Mexicans are mad as hell at a system they see as self-dealing, under-performing and corrupt. That should sound familiar to Americans — not to mention Italians, Britons, and those in every other nation swamped by the populist tide. In Mexico’s case, they’re largely right.
.. Enrique Peña Nieto, the outgoing incumbent, came to office promising to cut the crime rate in half. Instead, Mexico suffered more than 25,000 murders last year, a modern record. He promised an end to corruption. His administration is suspected of spying on anti-graft investigators, and his wife was caught buying a $7 million mansion from a government contractor. He promised economic growth of 6 percent a year. It hardly ever got above 3 percent. The average wage fell by about $1,000 during the Great Recession and hasn’t recovered since.
.. American president, who is also on record saying he couldn’t care less whether his policies hurt them. If AMLO wins, Trump will deserve him.
.. AMLO’s popularity rests on the belief that he will end corruption, bring down crime, and redistribute ill-gotten gains to the people. How, exactly? Just as Trump declared at the 2016 Republican convention that he “alone” could fix a broken system, AMLO seems to have convinced his base that he can just make things happen. “Everything I am saying will be done” is how he punctuates his pledge
.. It’s the way of demagogues everywhere.
.. Trump promises to build border walls, win trade wars, keep us safe from terrorism, and end Obamacare, all at the snap of a finger
.. AMLO promises to fix social inequities that date back 500 years in a single six-year term.
.. compares himself to Benito Juárez, Mexico’s answer to Abraham Lincoln.
.. The idea of steady improvement and gradual amelioration isn’t for him. In Mexico’s current anger he seems at last to have found his moment.
.. it isn’t clear whether the softer rhetoric is anything more than an attempt to allay the fear (which factored heavily in his previous defeats) that he’s a Mexican Hugo Chávez.
.. It especially doesn’t work out well when populist policies collapse (as they generally do) on contact with reality. What typically follows isn’t a course correction by the leader or disillusionment among his followers. It’s an increasingly aggressive hunt for scapegoats: greedy speculators, the deep state, foreign interlopers, dishonest journalists, saboteurs, fifth columnists, and so on.
That’s been the pattern in one populist government after another, from Viktor Orban’s Hungary to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey to, well, Trump’s America. Now Mexico risks being next.
The Trump administration appears to be headed for a trade war on three fronts. As far as anyone can tell, it is simultaneously going to take on China, the European Union and our partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement. The economic fallout will be ugly.
But that’s probably not the whole story: There’s also likely to be ugly political fallout, not just abroad but here at home, too. In fact, I predict that as the downsides of hard-line trade policy become apparent, we’ll see a nasty search by President Trump and company for people to scapegoat. In fact, that search has already started.
.. So did the administration say, “Look, we’re taking a tough stand, and there will be some costs”? Why, no. Instead, Ross declared that the price changes were the work of “antisocial” speculators engaged in “profiteering,” and called for an investigation. See, we aren’t looking at the predictable effects of administration policy; we’re looking at an anti-Trump conspiracy.
.. How will the administration react to the blowback when the trade war really gets going? Will it admit that it misjudged the effects of its policies? Of course not.
What I predict, instead, is that it will start seeing villains under every bed. It will attribute the downsides of trade conflict not to its own actions, but to George Soros and the deep state. I’m not sure how they can work MS-13 into it, but they’ll surely try.
.. The point is that the politics of trade war will probably end up looking like Trump politics in general: a search for innocent people to demonize.
In the worst cases, bouts of capital flight can gain momentum until the value of the currency collapses, plunging the nation into crisis.
.. Balance of payments records show that 10 of the last 12 major currency crises, dating back to the Mexican peso meltdown of 1994, began when residents started sending money abroad, which was typically two years before the currency collapsed. Often politicians blamed “evil” and “immoral” foreign speculators for these crises, but it was the locals who first saw trouble coming.
.. Right now, this forensic accounting offers clear evidence of looming financial difficulty in only one major country: Turkey.
.. Starting early last year, affluent Turks began effectively moving large sums of money out of the country by exchanging their lira bank deposits for dollars and euros, while foreigners continued to buy Turkish assets.
.. Turkey’s millionaires appear to be fleeing both deteriorating financial conditions marked by very high inflation, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on his critics, including those in business.
.. Owing largely to the stability and glitter of the most famous emirate, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates in 2017 had a net inflow of 5,000 millionaires, increasing the size of its affluent population by 6 percent, the largest gain in the world.
.. Britain was among the millionaire havens until 2016, but may continue losing ground until it can resolve the uncertainties raised by Brexit.
.. Savvy locals are also the first to return when a country’s fortunes begin to turn for the better.
.. More broadly, economists and politicians might rethink the blame they heap on “immoral” foreigners in periods of capital flight. They assume global money managers are more sophisticated than provincial locals
but those longtime residents are in fact quicker to spot and respond to trouble in their own backyards