The following are some random thoughts and observations about the unfolding transition of Donald Trump’s presidency. (I still can’t believe I’m writing those words.)
- Wow, for a guy pushing 70, this guy has a motor! I stayed up the night of the election until it was clear he had won, which happened about 3 AM on the morning of the 9th. I was exhausted for the next several days. Not Trump. Two days after the election he was at the White House to meet with President Obama and then on to Capitol Hill for a series of meetings. The next day he launched into an endless stream of meetings with potential staff members – up to twenty meetings a day – and still had the energy to be “tweeting” at 3 o’clock in the morning. Yesterday – Thanksgiving Day – he was even on the phone with the CEO of the Carrier Corporation trying to convince them that moving their manufacturing operations to Mexico was a bad idea. The guy is clearly a workaholic.
- In order to push forward his agenda, he needs a cabinet staffed with like-minded individuals, not a “team of rivals” as some have suggested. I’ve been pretty pleased with his picks thus far, but I really hope he doesn’t pick Romney for Secretary of State. Romney might soothe ruffled feathers among traditional Republicans and calm nerves among foreign leaders with his polished style and globalist outlook, but that’s not what Trump needs. He needs someone who can look China in the eye and tell them “tough s___” when they complain about Trump’s trade policy. That’s definitely not Romney. Giuliani would be a much better choice.
- Trump has softened his stand on illegal immigrants somewhat, vowing to deport or incarcerate 2-3 million of the worst among them, but expressing a willingness to “consider” the rest. I’m OK with that as long as he “builds a wall” or takes whatever other actions are necessary to put a halt to illegal border crossings and to immediately deport those who still do make it across. A pleasant surprise has been his vow to also crack down on some legal immigration, like the H1B visa program which is designed purely to hold down wages. The program, and others like it, should be completely eliminated.
- Early on, Obama began assembling a team of economic advisors, mostly academics, largely from Harvard. No wonder his vow to tackle the trade deficit was quickly abandoned. So far I’ve heard none of this about Trump’s transition team. Unless I’ve missed something, there hasn’t been a single mention of an “economic advisor.” Good. He doesn’t need any. His economic plans are right on target and he would be hard pressed to find any economists who wouldn’t steer him in the wrong direction.
- So far, his plans to impose tariffs on Mexico and China, though a huge step in the right direction, are too timid. Tariffs on auto parts from Mexico will only make U.S. auto manufacturers less competitive with imports from Japan, South Korea and Germany. Tariffs on Chinese imports will only move manufacturers to India, Vietnam, Indonesia and other countries with huge labor forces. To be successful, he needs to extend his tariff plans to include all products from all such countries.
- I’ve heard some pundits proclaim that some manufacturing jobs won’t come back to the U.S. no matter what he does with trade policy. That’s absolute nonsense. If tariffs raise prices to the point where products can be made profitably in the U.S., then someone will seize the opportunity and do exactly that. For example, if Apple doesn’t move its i-phone manufacturing back to the U.S., then someone else will soon undercut them with cheaper and better phones made right here in the states.
- Manufacturers who have moved to China might be wise to not even wait for tariffs to be implemented. They’d be smart to move their equipment back to the U.S. before China prevents such moves.
- Despite all the fear-mongering by free trade and globalization cheerleaders about the dangers of “protectionism,” investors seem to be betting on the opposite. In fact, we see the same thing happening in Britain in the wake of “Brexit.” I’m reminded of an old saying: “Money talks and BS walks.”
- The media has been wringing their hands over potential conflicts of interest with Trump’s vast and far-flung business empire. It’s a potential concern, but everyone knew it when they voted for him and it’s not something he can divest overnight. Let’s give it time to play out.
- Trump’s not an inspirational orator like Obama has been. That’s OK. I’ll happily trade that trait for someone who can get things done to fix our immigration mess and our idiotic trade policy.
There should be no misconceptions that this will be anything but a wild ride. It’s going to be absolutely fascinating to watch it play out and, if he follows through on his campaign promises on immigration and trade, we’re going to witness a transformation in the U.S. economy that no one even thought possible.