Oh, poor, poor Bobo. He’s got a BAD case of buyer’s remorse. In “The Politics of Cowardice” he moans that the party of Trump is a far cry from the party of Reagan. Actually, Bobo, not all that far. Mr. Cohen, in “The Closing of Trump’s America,” says a rough translation of “America First” is Muslims last. Or browns last. Don’t forget about that moronic wall, Roger. In “Making the Rust Belt Rustier” Prof. Krugman says that manufacturing will decline faster under President Trump. But of course it will be Obama’s fault, right? Here’s Bobo, to be followed by a comment from “James Landi” of Salisbury, MD:
This is a column directed at high school and college students. I’m going to try to convey to you how astoundingly different the Republican Party felt when I was your age.
The big guy then was Ronald Reagan. Temperamentally, though not politically, Reagan was heir to the two Roosevelts. He inherited a love of audacity from T.R. and optimism and charm from F.D.R.
He had a sunny faith in America’s destiny and in America’s ability to bend global history toward freedom. He had a sunny faith in the free market to deliver prosperity to all. He had a sunny faith in the power of technology to deliver bounty and even protect us from nuclear missiles.
He could be very hard on big government or the Soviet Union, but he generally saw the world as a welcoming place; he looked for the good news in others and saw the arc of history bending toward progress.
When he erred it was often on the utopian side of things, believing that tax cuts could pay for themselves, believing that he and Mikhail Gorbachev could shed history and eliminate all nuclear weapons.
The mood of the party is so different today. Donald Trump expressed the party’s new mood to David Muir of ABC, when asked about his decision to suspend immigration from some Muslim countries: “The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What, you think this is going to cause a little more anger? The world is an angry place.”
Consider the tenor of Trump’s first week in office. It’s all about threat perception. He has made moves to build a wall against the Mexican threat, to build barriers against the Muslim threat, to end a trade deal with Asia to fight the foreign economic threat, to build black site torture chambers against the terrorist threat.
Trump is on his political honeymoon, which should be a moment of joy and promise. But he seems to suffer from an angry form of anhedonia, the inability to experience happiness. Instead of savoring the moment, he’s spent the week in a series of nasty squabbles about his ratings and crowd sizes.
If Reagan’s dominant emotional note was optimism, Trump’s is fear. If Reagan’s optimism was expansive, Trump’s fear propels him to close in: Pull in from Asian entanglements through rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Pull in from European entanglements by disparaging NATO. It’s not a cowering, timid fear; it’s more a dark, resentful porcupine fear.
We have a word for people who are dominated by fear. We call them cowards. Trump was not a coward in the business or campaign worlds. He could take on enormous debt and had the audacity to appear at televised national debates with no clue what he was talking about. But as president his is a policy of cowardice. On every front, he wants to shrink the country into a shell.
J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote, “A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a shortcut to meet it.”
Desperate to be liked, Trump adopts a combative attitude that makes him unlikable. Terrified of Mexican criminals, he wants to build a wall that will actually lock in more undocumented aliens than it will keep out. Terrified of Muslim terrorists, he embraces the torture policies guaranteed to mobilize terrorists. Terrified that American business can’t compete with Asian business, he closes off a trade deal that would have boosted annual real incomes in the United States by $131 billion, or 0.5 percent of G.D.P. Terrified of Mexican competition, he considers slapping a 20 percent tariff on Mexican goods, even though U.S. exports to Mexico have increased 97 percent since 2005.
Trump has changed the way the Republican Party sees the world. Republicans used to have a basic faith in the dynamism and openness of the free market. Now the party fears openness and competition.
In the summer of 2015, according to a Pew Research Center poll, Republicans said free trade deals had been good for the country by 51 to 39 percent. By the summer of 2016, Republicans said those deals had been bad for America by 61 percent to 32 percent.
It’s not that the deals had changed, or reality. It was that Donald Trump became the Republican nominee and his dark fearfulness became the party’s dark fearfulness. In this case fear is not a reaction to the world. It is a way of seeing the world. It propels your reactions to the world.
As Reagan came to office he faced refugee crises, with suffering families coming in from Cuba, Vietnam and Cambodia. Filled with optimism and confidence, Reagan vowed, “We shall seek new ways to integrate refugees into our society,” and he delivered on that promise.
Trump faces a refugee crisis from Syria. And though no Syrian-American has ever committed an act of terrorism on American soil, Trump’s response is fear. Shut them out.
Students, the party didn’t used to be this way. A mean wind is blowing.
Here’s hoping that no students believe this line of horse pucky… And here’s what “James Landi” had to say to Bobo:
“UGH! David’s alt-reality reinvents Reagan, and air-brushes out the ugly, unacceptable, cynically divisive and un American dark side of reactionary radical racist Reagan. The Philadelphia, Mississippi, “welfare queen” Reagan, the Grenada invasion Reagan, the Beirut bombing Reagan, the Iran Contra Reagan, the anti-EPA Reagan, the cynical divisive B grade movie actor who set the anti-intellectual tone and substance for what has devolved into the modern day Party of Lincoln.”
Next up we have Mr. Cohen:
Donald Trump is an ahistorical man. He knows nothing of European history and cares less, as his cavalier trashing of the alliance and union that ushered the Continent from its darkest hours demonstrates.
He knows little enough of American history to have chosen as his rallying cry “America First,” a slogan with a past clouded by allies-be-damned isolationism at the start of World War II. (Or perhaps that’s why he embraced it.)
The president does not even know the history of the C.I.A., as his self-regarding speech before the hallowed Memorial Wall showed. This was desecration of patriotic sacrifice through advanced narcissistic disorder.
He called the speech a “home run.”
Great. Terrific. Phenomenal. Tremendous. Fabulous. Beautiful. How Trump has hollowed out these words. How arid, even nauseating, he has made them. They mean nothing. They are space-fillers issuing with a thudding regularity from his uncurious mind, and in the end of course they are all about him. Emptying words of meaning is an essential step on the road to autocratic rule. People need to lose their bearings before they prostrate themselves.
From Trump’s White House there now seeps a kind of ignorance mixed with vulgarity and topped with meanness that I find impossible to wash from my skin. I wake up to its oleaginous texture.
This is worse than had seemed possible: Trump’s inexhaustible obsession with the crowd size at the inauguration; his constant untruths; his perverse inability to accept that he won the election, to the point that he wants to investigate the popular vote that he lost; his startling lust for torture, walls, banishment and carnage.
“The world is a total mess,” he told David Muir of ABC. Funny, I travel the world and that was not my impression a week ago.
The president does not like Muslims. That, too, is clear. It was obvious when he called during the campaign for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. It was obvious when he showed contempt for the parents of a fallen Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq. It is obvious now as he attempts to justify a planned suspension of visas for Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis and citizens of four other majority Muslim Middle Eastern and African countries, as well as a temporary ban on almost all refugees.
A rough translation of “America First” is Muslims last. “It’s not the Muslim ban,” Trump insisted to Muir. No. It’s just a ban on lots of Muslims.
Trump said, in the ABC interview, that the people to be barred “are going to come in and cause us tremendous problems.” He declared: “They’re ISIS.”
There is no credible evidence for this wild claim, a smear on entire populations. (Saudi Arabia, the source of most 9/11 terrorists, is unsurprisingly not on the list.)
In their overwhelming majority refugees are fleeing violence in their homelands, not plotting it against the United States. They do not put their little children in dinghies on the high seas because they have a choice but because they have no choice.
Screening to get into the United States is already rigorous, one reason only a tiny fraction of some 5 million Syrian refugees have come here.
A Cato Institute study of refugees admitted to the United States between 1975 and 2015 found that the chance of an American being killed in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion.
This is policy fed by anger and prejudice, not reason. The wall announcement has already provoked a damaging clash with Mexico. The proposed visa and refugee measures are not about keeping America safe. They are conceived to nurture an atmosphere of nationalist xenophobia.
Trump has been right to call jihadi Islamist terrorism by its name. But conflating a religion of 1.6 billion people with it is no way to fight it. As for his promise of safe areas within Syria, we will see.
I am lucky enough to live in Brooklyn Heights with a view out over the East River to lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. So while watching President Donald Trump’s dark inaugural speech a week ago I was able at the same time to glance out at the torch that symbolizes American openness and generosity of spirit.
As Trump’s “AMERICA FIRST,” “AMERICA FIRST” echoed across my living room I thought of Emma Lazarus’ words inscribed on the pedestal of the statue:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.”
Friedrich Trump, a penniless German immigrant, was one of those “huddled masses” back in 1885. Lucky he did not attempt to enter the America taking shape under his grandson.
Over time, but not without struggle, I believe the torch will prove stronger than Trump’s fear-filled jingoistic darkness. With the stranger comes renewal. America cannot be itself without it, and Americans will fight for their idea. It is, after all, how they became who they are.
And now here’s Prof. Krugman:
Donald Trump will break most of his campaign promises. Which promises will he keep?
The answer, I suspect, has more to do with psychology than it does with strategy. Mr. Trump is much more enthusiastic about punishing people than he is about helping them. He may have promised not to cut Social Security and Medicare, or take health insurance away from the tens of millions who gained coverage under Obamacare, but in practice he seems perfectly willing to satisfy his party by destroying the safety net.
On the other hand, he appears serious about his eagerness to reverse America’s 80-year-long commitment to expanding world trade. On Thursday the White House said it was considering a 20 percent tariff on all imports from Mexico; doing so wouldn’t just pull the U.S. out of NAFTA, it would violate all our trading agreements.
Why does he want this? Because he sees international trade the way he sees everything else: as a struggle for dominance, in which you only win at somebody else’s expense.
His Inaugural Address made that perfectly clear: “For many decades we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry.” And he sees punitive tariffs as a way to stop foreigners from selling us stuff, and thereby revive the “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape.”
Unfortunately, as just about any economist could tell him — but probably not within his three-minute attention span — it doesn’t work that way. Even if tariffs lead to a partial reversal of the long decline in manufacturing employment, they won’t add jobs on net, just shift employment around. And they probably won’t even do that: Taken together, the new regime’s policies will probably lead to a faster, not slower, decline in American manufacturing.
How do we know this? We can look at the underlying economic logic, and we can also look at what happened during the Reagan years, which in some ways represent a dress rehearsal for what’s coming.
Now, I’m talking about the reality of Reagan, not the Republicans’ legend, which assigns all blame for the early-1980s recession to Jimmy Carter and all credit for the subsequent recovery to the sainted Ronald. In fact, that whole cycle had almost nothing to do with Reagan policies.
What Reagan did do, however, was blow up the budget deficit with military spending and tax cuts. This drove up interest rates, which drew in foreign capital. The inflow of capital, in turn, led to a stronger dollar, which made U.S. manufacturing uncompetitive. The trade deficit soared — and the long-term decline in the share of manufacturing in overall employment accelerated sharply.
Notably, it was under Reagan that talk of “deindustrialization” and the use of the term “Rust Belt” first became widespread.
It’s also worth pointing out that the Reagan-era manufacturing decline took place despite a significant amount of protectionism, especially a quota on Japanese car exports to America that ended up costing consumers more than $30 billion in today’s prices.
Will we repeat this story? The Trump regime will clearly blow up the deficit, mainly through tax cuts for the rich. (Funny, isn’t it, how all the deficit scolds have gone quiet?) True, this may not boost spending very much, since the rich will save much of their windfall while the poor and the middle class will face harsh benefits cuts. Still, interest rates have already risen in anticipation of the borrowing surge, and so has the dollar. So we do seem to be following the Reagan playbook for shrinking manufacturing.
It’s true that Mr. Trump appears ready to practice a much more extreme form of protectionism than Reagan, who avoided outright violations of existing trade deals. This could help some manufacturing industries. But it will also drive the dollar higher, hurting others.
And there’s a further factor to consider: The world economy has gotten a lot more complex over the past three decades. These days, hardly anything is simply “made in America,” or for that matter “made in China”: Manufacturing is a global enterprise, in which cars, planes and so on are assembled from components produced in multiple countries.
What will happen to this enterprise if the United States takes a meat ax to the agreements that govern international trade? There will, inevitably, be huge dislocation: Some U.S. factories and communities will benefit, but others will be hurt, bigly, by the loss of markets, crucial components or both.
Economists talk about the “China shock,” the disruption of some communities by surging Chinese exports in the 2000s. Well, the coming Trump shock will be at least as disruptive.
And the biggest losers, as with health care, will be white working-class voters who were foolish enough to believe that Donald Trump was on their side.
Or, as was pointed out in “Blazing Saddles,”:
You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.