Trump’s Tax on America

It would seem that for the Republican Party, an incompetent, erratic kleptocracy might just be the best form of government.

Or at least it was until March 1, 2018, the day Trump signaled his intention to impose across-the-board import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum. That decision, notes Pat Roberts, a Republican senator from Kansas, “is not going to go down well in farm country.”

..  His worry now is that Trump will pursue “a trade policy that will basically result in all the benefits of the tax reform being taken away by higher manufacturing costs being passed on to consumers.”

.. In the end, American consumers will pay for Trump’s tariffs. Such broad protectionist measures will affect every sector of US manufacturing in one way or another, and manufacturers certainly will not eat the full costs of higher-priced steel and aluminum inputs.

.. So, Trump has essentially proposed a new tax on US consumers and export industries, the costs of which will be borne largely by his own supporters in the American heartland and Rust Belt.

.. It turns out that Trump’s decision was taken against the advice – indeed, over the objections – of not just his

  • chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, but also his
  • national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, his
  • treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and his
  • defense secretary, James Mattis.

On the other hand, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross apparently favors the tariffs. But it is not at all clear why. The Department of Commerce itself surely recognizes that more Americans benefit from lower steel and aluminum prices than from higher prices.

Another supporter of the tariffs is Peter Navarro, who was recently promoted to Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and Director of the White House National Trade Council. That comes as no surprise. Navarro has written a number of alarmist books about America’s trade relationship with China, including one titled Death by China. Nevertheless, Navarro has not yet been able to explain how creating a larger domestic steel industry through tariffs will yield a net benefit for the US economy.

A final key supporter of the tariffs is US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who formerly worked as a lawyer for the steel industry. As with Ross, it is not entirely clear what Lighthizer is thinking. He has to know that Trump’s tariffs will have little to no chance of boosting the US steel and aluminum industries without also imposing substantial costs on the economy. Doesn’t he realize that his own reputation will ultimately depend on whether the administration has a successful trade policy or an obviously stupid one?

Trump says he has nothing to fear from Flynn, then stokes new controversy with tweet

Trump’s lawyers have begged him not to tweet about Russia or the investigation, but the president said repeatedly Friday that he wanted to respond to the Flynn news, associates said.

Cobb has told others that he has been more successful than others at limiting Trump’s tweets because he talks to him frequently and reassures him

Meanwhile, an email written by a Flynn deputy that came to light Saturday suggests that many of Trump’s closest aides were informed that Flynn planned to discuss sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Flynn made a December phone call to Kislyak.

.. Burck said that Priebus “confronted General Flynn several times, including in front of others, on whether he had talked to Kislyak about sanctions and was consistently told he had not.”

.. Trump was in a buoyant mood as he crossed Manhattan on Saturday, bragging about his election win in Rust Belt states and the improving economy.

At several stops, he touted the Senate’s passage of the GOP tax bill and predicted that Democrats who voted against it would lose their next elections.

Trump’s stops included the palatial Upper East Side apartment of Steve Schwarzman, chairman of a global private-equity firm.

.. Trump also told the wealthy donors at the event that the legislation was for the middle class


No Bush, No Trump

Our previous Republican president fails to own up to his responsibility for our current one.

consider the many ways the Bush presidency has shaped and constrained all that’s come since

.. What I found extraordinary, however, was that in a speech littered with references to Russia and China and to the ongoing challenges facing European democracies, Bush never saw fit to utter the word Iraq.

.. if Iraq does indeed come apart, the chaos that would ensue would dwarf what we’ve seen over the course of the Syrian civil war. One would think Bush would have had a lot to say about the sorry state of Iraq and how his decisions might have contributed to it. Alas, he chose to elide such questions.

.. surely he can acknowledge that some of the backlash against the global engagement both he and I support stems from the fact that his war of choice in Iraq proved a discrediting disaster—so much so that when Trump falsely claimed to have opposed the invasion of Iraq from the start, it was enough to supercharge his bid for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

 .. Lest we forget, most of Trump’s rivals were paralyzed by the sense that they had to defend the legacy of President Bush’s war
.. Trump was under no such obligation. Indeed, he presented himself as a cold-eyed realist who’d only invade a country to plunder its resources, a bizarre homage to the old anti-war mantra that Bush’s invasion of Iraq was less a war for democracy than a war for oil.
.. Bush and his allies insisted on creating a series of new guest-worker programs aimed at low-wage workers, who’d have limited rights and limited access to safety-net programs.
..  some on the left, including several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who feared Bush’s guest-worker program would create a class of laborers who’d be vulnerable to exploitation.
.. surely he can appreciate that not everyone sees guest-worker programs in such romantic terms. To many Americans, it looks as though the dynamism that low-wage immigrant workers with scant labor protections bring to America chiefly benefits people like George W. Bush.
.. the president ignores the possibility that his own decisions played a major role in souring voters on free trade.
.. Brad Setser, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations and a former Obama administration official, has argued that had the Bush administration been willing to use the “special safeguards” provision that was part of China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, the U.S. manufacturing sector might have been in a much better position to adapt to Chinese import competition. Instead, the Bush White House stood by as the Chinese engaged in large-scale currency intervention, which in turn made the so-called China shock—the job losses that followed from Chinese import surges—far more severe than it would have been had the U.S. sent a clear signal that it would counter such manipulation.
.. The former president had nothing to say about his role in the devastation of the Rust Belt. Instead, he treated the backlash against free trade as if it were some kind of mania, entirely disconnected from the fact that over the course of his presidency, the U.S. manufacturing sector hemorrhaged jobs, even as productivity outside of the computer and electronics industry was mostly stagnant.
.. his refusal to face up to his own responsibility for the state we’re in is, to my mind, essential to understanding why so many Republican rank-and-file voters are at war with their party’s delusional elites.