell is desperately trying to get the trial over before DDT’s State of the Union speech on February 4. It is not unprecedented for a president to give that speech while tried for impeachment—Bill Clinton did it in 1999—but DDT lacks the self-control of Bill Clinton. DDT has already demonstrated an inordinate degree of fury and unreasonableness, far more than any other person occupying the Oval Office.

The next few days will not be peaceful ones in the Senate, and Chief Justice John Roberts may struggle with his judicial leadership.

January 22, 2018

DDT: Week Fifty-two – Opposition Builds

Filed under: Donald Trump — trp2011 @ 8:33 PM
Tags: , , ,

Four to five million women in over 400 U.S. locations marched in protest to Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) last weekend, he cheered them on: “Beautiful weather all over our great country, a perfect day for all Women to March. Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months. Lowest female unemployment in 18 years!” Note: the unemployment rate for women aged 20 and other fell throughout President Obama’s second term.]

Either he didn’t understand what he tweeted or he didn’t understand that it was protest against him.

The day before the Women’s March, “Power to the Polls,” DDT addressed the anti-choice protesters at the March for Life and told them, “We are with you all the way.” He also said:

“Right now in a number of states the law allows a baby to be born from his or her mother’s womb in the ninth month. It is wrong. It has to change.”

He might have meant “torn,” but there was no correction.

The White House lied about the number of people attending last year’s anti-choice “March for Life.” Like this year, it was tens of thousands, not the inflated number announced.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), candidate for senate reintroduced an anti-choice bill based on bad science: the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” uses the lie that “born alive” infants after abortions are murdered by abortion providers. It would allow murder charges for abortion providers and clinicians.

“S…holes” has become part of common language since DDT’s vulgarities, and the base loves his vulgarities. Neo-Nazis website The Daily Stormer and white supremacist leader Richard Spencer have liberally praised DDT’s statements. More “genteel” folk either have amnesia or deafness regarding DDT’s comments about non-white countries. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen combined both approaches before she said in a Senate hearing that she Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stuck to his guns and defended Sen. Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) account and said that his “memory had not evolved.”

DDT had a few failures last week:

Charges were dropped against 129 people swept up in mass arrests in Washington, D.C. on the day of DDT’s inauguration. Another 59 will still go to trial after the government failed to convict the first six people.

DDT’s chief of staff, John Kelly, tried to cover for his boss by saying that he doesn’t intend to build the wall because he was going through “an evolutionary process” on immigration policy. DDT slapped down Kelly’s statements by saying that Kelly is wrong, that his opinion on the wall has “never changed or evolved.”  Kelly also managed to cause last Friday’s government shutdown. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said he left the White House with a DACA agreement from DDT, and Kelly called him later to tell him that the deal was off. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is blaming DDT’s aide Stephen Miller.

The shutdown may have ended today, but DDT and the GOP still look bad. Four years ago, DDT blamed President Barack Obama for failing to “lead,” “get everyone in a room,” and “make a deal.” This year, DDT sits in the Oval Office and blames the Democrats after he refuses to negotiate.

China has downgraded its rating for the U.S. loans of $1.06 trillion from A- to BBB+, citing the tax cuts that “directly reduce the federal government’s sources of debt repayment.” U.S. is now on the same level as Peru, Columbia, and Turkmenistan.

Scientists who were kicked off the U.S. climate advisory committee last August have reinstated their research with financial support from the State of New York and Columbia University Earth’s Institute. They plan to complete the report and deliver the committee’s recommendations to work with climate change. In 2017, natural disasters, most of them worsened by climate change, cost $306 billion in damage, making 2017 the most expensive year on record. Sixteen events cost over $1 billion each, and hurricanes were responsible for almost 85 percent of the total. The year 2017 was the second-hottest year in 123 years of records, following 2016. Seventeen of the 18 hottest years on record have all occurred since 2001.

DDT thinks that terrorist attacks can save the GOP in the 2018 elections, raising the question of whether he is trying to protect the United States.

Meanwhile, the Democrats continue to win red state legislative seats, the most recent in Wisconsin where Patty Schachtner, a county medical examiner, (left) took a seat by 11 points that a Republican won with 63 percent only one year ago. DDT won that district by 17 points last year.

During Barack Obama’s first term, the use of “Barack” for newborns shot up. This past year, the popularity of “Donald” for babies dropped by 50 percent.

Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury has company on the best-seller list. Those interested in reading more about DDT might want to go to David Frum’s Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic (Harper) and David Cay Johnston’s It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America (Simon & Schuster), both released on January 16, 2018.  Johnston has followed DDT for 30 years, and Frum, an Atlantic senior editor, was a Canadian speechwriter for George W. Bush who has become disillusioned with the GOP. Howard Kurtz’s book, Media Madness: Donald Trump, The Press, And the War Over The Truth, should be released in another week.

DDT is still bragging about how hard he works—although he kept a very low profile last week after his “s…hole” comments and the government shutdown. His “work” for last week, based on his calendar: met with president of Kazakhstan; honored former Sen. Bob Dole at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony; met with senior military at the Pentagon; and gave speech at a March for Life event. That’s it. He even missed his inauguration anniversary party at Mar-a-Lago because the government shutdown.

A poll praising the current economy would be a good thing for DDT, but a majority of the people gave the credit to President Obama. Also, 57 percent of the respondents think that continuation of the Affordable Care Act is a good thing, compared to the 35 percent who disagree. Sixty percent think that DDT has done nothing or very little in his first year.

Despite DDT’s apparent inertia, Dr. Ronny (Ronnie?) Jackson gave a glowing commentary on DDT’s health. [According to an email from Jackson released by the White House, he misspelled his first name.] With a cholesterol level of 223 after medication (normal being under 200) and borderline obesity, DDT has “excellent health,” according to his doctor. The doctor also glowed about DDT’s cognitive skill after administering the Montreal Cognitive Assessment for dementia and neurodegenerative. DDT can draw a clock, identify the similarity between an orange and a banana, and name three animals (lion, hippopotamus, and camel) from drawings. You can check out the rest of the questions.

Tomorrow, DDT heads to the four-day World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, following a government shutdown and plummeting trust in U.S. institutions. His repetitious denouncing of the judiciary and the media have dropped confidence in those institutions, and faith in government fell 14 points to 33 percent, the first drop not linked to catastrophic events. At the same time, China’s government saw an eight-point increase to 84 percent. Loss of confidence in U.S. institutions among the “informed public”—college-educated people who earn above-average incomes and regularly follow the news—dropped from sixth in the 28 countries surveyed to 28th, at last place below Russia and South Africa.

DDT will probably still have a good time at the Forum because the focus is on the wealthiest leaders in government, business, and foreign policy. He plans to give a speech describing how sensible he is to prioritize U.S. interests above all other countries. The year’s theme is “creating a shared future in a fractured world.” Neither George W. Bush nor President Obama attended the annual event. The 15-person entourage heading to Davos with DDT, including seven cabinet members, has a joint private worth of billions of dollars.

Neither Ivanka nor Melania Trump is included in the trip. Melania has not made a public statement in the ten days since the Wall Street Journal published news about his payoff to porn queen Stormy Daniels. She also did not appear with DDT at his two evening dinners at Mar-a-Lago.

 

As always, the question is which DDT will show up in Switzerland this week.

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