Rhetoric, Meet Reality

I am old enough to remember the 1969 NY Mets, I saw Buster Douglas knock out Mike Tyson, witnessed the Miracle On Ice, and read about Leicester City defying the 5,000 to 1 odds of winning the Premier Cup. Now, we have a Trump presidency, equally odds defying. OK, now what?

Trump goes into his new job with a resume unlike any other past president. Never elected to anything, never was a leader of men in an armed conflict, his credentials lie in the promise to drain the swamp and in his ability to deal, to get things done. There is no past precedent that either of these will translate into success at leading the country.

Possibly the greatest gift one man can have in being successful as president is the ability to persuade;

The power to persuade is perhaps the most important aspect of the presidency that Neustadt writes about. The power of the United States government is vastly dispersed; the president cannot simply command and receive. Its much more complicated than that. Other levels of government have different constituencies and different sources of power and interest. The president is one man and needs others to get things done. The president must bargain and persuade others that what he wants is in their best interest. President Truman once said of President Eisenhower upon his election, “He’ll sit there all day saying do this, do that, and nothing will happen. Poor Ike, it wont be a bit like the military. He’ll find it very frustrating.” Neustadt refers to the president in this respect, as a “clerk”, in which the president must balance differing interests. Just because the president wants something done does not mean that the others who also possess the power and authority will carry out his wishes. ” The presidents advantages are checked by the advantages of others. Relationships will pull in both directions. These are relationships of mutual dependence. The president depends upon the persons that he would persuade; he has to reckon with their need or fear of them (Neustadt 31).” The president must interpret to his colleagues how his policy will benefit them as well.

Trump will tell you that the power to persuade is right in his wheelhouse, hence the art of the deal, but if we assume that a General and a CEO can, by tint of authority, command action, a president has neither that ability or a servile public who by edict must obey. The art of the deal also involves priorities, compromises, and a changing of focus, getting the things done that are actually doable at the time.

Trump made a series of promises on the campaign trail, some of those promises you can see here.

The usual detractors here have already started on what they view as broken promises, promises mind you that he has no power as yet to either fulfill or abandon, but carping seems to be in vogue when a Republican wins, at anything.

Some of these promises I thought were pretty dopey when delivered so I am all for an “evolving” of position;

1) That Trump is going to bring back waterboarding ,”And a whole lot worse”, and that he has no problems with murderingkilling terrorist families. First off, I get the appeal of getting tougher with terrorism given what the last guy brought us. Naturally we want someone who can actually say the words Radical Islamic Terrorism, and we want someone who knows the value of capturing these guys and extracting valuable intel as opposed to just sending a drone over to bomb them (and the innocent civilian casualties that go with this type of indiscriminate warfare), and someone that understands that since the terrorists want to come here to kill us, to secure the borders. I am all for using enhanced interrogation techniques, but no torture, no waterboarding, and no bombing of terrorist families, walk all that back.

2) The Muslim ban. Again, given the squishy inability for the current guy to understand the actual threat at hand, this might appeal to some segments. But we can’t do it. I really hate it when the left tries to lecture us with ,”This is not in keeping with our values, this is not who we are”, a blanket Muslim ban IS an anathema to our values. I read an article last week how hundreds of Afghans and their families are on the run because they helped us as interpreters but now we have abandoned them to their fate, not allowing visas to immigrate to America, that just ain’t right. Many students from Muslim nations come to America to attend our universities (still the best universities in the world). America leads the world in technology and medical innovation, many folks involved with this are immigrants, we should not deny (or discriminate) immigrants from Muslim nations who want to come here and prosper. But this does not involve a massive refuge influx, we do not want to end up like Europe.

3)Imposing tariffs or starting a trade war with China. Smoot-Hawley, bad then and bad now. American products can compete globally, we just want a level playing field. Now renegotiating trade deals in fine, and our trading partners are fine with that.

4)Taxes. Saying you want to cut taxes will always get you noticed, Republicans like it because they think we pay too much already, and Democrats rail against it because they think the rich don’t pay their fair share anyway, both POV can be short sighted. There is no doubt that lowering corporate tax rates can spur growth, bring in more tax revenue, hire more people and spread prosperity across a greater swath of our population. And I am all in favor of a one time tax cut to bring repatriated money now kept oversees back to America to invest back in the business. But I worry about the growing deficit and Trumps general tax plan will indeed blow out the deficit. A concerted push towards simplifying the tax code and providing tax relief for job creators, small business owners, this will lift all boats, get more people working and bring more tax revenue.

5) Repealing Obamacare. First off, Obamacare is failing anyway, too many health service companies pulling out of the state exchanges. And what is left is so unappealing, higher premiums, larger deductibles and narrower provider networks. Trump has already said he likes 2 provisions of Obamacare, the pre existing condition provision and allowing young adults to stay on their parents policy. As a dad of a 21 year old, I like this as well. But the way Obamacare was shoved down our throat, a straight party vote rammed through at the dead of night, and the lies behind it ,”If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan”, I say trash the whole thing and start over. It may be petty, but he was such an abject failure and had so little regard (actual contempt) for those not sycophants of his, that he deserves what he gets. He wants a legacy, how about this, killing American exceptionalism and making us just like everyone else.

There are other Trump promises that need to be re configured, like abandoning NATO, threatening to pull troops out of South Korea and Japan if they don’t pony up more cash for their defense, or pulling troops out of other areas of the world and replacing them with nukes as if this is a reasonable alternative.

I suspect governing Trump will be much different from running for president Trump, that may not be a bad thing.

Comments are closed.

  1. TxAg94

    I listen to Glenn Beck for about 5 minutes a couple of times a week.  Mostly it’s surfing channels on the way to work to see what flavor of crazy is being served that day.  For context, the channel next door is NPR.  I’m an equal opportunity critic.

    Last week I heard him sum it up this way (best attempt at remembering the exact phrasing):  “…The Hillary supporters took him literally but not seriously.  Trump’s own supporters took him seriously but not literally.”  He was making the case that Trump can’t follow through literally on every promise nor should he try.  The Left dismissed him as unable to win because they took his comments literally and assumed it was too crazy to resonate.  Trump’s supporters, though, are likely realistic and able to accept that what he said was not always literal, but that Trump understands and shares their concerns.   I took him more literally and was turned off a bit by it.  I held my nose and voted for him anyway feeling like it was the better choice, even if by only a small degree.  Now I hope Beck is right in that it’s not the literal message but the intention of being serious about addressing the problems within the limits of what can actually be accomplished.  We’ll see.

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  2. West Virginia Rebel

    Trump’s greatest achievements may lie with the Supreme Court and the energy industry. He seems to be relying on a lot of the insiders of his team. I think the closest thing we’ve had to Trump is probably Wendell Wilkie, if he’d been elected.

    I doubt you’ll see a lot of the other stuff happen. He may do more on enforcement and deportation, but no “bans.” He may work on NAFTA and TPP is already dead, but no extreme economic isolationism. At the very least we’ll get to see how the presidency is handled from a real outsider’s POV.

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  3. stogy

    Hi Rich, I think you make some interesting points here. I wanted to add a few of my own comments and observations.

    3)Imposing tariffs or starting a trade war with China. Smoot-Hawley, bad then and bad now. American products can compete globally, we just want a level playing field. Now renegotiating trade deals in fine, and our trading partners are fine with that.

    Personally, I think a trade war with China is quite likely. It’s in Trump’s interest to ramp up hostility with China as a strategic opponent that he can blame things on when the economy doesn’t improve as he has promised.

    I see a repositioning of the US relationship with Russia, which may weaken the current cosiness between Russia and China. I see China looking to make stronger relationships with other East Asian powers and perhaps Pakistan and Iran, in the way they have with Duterte last month. The Chinese government is yet to work out that supporting corrupt dictators generally backfires when the dictators get kicked out (like what happened in Sri Lanka two years ago). Arguably, the US is also yet to learn this lesson.

    I think that Russia is also very likely to make a move on Eastern and Southern Ukraine next summer, if not the summer afterwards – possibly around about the time of the mid-terms  as it would be just the distraction he would need.

     

    There is no doubt that lowering corporate tax rates can spur growth, bring in more tax revenue, hire more people and spread prosperity across a greater swath of our population.

    As a general principle, no. Companies don’t invest because they are making more money, they invest because there is more money to be made. If you want to increase investment, and hence employment, then decreasing taxes for the people who spend 100% of their salary is generally better than giving it to those who will drive up the cost of housing through property speculation instead of investing in growth. It’s also better to provide tax incentives for increased investment than it is to reduce taxes across the board.

    I am concerned that the US is about to go back to a reliance on coal at a time when there is an energy and transport revolution happening around the world that is genuinely creating a lot of employment and opportunities. Investing in coal at a time when gas has driven the price down and when global demand is likely to continue to fall over the next 20 years is likely to drive coal prices further and result in massive stranded assets.

    Overall, I think the chance of another recession in the US over the next 3 – 4 years is quite high, and the US government currently has few financial resources to deal with it. Trump’s plans to remove regulations may backfire spectacularly if they are fingered as contributing to it.

    My other concern is Trump’s plans for the FDA. I understand that he wants to open the gates to new drugs, but he is also likely to weaken approval and accountability mechanisms for drugs that go spectacularly wrong – something that big pharma party donors are always demanding. While it sounds good, I think long term it is not really in the public interest. The relationship between big pharma and the FDA is already too strong and corrupt. As there can be no real competition between patented drugs, the FDA and drug companies are much better when they are in real competition with each other. However, given their status as big party donors, I expect the FDA to lose out big time.

     

    as opposed to just sending a drone over to bomb them (and the innocent civilian casualties that go with this type of indiscriminate warfare)

    This is the major cause of grief across the ME (despite the fact that most of the ME countries are doing no different to their own or neighboring populations). It was also a strong cited reason for several of the recent attacks in the US by Islamic militants. Ending drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan in particular may help to decrease tensions.

    Repositioning the US in Syria to support Asad and Russia is also highly risky. The Turkish army is now just 40 miles from Aleppo and a NATO ally – it is also a major supporter of the anti-Asad rebels. The chances of a conflict between Turkey and Russia are not miniscule. It would actually be better for the US to stop supporting all parties in Syria and focus on improving the situation in Iraq, encourage Turkey to pull out of Syria and Iraq, and keep trying to bring the rebels to the table. The US is better  off positioning itself as a fair player and there is much less risk of blowback.

    In Iraq, the biggest risk is that once ISIS has been driven out, the Sunnis will once again be sidelined and mistreated by the Iraqi military and government – a major reason why ISIS was able to simply sweep in and take over. Unless Sunnis can be convinced that they have a place at the table, then it simply begins all over again in 5 – 10 years time.

    During the campaign, Trump’s insistence on “surprise attacks” on Mosul did not fill me with confidence. Encouraging ISIS leaders to leave cities where there is a huge risk to civilian populations is exactly what you want to do. It not only demoralises local fighters but who knows what could happen to them on those long, lonely roads back to Raqqa…

     

     

     

     

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  4. stogy

    Sorry, that should have been “drive down coal prices” above.

    Also, one other comment on taxes. I have been arguing for an international Tobin tax (on outgoing international currency exchanges) of about 1% for many years – perhaps even replacing much of the current corporate tax. This would do a lot to reduce the benefits to corporations of hiding assets offshore, and dampen currency speculation. It would also really help developing countries to raise their tax base in a way that didn’t hurt the poorest of the poor. Currently all of that money just flows out of the economy of poorer countries.

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  5. richtaylor365 *

    I think a trade war with China is quite likely

    Hope not. This tariff nonsense strikes me as another “Make Mexico pay for the wall” meme, an attempt to show ,”I’m on your side” with the average consumer. And instead of unilaterally condemning Trump to failure as far as improving the economy (like what your side is prone to do) how about if we just see what happens first. Given Obama’s record on the recovery;

    “The average growth rate for economic recoveries since the 1960s is 3.9 percent ranking the Obama recovery, with an average GDP growth rate of just 2.1 percent, among the slowest in history,” said Sen. Dan Coats (R.-Ind,), who chairs the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.

    I think it fair to give Trump a shot at it.

    I see a repositioning of the US relationship with Russia

    How so? I doubt Trump will give Russia the free hand to do anything at all, like Obama. Are you saying a rapprochement will be made?

     Arguably, the US is also yet to learn this lesson.

    I think countries like the Philippines will align themselves with whichever big dog will offer them more. Nations usually broker themselves with the US, not only because of our values, but because we have a strong leader and will walk the walk. The last 8 years has tarnished that image.

     Companies don’t invest because they are making more money, they invest because there is more money to be made

    And that new money cannot be made unless there is capital to spend. A lowering of corporate taxes will not only make us more competitive with the rest of the industrialized world, it will provide the resources to build more factories and hire more workers.

    Overall, I think the chance of another recession in the US over the next 3 – 4 years is quite high

    19% of that happening according to the WSJ;

    Forecasters believe the odds of recession are somewhat lower than they were over the summer, when global conditions looked particularly shaky. Their recession odds are higher than they were a year ago, however. The last recession was more than seven years ago. Historically, that’s a long time for the U.S. to grow without tipping into a new recession. If there’s no downturn in the next four years, it would be the longest stretch in U.S. history without recession. Most economists consider that unlikely: The U.S. has always had its cycles, its ups and downs, and this time is unlikely to be different.

    My other concern is Trump’s plans for the FDA

    Let me just say that the FDA, like all other government agencies, is bloated, ineffective, a morass of regulations leading to inertia. The time it takes for a drug to go from concept to market is over 10 years. Yes, we need safeguards so the new allergy drug does not have the side effects of growing a second nose, a happy medium is possible. I want all these agencies either eliminated (if ineffectual) or streamlined to maximum productivity.

    Ending drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan in particular may help to decrease tensions.

    I don’t want to end them entirely, but if they are creating more trouble then they are worth, as you say, then sure, lets re evaluate. My point was that in any war, since military men are still dying over there I assume we are still at war, a strategy for winning it would be nice and getting intel from captured prisoners still has value.

    Repositioning the US in Syria to support Asad and Russia is also highly risky

    No argument there. I get that Obama’s inaction has created a vacuum and his red line nonsense did not help, but (and many Republicans will disagree with this) sometimes doing nothing is better then doing something bad. Yeah, I wish someone could have put a bullet in Assad and that Russia/Iran were not involved to the extent they are, it is a mess and in this area I don’t fault Obama for not knowing what to do.

    As far as the rest of the ME, I think it is important to keep supporting Israel, to shun nations that support terrorism, to try to bring our ME allies to the 21st century wrt how they treat women and human rights, to call radical Islam what it is when it presents itself, and to remember that when whenever troops are deployed, an exit strategy is essential. Aside from Trump telling us that we are going to win again and will never reveal his plans for international attachments, I have never heard him articulate anything resembling a ME strategy.

    I never heard of the Tobin tax, but this guy does not think much of it;

    The evidence to support Tobin taxes is thin on the ground, however. Most academic studies generally agree that they may not necessarily decrease volatility in financial markets. An experimental study in 2010 by researchers at the University of Innsbruck suggested that a global Tobin tax would have little impact on volatility. And there is not much evidence at all that unilateral Tobin taxes work

    For now I would be happy with a gradual lowering of the corporate tax rate, 30% next year, 25% the next and 20% after that, I think that is a fair competitive rate. A one time repatriation rate, say 15%, for money parked oversees, somewhere around $2.5 trillion.

    It is a shame that this blog is on borrowed time, but I do appreciate your POV on many issues.

     

     

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  6. CM

    “The average growth rate for economic recoveries since the 1960s is 3.9 percent ranking the Obama recovery, with an average GDP growth rate of just 2.1 percent, among the slowest in history,

    C’mon Rich. Since when did history begin in the 1960s and how many GFC’s (a financial crisis) have we had since then? That is ALWAYS a nonsense argument because the GFC is unlike anything since the Great Depression. Postwar business cycles are not the right comparator for the severe crises. I really don’t know why you keep repeating this.

     On average it takes about eight years to reach the pre-crisis level of income; the median is about 6.5 years. Five to six years after the onset of the current crisis only Germany and the United States (out of 12 systemic crisis cases) have reached their 2007–2008 peaks in per capita income.

    http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/rogoff/files/aer_104-5_50-55.pdf

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  7. stogy

    I never heard of the Tobin tax, but this guy does not think much of it;

    That’s just the volatility argument. The other argument for a Tobin tax is to broaden the tax base of developing countries without hitting the poor, as I mentioned above. The thing is, it only works if every country introduces it at the same level, and may negate the need for some or all foreign aid. Even half a percent would be a start.

    For wealthy countries, it could be introduced in a way that was revenue neutral, and corporate taxes could be cut accordingly. It’s worth considering properly.

    How so? I doubt Trump will give Russia the free hand to do anything at all, like Obama. Are you saying a rapprochement will be made?

    Putin is a master political tactician and has the means and patience to play the long game. I have seen no sign of Trump having anything like this ability or capacity. But I will withhold judgement for now.

    And on China, I read somewhere that the Chinese officials are expecting Trump to basically abandon issues of human rights in his negotiations with them, and are quietly celebrating. Activists in China have said that they are in despair about their position. Again, I am withholding judgement. The US has sold out people to the Chinese that it had previously supported before, so I won’t be surprised.

    As far as the rest of the ME, I think it is important to keep supporting Israel,

    Up to a point, yes. But in the last week or so, the Israeli government has basically rubber stamped forcible land seizures from Palestinians in the West Bank, and a plan for allocating them less water was narrowly rejected. The Israeli education minister and his pro-settler Jewish Home party wants Israel to annex the 60% of the West Bank where Israeli settlements are. Blanket support for Israel simply allows religious fundamentalists to do whatever they like without fear of the consequences. Personally, I don’t want Israel to be involved in the crime of ethnic cleansing.

    It is a shame that this blog is on borrowed time, but I do appreciate your POV on many issues.

    Agreed and thanks. I find these discussions much more interesting than simply ranting at each other.

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  8. stogy

    There’s quite a good piece in the Guardian today by old Joe Stiglitz on the kinds of reforms necessary to revive the US economy, and in particular the middle class. He argues that many of the necessary steps (tax reform, spending on infrastructure and research, increases in the minimum wage, increased competition in amongst sectors of the economy that have become near monopolies, and…. a carbon tax) go against the interests and ideology of many Republicans.

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  9. stogy

    A dear Jewish friend on the East Coast has just received her first ever anti-semitic threats and it has been not so subtly suggested to her that she should move to Israel. She’s pretty upset. She is hardly politically active and no threat to anyone.

    Yet here we are.

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