Saturday, January 07, 2017

President Trump is going to be FDR Redux


Chairman Trump: President with a Mission

It is sad to watch the commentators on CNN when they switch to the president-elect. We have seldom seen such massive collective denial syndrome as that now taking place in the USA. Millions of Americans seem to be incapable of accepting that their method of selecting their president resulted in the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the most powerful nation and state in the world.

What is even more troubling is that the media and other commentators seem to be incapable of doing more than trot out shared hopes, masquerading as analysis, when talking about what a Trump presidency is going to look like.

There is a widespread misconception that checks and balances will somehow force Trump as president to change the policies he ran on, to policies that are closer to the left wing of the USA.

Fat chance.

The best way to examine what will happen in the USA over the next four years is to take a long, hard and realistic look at what Trump has achieved during the run to become the Republican contender, and the race with Clinton.

The emphasis must be on a realistic look.

The Cat offers the following points to all who would like to be able to make educated guesses about the direction that President Trump will steer the USA, and the world, starting with a bang in just 13 days:
1  
       FDR Redux - Trump will, for the reasons set out below, have as significant an impact on the course of America for the next two decades, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt had when he forced through his New Deal during the Depression years. FDR forced America to move sharply off the course it had followed for decades, into a new, untried course. Trump will do the same.

2.     The prism is Business - The media fail to understand one significant fact: Americans have elected a businessman, with little political experience, as their new president. Trump’s governance of the country will be more akin to the governance of a powerful American company by a strong chairman, than like the governance of the past four or five presidents.

3.     Mission versus Policy Papers - Trump ran his campaigns as a businessman would, not as a seasoned politician would. By doing that, he mowed through the competing Republican candidates for the nomination, and trounced Clinton. One clear example of his approach is the policies be offered to voters. He spelled out the Mission for America Inc., just as a Chairman of the Board would. The media should examine his proposals as being statements of the Mission he has for the USA, not as detailed plans to be executed.

4.     Missionaries in the Cabinet – Trump`s selection of his Cabinet should be not be viewed through the prism of traditional politics. Trump has chosen hard-edged, dedicated Missionaries. Their job is to move America away from the path it has been going on for several decades, into a new path, and by so doing, to take the steps needed to execute the Mission set out by Chairman Trump. In effect, they are rightwing revolutionaries.

5.     Trump`s Two Key Mission Statements – All of Trump`s statements and all of his Administration`s actions will be best understood by using the two tests he has repeatedly said he will be using as president: America First, and Make America Great Again. We will be best positioned if we ask of every situation what steps need to be taken to put America First. Here are some examples of how the America First test works:

a.     The West`s Defence policies: Trump has told industrialized nations that rely on the umbrella of American might for protection, that they have to pay their fair share of costs. Their choice is simple: either increase their expenditures on their defence, or pay America to reimburse it for defending them. Japan and the EU have gotten this message, and are talking about upping their defence expenditures. Canada will soon feel intense pressure from Trump to do the same.

b.     Intervention in other countries: As a businessman, Trump uses the calculus of the profit and loss account. He checks the income TO AMERICA of any venture involving American might or funds, and matches this against the costs to the US of such US actions. If the result is positive, this means America is benefiting, and his America First policy is met. If it is negative, then either the revenue (benefits) flow to the USA must be increased, or the costs decreased. He decried the intervention in Syria and Iraq on economic grounds as much as any other grounds: in his calculus, the costs incurred should have been fully repaid by the US getting oil from those areas. Otherwise, the venture is a losing propostion, and his America First test is not met. Expect this elementary profit and loss calculation to be made time and time again the next 4 or perhaps 8 years. The measuring stick is not the spread of democracy or any other political gains: it is money, pure and simple.

c.     Free Trade Agreements – Trump has been very clear about these. The recent ones and proposed ones do not meet his profit and loss America First calculation. And so he will change them, despite the desperate hope of many that the existence of signed agreements and multiple mixed-supply channels will prevent him. See below for how he will overcome the signed agreements.

6.     Negotiation Tactics – Nothing in Trump`s past makes me believe he is an ardent proponent of the Harvard Getting to Yes school of negotiation. His style is simple and very effective. To understand it, we have to forget about two things we are used to: multilateral agreements, and step by step negotiations. See below for more on this.

7.     The Smashing Attack Negotiation tactic – Trump often starts negotiations by a frontal attack, pushing the limits, followed by a pause to gauge the reaction, then by further attacks, until eventually he gets something close enough to what he wants to enable him to settle. This is not the way international negotiations usually work. Instead of teams of advisors seated around tables, carefully following the Getting to Yes dance, expect direct intervention by Trump (including via twitter), and constant turmoil and hyperbole, until he achieves something close enough for him to settle. But expect him to come back to the same issue time and again, with renewed bouts of smash and dash negotiation. Nothing is ever settled in Trump`s world, if he thinks he can better his position by re-negotiating the same issue time after time.

8.     One on One Duels – Trump believes he is the best one to negotiate the really important issues, with him settling the principles of any agreement and his Cabinet ministers then doing the legal papering. And this means no more multiparty multilateral agreements with the US at the table with tens of other nations. There will be one on one deals, settled to meet the America First test. And those settlements will not be used as the model for the next set of deals, unless the America First test is met.

9.     Checks and Balances – Forget about any checks and balances in either the Senate or the Congress to apply to Trump`s administration. He has already blasted holes in the established Republican Party, beating their best candidates and then whipping Clinton. He now represents a new force, with the Republicans reduced to a cheering squad;

a.     Take trade agreements. Trump has unilateral power to levy tariffs, independently of Senate or Congressional approval, So he will independently renegotiate existing trade agreements through two means: threatening to give notice to terminate them, and using Presidential tariffs to achieve his ends. The tariffs on all or most imports – likely to be put in place within his first 100 days – will be designed to tell his shareholders (those who voted for him) that he will deliver on his promises. And they will send a message to everyone else that he is serious about ending the massive outflow of money to pay for cheap imports into the US, and to have products made in the USA. He will use general tariffs, and also highly selective one-on-one tariffs against selected imports from selected countries, to renegotiate the trade deals. None of these negotiations will require mutual agreement in the first stages of his Smashing Attacks negotiations. Only when he gets his major principles accepted by the opponents, will he hand over the sorting out of details to his ministers and the hundreds of lawyers who make a living from this kind of stuff.

b.     Take the federal budget. Trump has already corned the Senate and Congress Republicans with 3 positions: firstly, his 2 trillion infrastructure expenditure commitment (some of which will be met by the building of the wall on the Mexican border, which Mexico will pay for through levies on remittances back to Mexico and/or a Mexican Wall Tariff on all imports, enough to pay for the wall over 10 or so years); secondly, his promise to substantially increase defence spending; and thirdly, with his redlining of old age payments so that cuts to them are out of bounds. That leaves all other areas to be slashed by the small statist Republicans in the Senate and House. Trump will allow such cuts, because he believes the federal government is too large and overstaffed. And he has not pledged to reduce US debt, but will rely on increased production to boost tax income.

10.  The Twitter Presidency – This is here to stay for several reasons: it allows Trump to set the topic of discussion in the media; it allows him to directly impose his views on any subject being debated, without having to wait for reports back from committees; and it allows him to herd the Republicans back onto the course he has chosen to meet his Mission statement of America First.
There you have it. A new prism for the media to allow them to properly assess the Trump Presidency. Please share it with every commentator or media person you know or have links to!

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