Category Archives: Trump

Background to the Gulf rift: Trump real estate deals

Ben Walsh, Ryan Grim, Clayton Swisher at the Intercept write: Not long before  a major crisis ripped through the Middle East, pitting the United States and a bloc of Gulf countries against Qatar, Jared Kushner’s real estate company had unsuccessfully sought a critical half-billion-dollar investment from one of the richest and most influential men in the tiny nation, according to three well-placed sources with knowledge of the near transaction.

Kushner is a senior adviser to President Trump, and also his son-in-law, and also the scion of a New York real estate empire that faces an extreme risk from an investment made by Kushner in the building at 666 Fifth Avenue, where the family is now severely underwater. Read full article here.

The last neocon out, and one Islamophobe less in Trump’s cabinet

After John Bolton’s disappearance, Elliott Abrams is now done for. Goodbye to the last two neocons in play in regard to potential appointments.

Now the drama starts with the actual cabinet appointees as Michael Flynn, NSC chief, resigns. Goodbye to bad rubbish. Keith Kellogg takes over the NSC as ‘acting head’: at least he doesn’t foam at the mouth.

Trump might have stuck with Flynn as the revelations over his contacts with the Russian Embassy came out, if it hadn’t been for Trump’s loss of face over the ‘Muslim ban’.

Who comes out of all of this a hero – or heroine? Sally Yates: who warned the White House about the illegality of the Muslim ban and about Michael Flynn. Where is she? Fired of course.

Trump will not be drawn by neo-conservatives

In a sign that Donald Trump will not be drawn into another neo-conservative nightmare, two of his most powerful supporters, Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, are being frozen out of future Trump organisations. They had been pushing John Bolton as Secretary of State, and then after Rex Tillerson became Trump’s appointee, they pushed for him as number two.

 

Trump’s poor grasp of economic reality, and the prospective failure of his economic populism

There are three factors that will ultimately make Trump economics an event limited in time that will add to Central Bank debt and be followed by crisis and stagflation:

  1. His tax cuts mean that Trump will have to rely on monetary expansion. The Fed’s Jan 19 announcement of rising interests rates to bring sanity back to the capital markets, will conflict with the need to fund expenditures through tax credits as seems to be the plan. The whole thing relies on a replay of the old Reagan-Thatcher ‘trickle-down’ nonsense, which has been thoroughly discredited. As Ha-Joon Chang has explained, Western economies are undermining productivity by massively scaling back welfare while reducing purchasing power by squeezing wages.
  2. Falling unemployment figures under Obama, which have been used to show us a successful neoliberal trajectory to have hidden a dark truth. Although I list Joseph Stiglitz’s articles on Trump economics below because he talks a lot of sense about upcoming problems, his statement that Trump inherits a vibrant economy from Obama is wrong. The reason that trump has come to power is that the mass of the population is desperate and tired out. So Trumpist antiwelfarism will add insult to an already massive injury.
  3. Trump idea that he can bring jobs back to the US has to face technological realities. The industrial landscape has changed fundamentally, and both Stiglitz and Gwynne Dyer write eloquently about these difficulties. Trump economics cannot, given the political and economic structures in place at the moment, drive money into the hands of the middle classes: it is merely continue, if not accelerate the transfer of wealth to the top.  Unless Trump suddenly becomes a ‘national socialist’, his project will founder.

Joseph Stiglitz writes:

The only way Trump will square his promises of higher infrastructure and defense spending with large tax cuts and deficit reduction is a heavy dose of what used to be called voodoo economics. Decades of “cutting the fat” in government has left little to cut: federal government employment as a percentage of the population is lower today than it was in the era of small government under President Ronald Reagan some 30 years ago.

the increase in infrastructure spending is likely to be accomplished through tax credits, which will help hedge funds, but not America’s balance sheet: such programs’ long track record shows that they deliver little value for money. The cost to the public will be especially high in an era when the government can borrow at near-zero interest rates. If these private-public partnerships are like those elsewhere, the government will assume the risks, and the hedge funds will assume the profits.

The debate just eight years ago about “shovel-ready” infrastructure seems to be a distant memory. If Trump chooses shovel-ready projects, the long-term impact on productivity will be minimal; if he chooses real infrastructure, the short-term impact on economic growth will be minimal. And back-loaded stimulus has its own problems, unless it is managed extremely carefully.

Read full article here

Gwynne Dyer writes:

Neither Donald Trump nor his new appointment of Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor understands the significance of their forthcoming collaboration.

Puzder bears a large part of the responsibility for fulfilling Trump’s election promise to “bring back” America’s lost industrial jobs: seven million in the past 35 years. That’s what created the Rust Belt and the popular anger that put Trump in power. But Puzder is a fast-food magnate who got rich by shrinking his costs, and he has never met a computer he didn’t like.

He tells us: “They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age-, sex-, or race-discrimination case”.

But it isn’t evil foreigners who “stole” seven million jobs, and will probably eliminate up to 50 million more in the next 20 years. It’s the robots and computers that Puzder is so fond of. As automation moves up the skill sets, self-driving cars will annihilate another four million jobs. A 2013 study concluded that 47 percent of existing jobs in the United States are vulnerable to automation in the next 20 years, and the numbers are as bad or worse for the other developed countries.

This is what is really driving the “populist revolution” that caused two of the world’s oldest democracies to make bizarre, self-harming political choices in the past year. First Brexit, then Trump. Neo-fascism looms as we fear  a re-run of the 1930s. Economic growth has slowed since the crash of 2008, and unemployment is much higher than it looks. The official US unemployment figure is only 5 percent, but almost one-third of American men between the ages of 25 and 54 are “economically inactive.” So angry populist leaders are popping up again all across the developed world.

The “Dirty Thirties” ended in the Second World War, and there are obvious parallels today. TheEU is fraying at the edges, and Donald Trump has talked about curtailing US support for NATO. He has also threatened to slap huge tariffs on Chinese exports to the US, and it’s probably a bad idea to push China too hard when it is already in grave economic trouble.

But this is not the 1930s. There are no ranting dictators promising revenge for lost wars, and government benefits mean that unemployment is no longer a catastrophe for most people in Western countries. The old white working class (and some of the middle class) are angry because jobs are disappearing and because immigration is changing the ethnic balance in their countries, but they are not angry enough to want a war.

Trump’s election means that we are in for a wild ride in the next four years, but he will ultimately disappoint his supporters because he is barking up the wrong tree. He cannot bring back the jobs that were lost, because most of them were not lost to his favorite culprits: Free trade and uncontrolled immigration. Even if Trump understood this, he could not admit it in public, because there is nothing he can do about it.

Read full article here. Dyer’s article reiterates some of Joseph Stiglitz’s earlier warnings.

 

Rand Paul Vows to Block John Bolton as Deputy Secretary of State

Jason Ditz writes

President-elect Donald Trump is facing criticism for other nominations, but none may be so impactful as Sen. Rand Paul’s (R – KY) promise to oppose John Bolton’s nomination as Deputy Secretary of State, saying the ultrahawkish Bolton is “an automatic no.”

Paul expressed openness at Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, saying he’s going to reserve judgement on him, but that Bolton “should get nowhere close to the State Department.” Read full article here.

Perhaps the Bolton proposal is a ploy by Trump to manoeuvre the Senate into endorsing Tillerson, while giving them a decoy to shoot down.

Trump wants to stop US régime change policies

Trump has laid out a US military policy which will avoid foreign interventions and instead focus purely on defeating DAESH/IS.

“We will stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with,” he said on Tuesday night in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

“Instead our focus must be on defeating terrorism and destroying Isis, and we will.”

Trump’s remarks came a few hours after Barack Obama delivered his final national security address of his presidency. Obama warned Trump to avoid overheated rhetoric in favour of a nuanced approach to the war on terror, and to avoid actions that could give false legitimacy to Isis as the “vanguard of a new world order”.

This from a president who sold more arms to the world than any previous US president, whose war of choice was Afghanistan, and whose avowed policy and that of his party since 2009 was to pursue régime change in Syria by proxy, only to pull back half-way, thus landing the country in an unfinished conflict which destroyed it completely.

Good riddance to the Nobel Peace Laureate Drone King and to the liberal internationalist imperialism of the Democratic party’s Progressive Policy Institute that spawned his policies.

Trump’s punch line: more generals and corporate CEOs

A retired general comes back to run Defense, if he gets the waiver from Congress to allow a military man into the post, which he probably will. Mattis believes Iran is dangerous. He also believes that Israeli policies are turning it into an apartheid state. He also said that he has never found torture to be useful, and that his preferred tools for getting answers are “a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers.”

Another retired general, John Kelley, is picked to run the Department of Homeland Security. Kelly is apparently a liberal voice on the matter of undocumented immigration. So there seems to be some hope from the generals.

Luckily Oklahoma governor ‘drill-baby-drill’ Mary Fallin has been passed over for Interior secretary. Instead ex-Navy Seal Montana republican congressman Ryan Zinke has been chosen.

But Trump is also surrounding himself with CEOs to run the US, and its foreign policy. The appointment of Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon, confirms his insistence on a pro-Russian foreign policy stance.

If Trump’s cabinet is so far worth $14.5bn that’s largely because Wilbur Ross becomes secretary of commerce, Rod Rickets deputy secretary of commerce, Betsy De Vos secretary of education, and Linda MacMahon secretary of education.

The main worry is Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt who is going to run the Environmental Protection Agency. He threatens to erase much of President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda.

However, Zinke as a representative of the hunting and fishing lobby, holds out hope for protection of America’s wild spaces.

Trump is appointing a seriously pro-business cabinet; now wait for the punch line

Trump’s new picks:

Steve Mnuchin, hedge fund manager: to Treasury

Elaine Chao, wife of Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell with Labour Dept experience, and potential ‘light hands’ on safety: to Transportation

Wilbur Ross, bankruptcy investment specialist: to Commerce

Tom Price, anti-Obamacare orthopaedic surgeon, and Georgia Congressman: to Healthcare

and, Mary Fallin, ‘drill baby drill’ Oklahoma Governor is the most likely candidate for Interior Secretary

Trump is getting the Republican Party on his side with these picks. Having assuaged the party, is he thinking he can now be more controversial on defense and state? In other words is he going to pursue his international isolationist instincts with like minded appointees in those posts?

Trump’s National Security Adviser Facilitated the Murder of Civilians in Afghanistan

Gareth Porter writes

After retired Lt. Gen. Michael J. Flynn spoke at the Republican National Convention, The Washington Post captured the prevailing media view of Flynn in the headline: “He was one of the most respected intel officers of his generation. Now he’s leading ‘Lock her up’ chants.”

Now that President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Flynn as his national security adviser, media coverage has given prominence to the more serious issue of Flynn’s denunciation of Islam as a “cancer” and other manifestations of his embrace of Islamophobia. But the mainstream media view of Flynn’s military record ignores his pivotal role in devising a targeting scheme that was the basis for an indiscriminate Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) campaign of killing and incarcerating Afghans suspected of being in the Taliban insurgency. The corporate media, which have never examined that dark chapter in the history of the Afghanistan war critically, have long treated the campaign as one of the few success stories of the war.

read full article here