Archive

January 1st, 2017

UN has great potential for Trump

    "After January 20th things will be different at the UN," President-elect Donald Trump tweeted ominously after a historic Security Council vote to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank passed over a U.S. abstention last week. Trump had turned to Twitter days earlier to implore President Barack Obama to veto the resolution at the request of the Israelis. The split between incoming and outgoing U.S. presidents over the measure led to a few days of turmoil and a delay in the vote only to culminate in a highly public rebuke by the Security Council of Israel's policy. It seems all but certain that the fleeting display of unity in New York over the future of the Israel-Palestine conflict will quickly be subsumed by an even more polarized posture once Trump takes office.

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Trump Wishes Us All A Happy Thermonuclear New Year

    Now that the presidential election is over, will it ever really end? Not if Donald J. Trump and the cable news networks get their way. Having made the election into a pro-wrestling spectacle, the Twitter-addicted president-elect and his ratings-hungry enablers at CNN, Fox News, etc. appear determined to turn the United States government into an endless reality TV program.

    The hallmark of reality TV, of course, being sheer unreality. Absent terrorist attacks and weather-related catastrophes, however, political melodrama is the best known way to keep people watching what we quaintly call "news."

    CBS Chairman Les Moonves admitted as much last February. "It may not be good for America," he said of the GOP primary contest, "but it's damn good for CBS."

    Trump's role in the spectacle, he said, was great for ratings.

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Trump trade chief Navarro makes a rookie mistake

    Donald Trump has chosen Peter Navarro, one of the most ardent critics of trade with China, to head his new National Trade Council -- a move many consider the opening shot in a trade war. Though I think the China trade boom of the 2000s did have some harmful effects, especially on certain U.S. workers, I worry that Navarro's overall approach to trade doesn't make economic sense.

    The Cato Institute's Dan Ikenson recently took Navarro to task for his views on trade. Ikenson says Navarro is making an elementary error when he writes:

    "When net exports are negative, that is, when a country runs a trade deficit by importing more than it exports, this subtracts from growth."

    It's definitely not true that trade deficits always subtract from growth. This is a common error that I see people making, so it's important to explain why it's wrong.

    Everyone who's taken an economics class knows that gross domestic product, which represents the total value of the stuff a country produces, can be broken down into four parts:

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The imperative of hope

    Gloom is a terrible way to ring out the old and despair is of no help in trying to imagine the new.

      So let us consider what good might come from the political situation in which we will find ourselves in 2017. Doing this does not require denying the dangers posed by a Donald Trump presidency or the demolition of progressive achievements he could oversee. It does mean remembering an important distinction President Obama has made ever since he entered public life: that "hope is not blind optimism."

    "Hope," he argued, "is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it."

      It is this spirit that began to take hold almost immediately after Trump's election. Americans in large numbers, particularly the young, quickly realized that the coming months and years will require new and creative forms of political witness and organization.

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Shocking, but true: Corporate elites think Trump's trade agenda might help them

    It's widely treated as an article of faith that, if Donald Trump makes good on his vow to rip up our trade deals, he'll seek to re-negotiate them in a manner that helps American workers. After all, he's a "populist" who vows to remake the GOP as a "workers party," so surely any renegotiated deals on trade -- his signature issue, the one that cemented his bond with Rust Belt working class whites -- will follow suit, right?

    Maybe. But here's another plausible outcome: Whatever provisions on trade Trump does pursue on behalf of workers (such as tariffs -- never mind whether this would actually help them), Trump very well may also seek to re-craft our trade deals in ways that favor corporations.

    Don't take my word for this. Indeed, note that business groups themselves believe this is an actual possibility.

    Politico reports Wednesday that business lobbies, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are privately gearing up for a campaign to convince Trump that, if he does seek to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, he should do so in ways that help them:

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One president at a time

    President-elect Donald Trump seems to be so eager to be behind the desk in the Oval Office that he can't wait until he's sworn in to start running the country.

    As the retiring incumbent, Barack Obama, tries to enjoy his final presidential vacation in Hawaii, he must tolerate reading about his heir-apparent already impinging on his presidential turf back on the mainland. Trump is butting in on one of the most sensitive issues of war and peace of the last 70 years.

    Using his favorite communications toy, Twitter, Trump has implied he might start a new nuclear arms race. America's most notable non-expert in the nuclear field and in foreign policy has declared the United States "must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

    In a more pointed private remark to Mika Brzezinski, a co-host of the MSNBC program "Morning Joe," Trump was quoted as saying: "Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all."

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Netanyahu Makes Trump His Chump

    For those of you confused over the latest fight between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel, let me make it simple: Barack Obama and John Kerry admire and want to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the Land of Israel. I have covered this issue my entire adult life and have never met two U.S. leaders more committed to Israel as a Jewish democracy.

    But they are convinced — rightly — that Netanyahu is a leader who is forever dog paddling in the middle of the Rubicon, never ready to cross it. He is unwilling to make any big, hard decision to advance or preserve a two-state solution if that decision in any way risks his leadership of Israel’s right-wing coalition or forces him to confront the Jewish settlers, who relentlessly push Israel deeper and deeper into the West Bank.

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Inside the coming war between the United States and the United Nations

    Even before Donald Trump's inauguration as president, Congress is planning to escalate the clash over the U.N. Security Council's anti-Israel resolution into a full-on conflict between the United States and the United Nations. If Trump embraces the strategy -- and all signals indicate he will -- the battle could become the Trump administration's first confrontation with a major international organization, with consequential but largely unpredictable results.

    Immediately after the Obama administration abstained Friday from a vote to condemn Israeli settlements as illegal, which passed the Security Council by a vote of 14 to 0, Republicans and Democrats alike criticized both the United Nations and the U.S. government for allowing what Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., called "a one-sided, biased resolution." Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee for the State Department and foreign operations, pledged to lead an effort to withhold the U.S. funding that makes up 22 percent of the U.N.'s annual operating budget.

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December 31st, 2016

These coal country voters backed Donald Trump. Now they're worried about losing Obamacare.

    CNN this week aired a terrific segment on people from coal country who voted for Donald Trump - but are now worried that his vow to repeal Obamacare will deprive them of crucial protections that enable them to stay afloat financially. This dovetails with other reporting that suggests a lot of Trump voters may be harmed by repeal of the law.

    Which raises a question: Did voters such as these know they were voting for this? After all, Trump promised countless times throughout the campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act, didn't he? If they are complaining about this now, don't they have only themselves to blame?

    No. I'm going to argue that, while Trump did repeatedly vow repeal, these voters were absolutely right to conclude that he would not leave them without the sort of federal protections they enjoy under Obamacare. That's because Trump did, in fact, clearly signal to them that this would not happen.

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Immigration is only hope for states that helped Trump

    Donald Trump's appeal in northern industrial states was an economic message of bringing back growth to stagnant communities. He also won in part with a tough line on immigration. Newly released Census data indicate that when it comes to making policy, he'll have to choose between those agendas.

    Much of the blame for the hollowing out of the Midwest has been placed on the decline of manufacturing, but sluggish population growth has played a big role as well. Slower population growth means fewer new households, which means less demand for housing, restaurants, teachers, health-care workers and all other economic activity. While Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin account for 12.4 percent of the U.S. population, in 2016 they accounted for just 1 percent of the country's population growth. Pennsylvania's population actually shrank by over 7,000 people.

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