America’s economy is locked in a downward spiral toward socialism.

January 12, 2022

Empty store shelves. Runaway inflation. Labor shortages. Auto production way down for lack of chips. The Federal Reserve ready to start jacking up interest rates and start dumping bonds into the market. And have you noticed what’s happening with the trade deficit?

Probably not, so I’ll fill you in. It exploded in September, soaring to $81.4 billion, crushing the previous record of $73.2 billion set the previous month. As announced by the Commerce Department last week, the trade deficit in November was just shy of that September record. But that doesn’t begin to tell the story. The deficit in manufactured goods soared to a new record of $96.3 billion in November, eclipsing the previous record set only two months earlier by a whopping $5 billion.

Look at this chart of the trade deficit in manufactured goods: https://petemurphy.files.wordpress.com/2022/01/manfd-goods-balance-of-trade.pdf. We’ve been told that those empty shelves are due to Covid-related labor shortages at overseas manufacturing plants. In light of the trade data, that’s clearly a lie! If it were true, imports would be declining instead of shattering records. And the trade data is corroborated by the massive backup of container ships waiting to unload at west coast ports.

The fact is that warehouses across the country are stuffed to the rafters with goods, so much so that they can’t keep track of where everything is. Items that you see missing from the shelves are here in abudant supply, but buried so deep in the warehouse by more recent shipments of other things that they can’t even get at it. As a perfect example, the state of Florida recently discovered a stash of a million Covid test kits that had expired, buried so deep amid other stuff that they had completely lost track of them. So they’ll head straight to the landfill.

Our economy is stuck in a downward spiral. Trade deficits suck money out of the economy – money that can only be pumped back in through deficit spending. A trade deficit of $96 billion per month requires federal deficit spending of at least a trillion dollars per year just to keep it from sinking into recession. The only way to pump that much deficit spending into the economy is through social programs – socialism – that only fuels more demand for imported goods, making the trade deficit bigger. More deficit spending, more inflationary pressure and higher interest rates, more disincentive to work for a living. More labor shortages. More socialism.

The U.S. ran its last trade surplus in1975. Thanks to both parties’ embrace of globalism and free trade since the end of World War II, we’ve now had forty-six consecutive years of trade deficits that have transformed America from the richest country the world had ever seen – the world’s preeminent industrial power – into a skid row bum, begging the rest of the world, especially China, to loan us money by buying our debt. The optimism I felt when the Trump administration recognized the problem and began slapping tariffs on Chinese imports is gone.

There’s no hope that Biden will lift a finger to address the trade deficit. Trump left him a perfect tool to tackle it – the “Phase 1” trade deal with China, in which China itself agreed that if they didn’t meet quotas for increasing the purchases of American-made goods, then the U.S. would slap a 25% tariff on the half of Chinese products that weren’t already hit with tariffs. By the end of 2020 they had failed miserably, making a mockery of the deal. Not only did Biden not follow through on the deal, it was many months before he even acknowledged its existence. With only one month of data left to be tabulated for 2021, China’s performance vs. their obligations is even worse. Still the Biden administration won’t act. Not surprising. Biden’s decades of experience in the Senate make him one of globalism’s architects.


“The Real Threat to American Democracy”

January 7, 2022

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/real-threat-to-american-democracy-by-michael-lind-2022-01

I came across this opinion piece a couple of days ago as I browsed Marketwatch, which reprinted it with the permission of Project Syndicate. In the opinion of professor Michael Lind (clearly no fan of Trump) at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, the real threat isn’t Trump, even if he were to re-take the presidency in 2024. The real threat is what led to the rise of Trump: “… the disconnect between what the bipartisan US political establishment promises and what it delivers.”

Embraced by both parties for decades, globalization has failed to deliver any benefits for the American people. Instead, it has transformed America, once the richest and greatest industrial power the world had ever seen, into a skid row bum, broke and utterly dependent on the rest of the world – most notably China, a communist regime that would like nothing better than to destroy the U.S. and assume its role as the most powerful nation in the world – for its most basic needs.

Both parties are equally culpable for getting us into this mess, not because they believed in it, but because it’s what their corporate benefactors paid them to do. They went along because they didn’t understand how disparities in population density drive massive global trade imbalances, making it certain that badly overpopulated nations, desperate to employ their bloated labor forces, would ravage America’s economy. Globalization was never about benefitting Americans. It was all about using America’s wealth to boost corporate profits by turning such nations into western-style consumers at America’s expense.

Lind closes with this:

Many of the architects of these colossal disasters have gone on to establish lucrative careers as respected experts. Few have suffered financial or reputational losses. When a national establishment fails so often and at such cost, and when mainstream media sources remain complicit in those failures, no one should be surprised if citizens look to alternative media sources, including crazy ones, or turn to outsider politicians, including narcissistic demagogues like Trump.

… the real long-term threat to American democracy is the lack of popular trust in conventional politicians whose policies have repeatedly failed. And for that lack of public trust, American elites have nobody to blame but themselves.


Tucker Carlson’s Surprising “Take” on Overpopulation

January 5, 2022

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/tucker-world-we-live-in-cannot-last

While browsing the news on the internet this morning, I came across a couple of very interesting and surprising opinion pieces from two different commentators. They deal with different subjects, but subjects that share the common link that is the focus of this blog. I’ll first address the opinion piece by Tucker Carlson of Fox News (link provided above) because I found it to be the most surprising.

Now, before I start, and so that I don’t lose half of my readers right out of the box, don’t get the impression that, because I read Fox News, I’m a Republican and posting this just to advance the Republican agenda. I scan all the major news outlets, including Fox, in order to get stories that the others often won’t even cover. I’m an independent and have bashed both parties especially hard for doing the bidding of their corporate benefactors when they champion policies designed to keep growing our population when it’s increasingly evident that, while boosting GDP and corporate profits, it’s eroding our quality of life.

That said, I was curious where Carlson was going with this piece titled “The word we live in cannot last, but that’s not necessarily a tragedy.” What is it about our world that he thinks can’t last? Too many liberal politicians? Too much “wokeness?” Too much drift toward socialism?

It’s none of that. Yes, he gets in a couple of digs aimed at Democrats – nothing surprising there. What is surprising is that it’s an overpopulated world that he sees that can’t last. He asks the question, “… how many people is too many?” I was shocked! That’s exactly the question that my proposed amendment to the constitution would force politicians to consider when setting immigration policy. Why can’t politicians see it and do something about it?

He then goes on to answer that question:

In Washington, you will never hear that question. More bodies in a country mean more power for the people who run it. Big nations need big governments. Politicians always want more people to rule, so the incentive for unrestrained population growth is baked right into the system. 

The consequences of that?

The larger a bureaucracy becomes, the more impersonal it gets. Past a certain size, organizations of any kind lose their regard for people. As they get bigger, they get blunter, more soulless and cruel. 

It’s true. If there’s one thing that economists get right, it’s the law of supply and demand. As the supply of anything increases, the cheaper it gets. Humanity is no different. The more our numbers grow, the more devalued and cheaper human life becomes, to the point that an individual is practically worthless. You don’t matter. There’s plenty more eager to replace you.

It’s gratifying and encouraging to see that other people with influence are beginning to see the big picture and ask the right questions. I encourage you to read the whole piece yourselves, and I’ll leave it at that.


BEA to begin tracking “trade in value added”

December 13, 2021

If you visit the web site for the “Bureau of Economic Analysis,” you’ll be greeted with an announcement that the Bureau will begin tracking “trade in value added,” which I find very interesting. Could this be the first step toward the U.S. imposing a “value added tax” – or “VAT” – on imports?

What is a “value added tax?” It’s a very complicated subject. It’s essentially a sales tax – one that would be levied by the federal government. Nearly every country in the world uses it to generate a substantial portion of their government’s revenue. The United States is one of the few, and most glaring, exceptions. When applied to imports, it essentially functions as a sort of tariff – but one that’s perfectly legal under the rules of the World Trade Organization.

Wikipedia has a very long article explaining the value added tax and it will leave your head spinning when you’ve finished it. What’s most important is the effect on trade. For that, zip right to the end of the article:

Many politicians and economists in the United States consider value-added taxation on US goods and VAT rebates for goods from other countries to be unfair practice. For example, the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition claims that any rebates or special taxes on imported goods should not be allowed by the rules of the World Trade Organisation. AMTAC claims that so-called “border tax disadvantage” is the greatest contributing factor to the $5.8 trillion US current account deficit for the decade of the 2000s, and estimated this disadvantage to US producers and service providers to be $518 billion in 2008 alone.

In other words, other countries use the VAT as a sort of tariff, which the WTO allows. The U.S. doesn’t, putting it at a huge trade disadvantage. So this announcement by the BEA that it will begin compiling “value added” data may be signaling that a move in that direction. In other words, the U.S. may finally have reached the conclusion that “if you can’t beat them, join them.” This would be an enormous development!

Some may protest that they don’t want to pay more sales tax – one to the federal government on top of what they already pay to their state. But if it were accompanied by a corresponding reduction in federal income tax, the only effect would be its role in leveling the trade playing field, at least to some extent (probably not enough to offset the the effect of population density disparities), bringing high-paying manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.

If the U.S. doesn’t have the guts to thumb its nose at the WTO and impose tariffs on imports (like Trump did with China), at least a VAT would be a smaller step in the right direction.


Inflation / Supply Chain / Worker Shortage Crisis. What the hell is going on?

November 14, 2021

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. It’s because I’ve been analyzing the most recent economic data in the hope of being able to relate it in some way to my theory that worsening overpopulation, and trade with overpopulated nations, is driving unemployment and poverty higher – ultimately leading to mankind’s undoing.

I find myself at a loss, however. None of what’s going on in the economy today adds. Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t make sense because something fishy is going on. So I’m just going to present the data and let you decide for yourself.

Trade Data:

Let’s begin with this chart of our trade deficit in manufactured goods. It had begun to show signs of leveling off until June of 2020 when it took off again, but has leveled off again for the past five months, setting a record in September. The trade deficit with China soared to its highest level since December 2018, as imports rose and as China continued to renege on its commitments to buy U.S. exports, confident that the Biden administration doesn’t have the backbone to enforce the “Phase 1” trade agreement. At any rate, it seems that companies who switched to their secondary suppliers in other countries when tariffs were imposed on China had no choice but to order more from China when those secondary suppliers were unable to keep up with demand. That’s not cheap and surely factored into rising prices.

The soaring trade deficit kind of makes sense. As the pandemic began to bite and as stimulus money fattened up wallets, consumers began to simultaneously hoard some items while soing on a shopping spree for others. Companies increased their orders for foreign goods by $20 billion per month until the supply chain was choked off by a shortage of shipping containers and a glut of cargo ships stalled at inbound ports. Now, here’s a chart of our overall trade deficit. As you can see, it was fairly stable at an average of about $50 billion per month but, sometime around June of 2020, it began to soar, reaching an all-time record of $80.9 billion in September, the most recent month for which trade data is available. That’s a jump of $30 billion per month. The increase in manufactured imports explains most of it. The rest is due to a huge jump in oil imports. In May of 2020, oil imports had fallen to a modern-era record low of $5.95 billion. In September, imports were back up to $18.9 billion and climbing.

Last week I saw a news report that said the number of ships anchored offshore from the port of Los Angeles had risen to over 100. It was also reported that warehouses across the entire U.S. are completely full. So full are the warehouses that truckloads and containers full of goods are being parked in empty lots and anywhere they can legally park.

At the same time, we see rolling product outages of everything on our store shelves, including domestically produced food items. There is talk of turkey shortages and cranberry shortages for Thanksgiving. One day you’ll see an empty shelf where some commonly used item once sat. Next week, that space is full but some other items are now gone. You never know what you’re going to be able to get.

It’s these shortages that are blamed for soaring prices. But how the hell do we have these shortages? The trade data and news reports about ports clogged with offloaded containers and warehouses stuffed to the rafters all paint a picture of a glut of products beyond anything that anyone could ever have imagined.

I’m telling you, something’s not right. I believe global corporations have learned a new trick, using the pandemic as cover to create an illusion of shortages to justify big price hikes, all in an effort to grab up as much government stimulus money as they can. Domestic producers and shipping companies are also capitalizing, and blaming it all on the pandemic – something that was a factor early on but hasn’t been – at least economically speaking – for a long time now.

Employment Data:

The most recent employment data is even more confusing. We see the “help wanted” signs posted on the door of virtually every establishment we walk into. We hear the news reports about shortages of workers in every industry, from manufacturing to fast food. Companies are boosting wages and offering various kinds of “signing bonuses,” yet still can’t attract workers. The worker shortage is constantly cited as the reason behind empty shelves and soaring prices.

But wait a minute. The Labor Department reported last week that unemployment fell to 4.6% in October. That’s a pretty low level of unemployment. In the past fourteen years, it was lower than that for only a three-year period from March of 2017 to March of 2020. And look at this chart of per capita employment, which is essentially the same thing as the “labor force participation rate” which is tracked by the labor department. It fell like a rock at the onset of the pandemic, but has almost completely recovered just as quickly. Today, it stands at the same level as it did in September of 2016. (It has never yet recovered to the level that existed before the global financial crisis of 2008.) In September of 2016, we were in the final months of the 2016 election, and the Democrats were touting the strength of the economic recovery from the financial crisis. Inflation was nearly non-existent. Shelves were fully stocked. Every establishment was fully staffed. Unemployment was 5.0%. So how is it that today, in spite of the fact that the labor climate is almost exactly the same now as it was then, and the fact that we have two million more workers employed today than we did then, shelves are empty, prices are soaring and everyone complains that it’s because of a worker shortage?

I believe part of it can be explained by the explosion in highway construction work and in residential and commercial construction. Perhaps there’s even some element of growth in manufacturing employment as companies grow more disgusted with the global supply chain. I’ve said for a long time that a return to domestic manufacturing would transform the economy, creating millions of high-paying jobs that would siphon workers away from low-paying jobs in industries like fast food. We may be witnessing exactly that kind of transition. If we are, don’t be surprised if vast swaths of the fast food industry and others that provide very little value to consumers disappear. Don’t be surprised if restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s bite the dust. How long will customers wait in long lines at drive-through windows before they wake up to the fact that they could pack themselves a brown-bag lunch at a quarter of the price and in one tenth of the time, not to mention the gas wasted and carbon emitted while they sit there with their engines idling for fifteen minutes?

Even so, such a transition in the economy would shift at most maybe five million workers from those low-paying industries to high-paying manufacturing and construction jobs. That’s five million workers out of 160 million. It doesn’t explain how every industry is complaining of a worker shortage. Just take a look around and you can’t help but be suspicious of something fishy. Fast food restaurants with closed dining rooms have “help-wanted” signs at the entrance to their drive-through window. Yet, walk into the Culver’s or Chick-Fil-A right next door and you find them fully staffed.

A big part of the explanation of the supply chain crisis is that trucking companies can’t find enough drivers to move the goods. But then you take a trip in your car and find the truck volume on the interstate highways is worse than you’ve ever seen it.

I could go on, but you get the idea. None of this adds up. You can’t help but wonder: is this fast food restaurant really trying to hire any workers, or is that “help wanted” sign just there to create a phony narrative that justifies their higher prices and your long wait in the drive-through lane? Are these rolling outages on store shelves really due to product shortages, or they engineered to justify higher prices. Are all of these companies using that same narrative to raise prices not because they need to, but to suck up their share of pandemic stimulus money and social spending money that’s pouring into the economy by the trillions?

If you’re a domestic manufacturer of consumer staples, are you going to stand by while manufacturers of televisions, computers, cell phones and others rake in huge profits from people spending their stimulus money, or are you going to get in on the action by creating an illusion of shortages to justify higher prices and profits?

Where are the journalists who should be asking these tough questions? Where are the regulatory agencies who should be overseeing this crap? And why is the Federal Reserve sitting on its hands while inflation escalates out of control?

This whole supply chain/inflation/worker shortage crisis is a bunch of BS that doesn’t add up until you look at corporate profits and then realize that we’re all being taken for a ride.


Biden admin makes first acknowledgment of “Phase 1” deal as China’s compliance deteriorates further

October 12, 2021

In January, 2020, China signed an agreement with the U.S. – the “Phase 1” agreement – to boost its imports of American goods. They agreed to specific goals for four classes of goods – manufactured goods, energy products (like oil, gas and coal), agricultural goods and total goods. The agreement set specific goals for 2020, followed by higher goals for 2021. They also agreed that, if they failed to meet those goals, the U.S. would impose 25% tariffs on the remaining half of Chinese goods exported to the U.S. (The Trump administration had previously imposed a 25% tariff on all Chinese imports. The Chinese agreed to the Phase 1 deal in exchange for a delay of tariffs on the remainder of their products.)

Earlier this month, the Commerce Department released the trade data for the month of August. China’s imports of Amercan goods fell to their lowest level since February. Their imports of total goods dropped to $11.3 billion. By this time in the agreement, they should be importing $24.5 billion per month. Year-to-date, they’ve imported barely half of what they agreed to import. In fact, they’re barely exceeding the 2017 level that was used as the baseline for the agreement.

Their imports of manufactured goods have been flat at about 60% of what they agreed to import. Their worst performance has been their imports of energy products – only 20% of what they agreed to import in 2021. Surprising, given that China is currently in the midst of an energy shortage. Their imports of agricultural goods are less than half of what they promised – again, surprising given the challenges of feeding such a badly-overpopulated nation.

Through all of this, the Biden administration has remained silent, never once even acknowledging the existence of the Phase 1 deal, one of the signature accomplishments of the Trump administration. Until earlier this month, that is. Last week, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai called out China’s failure to comply with the deal and said that Washington must enforce the deal. See this article: https://www.reuters.com/business/bidens-new-china-trade-plan-echoes-trumps-assumes-beijing-wont-change-2021-10-04/

The opening paragraph in the article reads:

“Top U.S. trade negotiator Katherine Tai on Monday pledged to exclude some Chinese imports from tariffs imposed by former President Donald Trump while pressing Beijing in “frank” talks over its failure to keep promises made in Trump’s trade deal and end harmful industrial policies.

Already I smell rat – the “free trade” rat that has infested Democratic and Republican administrations alike for decades and has absolutely ruined the manufacturing sector of America’s economy. Tai pledges to “exclude some Chinese imports from tariffs imposed by Trump” and wants to engage in “frank” talks. You’ve got to be kidding me. The Chinese themselves agreed to the deal. They agreed that they deserved to be punished with more tariffs if they didn’t comply. Instead, Tai wants to actually reward them by removing the tariffs already in place and then engage in mealy-mouthed talks – the same tactic that has left China rolling in the aisles with laughter each time such talks have ended, in disbelief at how stupid and weak American trade negotiators are.

This absolutely makes me sick. If you ask me, failure to enforce this trade deal should be an impeachable offense.


Existential Threats

September 21, 2021

“Existential threat.” It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. What is an existential threat? It’s something that threatens your very existence. Someone who wants to murder you is an existential threat to you. You will stop at nothing to stop that person because your life depends on it. Another nation that wants to overthrow our own nation and make it their subject is an existential threat. Our nation’s continued survival depends on stopping that other nation, just as we had to do in World War II to stop Japan and Germany. Every citizen took part in mustering everything we had to fight them.

So, when you hear that term used today, you would expect an all-out effort to combat the threat. Consider China. Over the past 2-3 decades, China has used trade to its advantage to put it on a path to becoming the world’s most dominant economy, making us utterly dependent on them for virtually everything while draining the wealth from our own economy through their massive trade surplus. And, using those trade dollars, they’ve engaged in a massive military build-up and have begun bullying other nations in that part of the world. Belatedly, our own leaders now consider China to be the biggest existential threat that we may face in the world.

To counter that threat, Biden just cut a deal with Australia and Great Britain to provide Australia with eight new nuclear-powered submarines. That’s about $24 billion worth of naval power. If we’re willing to go to that extent, wouldn’t you think that we’d jump at the chance to put an end to China’s ambitions for a teeny, tiny fraction of that cost? Trump, Biden’s predecessor, left him with the perfect tool to do exactly that when he cornered them into agreeing to the “Phase 1” trade deal in January of 2020. Take major steps toward reducing their trade surplus with the U.S., or have a 25% tariff slapped on the remaining half of their exports to the U.S., just like Trump had already done to the other half. That was the deal.

China agreed to it but, not surprisingly, they never intended to comply, believing that we would never enforce it, just like we had demonstrated for decades that we never enforce any trade deals. A year and a half into that two year trade deal, China has reneged on every aspect of it. They agreed to very specific goals for imports of American agriculture products, energy products, manufactured products and total goods. Through July, the most recent month for which trade data has been released by the Commerce Department, China is $74 billion short of its goal for manufactured goods, $43 billion short of its goal for energy products, $25 billion short of its goal for agriculture products, and a whopping $134 billion short of its goal for total goods.

When Trump slapped the 25% tariffs on half of all Chinese imports (something Biden has wisely left in place), it put a real hurt on China. Their total exports to the U.S. have fallen by – guess how much? – 25%, falling $108 billion in 2020 from their record amount of $418 billion in 2018.

China has thumbed its nose at the U.S. on this deal. What has Biden done in response? Absolutely nothing. In fact, not one time has he ever even acknowledged that the Phase 1 deal even exists. I don’t get it. The U.S. is desperate to counter China’s growing influence, willing to spend many billions of dollars to do it, yet the Biden administration won’t take advantage of this powerful tool – the one China fears the most – and, in relative terms, it wouldn’t cost a damn dime to implement. Why? It’s difficult to come to any other conclusion than Biden doesn’t want to give any credit to Trump. We’re faced with an existential threat, and Biden won’t lift a finger for political reasons.

Another example is global warming. Just today, Biden addressed the UN and emphasized the need to take more drastic action to blunt this threat to the very existence of our planet. On Sunday, when questioned by Margaret Brennan on Face the Nation about his claim that the Democrats’ infrastructure bill should be $6 trillion instead of $3.5 trillion, Bernie Sanders replied by asking “How much would we be willing to spend to save the planet?” It’s a good question, actually. If the earth could become uninhabitable, then we should stop at nothing to prevent it, no matter how great or small the cost and no matter how complex or simple the solution.

Global warming (or climate change, if you prefer) is caused by human activity which generates greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane to name a couple, which trap heat in the atmosphere. It was never a problem until, during the last couple of centuries, the human population exploded, doubling over and over again while clearing forests to develop cities and fueling an improved standard of living with fossil fuels. Greenhouse gas emissions grew beyond the planet’s ability to absorb them. The problem is total emissions, which is the product of per capita emissions multiplied by the size of the human population.

But what if we didn’t have to spend trillions of dollars (maybe quadrillions?) to wean the world off of fossil fuels in favor of renewable sources like solar and wind? What if greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced for free? It can be done. It was demonstrated by the Covid pandemic when most people stayed home during the early weeks of the spread of the disease. Amazingly, the air cleared all over the world and the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere dropped for the first time in many decades, something that all of the thousands of wind turbines and millions of solar panels had yet been able to achieve. When so many people hunkered down, it simulated what the world would be like with a smaller population.

It wouldn’t cost a thing and could be done more quickly than the decades-long or century-long timelines we’ve heard for cutting greenhouse gas emissions by X percent that scientists say needs to be achieved, though there’s little agreement on what “X” is. It can be done ethically, without resorting to Draconian measures. Birth rates can be influenced by something as simple as tax policy, and immigration can be cut. Reducing the population would not only solve global warming but virtually every other environmental threat along with it.

Yet no one utters a word to suggest reducing the population. In fact, the powers that be want it to continue to grow. The Paris Climate Accord pulls no punches in admitting that its real mission is not to stop global warming, but to reduce it to a manageable level so that “sustainable development” can continue. It’s not the planet they’re worried about. It’s “Sustainable development” – an oxymoron designed to fool you into believing that there really is such a thing – that you don’t need to worry about the environment because they’ve got everything under control.

In fact, the whole environmental movement has devolved into a scam meant to lull you into believing that everything is under control so that you won’t think about the situation so hard that you stumble upon the real problem – that it’s impossible to continue growing our population in a finite world. It’s a lesson that you learned as a child when you watched all the baby guppies die in your aquarium simply because there were too many for that little ecosystem to support. But that lesson has been tamped down by the purveyors of “sustainable development,” by the environmental proclamations of global corporations who are desperate to prop up growth in sales volume with population growth, and by politicians who tighten their grip on power by growing their electorate.

We are, in fact, facing existential threats, but the supporters of free trade and economic growth (code for population growth) would rather continue to profit from unsustainable policies in the short run, the future for our children be damned. They’d rather continue to trade with communist dictators today. Who cares if our children one day live under them? They’d rather have you believe that the recycle you put out on the curb for collection isn’t really going into a landfill, that your water-efficient appliance is actually saving you water, that your electric utility’s wind turbines and small solar panel farms are anything more than a drop in the bucket relative to the problem. Worst of all, the economists want you to believe that mankind is clever enough to overcome all obstacles to growth. I can think of two obstacles that we have yet to demonstrate we can overcome – stupidity and hubris.


Pro-China Lobby Groups Lying in their Quest to End Tariffs on Chinese Imports

August 7, 2021

Let me begin with a question. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce whose mission it is to aid U.S. businesses. True or false?

If you answered “true” to this question, as most people would, you’re dead wrong. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a lobbyist organization that promotes business interests and is funded by its member businesses – from the smallest of local businesses to global corporations. Naturally, the interests of those businesses that provide the lion’s share of their funding – global corporations – take precedence over all others. And they’re not above speaking out of both sides of their mouth in promoting those interests.

The subject of trade is a good example. Check out this “policy priorities“page from their web site. Click on the “Internation Trade, Investment and Regulatory Policy” link. Scroll down about half-way to the section on “International Trade, Investment and Regulatory Policy.” The third bullet item reads:

“Press for a China policy that seeks improved access to the Chinese market, advances structural reforms in China and tariff relief through new negotiations …”

Now, see the links to “Go Deeper” articles in the right-hand margin of the page. There you’ll find two conflicting articles. One is titled: “Two Big Wins for U.S. Trade: Completion of USMCA and the Phase 1 deal with China mean big things to American business.” The other, just above it, is titled “They’re Still There: Tariffs Weigh Heavily on U.S. Economy.”

Those tariffs on China – 25% on half of all Chinese imports – were the only thing that brought China to the negotiating table – and the threat of imposing them on the rest of all Chinese imports was the only thing that forced them to agree to big increases in their purchase of American products as part of the Phase 1 trade deal.

You can’t have it both ways. Either the Phase 1 deal was good for American business or it wasn’t. You can’t argue that it is and then complain that the very heart of the deal – the tariffs – is bad for American business. Yet, that’s exactly what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce does. To placate their small, local business members, they praise the deal. But, in the interest of big, global corporations, they complain that it’s a bad deal and what it terminated.

As further evidence, check out this article: https://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/business-groups-call-biden-restart-trade-talks-china. Here’s the key excerpts:

“Nearly three dozen of the nation’s most influential business groups — representing retailers, chip makers, farmers and others — are calling on the Biden administration to restart negotiations with China and cut tariffs on imports, saying they are a drag on the U.S. economy.”

“In a Thursday letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the business groups contend that Beijing had met “important benchmarks and commitments” in the agreement, including opening markets to U.S. financial institutions and reducing some regulatory barriers to U.S. agricultural exports to China.”

“The trade groups include some of Washington’s most influential big business associations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce …”

The claim that China has met its commitments and therefore qualifies to have the tariffs dropped is a flat-out lie. The Phase 1 deal set very specific goals for Chinese imports of American products. Meet those goals and the existing tariffs could be dropped. Fail to meet them and the tariffs would be extended to cover all Chinese imports. That’s the deal, stated in very clear terms. So far, through June, the most recent month for which trade data is available, China has failed to meet a single commitment.

In 2020, China fell short of its commitment for purchases of total U.S. goods by 33.5% or $62 billion. They fell short of their goal for the purchase of energy products by 64%. Among the four categories of goods for which specific goals were set – manufactured goods, energy goods, agricultural goods and total goods – they met the goal for agricultural goods only during the last three months of 2020, but fell far short for the year. Four categories of products. Twelve months in the year. That’s 48 opportunities to demonstrate a willingness to meet their commitments. They failed 45 out of those 48 times. In fact, for the year, they barely exceeded the 2017 baseline of the deal. In the all-important category of manufactured goods, they actually imported less than the 2017 baseline.

Six months into 2021, their performance is even worse. Their imports of total goods are 46% below their commitment. Their imports of energy products is 78% below. Even their imports of agriculture products, the category where they at least met the goal for the last three months of 2020, have collapsed in 2021, falling short of their commitment by 46% and even falling short of the 2017 baseline by $10 billion.

China hasn’t met their commitments, as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims. It’s failed abysmally. Contrary to the Chamber’s claim that China has earned the elimination of tariffs on its products, it has blatantly thumbed its nose at the Phase 1 deal, believing (and rightly, so far) that the U.S. will continue its long-demonstrated practice of failing to enforce trade deals.

President Biden, don’t listen to these globalist lobbying organizations. They’re lying to you. It’s time – past time, actually – to declare China a failure and to enforce the Phase 1 trade deal by extending the 25% tariffs to all Chinese imports. Fail to act and the U.S. will continue to be the laughing stock at the trade table for all other countries for years to come. That’s certainly not in America’s interests.


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.

 

 

 

 


U.S. Fails to Enforce “Phase 1” China Trade Deal

August 27, 2020

https://www.fidelity.com/news/article/top-news/202008242045RTRSNEWSCOMBINED_KBN25L023-OUSBS_1

As reported in the above-linked article, with six months of results from the “Phase 1” trade deal with China now in, the U.S. has “rolled over” for China yet again, ignoring the Chinese snub of the deal.  The picture that accompanies the article, showing the flag of Red China flying above that of the U.S., is appropriate.  Red China dominates the U.S. in trade because it dominates the U.S. in terms of its willingness to stand up for itself.

In spite of the fact that China has not made one inch of progress toward meeting the goals of the deal – in fact, it’s not even measuring up to the 2017 baseline for purchasing American goods – the U.S. Trade Representative’s office had this to say following a phone discussion with Chinese trade leaders:

“Both sides see progress and are committed to taking the steps necessary to ensure the success of the agreement,”

Red China has won again.  It’s tactic of making trade deals and then completely ignoring them, knowing that the U.S. never follows through on anything, has worked again, just as it has for decades.  The Chinese are once again rolling in the aisles with laughter.

Is Trump on board with this?  Is this a move calculated to avoid roiling the markets just ahead of the election?  Is he saving a tough response, like imposing the new tariffs that this deal delayed, until just ahead of the election, calculating that it will win him votes before anyone even takes notice of a market decline?

I don’t know, but I do know that the lack of progress in cutting the trade deficit and bringing back American manufacturing jobs is a major reason behind the decline in enthusiasm for his re-election.  Revitalizing the manufacturing sector of the economy is the key ingredient needed to “Make America Great Again” and it’s difficult to see any progress at all on that front.