Biden “inherits” record trade deficit. Will he do anything about it?

February 8, 2021

The trade data released by the Commerce Department last week marked another sad milestone in America’s economic decline. The December balance of trade in manufactured goods set another new record -$87.3 billion – beating the previous record set only one month earlier. That’s an annualized deficit of $1.05 trillion and represents a loss of approximately fourteen million high-paying manufacturing jobs.

2020, the final year of Trump’s presidency, was by far the worst on record in terms of the trade deficit. In the title of this post, the word “inherits” is in quotation marks because while he now takes over that deficit from Trump, the truth is that Biden has played a key role in creating and exacerbating the deficit his entire adult life as a champion of globalist policies. He joined the U.S. senate in 1973. In 1975, America sadly experienced its final trade surplus, and has run an ever-growing deficit for the past forty-four years. He didn’t just “inherit” this problem. He played a key role in creating it, and it’s impossible to over-estimate the devastation done to our economy and to working Americans.

What will he do about it? Not a damn thing. His corporate benefactors, seeing more potential for profit growth in overseas markets than in the mature U.S. economy, have been paying him for decades to facilitate the transfer of America’s wealth and the export of American manufacturing jobs. He pays lip service to revitalizing American manufacturing, but that’s all it is.

Impeach Trump for inciting the Capitol building riot? Perhaps Biden should be impeached for his lifetime of work fomenting the unrest in this country that created the fertile ground for Trump’s rhetoric to take root.


Biden vows to continue Trump’s tough stance on China. Here’s his chance to prove it.

February 7, 2021

During the course of Trump’s administration, there was a massive shift in America’s, and indeed the entire world’s perception of China. In 2016, China was admired for its embrace of capitalism and its rapid pace of economic development. Chairman Xi Jinping was admired for slowly and in subtle ways guiding his country away from communism and, so the world hoped, shifting gradually toward democracy. Even Trump was charmed by his cow-eyed, benevolent smile and was taken in by his promise to be America’s economic partner.

Soon, however, all that began to change. China engaged in a massive military buildup, laid claim to a vast swathe of the South China Sea, bullied its neighbors there, engaged in ethnic cleansing of its Uighur muslim population and unleashed a horrible pandemic on the world’s population while covering up its role. Chairman Xi was named chairman of China for life. He quickly reneged on every promise he made on trade.

By his third year in office, Trump could see the truth – that Xi was a dictator bent on subjugating the U.S. and on world domination. They couldn’t be trusted. He imposed 25% tariffs on half of all their exports. With Trump on the verge of extending those tariffs across the board, China agreed to a deal – the “Phase 1” deal it signed in January of last year. In exchange for holding off on the additional tariffs (and likely counting on America’s traditional lack of enforcement of trade deals), China agreed to specific benchmarks for dramatically increasing its imports of American goods in 2020 and 2021.

By the end of Trump’s administration, the whole western world agreed with its assessment of China – that it represents an existential threat that must be confronted. Upon winning the election, and eager to demonstrate that he would not be the kind of weak leader that many feared, Biden vowed to continue the tough stance on China.

Now, with the Commerce Department’s release of the final trade data for 2020 last week, comes Biden’s first and biggest chance to prove what he meant. True to form, China completely ignored the requirements of the Phase 1 trade deal. Not only did it not meet the 2020 goal, it barely exceeded the 2017 baseline that was the basis for those goals. Here’s the Phase 1 trade deal data.

China missed its goal for total goods imports by $62 billion. In fact, it barely beat the 2017 baseline, rising by only $1.9 billion from 2017. In the all-important category of manufactured goods where the most jobs are created, China not ony fell short of the goal for 2020 by $37.5 billion, it actually fell short of the 2017 baseline by $4.7 billion. In terms of energy products, it barely beat the 2017 baseline while falling short of the 2020 goal by $17.7 billion. It also fell short of the goal for agricultural imports, the category key to support by America’s farmers, by $9.9 billion. This failure cost Trump critical support in the heartland and his failure to enforce this deal cost him support all across the country.

The results are in and they’re horrible. Predictably, China has once again reneged on this critical trade benchmark. So what’ll it be, president Biden? This is your big chance to prove that you meant what you said about being tough with China. Declare China in breach of the deal and extend the tariffs across the board on all Chinese imports. Failure to act – and giving China yet another chance would constitute such a failure – will prove that your rhetoric was just bluster and that you are the kind of weak leader that many feared.


A Perfect Example of What Killed American Democracy

January 13, 2021

No sooner did I publish yesterday’s post, in which I blamed the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision in 2010 for the death of American democracy, when a perfect example of that emerged.

Before I get into that, I have a question for you. What do you know about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and your own local chapter? Is it a branch of the U.S. Commerce Department? Is its purpose to promote commerce in America? The name of the organization would lead you to believe that the answer to both of the latter questions is “yes.”

You’d be dead wrong. The Chamber of Commerce is a French-based organization whose sole mission is the promotion of “free” trade. (Check out this post from 2009 for an explanation of this fatally flawed economic theory and how it has devastated America’s economy.) The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is that French organization’s American-based operation. Your local Chamber of Commerce reports to and funnels funds to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Here, it’s worth noting that in 2019, France – a nation whose workers enjoy benefits American workers can only dream of – enjoyed a trade surplus with the U.S. of $19.9 billion, despite being arguably the least productive nation on earth.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its local chapters makes a show of lobbying in favor of American businesses when issues important to them arise like taxes, regulations, minimum wage, etc. However, the effect of all of those issues combined is trivial compared to the one trillion dollars per year of business that is robbed from them through the world’s trade surplus with the U.S. On that issue, I challenge anyone to show me one single instance in which the Chamber has spoken out against the trade deficit and in favor of changes to trade policy aimed at restoring a balance of trade. No Chamber of Commerce organization, not the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or any one of its thousands of local chapters, has ever uttered a peep of protest about the U.S. trade deficit. The Chamber of Commerce masquerades as a pro-business lobby, all the while concealing the fact that it is working against American business on the one issue that dwarfs all others.

Thanks to the “Citizens United” decision by the Supreme Court, this French-based lobbying organization is considered to be an American “person” under the constitution. Its money – all the money collected in the form of membership fees from hundreds of thousands of American businesses that it strong-arms into joining its local chapters – is considered “free speech” which cannot be constrained under the 2nd amendment.

With all of that said, check out this article which appeared on Reuters yesterday. The CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce accuses Trump of undermining U.S. democracy. Scroll to the bottom of the article, and read this:

“… in a nod to Biden’s progressive agenda, he said lawmakers should fund “rapid training programs” to connect the unemployed with jobs in new sectors of the economy.

Donohue also said the Chamber will push for a new bill to boost legal immigration to help businesses deal with a shortage of workers.”

Pushing “training programs” is a classic pro-free trade gimmick used for decades to placate workers who have lost their jobs to off-shoring. And, incredibly, even in the midst of a pandemic when sixteen million Americans are unemployed, the Chamber has the audacity to suggest that we need to continue flooding the U.S. with immigrants “to help businesses deal with a shortage of workers.”

Earlier in the article, the Chamber CEO vows to cut off funding from Republicans who supported Trump. Is it Trump’s rhetoric that concerns him, or is it really the fact that Republicans began supporting Trump’s efforts at levying tariffs in an effort to fix our trade deficit?

This is a perfect example of the demise of our democracy. Our politicians are bought-and-paid-for by global corporations and foreign lobbying organizations. Your only choice is between two candidates who, on the most critical issues, take the exact same position – the position they’re paid to take. This isn’t democracy.


Is the United States the stupidest nation on earth?

January 9, 2021

In light of the trade data released by the Commerce Department on Thursday, it’s difficult to draw any other conclusion. In November the trade deficit worsened to a new record of $64.5 billion. Actually, the situation is much worse than that. Strip away the surplus in services, which are little more than paperwork transactions, and you’re left with trade in manufactured goods, where real jobs are won and lost. Look at this chart. I would say that it couldn’t get any worse if it weren’t for the fact that with each passing month, it does. The deficit in manufactured goods hovered at the record level of $82.5 billion set only two months ago. That’s an annualized deficit of one trillion dollars.

Think about this. We’re paying the rest of the world a trillion dollars per year, putting their citizens to work making all the things we could just as easily make ourselves while, at the same time, we have tens of millions of people out of work. In fact, we’re paying trillions of dollars per year to pay our own people not to work. And we keep doing everything we can – as fast as we can – to make the situation worse. Ten years ago, in the wake of our most recent economic disaster, part of the auto industry bail-out was to allow Fiat to scoop up the Chrysler corporation, giving yet another foreign brand (the worst on earth, in terms of quality) an entry into the U.S. market, making the challenge for American cars that much worse. Building on that mistake, last month, FCA (Fiat-Chrysler of America) joined forces with PSA (the French automaker Peugot) forming a new company called “Stellantis,” giving Peugot access to the American market and, in all likelihood, finally killing the Chrysler brand.

Now we’ve elected as president a man who has spent his entire adult life championing policies that have exacerbated this decades-long downward spiral of our trade picture and, consequently, our entire economy. What little progress has been made under Trump he has vowed to rapidly undo.

If this situation doesn’t make the United States the stupidest nation on earth, I don’t know what would. And we wonder why this nation has become so divided and how there could be those among us so angry and frustrated that they’d be willing to riot and attack the capitol building. Trump was accused of lying to the American people about the election being stolen. I’ve consistently voted for candidates over these many years who have promised to do something about our trade deficit, and every one of them lied to us. Trump is accused of having blood on his hands for his role in fomenting the capitol building riot. For his part, Biden should accept blame for his role in formulating policies over the decades that have stoked the anger we saw unleashed on Thursday.

I remain angry and deeply disappointed with Trump for allowing his style and ego to get in the way of the bigger mission of Making America Great Again. The American people can forgive gaffes and rookie mistakes (being a rookie to the political scene), but they just couldn’t take any more of the daily barrage of personal insults that had nothing to do with the mission he was elected to do. It’s just sad to see it end this way.

It’s hard to see any hope of things improving for the United States. It angers me and makes me sick to say that. Since writing Five Short Blasts years ago, I’ve tried to keep this forum apolitical and focus instead on trying to explain the unseen economic consequences of population growth, including the danger of trying to engage in free trade with badly overpopulated nations. Maybe that’s been a mistake. So I’ll now say this: for decades Americans have been getting economically slaughtered like a flock of chickens. It’s hard to see any hope of things improving when you elect the fox to run the henhouse.


Thoughts on Capitol Building Riots & Trump’s Presidency

January 7, 2021

I’m still trying to process my thoughts, which are still evolving, on the events of yesterday. But I’d be remiss to let too much time pass. I’m angry, saddened, disappointed, disillusioned and feeling just a little sense of hopelessness.

The media is laying the blame for the riot at the capitol building directly on Trump, on his refusal to accept his election defeat, his insistence that the election was rigged and should be over-turned, and his urging of the protesters to march on the capitol building. They’re right on all counts. Trump does have blood on his hands. They also point their fingers at Republicans in the house and senate for standing by these claims to the end.

There’s plenty of blame to go around. First of all, I blame Trump for losing the election. Had he followed through with his promise to “Make America Great Again,” the election wouldn’t have even been close. He did an excellent job of clamping down on our open borders, preserving jobs for American workers. He failed badly, however, in reducing our trade deficit and bringing manufacturing jobs back. In fact, the trade deficit exploded under his watch. Had he restored a balance of trade, the economy would have soared at a minimum of twice the rate of 3% growth he achieved – an improvement over the 2% growth rate (or less) under the Obama administration – but pitifully short of making America great again. Had he followed through on trade, he’d have won in a landslide and it might have been Biden complaining about a rigged election. Nothing frustrated me more about Trump than his failing on trade.

A rigged election? I don’t know, but it’s an easy claim to believe. From the moment the 2016 election was decided, Democrats and the media attacked Trump mercilously and relentlessly. Two years were wasted on the bogus Russia investigation, and then another year on the impeachment over the Ukrainian phone call and his request that they look into why the investigation of Hunter Biden’s role with the Ukrainian gas company was suddenly halted. (Many Americans would still like to know the answer to that one.) By this time it was clear that the Democrats and the media would stop at absolutely nothing to bring him down. A rigged election? Whether they actually rigged it or not, it’s not a stretch to believe that the Democrats would stoop that low.

If it wasn’t rigged (and I’m not saying it was for certain), it sure smelled rotten. I’ve lived through a lot of elections and have never seen one like it. It wasn’t unusual in past elections for vote counting to drag on into Wednesday in a really close election. However, in this election, vote counting dragged on for a week or even ten days. After a few days of everyone left wondering how it could possibly take days to count the last 5% of votes when the first 95% were counted in one night, the truth started to leak out. They weren’t “counting” votes, but tallying new ones that continued to trickle in days after the polls had closed. Worse yet, we learned that the delay was also due to a process of “ballot curing,” in which previously rejected ballots were fixed, supposedly by giving the voters a chance to correct problems with their signatures or other problems. You have to be pretty naive to believe that the activists who facilitated that process (who are almost universally Democrats) were fair enough to give Republican voters a chance to fix their ballots too. The end result was that those late-arriving ballots were almost unanimously for Biden/Harris, flipping the count in their favor. Counting and recounting those same ballots doesn’t answer the questions about whether they were cast legally in the first place.

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised at what happened yesterday. It wasn’t four years in the making. It’s been decades in the making as the standard of living of most Americans has steadily declined, especially among the middle class. Look at the people who made up the rioters. They were mostly young people. A few in their 40s. Maybe a few even older. Where did these people come from and how did they become so angry and frustrated?

I’ll tell you where they came from. These are the kids who sat across the table from their parents thirty years ago and looked on as their fathers and mothers wept and swore about the loss of their jobs to factory closures. They watched their families being torn apart by the financial strain. They experienced the same thing when they entered the work force, finding only low pay and few benefits. The globalists who engineered the destruction of our manufacturing sector saw nothing but dollar signs with no consequences. Now, however, those chickens have come home to roost.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for what took place yesterday. It wasn’t just Trump who has blood on his hands. The Democrats and media who scuttled him from the very beginning share some blame too. So too do decades of globalist corporate leaders and their bought-and-paid for politicians, both Democrat and Republican – what I call the “Republicrat” party.

I’m angry at Trump. Though the election was lost, the smart move would have been to use his considerable influence to continue to build support for the “MAGA” movement and fight another day, four years from now, either as candidate or supporting some other candidate willing to take on the mantle. Instead, he foolishly squandered it all in an effort to do only he knows what. Force Democrats to admit they cheated? Start a revolution? Who knows, but it was a truly dumb move. He’s tarnished his brand forever. He’ll never again have a role in influencing the direction of the country. He totally blew it.

In the wake of the riot, as senators reconvened in the capitol building and one-by-one rose to speak, nearly all denounced Trump and were ready to rejoin the globalist Republicrat party. Back to business as usual, selling out America to global interests.

That would be a mistake. As I said, this was a long time coming. It’s not likely to end here. What you saw yesterday was a disorganized mob that is no less fervent in their beliefs today than they were yesterday. What happens from here? Surely they can see that rioting will get them nowhere. What’s the difference between a mob and a political party? Leadership, organization, a strategy, fund-raising and suits – and little else. Someone amongst MAGA supporters needs to step up and take a leadership role. Maybe it’s some congressman or senator, or maybe just some supporter with real political savvy. Get organized. Lay out an America-first platform. Raise money. This could be the makings of a new political party that could quickly challenge the Repubicrats. This is what I pray happens.

It could go another way if politicians blow this off as a one-off, Trump-incited incident. All it takes is leadership, organization, a strategy, and fund-raising – pretty much the same as I outlined above – but substitute fatigues and camos for suits, and now you’ve got a revolution. Let’s all pray it never comes to that. The best way to avoid it is to take seriously those who have been so disenfranchised by globalism.

I’m not optimistic, though. America’s about to take a sharp left turn and return to its role as the world’s lap dog and sugar daddy.


Time has come to terminate “Phase 1” China trade deal and move forward with tariffs

November 14, 2020

At the time that he signed the “Phase 1” deal with China in January, I said that Trump was making a huge mistake.

Let’s back up to Trump’s inauguration three years earlier. Trump was elected to “Make America Great Again” and a huge part of that program was to bring down America’s trade deficit and bring our manufacturing jobs back home again. In his auguration speech, Trump noted the abandoned, decaying factories scattered like tombstones across the American landscape and said “it all stops right here and right now!”

To that end, Trump got off to a slow start. Proud of his deal-making ability that he demonstrated in the business world, he took the same approach toward trade. He spent two years negotiating a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement. The USMCA (United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement) that has replaced it only went into effect this past July. Though analysts predict it will be a net win for the United States, boosting manufacturing, the trade deficit with Mexico has tripled in the meantime and we’ve yet to see any change in business dealings with that country.

At the same time, China launched a charm offensive with Trump and it worked. Trump fell for their promises to boost imports from the U.S. When he realized he’d been snookered, Trump finally did what he should have done in the first place, slapping tariffs on some Chinese goods. He later boosted those tariffs to 25% and levied them against half of all Chinese products. Then, to get China to make a trade agreement with the U.S., the “Phase 1” deal, he threatened to levy the same tariffs against the remainder of all Chinese products.

Predictably, China agreed to make significant progress toward buying more American goods and, to his credit (and unlike deals made by previous administrations), he included specific goals and deadlines. However, just as predictably, China has made no effort whatsoever to comply. They’d already gotten what they wanted. No more tariffs, and they counted on Trump being no different than any president who preceded him – there’d be no follow-through or enforcement. So far, they were right.

Making America Great Again came to a screeching halt – at least the trade reform portion of it which, of course, is the biggest and most important part. It was a huge mistake. I warned at the time that Trump was risking vital support by stalling his agenda.

Trade results for the month of September were released by the Commerce Department on November 4th. Nine months into the year, China has come up way short once again. Here’s the data: https://petemurphy.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/phase-1-china-trade-deal-2020-ytd.pdf. China’s purchase of manufactured goods is up slightly, but still less than the 2017 baseline and 30% short of the goal for 2020. Their purchases of energy products are 65% short of the goal. Their purchases of agricultural products is 52% below the goal, and their purchase of total goods is 38% short of the 2020 goal.

The deal’s goals were divided into four categories of goods. Nine months have passed. That’s 36 opportunities that China has had to demonstrate a good faith effort to meet the goals. Their score? Nine months into the deal, they are 0 for 36. They are only 8 for 36 in terms of meeting the 2017 baseline. No coach of any team would keep his/her job with that kind of record. It’s time to fire this deal.

Trusting China to meet their commitments was a big mistake that stalled Trump’s trade agenda and likely cost him the badly needed votes in the election. However, it’s not too late. Trump could put the trade agenda back on track toward making America great once again by declaring China’s performance a failure, terminating the deal and imposing the tariffs that should have gone into effect a year ago. Leave the deal in place and Biden will pretend that it doesn’t even exist. Terminate the deal and Biden will face a dilemma: cave in to China and drop the tariffs and prove to all American workers that he cares nothing about their plight, or leave the tariffs in place, scoring a big win for Trump’s legacy.

This is a last chance for Trump to demonstrate his determination to “Make America Great Again.”


Reflections on Trump’s Presidency and the Election – Part 2

November 11, 2020

I closed my last post with the question: was this a rigged – legally rigged – election? Let’s begin with a look back at how the election unfolded.

Throughout the campaign, from the moment Biden won the nomination, polls consistently showed that Biden was ahead by a 10-12 point margin. That’s a big margin – discouraging for Trump supporters and stirring enthusiasm among encouraged Biden supporters. New polling data that continued to show Biden leading by that large margin was often the daily lead story across the whole spectrum of media. Did the media knowingly publish false polling data? Were the polling organizations providing the media with falsified data? It smacks of voter suppression.

I received my ballot sometime in September, if I recall correctly. I noticed that, for every race – from president to dog-catcher – the Democratic party candidate was listed first, followed by the Republican candidate, followed by the lesser party candidates – Green Party, Libertarian Party, etc. Why, I wondered? I found that curious. The parties weren’t in alphabetical order, since the Republican candidate would appear much further down, nor were they in alphabetical order by the candidates’ names. (Again, Trump would have been at the bottom of the ballot.) That had to be some kind of advantage – being listed first on the ballot – however small. There are those people who will simply check the first name they see.

I filled out the ballot and signed it. It occurred to me that my signature was no proof whatsoever that it was I who had filled out the ballot. I could have signed a blank ballot and sold it for a hundred bucks. If I was incapacitated in some way, my caregiver could have filled it out and instructed me to sign it.

I put the ballot in the official drop box at the township office weeks ahead of the election to be sure it arrived on time, and not wanting to get the ballot back two weeks after the election marked “insufficient postage.”

Election night finally arrived. As polling closed in the Eastern time zone, early results showed Biden winning by a wide margin. However, we were cautioned that these early results were skewed by mail-in ballots, which were the first to be counted, and mail-in ballots are heavily Democratic. Huh?

Sure enough, as in-person ballots were counted, Trump pulled into the lead, by substantial margins in some cases. I stayed up until midnight and finally went to bed happy, knowing that the “Make America Great” program was on track for another four years.

The next morning, I awoke to a new reality. Trump’s leads were nearly evaporated. The media commentators and analysts explained that the mail-in ballots were the last to be counted, and that mail-in ballots were heavily Democratic. Now I was totally confused. Last night they said they were the first ones counted!

As more ballots trickled in, Trump’s leads in Wisconsin and Michigan were flipped. Five states remained – Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona. (Well, six, when you include Alaska.) In each case, 10-15% of the ballots remained uncounted. A day passed with virtually no update to the tallies. Another day passed. Nothing still. Something was beginning to smell fishy.

After a couple of days of this, we learned the truth about the delay. Ballots weren’t being counted, because there were no remaining ballots. The delay was simply a waiting game for more “expected” ballots to arrive. Then, more truth: in Georgia, there was a “ballot-curing” process underway, where activists were going door-to-door giving voters a chance to fix problems on ballots that had been rejected. (One can’t help being suspicious that they were also rounding up new ballots. It’d be easy to do. “Oh, Mrs. Jones, we also noticed that your husband didn’t return his ballot. Would you like to fill this one out now?”) We were assured it was all perfectly normal and legal, but it didn’t pass the smell test. It sure seemed for all the world that, once the vote tally was in after the polls closed and it was known how many more votes were needed to flip the results, Democratic party activists were given an opportunity to go out and round up the votes they needed. Maybe that’s not what happened, but it sure as hell smelled rotten.

And it was all legal. Some states did it right. Signatures on mail-in ballots had to be notarized to prove who filled them out. Ballots had to be received by the close of the polls to be counted. Florida is an example.

Other states, however, in their zeal to provide voters a safe option for voting during the Covid crisis, liberalized mail-in balloting with little or no regard for the integrity of the results. Your ballot might not arrive in time if mailed? No problem, we’ll give it 3 days, or a week, or 10 days to arrive after polls close. Don’t know how much postage to put on it? No problem. Don’t put any on it. It’ll get delivered anyway. That means it won’t have a postmark? No problem. We don’t care.

Like in Pennsylvania. No postmark was necessary. They could magically arrive up to ten days late and, unless it could be proven that they were submitted fraudulently after the polls had closed on election day, they were considered legal ballots.

Then we learned that, following a judge’s order for the post office to search for missing ballots, the post office simply rounded up 300,000 ballots and turned them in without scanning them, leaving them with no postmark to prove when they had been mailed.

As I write this, three states – Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina – are still rounding up ballots.

And can someone help me understand the rationale that says mail-in balloting is favored by a wide margin by Democrats over Republicans? That defies logic. There are no political factors involved. People would choose to use mail-in ballots for various reasons:

1. The voter may be out-of-town on polling day.

2. The voter may want to vote absentee just for the sake of convenience.

3. The voter may be a shut-in.

4. The voter may have wanted to avoid exposure to Covid.

None of these factors would cause more voters to favor one candidate over the other. The fact that the results from mail-in ballots differed from the results of in-person voting by a significant margin is clear evidence of some kind of malfeasance.

Then there’s the matter of the high percentage of mail-in ballots that were returned – reportedly 90% or more. Anyone who has ever done a mass mailing – no matter how important, how clearly the envelope is marked as containing important information, and how much the recipients have been advised of the importance of the mailing and to watch for its arrival – knows that you’re lucky to get a 75% response. The other 25% were never read, were tossed on a pile of mail, and buried the next day under a new pile of mail – all eventually to be thrown out. A 90% return rate is clear evidence that someone intervened to round up the missing ballots. Illegal? No, but when only certain demographics are targeted for such follow-up, it becomes an effective tool for legally “rigging” the election results, especially if it’s allowed after the close of the polls. Now that’s a plausible explanation of why mail-in ballots may have heavily favored Biden over Trump.

This is ridiculous. One can’t help being suspicious about an election process so lacking in controls but, then again, it’s all perfectly “legal” this year. It’s got to change if voters are to have any confidence in the integrity of our election process. State laws that allow such sloppy control over ballots need to be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. The shoe may very well be on the other foot in the next election.

Here’s what needs to be done to restore the integrity of and faith in our election process:

  1. Measures must be taken to assure that the person casting the ballot by mail is, in fact, the voter to whom the ballot was sent. Requiring notarized signatures is one way to accomplish that.
  2. Mail-in ballots must be received by the close of the polls on election day. Voters had PLENTY of time to mail those ballots well ahead of the election.
  3. The counting of mail-in ballots should begin when the polls open on election day and no results should be released until after polls.
  4. Organizations that publish polling data prior to the election should be held accountable and subject to fines and investigation if the election results fall outside their published margins of error.
  5. The publishing of exit polling data prior to the close of the polls on election day should be banned.

A “stolen” election? Maybe. It was easy enough to do it “legally.”


Reflections on Trump’s Presidency and the Election

November 10, 2020

I was never a fan of Trump before the 2016 election. As the Republican candidates began their campaigns for the primaries, I gave him zero chance of winning the nomination. He was too acerbic, mean-spirited, brash and bully-like – to the point of being self-destructive – for many voters to get behind his candidacy. However, as American workers and their families continued to reel from the economic damage wrought by the “Great Recession” of 2009, his “Make American Great Again” program caught on like wildfire.

Trump came right out and laid the blame for America’s problems squarely on those factors that every American knew was to blame – the factors that no other Republicrat would even utter for fear of alienating their global corporate benefactors: trade policy that had destroyed the manufacturing sector of our economy, and out-of-control immigration that was being used to keep our labor force in a constant state of over-supply in order to suppress wages. After decades of these policies that turned America – once the world’s preeminent industrial power and the richest nation in the world – into a skid row bum, begging the rest of the world to buy up our ever-growing mountain of debt, the American people were fed up and more than willing to overlook Trump’s issues in the hope of restoring America to the greatness we remembered.

From the outset, Trump faced challenges like no other. The proponents of globalism immediately kicked into overdrive in an effort to destroy him, cooking up a phony Russian influence narrative and then, when that didn’t work, impeaching him over the Ukrainian phone call without proving any “quid pro quo.” Beyond that, it took him a couple of years to weed out of his cabinet people who were supposedly the best in their field, but who proved to be nothing more than globalists bent on sabotaging his America First agenda.

In spite of all that, he made huge strides toward actually “Making America Great Again.” He cut both legal and illegal immigration dramatically. He got Mexico and Central American countries to cooperate in stopping the immigrant caravans. He made big cuts in quotas for refugees and H1-B visas (that steal jobs from Americans) and eliminated the “diversity” category of immigration altogether.

He got rid of the North American Free Trade Agreement and replaced it with an agreement designed to shift more production from Mexico back to the U.S. He slapped 25% tariffs on half of all Chinese imports, reducing the trade deficit with that country. He raised GDP growth above 3% and sent unemployment to record low levels while wages rose at their fastest pace ever.

He stood up to China. He got North Korea to halt their saber-rattling. He pulled us out of the horrible agreement with Iran that virtually guaranteed them a path to a nuclear weapon. He defeated ISIS. He forced NATO countries to begin paying their fair share of their defense costs. The rest of the world began treating us with respect again instead of playing us for fools and treating us like chumps.

He quickly pulled us out of the “Paris Climate Accord.” If you don’t see that as a positive thing, then I challenge you to tell me the mission statement of the Accord. You can’t do it, can you? I doubt that one person in a thousand – maybe one in a million – could tell me what it is. Most people think its mission is to protect the environment, to stop global warming through drastic cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. You’d be very wrong and shocked to learn that its actual mission is to reinvigorate “sustainable development” – the very concept whose practice over the last four decades has led to climate change – focusing on development of third world countries using fossil fuel technology, and all paid for by the U.S.

He did a hell of a lot in spite of the push-back from Democrats and the media. So what went wrong? Sadly, Trump could never get out of his own way. As someone close to me said, “if he’d just kept his mouth shut and stayed off of Twitter, he’d have won the election easily.” Trump just couldn’t stop himself from making over-the-top attacks on anyone who disagreed with him. To vehemently disagree with opponents wasn’t enough for him. He had to destroy them. Voters elected him to put the globalist establishment in its place, but what he did to some people was beyond the pale. The best example I can think of is how he denigrated John McCain. There were many other examples.

And he was a poor communicator. He did a poor job of making Americans understand what he was accomplishing and how it’d make their lives better. Pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord is a good example. Did you ever hear it explained to you as I did above? Instead, the media dictated the message, while Trump focused on trashing his enemies.

Then there was Covid. His initial approach was right on target, but he quickly grew impatient with its effect on the economy. He could have advocated for reopening the economy while doing everything we could to do it safely. Instead, he tried to minimize and even deny the problem. His approach resonated with a lot of people, but angered many more who are terrified of this disease.

Trump will soon be gone from the White House. But there are still a hell of a lot of people who fervently believe in the movement he started to “Make America Great Again.” There are three kinds of voters in America: those who believe America never stopped being great, those who believe that it’s not as great as it once was and needs to be made great again, and those who are fine with seeing America in decline. The biggest group, by far, is that group in the middle. The first group is in denial or detached from reality. The latter group is tiny, but very real and active, and a threat.

Trump started a movement that can and should live on, and will live on with any candidate or party that takes up its banner. Trump could play a huge role in keeping it alive, but that would require fundamental changes in his approach that I doubt he’s capable of. Maybe Mike Pence? Maybe Nikki Haley who did an outstanding job as Trump’s UN ambassador. Or maybe Mike Pompeo, his Secretary of State, who took no crap from any foreign country, to put it in coarse terms. It could even be a Democrat, if one were able to see its potential to restore the party’s image as the party of the working man. Biden? No.

Covid and the daily drumbeat of negativity from the media were a lot to overcome but, in the final analysis, Trump may have been his own worst enemy in his election defeat. Though he’s making a valiant effort to continue to fight with a myriad of court challenges, he won’t prevail. Few believe there was rampant fraud. I agree with those who say that every legal vote should be counted.

But was the election rigged? An election can be rigged through entirely legal means. Consider gerrymandering, the perfectly legal (in some states, not all) of redrawing congressional district boundaries to virtually assure that, once elected, it’s virtually impossible for the incumbent to be defeated. That’s rigging an election and it’s perfectly legal. It’s not a factor in the presidential election – at least not directly – but there are other ways to legally rig that election. I can’t help but have my suspicions. But this has gone on long enough for now. More on that in my next post.


Trump’s Efforts on Trade a Spectacular Failure

September 9, 2020

I can’t tell you how disheartening it was to sift through the latest trade data, for the month of July, released by the Commerce Department late last week.  There’s just no getting around the fact that the administration’s efforts to cut the trade deficit and bring manufacturing back to the U.S. have failed.  “Failure” would be the word to describe results that haven’t shown any improvement.  But America’s trade picture has deteriorated so badly that the scope of the failure can only be described as “spectacular.”

In his inauguration address, Trump observed:

…  rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation …

Earlier in the address, regarding situations like that noted above, he proclaimed:

… That all changes – starting right here, and right now …

The July trade data comes 3-1/2 years into his administration – plenty of time to implement changes and to see the effects.  It’s hard to find any silver lining.  Consider:

  1. The trade deficit in manufactured goods in July soared to $80.4 billion, a new record that completely blows away the record set under the Obama administration ($63.3 billion in March, 2015).  Check out this chart:  Manf’d Goods Balance of Trade.
  2. During the 2016 campaign, Trump vowed to quickly tear up the NAFTA deal and replace it with a much better deal.  Most of his term has been wasted negotiating the new “USMCA” trade deal that replaces it.  It finally went into effect on July 1st of this year, but the terms have been known for a long time, so you’d expect that manufacturers would have been busy implementing plans to get in compliance.  The results?  In July, the trade deficit with Mexico soared to $10. 6 billion.  When Trump took office in January, 2017 it was $3.8 billion.  Since then it has nearly tripled.
  3. When Trump took office, the deficit with China was $31.4 billion.  In July of this year it was $31.6 billion.  After Trump took office, the deficit with China continued to grow until, finally fed up with China’s promises to buy more American products, Trump imposed 25% tariffs on half of all Chinese products.  Almost immediately, the deficit with China began to shrink dramatically.  However, all momentum was lost with the signing of the “Phase 1” deal with China, when the U.S. agreed to halt plans to impose tariffs on the remainder of China’s products in exchange for Chinese promises to dramatically increase their purchases of American goods.  The results were predictable; China reneged on the deal.  They haven’t even measured up to the 2017 baseline that was used as a starting point.  Here’s the data, updated through July:  Phase 1 China Trade Deal 2020 YTD.  What has Trump done in response?  Nothing.  He continues to insist it’s a good deal, in much the same way that Obama stuck by his trade deal with South Korea while our deficit with them exploded.
  4. What progress was made in at least stagnating the deficit with China didn’t translate into any benefit to American workers.  Instead, it contributed to the tripling of the debt with Mexico and also ballooned the debt with Vietnam.  When Trump took office, the trade deficit with Vietnam, an economic back-water, was $3.3 billion per month.  In July of this year it was more than doubled to $6.8 billion per month.  Why?  Because no tariffs were applied to anyone other than China.  The tariffs motivated manufacturers to begin moving out of China, but there was no disincentive to simply move to secondary suppliers in Mexico, Vietnam and other places.

Some might say that such conclusions are unfair in the midst of the pandemic.  Not so.  The effect of the pandemic has been to cut economic activity to a depression-like level, and the effect of an economic slow-down has always been to shrink the trade deficit, not grow it.  That makes the enormous deficit in manufactured goods in July even more troubling.

Speaking of the pandemic, at least people are beginning to realize that being dependent on foreign suppliers for critical goods like ventilators and face masks is a threat to national security.  It’d be nice if that realization extended to other products that would just as easily be cut off during war time.  Better yet, wouldn’t it be nice if people realized that an economy that needs to stand on agriculture, construction, manufacturing and services is hollowed out and unstable if one of those legs is gone?

I don’t doubt Trump’s desire to truly “make America great again” by bringing back our manufacturing sector.  But he sees himself as a “deal-maker” and believes he can deal his way out of the trade deficit.  That’s where the problem lies.  For America, at least, there’s no such thing as a good trade deal.  I defy anyone to identify a single trade deal that has ever left America with anything but a growing trade deficit.

And forget about “free trade.”  That centuries-old concept is about as relevant to today’s trade environment as theories about a flat earth and how the sun rotates around it.  Today, trade is war – a war for increasingly scarce jobs in an ever more over-populated world.  Unlike America, the rest of the world understand this.  They know that what they really need is access to America’s market so that they can keep their bloated populations employed manufacturing goods for export.  Americans don’t have a clue.  They think it’s about lower price and more choice.

Had Trump simply applied tariffs everywhere where America was suffering a big trade deficit in manufactured goods, manufacturers would have come running back like refugees fleeing a war.  Instead of improving incrementally, our economy would have exploded.  Manufacturers would have eagerly snapped up any workers who lost their jobs to closures of restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, etc. during the pandemic.  Trump’s re-election would be a foregone conclusion.  Instead, he’s going to be lucky to win.  Forget about the pandemic.  It’s his failure to make progress on truly making America great again that has left him vulnerable.

Don’t interpret this post as an endorsement of Biden.  It’s reported in the news today that Trump has criticized Biden as a “globalist.”  He’s not wrong.  But it’s not just Biden.  Until Trump came along, every politician, Democrat and Republican alike, were and still are globalists.  I’d vote for Biden in a heartbeat if he vowed to use tariffs to restore a balance of trade, but he won’t.  Though the results under Trump have been disappointing, things could and would be much worse under virtually anyone else, at least until more American politicians are willing to engage in the trade war that they don’t even acknowledge today.

 

 

 

 


Verdict is in: “Phase 1” Trade Deal with China is a total failure.

August 6, 2020

Trade data for the month of June was released by the Department of Commerce yesterday, so we now have a full six months of results of the “Phase 1” trade deal with China.  As I predicted when the deal was signed in January, the deal is a total failure.

You may have heard stories in the news, as I did, about how the Chinese were beginning to make progress on catching up to the goals established by this deal.  I had my doubts, so I was anxious to see the real data.  Here it is, year-to-date through June:  Phase 1 China Trade Deal 2020 YTD.

The deal established goals for the Chinese import of American goods in four categories, using 2017 trade results as a baseline:  manufactured goods, energy goods (like oil, gas, coal, etc.), agriculture goods, and total goods.  The goal was for them to increase their imports substantially in 2020, and then even more in 2021.  In the spreadsheet, I broke down those goals into monthly goals, ramping them up at a rate that would meet those goals by the end of the year.

Through May, the results were abysmal.  They failed to meet the goal in any category of product.  In fact, only their import of energy products even exceeded the 2017 baseline.  You’d think that if China were anxious to meet the goals in order to avoid further threatened tariffs, they’d at least make some good faith effort that they could point to as progress.  So what happened in June?  Their imports actually declined in every category.  They didn’t even meet the 2017 baseline in a single category.

A good faith effort to show progress?  The June results are exactly the opposite.  They are a slap in the face.  The Chinese are taunting the Trump administration – betting that they’ll be too distracted with other events to take action.

It’s time to put an end to this stupid trade deal and follow through with the threatened 25% across-the-board tariffs on all Chinese exports to the U.S.  Trump was elected, in large part, to make real progress in cutting America’s trade deficit and bringing manufacturing back to the U.S.  Aside from tariffs on half of Chinese exports and a new trade deal to replace NAFTA, little has been accomplished.  All momentum on the trade front was killed when Trump signed the “Phase 1” deal with China.  Three-and-a-half years have been frittered away.  His supporters are getting disillusioned by the lack of progress.  If Trump loses the election, it will be due in large part to his failure to fix our trade mess.

There’s no more time to waste.  It’s time to declare this deal a failure and impose the tariffs that were put on hold.  In addition, it’s time for Trump to get serious with other Asian nations and the European Union as well.  Slap all of them with tariffs and start making real progress in bringing our manufacturing jobs back.