Trump-My Thoughts

You can stop now if you want to. No problem. However we are witnessing one of the most, if not the most, unusual candidacies of my lifetime. I watched most of the Trump acceptance speech at the RNC Convention, and found it fascinating. It was a little long, and one could see it in the crowd of true believers from time to time, but after a historic run through sixteen competitors and a convention with several surprising developments, he capped the final evening with a well-constructed and equally well-delivered fiery speech.

This guy is smart. He's clever. And he is used to winning. He's perfected the medium of television as well as social media, and is a compelling speaker with mogul-like looks and a dashing persona. He's also used to being in control and not taking any guff from others. "Hit me and I'll hit back twice as hard" was his mantra. "I'll  apologize if I'm wrong," yet I'm not sure I heard a single apology. Ever.  The problems and issues either were incorrect or false. Always.

Mr. Trump demonstrated over and over his ability to characterize his opponents, each and every one, with simple one-or-two word, clever, cutting, and cruel descriptions. People were low energy, little, unattractive, lying, dumb, etc. He excelled at reducing people as well as situations to a condensed simplification. To this date, these have been effective and have appeared to result in broader support.

His acceptance speech delivery bordered on an angry and harsh riff.  However many of his supporters indeed are angry. He listed problem after problem along with clear blames: they were caused (personally, it seemed) by President Obama and/or Hillary Clinton. Solutions were not specific, but it was clear that he (Donald Trump) would fix them, and fast. There have not been many details on how these things get fixed, but he will personally fix them. Fast. "On ISIS, We're going to win. We're going to win fast." On jobs going to Mexico, China, and other places: "Those companies are going to bring those jobs back and fast."

On immigration: "We are going to build a wall, seal the border, and stop the flow of illegals." Of course the flow of illegals from Mexico has nearly stopped. In fact, the flow of undocumented Mexican citizens over the border now is a net reduction in the US and a net gain in Mexico.The primary source of border crossings is from Central America: El Salvador and Honduras, due to vicious gangs that threaten their helpless citizens. Regarding Syria, "We are going to stop the huge number of people from Syria who are overflowing into our country and who are not vetted and threaten our safety." So far in 2016, the US has accepted 1,285 Syrian refugees, mainly women and children, and all vetted. This modest total is only 13 percent of the target number of ten thousand since Republican governors oppose the resettlement, and vetting is taking longer than usual in order to be thorough. On Muslim immigration, his line has changed from "banning all Muslims" to "I am going to block immigration from any country that doesn't (I can't recall the exact wording here) share our values." That's a hard one to tie down, and writing a policy on that would be tricky. On trade, "I will immediately cancel NAFTA and stop the TPP. Then renegotiate both such that they are great deals and fair."

We are going to redefine NATO. "If the other countries want us to defend them, they will have to pay for it." This last line was modified in his speech to the treaty terms of spending at least two percent of GDP on defense. It is hard to disagree with this, since only four of the NATO block is meeting this commitment. Perhaps it's an opening shot on a renegotiation, but it's not the usual way these things are done. But that's part of Mr. Trump's allure, or threat, depending on your point of view. Our foreign policy since WW-II has been to guarantee a secure Western Europe for many reasons.

On mining, which is of peculiar interest to me since I grew up in coal country in Johnson County, KY and southern WV, his "I will put the miners back to work. Now." pledge has been a theme. This has been packaged inside a "War on Coal" at the hands of Obama and Hillary Clinton. Let me say up front that nowhere are the people (nearly all miners are men) more devoted or harder working than coal miners. In my wife's family, four men earned their living in the mines, or in the mining industry infrastructure (rails, trestles, conveyor belts, processing plants, etc). None could be harder working or more committed. But the problem in coal mining, especially in the deep veins in Appalachia, are many fold. For one, the mines are old and deep and in many cases the easy-to-reach seams are worked out. The coal burns with sulfur emissions and a power plant using it must scrub the exhaust stacks to prevent horrible air pollution ... more expense. The coal from Wyoming is nearly on the surface and can be taken out with huge shovels and put directly into rail cars in many cases. But the two primary impediments to coal mining economics are: (1) The fracking technology has made natural gas much, much more available and at a third to a half the  cost of burning coal, and; (2) One of the primary markets for coal outside the power generation industry is "coking coal" for the steel industry, and the main customer, China, has overbuilt their steel-making capacity and has cut back on taking deliveries of Appalachian coking coal. This is not a quick-fix. President Trump would not be able to fix this coal mining problem, "fast," as he says. But it sounds good on the campaign trail. He probably will crush Hillary Clinton in eastern KY and in WV with this good line. But his simplistic description of the problem, along with someone to villainize, is incomplete and wrong, and his solution just ain't gonna happen.

It's true that a large portion of the American people are frustrated. There is a rapid change in demographics (more Hispanic/Latino population), a higher visibility Muslim  population, plus the old black-white friction, with a growing secular population, especially younger people who are not as closely tied to church. According to Pew Research, millennials, people born between 1977 and 2000, are the least religious generation in American history, with 35 percent saying they are  not religiously affiliated. That does not mean they don't have faith-based beliefs, but they are not active in a religious organization and are more secular. At this time, the single largest voting block in the country is the group that checks "none" for a religion. A final frustration for many, including a significant percentage of evangelicals, is the sweep of high-visibility legal rulings on the LGBT community. Taken all together, many, especially with those who are unemployed, underemployed, frustrated with the sweep of secularism, and nervous with other cultures now so visible, lump all these into "we are losing our country, and we want to take it back."

People who study these things tell us that these resentment feelings are complex, and that solutions to these are very hard to implement. The demographic changes in the US are going to happen no matter what. We are a diverse nation, becoming more so, and the worst thing we could possibly do is to divide along racial or ethnic differences and fight it out along fracture lines. The US has been, overall, immigrant friendly for generations and that's the reason we can assimilate others. It's important as well for new immigrants to blend in and adopt the majority culture of the host country. In general, that has been the case here. Fundamentally, two results are likely when tensions increase like they have at this time: (1) A democratic (small d) reform leader comes along, with a positive theme like Reagan's "Morning in America," or FDR, and impacts the overall economy with education and works projects, or (2) A "strongman" appears with "we have enemies and the we need to be vigilant and protect ourselves" approach. I'm afraid that Mr. Trump, with his simplistic "Things are bad. This is a dangerous and failing place. Let's make American great again. I will fix it," is the latter. We can't go back to a place that doesn't exist any longer.

My thoughts on Hillary Clinton will be posted after the Democratic National Convention is completed.



6 Responses

  1. I want to elaborate on a few points that are often overlooked when comments such as Trump made on immigration, energy, taxes and trade agreements. Remember, Trump is a business man and economics play a big role in his thinking. The economics of immigration are not good. Especially when you take in refugees from whatever regime, you are getting, typically, unskilled people. Simply put, when they get to the US, they will either work for anything or they don't work at all. The former keeps real wages down, the later creates a burden to the economy. Remember, an economy is built on units of work, not units of charity. Building bridges not walls is a romantic ideal, but it will destroy economic power quickly and wage growth quickly. We don't eliminate immigration, but instead we finally manage it. Allowing people into this country who can add value to America rather than drag us down. It might sound cold-hearted, but it is a reality that too many want to ignore. On the subject of trade agreements, because the US has the highest standard of living, by any definition, and thus a higher wage base, the US will lose in almost any trade deal that opens up US markets to lesser economic entities. This is why we have lost our middle class, manufacturing has gone into the global market pool. There is no way we can get that back with absolute free trade. We enhance the welfare of our trading partners and reduce the opportunities for our workers. The upside of trade agreements is that we get cheaper goods and lower inflation, however I think the balance has tipped too far toward our partners. Lastly, energy. It's not just about coal. With fracking technology and Canadian oil sands, North American finally has the opportunity to become energy independent. Cheap energy can also bring jobs to the US. The current administration, through excessive environmental regulation and denying projects such as the Keystone Pipeline project that would bring Canadian crude into the US in an economical fashion have stymied the move to energy independence. We all want clean air and clean water and we should continue those efforts. The fact is oil can be extracted safely and cleanly if not prevented from doing so by government regulations. One more comment on taxes. Theoretically, you can't tax businesses. They simply pass that on to the consumer who pays the corporate tax as part of the purchase price of the product. If you want to raise inflation, raise corporate taxes and the price of goods will go up. Americans do not understand this. Corporate tax rates in the US are among the highest in world. It is expensive to locate your business in the US. If we want jobs back, let's lower that corporate rates and welcome back our middle class economy Our unemployment rate is grossly understated and add to that under employment and you have started to erode the American Dream. Our economic policies have enhanced the lives of others in the world, at the expense of American citizens. While Trump wouldn't have been my pick for the Republican ticket, he is the only shot we have at changing the current direction. No candidate can deliver on all their promises, few can deliver on even a majority of their promises. What a candidate says vice what they do are often worlds apart. However, the President can set the direction and in my mind that is what needs to change. America needs a new direction if we are to strengthen our economy and bring back some measure of prosperity to the middle class.
  2. Hi Jim, Thanks for your well thought out “Trump – my thoughts” piece. For my part, I have to say that I found Trump’s acceptance speech at the RNC cathartic. It was a good sum-up of the best of what he had said on the campaign trail (with more polish in places). I do believe that while Trump tends towards hyperbole (i.e., many of the problems are not as easy to fix as he states). I take the blustering for what it’s worth, and separate out the wheat (of what he thinks is important) from the chaff (of how quickly he thinks he can solve it). It’s his very framing of the issues in itself that makes me a Trump supporter. Except for Bernie Sanders addressing our unfair long-term trade deficit problem, no one else has even come close. I won’t reiterate the numerous individual issues, but I think that there are four very big root causes that have been ignored. 1) Since around 1994, CEO pay has largely depended on getting the company price stock up. Forget that stable, reliable company of the past that had been producing high quality good for years. Growth (along with its accompanying increased stock value) at all costs is where it’s now: whether it’s branching out in questionable mergers (HP-Compaq comes to mind) , whether it’s moving jobs overseas to cut costs (or to put up with sloppy, disorganized management), or whether it’s canceling the R&D division for the sake of short term profits. I’m sure those CEOs have more tricks than I can even imagine, and I absolutely do not invest in the stock market because I regard most company stock prices as largely a product of CEO bs. The pursuit of future stock value (or at least its perception) - has shipped our jobs and call centers overseas (with a frequent reduction in quality), and otherwise trashed our industrial base. Naturally, these CEOs would be nuts to support Trump, as he wants to close off their option of off shoring (as a means of raising stock prices). I predict that if Trump becomes president, U.S. beef imports to Japan will soar. Harley Davidson motorcycles exports to Japan will soar (unlike Suzuki’s on this side of the Pacific, there is a huge demand for Harleys in Japan – along with a considerable import tax). 2) Whether it’s Black Lives Matter in the face of black social statistics, or Muslim integration in the face of Europe’s experience - political correctness has run amok. Our press seems to be dominated by a set of “Let them eat cake” elitists eager to put a “racist or “Nazi” label on what should be free speech. The opposite of Hitler is not Mother Teresa. The opposite of Hitler is Duke Nuke ‘em land, whether it’s our inner city death scapes or reciting “Allahu Akbar” before a mass murder . Pick up a copy of Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart”. In Chapter 4 there is a test (“How Thick is Your Bubble?”). Read it, take it – then reflect on the background of most journalists. How many of them have ever spent time on a factory floor or in physical pain from a day’s work (and no, carpal tunnel syndrome does not count). Pick up a copy of “While Europe Slept” by Bruce Bawer or “Islam, the Future of Tolerance” by Sam Harris and Maajid Hawaz. There are many more (respectable, non-nutcase) books on these genres. They all say the same basic things. I predict that there will be a major attack on a synagogue during the Jewish holidays this fall. Naturally, I hope I am wrong. And as an aside – guns sales are booming. I target shoot as a hobby, and (since Ferguson) have had problems finding ammo . More than in previous years – I overhear others at the counter purchasing guns (not for target shooting but) for protection. Think about it. Delusion? Fear mongering? Unlike the press, I don’t think so. Whether it’s the Palestinians (and their left wing supporters over here) over Israel, or the blacks over residual racism – victimization has run amok in public discourse (and perhaps in social studies classes), in a manner similar to the Germans over Versailles (and we all know how that one developed). Owing to a lack of leadership (on basic world view issues of what is right and what is wrong) which started with Ferguson, a bifurcating momentum is rapidly picking up steam. Now compare the candidates statements and meetings. Which one is more akin to playing Chamberlain at Munich? 3) Now that the cold war is over, the military industrial complex has run amok. Minus Social Security (which pays for itself at the moment), our 800 billion dollar military budget makes up half of federal spending and dwarfs everyone else’s. (China is next at 300 billion, followed by Russia at 85 billion). And for what? Nato against the Russian threat? Please read Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”. Those countries (including east vs. west Ukraine) are lining up along their cultural boundaries. Needless to say – military contractors aren’t likely to be contributing to the Republican party this election cycle either. 4) Jim, we both were equally frustrated when Bush betrayed the post 9/11 unity of our country and attacked Iraq for weapons of mass destruction that were not there – blowing Valerie Plame’s cover when she called him on it well before the fact, and ignoring the Saudis who were responsible. Bush and Cheney pushing that war was a cross between Benedict Arnold and a Nuremberg war crime. It trashed America’s post 1900 “honest broker” role in the world (starting with Teddy Roosevelt getting the Nobel Prize for facilitating an end to the Russo-Japanese War). The opposition to that bs did more to get Obama elected than anything else (and I was an Obama supporter until Ferguson. Among other things – he got Osama Bin Laden). I hope that any politician who did not call Bush on that war – and tries to “brass it out” while hoping that the public’s memory is short – never gets elected to anything. Trump called the basis for the Iraq War a “big fat lie”. On that frank statement alone (and all other things being equal), he’d have my vote. Admittedly, I do not understand why we are bombing them (in the Mideast) over there and letting them in over here – but at least Trump has that half right (i.e., don’t let them in over here). I do not understand how military action can defeat ISIS (like being tough is all it will take. To a large extent ISIS, Al Qaida, The Taliban (I loose track of them all) have to be popular movements. And lord knows - we have had sooo much success suppressing popular movements in the past). I do not understand how a country that spends 800 billion dollars a year (half of the non-Social Security federal budget) could even think of increasing military spending (but at least Trump is questioning the weapons system that the politicians vs. the generals want, and the cost of defending the trip wire alliances we have all over the world). When Trump says things like: “no one’s going to be better on women’s health issues than me” I know he is full of it (i.e., he doesn’t know any more about it than I do). On many, many things Trump tends towards this type of hyperbola. But unlike the press – I think I can recognize bs when I hear it (I watch Trump’s speeches on YouTube rather than rely on press reporting. CNN, the New York Times, The BBC, Stern and Spiegel are especially awful), and I think I can separate out the chaff from the wheat. And that’s why I support Trump. Matter of style and bluster do not matter to me. Nitpicking about (non teleprompter polished) ad hoc inconsistencies are cheap (Listen to our wives. We all make them). Ad hominem attacks on Trump supporters being caught up in his showmanship (per a New York Review of Books article) are irrelevant. When it comes to addressing what I think is important, I do not think anyone even comes close to Trump. Regards, - Ken
  3. I have watched with horror and fascination as Trump has defied every convention on his way to the Republican nomination. He has belittled his opponents at every turn, openly lied about almost anything he's said, and when he is called on it doubles down on his statements. While he has the Republican nomination, I don't have any idea of what he will do if he is voted in; he hasn't said what he will do and seems to have no underlying morality or convictions that will dictate what he will do. The basic theme of his acceptance speech- "I will fix everything, and only I can do it"- is a dangerous message, usually spoken only by dictator-wannabes. In my 64 years, I have never seen a presidential election with two such reviled candidates. The negatives for both candidates are over 50%, yet someone has to win. I just can't imagine what might happen to this country if its Trump.
  4. JK James George
    Here are some comments received via email. I have to admit, with some surprise, that these comments, all by very respectable and impressive people whom I find to be top-flight caught me by surprise. But here they are w/out any changes other than eliminating any ID tie to the senders: 1. You do know there are more than two candidates, right? I'm voting for Gary Johnson. 2. I'm glad I am nearing the end of my tenure on the planet. I'm unable at present to say which of these miserable individuals will be leading America into the void. 3. Thanks Jim. This is another election when both VP candidates are more popular than the Presidential one! 4. I hope you include in your next posting the fact if we are foolish enough to elect Hillary it will be the first time we have elected a criminal as our president! 5. Thanks for a very thoughtful analysis of Trump's speech. I appreciate your view point. I think that most folks in America are more affected by their city council member, than the President. Yet when they vote, they vote in the Presidential election. Those of us who live abroad are more affected by the President's foreign policy. President Obama and Hillary Clinton have left the World in flames. Trump is a scary unknown, but from this chair, Hillary is a lot scarier.
  5. JK James George
    The scene at the RNC was more of a personality cult than a procession of ideas. The bold "1984-like" scene of the huge stage with one word: TRUMP, reminded me of someone who is drunk on power, with only one tactic: "I will fix it." Or "I'll being in Carl Icahn, and he will fix China." Really? The entire professional diplomatic and state department staff over the last twenty years is all stupid and incompetent. Really? Trump to me is the worst bad dream I could ever imagine. He's leading the country down a horrible path, with non-subtle suggestions that we would be okay with less "non-Americans" and more 1950's culture, and perhaps not serious about European NATO treaty commitments. He accuses others of ill-gotten gains while living in a penthouse, traveling on his personal fleet of airplanes and helicopters, and manipulating the bankruptcy laws to his advantage because "he is smart and everyone is dumb, or crooked," Is this really the Kool-aid you accuse us of drinking? Are the trade agreements a disaster? With regard to Mexico and Canada for NAFTA, the cross-border trade has been a benefit to all three at an over-all economic level. Certain jobs that can be done with lower skill levels can be done in Mexico, and that keeps people there from streaming into this country. I'm definitely concerned that we don't simply outsource jobs so the result is that people lose jobs that could and should be done here, with the lousy consolation that we can buy the same products we used to make, but at lower prices at Wallmart while our workers are on food stamps and the dole. I'm particularly sensitive to China, which violates US Intellectual property rights by trying to steal the technology and than "magically" ten or fifteen years later, those plants that used to produce the goods for American companies suddenly go into business, with Chinese government backing you can be sure, and compete with us. Look for that to happen in computers, automobiles, airplanes, and other stuff. Apple's golden age of having their wondrous stuff made over there might not look so brilliant in ten years when a "Chinese Apple" cascade of products starts. Maybe Apple can stay ahead with continuous innovations, so that no competitor can emulate them. But don't bet on it. You can be sure that the Chinese are not betting on it. We have to maintain the manufacturing skills in metal work and machining so that we don't find we can't bring manufacturing back. Look at Germany for the model of this intelligent strategy. Yes, Trump taps into fears and concerns, and these need to be addressed, but not by an egotistical strongman. Heaven help this country is he wins.
  6. Jim, You present Donald Trump as if you knew him -- direct, flashes of genius along with bizarre and belligerent statements. Well written. Honestly? I am saddened by the two choices left for Americans to choose from in our upcoming Presidential race. You might have guessed I was a Bernie supporter, who liked his progressive vision to lessen income inequality, such as sick leave and increases in minimum wages, attacking climate change and making health care a single payer, just like our Medicare. I often heard that 'Bernie can't win' - his ideas can never be paid for.' What is worth mentioning to defend Bernie Sanders' platform are the recommendations from Christine Lagarde, the IMF Monetary Managing Director, at a news conference concerning the United States. Lagarde noted that "The U.S. faces longer term economic problems, including an aging labor force, weak productivity growth and growing income inequality."She recommends " raising minimum wage to help the poor and offering maternity and sick leave to encourage more women to work. She also added tax breaks for low-income Americans." As you can see, many of her ideas are strikingly similar to Sanders. I rest my case. Sara Vance Source for Christine Lagarde: "Albuquerque Journal", Business, reported by Paul Wiseman, an AP Economics Writer on June 22, 2016.

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