Reuters Fumbles Story about Pickups

February 6, 2019

https://www.fidelity.com/news/article/top-news/201902050800RTRSNEWSCOMBINED_L1N1ZW1LR_1

Reuters, a global publication that often passes itself off as the expert on all matters related to trade perhaps figured that it could just pick any pickup truck at random for a story about how American automakers and workers are relying ever more heavily on sales of big pickup trucks.

Mickey McMaster is on his 12th pickup truck.

The 61-year old farm equipment dealer in Decatur, Texas, two weeks ago treated himself to a 2019 GMC Denali for around $69,000 – a reward for long hours at work.

“For me this is the Cadillac of trucks, it’s a real luxury vehicle,” McMaster said. “I’ve worked my way up to afford a truck like this and it shows that I’ve earned it.”

McMaster is the kind of customer General Motors Co ( GM ) is banking on as it plans to add 1,000 jobs at a plant in Flint, Michigan that will build a new generation of its largest pickups.

Just one problem.  The 4-door crew cab Denali that Mr. McMaster bought is built in Mexico, not at GM’s Flint plant.  Though most of GM’s pickups are built at Flint, the biggest and most expensive 4-door crew cab versions (both the GMC Denali and the Chevy Silverado) are built at GM’s plant in Silao, Mexico.  The Dodge Ram pickup trucks referenced later in the article are built at Fiat-Chrysler’s plant in Saltillo, Mexico, though FC recently announced it will move production to its plant in Warren, Michigan.

I wonder if Mr. McMaster even knows that his truck was built in Mexico?  If not, I wonder how he feels now that he does know?  If he was proud of buying American, does he now feel betrayed by GM?

That might be a more interesting story for Reuters to pursue – how Americans who think they are buying American are being duped into buying Mexican imports.

 

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MAGA: Is Trump Becoming a Liability?

January 28, 2019

In the wake of the government shutdown fiasco, you have to begin to wonder whether Trump is becoming a liability to the “Make America Great Again” movement.

It isn’t so much the fact that he reopened the government.  It’s the way he did it.  He caved in.  He totally capitulated to Democrats’ insistence on maintaining an open border, getting absolutely nothing in return.  What should he have done?  First of all, he should have followed through with his threat of declaring a national emergency.  Secondly, he should have withdrawn America from NAFTA and immediately put in place tariffs on all manufactured goods from Mexico, effectively making Mexico pay for the wall like he promised.   Finally, he should have immediately begun deporting the “deferred action” illegal aliens that he offered to protect.

The “deal” to reopen the government for three weeks, supposedly for the purpose of giving Trump and congress time to negotiate a deal on border security, is a farce.  Trump has given up all leverage that he had on the border wall issue and Democrats have made it crystal clear that they’ll never support a dime for securing the border in the only way that it can be secured – by building a barrier.  Either there’ll be an impasse again, or Trump will cave in a 2nd time and try to sell something less than a barrier – maybe more funding for border patrol agents and technology – as a win.

The problem goes far beyond the border wall issue to the half-hearted, inconsistent implementation of virtually every element of his “Make America Great Again” (or “MAGA”) program, a program consisting of three key elements:  a re-balancing of trade to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.; putting an end to rampant, out-of-control immigration – both legal and illegal; and putting an end to the rest of the world behaving like a spoiled, entitled teenager treating the U.S. like a doting parent, providing everything it asks for and getting nothing but scorn in return.

We were promised a wall to virtually put an end to illegal immigration across our southern border, to be paid for by Mexico.  We were promised a prompt withdrawal from NAFTA, and tariffs on products from Mexico, which would have made fulfilling the border wall promise a snap.  We were promised tariffs on Chinese imports and on auto imports.

Soon after the inauguration, Trump invited Red China’s communist dictator to dinner at Mar A Lago and was quickly seduced into holding off on tariffs on China.  Then he caved in to pressure not to withdraw from NAFTA and instead got sucked into a ridiculously drawn out negotiation of a new agreement with Mexico and Canada that may or may not be any improvement at all, and that Congress seems in no hurry to take up.  Goodbye to any chance of getting Mexico to pay for the wall.  He did implement a small ten percent tariff on half of Chinese imports after it became clear that Chairman Xi’s promises were nothing more than a ploy, but caved in on further implementation once the global corporations began their pissing and moaning.  Now we’re sucked into the same kind of trade negotiations that the rest of the world has used for decades to stall America’s efforts to stand up for itself.

Then there’s North Korea.  Give Trump credit for using the toughest sanctions ever to forced them to agree to denuclearization, but Kim’s promises have proven hollow and North Korea seems to be off the hook once again.

I don’t blame Trump alone for all of this.  Everyone around him has been against him from the start – the Democrats who despise him and would never agree to anything he wanted, the media, global corporations, global organizations, his own staff and even members of his own family (globalists like Kushner and Ivanka) who have stonewalled his programs.

All of the backlash from the MAGA initiatives was to be expected.  I predicted as much in Five Short Blasts – a period of inflation caused by significant tariff-induced price increases, but eventually followed by explosive economic growth as manufacturing in America returned.  Trump needed to go all in with his program quickly, enduring withering criticism for a couple of years or so before having the last laugh when GDP began to explode as factories were rebuilt and as the manufacturing sector of the economy exploded.  It would have taken a lot of guts to be almost universally despised in the short term in order to have history remember him as an American hero in the long term.

However, I see a real danger in what’s happening here.  Trump’s incomplete implementation of these policies will yield only the pain without achieving the benefits that would eventually come, and will be deemed complete failures.  They’ll be forever labeled as “Trumpian” policies that no one will ever dare to attempt again.  America will be forever doomed to massive trade deficits and budget deficits, and will eventually collapse under the weight of gross overpopulation and a national debt that the rest of the world can no longer sustain.

It’s not too late for Trump, but it’s getting pretty darn close.  He needs to immediately begin ignoring all of globalist noise and whining and go all in with what he knows needs to be done.  Declare an emergency.  Build the wall.  Withdraw from NAFTA and slap tariffs on Mexico, and tell congress that if they don’t like it, then they can pass the new agreement he negotiated.  Slap tariffs on all Chinese exports and raise them to 25% or higher.  Slap 25% tariffs on all auto imports.  Tell the rest of the world that we’re willing to buy from them only as much as they buy from us.  Sure, the globalist outcry will be almost unbearable, but so what?  Continue down the path you’re on and history will remember you as a complete failure.  So what is there to lose?


“Collusion?” Where was the FBI when we needed them?

January 13, 2019

The news that broke yesterday about the FBI launching a counter-intelligence investigation of President Trump after he fired former FBI director James Comey got me thinking.  Where was the FBI when real collusion took place that has nearly destroyed the United States? Past presidents have colluded with other world leaders for decades to transfer all of the wealth of the United States to the rest of the world through a grand scheme of globalization that transformed America’s economy into a comatose host to be fed upon by hordes of parasitic nations.

Where was the FBI after World War II when Truman colluded with European leaders to establish the World Bank and the International Monetary fund, along with signing the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, unilaterally dismantling America’s protections against predatory trade partners?  Where was the FBI when George H. W. Bush colluded with world leaders to establish the World Trade Organization, surrendering America’s trade policy?    Where was the FBI when Clinton colluded with Mexico to pass NAFTA, or when he colluded with Chinese leaders to grant China “Most Favored Nation” status?  Where was the FBI when Obama colluded with South Korea to worsen our balance of trade with them?  Or when he tried to ramrod the Trans Pacific Partnership deal down our throats?

The result of all of the above is that the United States is a shell of its former self.  We are now nearly $22 trillion in debt to the rest of the world.  Stand on a rooftop and take a look around.  Everything you see – as far as you can see – is owned by foreign governments or corporations.  You think you own your house or, if you have a mortgage and are honest with yourself, that at least your bank owns your house?  Think again.  All such debt has been bundled up and sold to foreign interests.  The same is true of virtually all U.S. property, whether “owned” by private individuals, small companies, corporations, or even your local government, state government or the federal government.  They own us lock, stock and barrel.  And with ownership comes control.  Don’t think that it doesn’t.   Incredibly, past presidents have colluded to make a communist country led by a dictator-for-life the biggest benefactor of all.  How in the hell did all of this happen?  Where was the FBI?

Where was the FBI when these past presidents colluded with the rest of the world to unleash a relentless campaign of fake news and false propaganda to brainwash and assure Americans that all of this was done in their best interest?  “Trade deficits don’t matter.”  “Everyone wins in free trade.”  “We’ll retrain you to get an even better job.”

Where was the FBI while past presidents rendered America subservient to “The New World Order?”  They never uttered a peep of protest.  They never launched an investigation.  Some have likened Trump to the “Manchurian Candidate,” an old movie about a communist attempt to get a brainwashed traitor elected president.  Given all of the above, one has to wonder who was the real “Manchurian Candidate?”  Was it Trump, or was it the string of presidents who preceded him?  Is Trump now faced with fighting an entire system that they’ve created, including the media and all of the government’s bureaucracies?  Is the FBI now part of a “Manchurian” conspiracy?  Should Trump have gone beyond Comey and fired all of the FBI’s senior leadership?

OK, I know, I’ve veered way off the road into the weeds of conspiracy theory.  But seriously, don’t you find it just a wee bit ironic that we finally have a president who is trying to extricate America from domination by world organizations and he finds himself under attack by the same FBI that was perfectly happy with America’s subjugation to foreign interests through the process of “globalization?”


Fund the Border Wall Now!

December 29, 2018

You would think that the shooting death of Newman, CA police officer Singh – shot to death by a drunken illegal alien who was subsequently hidden from police by his illegal family members and friends while they planned his escape to Mexico – would be the last straw in the long-running debate over border security.  How many more people need to be victimized?  I’m not talking about just murders.  There’s the gang violence, Mexican drug cartels and countless other lesser ways in which Americans are victimized by the general indifference toward the rule of law that illegal immigration fosters.  Driving without licenses or insurance, taking jobs from Americans while being paid in cash and paying no taxes, living off the government dole.  The list could go on.

My own family has been victimized.  While living in Houston years ago, our sons’ car was struck by a vehicle that was sent flying through the intersection, having been rear-ended by a car full of Hispanics.  The car had no brakes, the driver had no license and was uninsured.   After rushing to the scene, I asked the police officer whether they were in the country illegally.  The response?  “We’re not allowed to ask that question.”  I couldn’t believe it and was thoroughly disgusted.  Beyond that, our sons had difficulty finding summer jobs.  You’d think it would be easy, given the number of fast-food restaurants in the area.  The excuse they heard repeatedly was that they needed Spanish-speaking applicants who could communicate with the rest of the workers who, in many cases (it was no secret), were working illegally.

Earlier this month, Congress passed an agriculture bill in the amount of $867 billion that no doubt had its share of “pork.”  All Trump is asking for is $5 billion to start the construction of a wall aimed at stemming the tide of illegal immigration.  All of a sudden, Democrats are balking at such wasteful spending.  You’ve got to be kidding me!  $5 billion is less than 0.2% of the federal budget – chump change compared to the costs of dealing with the effects of illegal immigration.

I shouldn’t single out Democrats.  Republicans are just as guilty of turning a blind eye to illegal immigration for decades.  Both parties are bought and paid for by corporate interests who want to stoke growth in the economy with population growth, legal or otherwise, regardless of the long-term damage done, and want to suppress wages with the cheap labor that illegal immigration provides.

I hope Trump stands firm.  Keep the government shut down permanently if that’s what it takes.  It’s time to do something meaningful to secure the border.  I’m sick of this.  Let your congressman know that you’re sick of it too.


What Trump Needs to Do to Survive

December 17, 2018

Donald Trump was never a very likable person -arrogant, obnoxious, inconsiderate, demeaning, a womanizer and narcissistic.  The list could go on.  He’s not eloquent, not inspiring and not a role model unless, that is, you fancy yourself an entrepreneur like him.  There’s no arguing his success as such.  What he lacked in the aforementioned qualities he made up for with ruthless ambition and a keen sense for business.  So it’s not surprising that his reality TV show, The Aprentice, was a hit at a time when millions of workers were falling victim to globalization and were left with few options but to try their hands as entrepreneurs.  Even if you didn’t like Trump, it was entertaining to watch contestants get a heavy dose of reality about what it took to make it as a businessperson.

But Trump as president?  I scoffed at the idea.  No way could such an unlikable person get enough people to vote for him.  I never would have.  When he announced his candidacy, I just assumed that a businessman like him would, of course, be another globalist.  People often said that we needed a businessman to run the government more like a business.  I always replied that what would really happen is that the government would be run for the benefit of business, to the detriment of everyone else.  But he got my attention when he started talking about “making America great again” and what that meant – tearing up bad trade deals, bringing jobs back home and reining in out-of-control immigration – especially illegal immigration.  These were all the things I’d been writing about for years.

So I turned a blind eye to all of his onerous qualities and took a chance.  Why not?  It wasn’t as though I hadn’t voted for populist losers before.  To my amazement, the “silent majority,” who’d been getting their asses kicked by globalization for decades, had had enough of it and voted for him too.  Like me, they were willing to overlook his many flaws and take a chance.  It’s not as though we didn’t know what we were getting.  The Access Hollywood tape had long since been made public.  News about his affairs with “Stormy” McDaniels and Karen McDougall had already come out.

I’ve been pleased with the results – with his policy decisions – but not ecstatic.  He’s been tough on illegal immigration, but where’s the badly-needed border wall?  Making Mexico pay for it would have been easy.  Just tear up NAFTA and slap tariffs on Mexican imports.  Instead, he became mired in a year-long renegotiation of a trade deal with Mexico, which still isn’t signed and is questionable as to whether or not it represents any improvement at all for the U.S.  The tariffs on steel and aluminum were a great first step, followed by the small tariffs on half of Chinese imports.

But now his agenda is stalled, thanks to caving into to the Chinese when they promised reforms at the G20 meeting in Argentina.  We all know how that’ll go.  There’ll be promises from the Chinese that’ll never be kept, but they’ll be enough to win them more concessions from Trump.  The long-talked-about tariffs on auto imports have never happened.  The problem with all of this is that, while what Trump has done so far has been a good start toward an overhaul of trade policy, it hasn’t been enough yet to achieve the desired effect – a migration of manufacturing back to the U.S.  Our trade imbalance is now worse than ever.  Trump has ceded the podium to the hand-wringing globalists who scare the hell out of markets with their daily dire warnings of a trade war or worse.  Now they’re conjuring up images on a new Great Depression, worse they say than 1929.  It’s ridiculous, of course, but it’s having an effect as people turn negative on the economy.  And companies clearly aren’t yet taking this new trade policy seriously, as GM recently announced plans to close plants in the U.S. and move more production to Mexico, and as Boeing just announced that they’re moving some assembly to China.

Given this past week’s news about the conviction of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen on felony charges of campaign finance law violations, it seems inevitable that Trump will face impeachment.  Never mind the fact that the hush money payments were already old news when Trump won the election, indicating that those events weren’t enough to dissuade voters from desperately seeking a change in direction for the country.  Trump won’t stand a chance of re-election with impeachment hanging over his head.  And you can be sure that the House Democrats are smart enough to bring it to a head just as the election draws near.

There’s only one chance for Trump to survive.  The economy has to be going gangbusters when the next election rolls around.  The only way that happens is if he aggressively resumes his implementation of tariffs.  That means that as soon as the 90-day “truce” agreed to at the G20 ends on March 1st, he must immediately raise the tariffs on Chinese imports to 25% as originally promised, and must extend them across the board to all Chinese imports.  Secondly, he needs to immediately implement the long-promised 25% tariffs on all imported autos.  Finally, he must make it clear that the tariffs will remain in place regardless of any promised concessions from China or any auto exporters.  Tariffs cannot be negotiated away.  Lowering the tariffs can only be considered when a balance of trade has been restored, and then only incrementally.  Trump needs to immediately change the conversation, refocusing news coverage on changing trade policy and away from his legal predicaments.  If he does all of this – and the economy is doing great – voters will be willing to overlook an impeachment just as they overlooked his many flaws two years ago.

Anything short of that and Trump will be gone in two years, replaced by globalists who will undo everything he did.  And history will judge his presidency a failure.


Trump Suckered at G20

December 3, 2018

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-g20-argentina/trump-chinas-xi-poised-for-high-stakes-summit-over-trade-war-idUSKCN1O031C

There’s just no other way to describe it.  Trump got suckered at the G20 meeting in Argentina.  As reported in the above-linked article, Trump agreed to delay any further tariffs on Chinese goods for at least 90 days in exchange for nothing more than the same vague promises China has been making for 20 years.

“China will agree to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but very substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial, and other product from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries,” it said.

“China has agreed to start purchasing agricultural product from our farmers immediately.”

The two leaders also agreed to immediately start talks on structural changes with respect to forced technology transfers, intellectual property protection, non-tariff barriers, cyber intrusions and cyber theft, services and agriculture, the White House said.

Regarding that last sentence, these are exactly the same promises made by China for the past two decades.  It never happens but, every time, the Chinese win yet another delay in the U.S. taking any meaningful action to restore a balance of trade.

Then there’s the Chinese take on the agreement:

“China is willing to increase imports in accordance with the needs of its domestic market and the people’s needs, including marketable products from the United States, to gradually ease the imbalance in two-way trade.”

“The two sides agreed to mutually open their markets, and as China advances a new round of reforms, the United States’ legitimate concerns can be progressively resolved.”

The two sides would “step up negotiations” toward full elimination of all additional tariffs, Wang said.

Note the qualifiers in the first sentence:  “… in accordance with the needs of its domestic market and the people’s needs …” and “… marketable products …”  In other words, they will do what’s in their own best self-interest, which is to employ their 1.2 billion people in manufacturing for export.  What “marketable products” are they talking about?  Thanks to China, the U.S. barely manufactures anything any more.  Even American consumers can’t find anything made in the U.S.  Virtually every single product we buy is labeled “made in China.”  The ones that aren’t are labeled “made in Mexico.”  Beyond Boeing aircraft and pickup trucks (of which the latter are largely assembled from Chinese and Mexican parts), what else is there?  Are we really expected to believe that we soon may see Chinese consumers driving around in Silverados, F-150s and Ram trucks?

It’ll never happen because Chinese consumers, thanks to gross over-crowding in their country, are incapable of consuming even their own domestic output, much less any imports from America.  What will it take for American leaders to understand that?  Forty-eight years of consecutive trade deficits, including not a single year in which the U.S. had a trade surplus with China, isn’t enough evidence?

I truly don’t understand the weird infatuation that Trump seems to have with communist dictator Xi.  He seems to have an almost hypnotic effect on Trump, who gushes praise for Xi after every face-to-face meeting.  Beyond Trump, I wish the U.S. would stop attending these G20 meetings.  I challenge anyone to cite a single example of how the U.S. has ever emerged from a G20 meeting with anything that has been beneficial to American workers.  Clearly, the G20 exists for the sole purpose of devising methods of sucking more blood from the U.S. economy, like a swarm of parasites, stopping just short of killing its host altogether.

For nearly two years, Trump has talked tough about putting America first and about making America great again, and restoring a balance of trade has been the central focus of that effort.  But what is there to show for it?  America’s trade deficit in manufactured goods has actually accelerated, setting new records month after month.

It appears that Trump is caving in to pressure from farmers and global corporations who are more interested in total global sales volume than in doing what’s necessary to help American workers and to keep the U.S. from financial ruin.

Trump’s failure at the G20 is extremely disappointing and I fear that I may be losing faith.


Economy’s Good, Not Great. Tariffs Not Yet a Factor.

October 20, 2018

I’m back from my annual fall fishing trip up north.  Much has happened and it’s time to get caught up.

The economy’s doing quite well.  In September, the unemployment rate fell yet again to 3.7%.  Economists are wringing their hands over the tight labor market.  Every month, the Federal Reserve proclaims the economy to be at “full employment,” a condition likely to yield rising labor costs, fueling unwelcome inflation.  Yet, every month the economy adds more jobs and somehow manages to find workers to fill them.  Now we’re really at full employment, says the Fed.  Another month.  More jobs added.  “Now we’re really, really at full employment.”  And on it goes.  This supposedly tight labor market is the Fed’s chief justification for raising interest rates.

It’s almost as though there’s a conspiracy to stir up hysteria about an over-heating economy.  On Tuesday, the Fed released its “JOLTS” report of the number of job openings, noting that the number of job listings exceeded the number of people reported to be actively seeking employment.  What they don’t tell you is that that’s perfectly normal.  “Job seekers” is a figure taken from the unemployment report.  But if you’re simply changing jobs and never filed for unemployment, you’re not counted.  Many job opening listings are simply positions opened up by people who have left for other jobs, often because they have decided to simply relocate from one place to another.  It’s a weak measure of the health of the economy.  Nevertheless, ECONODAY had this to say about the report:  “Jerome Powell (head of the Federal Reserve) concedes that it’s a mystery why wages haven’t been going up very much as demand for labor grows and the supply of labor declines. Yet sooner or later, the law of supply and demand is bound to assert itself, at least this is the risk that the Fed is guarding against in its rate-hike regime.”

Yesterday, commenting about the weak report of existing home sales, ECONODAY had this to say: “The lack of wage gains, however, is a negative for home buyers not to mention a great mystery of the 2018 economy given the increasing scarcity of available labor. And another great mystery of this year’s economy is the lack of interest in home ownership.”

Is it a lack of interest in home ownership, or a lack of the wherewithal to buy a home in the face of rising interest rates (driven by the Fed) combined with the “great mystery” of a “lack of wage gains?”  People don’t just lose interest in owning a home.  Everybody wants a place they can call their own.  The problem is that not everyone can afford it.

There’s really no mystery here.  Anyone who has followed this blog or has cast a cynical eye on the employment statistics ever since the “Great Recession” knows that the unemployment rate is completely bogus, driven down artificially by the Labor Department claiming that people have dropped out of the labor force.  During the Obama administration, 6.4 million workers mysteriously vanished.  Since Trump took office, that figure has shrunk by over a million workers, but an honest tally of the unemployed still stands at 11 million workers (including those who were unemployed before the “Great Recession”) and unemployment is actually at 6.6% instead of 3.7% – a rate nowhere near low enough to begin driving wages higher.  Per capita employment remains exactly 1% below the level it was at before the onset of the “Great Recession” – a figure that was already depressed.

So the economy is doing well – better than it has done in the past ten years – but that’s not saying a lot.  The tax cut that went into effect this year gets the credit, but that will only carry the economy so far.  To keep it going – to accelerate the economy even further – we need progress toward cutting the trade deficit, especially the deficit in manufactured goods.  The Trump administration has made a lot of moves in that direction, imposing 10% tariffs on steel and aluminum, tariffs on $25 billion of Chinese imports, followed by 25% tariffs on an additional $225 billion of their imports, the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and threats to impose tariffs on all auto imports.

But there’s no evidence of any improvement in our trade situation, at least not yet.  The most recent trade data show that the rapid erosion of American manufacturing continues, yielding a trade deficit of $70 billion in manufactured goods in August – a new record – with new record trade deficits with China and Mexico.

That’s not an indication that Trump’s tariffs are a failure.  Aside from the small tariffs on aluminum and steel, none of the above-mentioned initiatives have taken effect yet.  The biggest chunk of the tariffs on China went into effect in September, so the effect on trade with China won’t show up until new trade data is released next month.  The “USMCA” agreement – the replacement for NAFTA – hasn’t been enacted yet.  And the trade deficit with China was artificially swollen by a rush to beat the tariffs.

It’s going to take a lot of patience to realize the real benefits of Trump’s trade policy.  The purpose of tariffs is to provide an incentive to manufacture products domestically.  The immediate effect will be to raise prices for American consumers, just as economists have warned.  Longer term,  companies will begin to realize that they can improve profits by manufacturing in the U.S., thus avoiding the tariffs.  It’s going to take time for that realization to sink in, and time for companies to implement plans to build factory capacity in the U.S.  Ultimately, when that capacity comes on line, we’ll see a real boom in the demand for labor and a corresponding rise in wages, more than offsetting any increase in prices.

Hopefully, the Federal Reserve won’t torpedo the economy in the meantime.  It can’t have any impact on price increases driven by tariffs, so it would be pointless to even try.  All they can do is drive the economy into recession with their high interest rates, raising doubts about the president’s economic policies, and increasing the chances that America will shrink back into its role as host in the global host-parasite trade relationship.  That would be a disaster.

Again, it’s going to take time and patience.  It took seven decades of globalism (beginning with the signing of the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade – GATT – in 1947) to get us into the fix we’re in.  It’s going to take more than a year or two to get us out.