The man is alone in this huge house with all his advisers gone for the holidays. This is a moment of freedom for tweeting and plotting his revenge against all who, in his perception, have crossed him during the last year and those which he has yet to fully punish for previous offenses. But more so it is time to tune up his final touches for the presidential campaign in which he is going to have all the time to watch his only likely opponents: the fragmented Democrats.
On the Republican side which he dominates with a solid base of over 40% of the US population unconditionally dedicated to him, he has managed to so control the pursestrings of the donors of the Republican party that any opposition within the party is muzzled. This was demonstrated in the impeachment proceedings in Congress. Even though before the hearings there had been some differing views from some isolated members, they were quickly quenched in the name of solidarity of the party and at the time of the vote there was not a single dissenting voice from Republicans. A sole contestant in the Republican party for the nomination presidency is Bill Weld a former governor of Massachusetts who is going to enter the New Hampshire primary financing his campaign on a shoestring with his own funds hoping to make a breakthrough in a State where anybody can vote regardless of party affiliation. The Trump organisation has blocked any possible source of funds from Republican coffers for his campaign.
So, to understand how this strange President thinks: He is the President and every branch of government should be at his command not necessarily for the good of the country but to support him in his bid for re-election and his elusive search for the title of greatest ever President of the United States. Once one understands this underlying premise, it is easy to analyze his past actions during the presidency and understand how in his mind his call to Ukraine was perfect, innocent and beautiful! If one analyzes his boasting of his achievements one can grasp the mechanics of his manoeuvres.
What better illustration than his ranting letter to speaker Pelosi where he boasts of his numerous achievements of which we will select only a few i.e. those that really matter for the election. According to the New York Times, his first claim “ Your party simply cannot compete with our record: 7 million new jobs” is exaggerated by a few hundred thousand jobs. More important it hides President Obama’s second-term performance during which, according to the labor bureau, between Jan 2012 to Jan 2016, over 9 million jobs were added. Crucially, during the same period, unemployment plunged by over 5 million whereas by contrast, so far under the Trump regime, it has fallen by just under two million. In addition, an overlooked fact well-known by economists is that the first 18 to 24 months of economic performance are greatly impacted by the policies of the previous regime.
Although for once he does not brag about the stellar performance of the stock market, he does mention his tax reductions and deregulation as a boost to the economy. For sure his attempts at deregulation are long overdue and welcome. They improved manufacturing conditions, but the results are marginal as they affect only about 7% of the economy. However, his corporate tax concessions, albeit at a cost of increased budget deficit, were designed to create reinvestment to lift the manufacturing capacity at home and boost the real economy. Instead of creating long term investment, this policy has allowed the large corporations to repatriate billions stashed in accounts abroad and has resulted in share buybacks, boosting the earnings per share and thus lifting the stock markets. Potus did not waste time to claim in his tweets that the record levels of the markets were the proof he had improved the economy.
Contrary to his boast, he cannot take any credit for the fact that America has become energy independent and is now a great exporter of natural gas and even oil. This is due to the shale oil fracking technology invented by George Mitchell, a son of Greek immigrants. The industry grew rapidly in the present decade weaning the US from its dependency of Oil and Gas principally from the Middle East. The President had nothing to do with it but claims it all, a good electoral ploy.
The increasing deficits under the present administration—665 Billion in 2017, 779 Billion in 2018, 984 Billion in 2019 and a projected massive 1100 Billion for 2020—which should give a total deficit of at least 3528 Billion during his mandate. This compares with the first four years of the Obama administration’s 4159 Billion following the great recession caused by the previous Bush administration. However, in his second term when the economy had begun to recover, he managed to reduce the deficit to only 2188 Billion. As Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said this bulging series of deficits by the present administration is likely to degenerate into inflation and as Koumoundouros suspects a fall in the value of the US Dollar.
He trumpets his nomination of more than 170 new federal judges and two Supreme Court Justices as a great feat. There is no doubt that his selection of younger judges of traditionalist leaning has shifted the balance towards more conservative judgements in particular pro life. Whether this is a positive move or not is a matter of opinion which can be argued probably equally each way. The importance is that this policy has secured his absolute control over the Republican party and a 40% solid electoral base. In addition, most of this base is in a large number of relatively sparsely populated states that have each two senators, a great assistance in tumultuous times when everyone wants to be re-elected.
The withdrawal from the climate accord is a very poor decision destined to reinforce his core majority but unlikely to deviate the policies of the most populous states such as California or New York and therefore the US contribution to the reduction in emissions. What is regrettable, is that the US withdrawing from the accord is likely to encourage other large economies to loosen the brakes.
His foreign policy rests on two legs: his trade wars and his uncharted attempts to reshape American policies. The trade wars do not appear to have benefited the US industry and have certainly caused great pain to the farming sector. His quest to find new friends has certainly not generated the anticipated progress. North Korea has more bombs than before his rapprochement and Iran is getting closer to the bomb as a result of his denunciation of the Iran Nuclear accord. What will happen in Afghanistan and Pakistan is probably what they deserve and there one can understand the President even if he has not conducted a properly engineered strategical retreat. His withdrawal from Syria is inexcusable leaving the field to Turkey and Russia at the expense of the Kurds who were crucial to the US led forces in defeating Daesh and killing of Al Baghdadi: the latter being Trump’s trophy which he considers equivalent to Obama’s elimination of Bin Laden.
Miles Davis said that in a good piece of music the missing notes are the most important. Missing from his statement of list of mighty deeds is his denunciation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Was he right to start a new arms’ race? No mention either of his Huawei ban and the technology threat branded as a spying threat. Gone are the daily statements off the Venezuelan counter-revolution. Ukraine is the decoy for Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections. As to jobs, they are on the increase, but these are low paid jobs and the dreams of reshoring manufacturing jobs in the US are fading as fast as the illusions of limiting the imports of German cars.
Notwithstanding his narcissism, Trump is a fighter and he embodies authoritarianism, a feature that has ingratiated him with the core American white population of the middle and southern states. Not only do they resent all the non-whites including immigrant and Muslims but they revel in Christian fundamentalism and distrust all those connected with the arts and humanities. To them Trump is the god-sent warrior that will protect them. That is his core electorate. But to win the next election he needs to also appeal to the independents. His only option is to promote himself through projecting an image of a great achiever. If he can gather a sufficient share of their votes in the few key states that will confer him an electoral majority, he will be re-elected.
As during those past few days, fueled by his resentment over his impeachment, he pressure-cooked his anger, he certainly must have been concocting some grandiose schemes. As a show business person, he knows he needs to display constant activity and he therefore will seize any situation no matter how risky and regardless of the long term damage it may do to interest of the country if it likely to provide an electoral pay off. Hopefully these new policies will not disturb the precarious international balance especially in the Middle East where his friendship with Saudi Arabia is most dangerous.
Whatever happens in the next election, it would appear that the US is retreating in its own cocoon. What Europe must learn is that NATO is moribund and that it must work hard to create a credible unified defense force as the traditional bond with the US is loosening by the day. Further the use of sanctions and the abusive use of the Dollar as a sword is unacceptable and that alternative exchange currencies must be strengthened to compete against the US Dollar in world trade.