Raping the Nation’s Wealth? How Stupid Does He Think We Are? Oh, Yeah.

President Trump thinks allowing imports to be sold in the U.S. in amounts greater than our exports is tantamount to “raping the nation’s wealth.” Think for a minute. No, for a second. Just consider how stupid this is. And the level of thinking demonstrated by the man who makes such a claim.

Of course, imports sell here only if they’re cheaper or better than what we produce domestically. So banning imports would cause us Americans to pay more than we’d otherwise have to pay, thereby lowering our standard of living, or would compel us to accept inferior products (such as GM cars in the ’80s). There is nothing about this arrangement that could even remotely be characterized as an economic “rape.”

A legitimate issue, of course, is whether we should give a preference to domestically produced goods either by taxing imports (tariffs) or subsidizing domestic producers (in the way the U.S. subsidizes its farmers), or banning certain imports altogether or restricting the volume coming in (quotas). There could be legitimate reasons for doing so.

For instance, if one’s national security depended on it, then it may make sense to protect the domestic suppliers. For instance, it would not be prudent to become entirely dependent upon aircraft made in foreign countries. That would make the U.S. Air Force and Navy highly vulnerable to potentially hostile regimes.

Another legitimate reason could be the fairness doctrine. For instance, if the reason an import is cheaper is because of a subsidy the producer received from its home country’s government, then the U.S. could decide, as a matter of policy, to place a leveling tariff on the import to ensure the competition is fair. Or it might chose not to, instead being grateful for the subsidy that the foreign government is essentially providing to the U.S. consumer. Obviously, the U.S consumer stands to benefit from the lower price, even if it’s the result of a foreign subsidy, where the U.S. worker who might lose his job due to the subsidized import might be harmed. Which brings us to the policy decision: which jobs are worth protecting and which one’s aren’t? These aren’t always easy decisions. In any case, there are remedies in place to protect against competition from subsidized producers (indeed, I’ve been involved in several cases where tariffs were sought because of such unfair competition).

But to cut off or restrict imports simply because someone is selling more of their products to us than they are buying from us is sheer lunacy, especially if your country’s currency is the world’s reserve currency (as is ours). In short, mindless protectionism is a sure recipe, over the long term, for diminished competitiveness, economic stagnation, and lowering of a country’s standard of living. And based on history, there’s a good chance it will lead to recession, depression, or war. Yet that’s precisely the mindset of our president.

You wonder how someone like this could be elected president. Or maybe you don’t. But I do. And you should.

The broader lesson in all of this, Vera, is simple: think for yourself. And don’t accept as gospel anything someone says, even if they hold a lofty position. Just because someone is a president, CEO, or, for that matter, a grandfather, doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about.

Trumponomics

President Trump and his minions on the Hill gave a gigantic tax cut to rich people and corporations this year, which translated into a $1.5 billion tax cut (approx. ) for General Motors. Supposedly all of this was necessary to make America great again. And to win!

Today, GM announced it was shuttering two U.S. assembly plants and two U.S. propulsion plants. In addition to the U.S. workers at those four plants who will be losing their jobs, 15 percent of the salaried staff at GM will lose their jobs as well.

Here is what Wall Street thinks of the cuts.¬†In short, Wall Street loves it. It realizes this means higher margins and more money for the investors. The fact that labor is once again getting kicked to the curb isn’t the concern of the owners.

Meanwhile, U.S. tax receipts are dropping like a rock, further inflating the country’s debt balloon. Consequently, the Government is having to incur huge amounts of debt that our kids and their kids will have to service in the years and decades to come.

Isn’t it great that U.S. citizens thought it was wise to elect the self-proclaimed King of Debt to the presidency?

All of this winning is exhausting.

 

The Great Amazon Stickup

Here is the handout (corporate welfare) Amazon (and, by extension, Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, who is history’s richest man) is receiving in exchange for siting new offices in New York, Virginia, and Nashville:

Incentives from New York state: $1.525 billion:

$1.2 billion in refundable tax credits over 10 years.
$325 million from Empire State Development.

Incentives from New York City:

Property-tax abatements for up to 25 years.
$900 million in job-creation tax credits, plus other unspecified tax credits.

Incentives from Virginia:

$550 million cash grant over 12 years, plus potentially an additional $200 million based on future job creation.

Incentives from Arlington:

$23 million in cash over 15 years.

Incentives from the Tennessee:

$65 million cash grant.
$21.7 million in state tax credits.

Incentives from Nashville:

$15 million cash payment based on job creation.

Add them up and you will see the biggest  corporate giveaway in our history. Corporate welfare and crony capitalism are indeed alive and well in the good old U.S.A.

Of course, it’s not news to anyone that capitalism has no ethics or morals. The only question is, will such a system override every other value and principle this country professes to hold dear? Will the rich and powerful demonstrate some ethics and morality on their own? Continue reading

If You See the Stock Market as a Sign of Presidential Success, Then at Least See Clearly

Lest I mislead you, I do not subscribe to the belief that a president should be judged by the stock market. Or that either Mr. Obama or Mr. Trump was the principal driver in the rise of the stock market during their terms. But some people do, especially, it seems, the Trump acolytes who want others to believe Mr. Trump is a good president as proven by rising stock values. The graph undercuts such silly ideas, although, to be honest, I don’t expect facts to have any bearing on the foolish beliefs some of my fellow Americans tout. We are, after all, living in the post-truth era. It’s the narrative that counts. Facts be damned.

When Will Enough Be Enough?

You’d think unions would be thriving today. But they aren’t. The masters have instilled enough fear to keep the serfs in check. And the propagandists have done a great job of selling the story that this is the way it should be because, after all, unconstrained capitalism is what God intended.

When will enough be enough?

I have no idea. But I have to believe the day will come. Eventually.

I Intend to Vote Everyday

Young people tend to think their vote doesn’t matter (compared to the views of older Americans).

Which is a shame. Because their cynicism is directly tied to public policy, which favors older Americans and, quite frankly, is responsible for younger ones getting the shaft these days.

But it is what it is. If young Americans don’t care enough to vote, then I’m not about to feel sorry for them when their government sticks it to them. Decisions have consequences. Both good and bad. Surely they can’t be so stupid not to realize that.

I also don’t get worked up about it because I realize being politically active involves more than voting. A whole lot more. In fact, the case can be made that our vote is a minor political act in the overall scheme of things.

So what’s potentially even more important than voting?
Continue reading

Just So You Can’t Feign Surprise Later

The Treasury Department said government borrowing this year will more than double from 2017 to $1.34 trillion. Thank God we have fiscally responsible Republicans in charge.

And a special thanks to all the Millennials and Generation Zers who will be paying the interest charges on all these bonds. And thanks in advance for not voting next week.¬†The Boomers and their parents aren’t done raiding the cupboard.

The Backlash Is Coming

Excesses lay the groundwork for reversals. And that’s what we’re going to see in your lifetime, Vera. Perhaps in mine.

We are in the midst of an era of excesses now. An excess of capitalism you might say. It began in earnest around 1980 with the Administration of President Reagan. And it’s been accelerating ever since but for a few stalls here and there — notably, the Great Recession.

Which brings us to where we are today: a massive accumulation of wealth among those at the top, stagnant or falling standards of living for most people (in real, current terms), unconstrained consumerism, extremely high levels of public and private debt (including more than $1.5 trillion of student debt), underfunded pensions, ballooning federal deficits propelled by tax cuts for the rich, massive underinvestment in public infrastructure (both physical and intellectual), etc.

In a rare if not unprecedented development, due to massive tax cuts for the rich our federal government is now adding more than $1 trillion to the federal deficit each year. Just think what will happen when the next recession hits, which it will. It’s then the backlash is likely to happen. It’s then that people will come to realize they’ve been lied to and deceived and will react harshly and probably excessively.

I suspect we will then see a political tidal wave that turns the country sharply to the left. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth from the wealthy elite. But it will be too late. Years — indeed, decades — of excesses and unconstrained greed will render the reaction inevitable.

The thing to remember is, it is what it is. Today and tomorrow. And whatever it is, you must find ways to navigate it and live in a way that allows room for love, meaningful relationships, and the things that bring joy into your heart.

Often, it seems humankind puts many roadblocks in the way. We make life harder than it needs to be. If not for ourselves, then for others. It doesn’t have to be that way. Or does it? Sometimes I wonder.

In any case, you are likely to live through a period of change unlike I’ve lived through, Vera. On a macro-basis, it’s highly unlikely you’ll have any say in the matter. But on a micro-basis, you will have a say.

Live your life well. With integrity. And compassion. And you’ll be just fine. No matter what the backlash brings.