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.


Emerging Lessons from The Covid-19 Pandemic

March 31, 2020

As the Covid-19 pandemic has played out, lessons have begun to emerge about our society which, in blissful ignorance over the past seven decades, we have evolved in the interests of growth and efficiency in ways that are now proving to be dangerous – dangerous to our health, our economy and even civilization as we know it.

Globalism and Global Supply Chains:

Nothing became more readily apparent as the virus took hold than our inability to produce even the most basic medical supplies – masks, face shields, gowns, medicines and ventilators.  Why couldn’t we just crank up the capacity at our factories?  Because we don’t have any.  Like everything else, we’ve made ourselves totally dependent on foreign sources for these items.  Why couldn’t those foreign sources crank up their factories and just send us what we needed?  Because they were in the same boat and needed them themselves.  The whole world quickly found itself in the same boat.  “Globalism” has provided the perfect mechanism for spreading local outbreaks across the world almost overnight and has rendered us nearly incapable of fighting them.

At the beginning of the outbreak in the U.S., we were critically short of N95 masks, a shortage that, while being addressed, threatens to persist.  So just make more, right?  Some companies are tooling up to do just that.  But that’s the problem.  It takes time to “tool up.”  We haven’t been making any such masks in the U.S., so there’s no factory where we can just add more shifts or crank up the output.  The manufacturing has to be tooled up from scratch.

How hard can it be to make simple masks?  Start with the fabric.  No fabric of any kind is made in the U.S. any more.  It has to be engineered to screen out a minimum particle size.  Now it has to be thermoformed into the shape of a mask.  That takes special molding tooling.  To make that tooling requires sophisticated machining equipment.  We have that equipment, but almost all of it is foreign-sourced.  So what happens when that equipment breaks down?  Multiply that level of complexity a thousand-fold in order to produce ventilators which also aren’t made in this country (at least they weren’t until Ford, GE and GM began building factories recently to do it).

The same goes for test kits and pharmaceuticals, all of which until now have been foreign-sourced.

President Trump recently vented his frustration with this situation in one of his daily White House briefings.  He vowed that while we can engage in trade with everyone, we can never again let ourselves be dependent on anyone.  Others have made the same observation.  Complex global supply chains that depend on pulling together materials from all over the world in order to keep society functioning is a recipe for a disaster.

It’s interesting how quickly those who, in the past have mocked others as “protectionists” and “isolationists,” have resorted to exactly those measures to stem the spread of this pandemic.  Now, isolating ourselves is our only hope for saving hundreds of thousands of people and, while doing so, we’re put at risk by the globalism that they championed.

No Spare Capacity:

Global competition has fueled a relentless drive for efficiency, just-in-time delivery supply chains and cutting costs to the bone.  That means squeezing every ounce from every capacity available, whether it’s labor capacity, factory capacity, and even the capacity of our health care system.  Everything has been functioning with virtually no capacity to spare.  Even in the best of times, the intensive care units and emergency rooms at our hospitals function at near-capacity.  Most of you have visited hospitals before all this started.  How many empty beds did you see as you walked down the halls?  How many times did you pass a patient on a gurney in the hallway?

How many times have you gone to a store – any kind of store – and found that you were fortunate enough to get one of the few remaining items you’re looking for that are left on the shelf?  Maybe there are none, and you’re told that more are arriving tomorrow.  It’s because inventory management systems have cut to the bone the amount of inventory in the warehouse.  We’ve even learned that the stockpiles of critical items maintained by FEMA and the CDC, while sufficient for smaller local or regional disasters, are woefully short of what would be needed for any kind of major disaster.  (And isn’t it interesting how our definition of “major disaster” has just changed?)

That’s all great for minimizing costs, but now we can see just how risky that can be.  People are paying for that kind of efficiency with their lives.  There is a role for government to play in assuring that a certain minimum amount of spare capacity exists throughout our supply chains – supply chains that are not dependent on other nations – that can be readily tapped in the event of national disasters like pandemics, wars, etc.

The Risks of Dense Populations:

Consider where this virus originated and where it’s hit the hardest.  It originated in a country with one fifth of the world’s population, a country so densely populated that it’s people, at least in some quarters, rely on live animal markets as a source of food.  China is four times as densely populated as the U.S.  Pause and think about that.  Imagine if the U.S. had four times as many people.  Imagine New York city with four times as many people.  Or Chicago.  Or any other city you can think of.  Imagine our rural areas with four times as many people.  They’d no longer be so rural.

Where has the virus hit hardest?  Italy is almost twice as densely populated as China.  So too is Germany and the U.K.  Most of Europe is as densely populated as China.  Major cities in the U.S. and around the world are hundreds of times more densely populated.

Even in the best of times, living in a densely populated area is a little risky.  With a sky-high cost of living (especially housing), and with many (perhaps most?) people living paycheck-to-paycheck, you’re at constant risk of finding yourself homeless.  The supply of basic necessities relies on complicated supply chains that are vulnerable to disruptions.  In the worst of times – and what we’re enduring right now, while bad, is probably not even close to being “worst” – living in such densely populated conditions is downright dangerous.  Diseases can spread like wildfire.  Natural disasters or wars could cut off supply lines.

What’s the solution?  Live in a less densely-populated society.  How is that possible?  Modern civilization requires both urban and rural areas.  Cities are needed to pull together labor forces to manufacture goods and provide certain services, while rural areas are needed for farming, forestry, recreation, etc.

The way to achieve this is with fewer, smaller cities and more rural, wide-open space.  Consider countries like Canada and Australia – each with the same size as the U.S. but with one tenth or less population density.  Though each is dealing with coronavirus outbreaks, they’re no where near the scale of what the U.S. is facing.  Why?  Because they were already more isolated to start with.

On the other hand, think about India – a place so densely populated that it’s almost impossible for them to practice any kind of social distancing.  Will they pay the price, or will the fact that India is a hot climate where the coronavirus, like the flu, can’t survive to any great extent spare them?  No one knows.  Only time will tell.

Then there’s cruise ships.  Before any of this happened, we were already hearing constant stories of norovirus outbreaks that sickened passengers, cut cruises short and necessitated thorough cleaning of the ships.  Now we’ve seen that, given a deadlier virus, those ships are death traps.  And each is just a small-scale example of what can happen in a densely-packed society.

Secure Borders:

Together with the advocates of free trade and globalism, the open border advocates have also gone silent.  Our failure to quickly shut down international travel exacerbated the spread of the virus in the U.S.  How much worse could it have been had we not been able to shut down the borders at all?  How much worse could it have gotten had we not already taken steps to secure our southern border?  Now we can see the value in maintaining secure borders, and the need to further tighten down on illegal immigration.

Beyond these, there are many, many other lessons to be learned about preparedness for major disasters.  One lesson that will only become clear as our economy begins to recover is that we’re going to pay for decades for the folly of allowing our economy to be siphoned away to drive growth in the rest of the world.  Our dependence on deficit spending to offset the drain of the trade deficit had already become dangerous as our national debt swelled to an unsustainable level.  We were already bailing as fast as we could to keep our leaky boat afloat.  Now, the $2 trillion stimulus package, together with the $4 trillion in additional debt that the Federal Reserve is issuing, will blow the transom off the boat.  It will prove impossible to keep the economy afloat while maintaining a trade deficit.  It’s critical that we get serious about restoring a balance of trade, both to reinvigorate our manufacturing base and to stop the hemorrhaging of our national debt.

Economists have long boasted that “mankind is clever enough to overcome all obstacles to further growth.”  At the same time, survivalists have built bomb shelters, amassed stockpiles of food, ammunition, batteries and other gear, and have practiced survival skills.  Suddenly, the latter group looks a little less wacky and the economists seem a bit humbled.  Mankind is not clever enough to overcome all obstacles to growth because, in a finite world, it’s impossible for so many reasons that they can’t even be listed.  Try as we might to keep growing the population, nature will find a way to restore balance in ways that we can’t even imagine, and likely with consequences too horrible to contemplate.

We’d better learn these lessons, because next time it could be much worse.  Though this virus is very contagious and much deadlier than the flu, it’s not as deadly as it could be.  In 1918, the Spanish flu killed approximately 50 million people at a time when the world’s population was just 3 billion.  In 2003, the SARS virus killed 10% of the people it infected.  Luckily, SARS was only contagious when it when symptoms became obvious, making it easy to identify and isolate those infected, which limited the number of cases to just over 8,000 world wide.  Then there’s ebola, a virus that kills half of everyone it infects.  Imagine if a virus emerged that was that lethal and was just as contagious as the novel coronavirus.  It could wipe out three billion people or more and threaten the very survival of mankind.  It might be a hundred years from now.  It might be tomorrow.  But fail to learn these lessons from this virus, and that’s what’s going to happen.