Presidential smackdown

Trump has apparently had enough of Senator Schumer’s sniping over the Coronavirus.  In response to an open letter the Senator sent the president, Trump sent this response:

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Naturally, the news coverage of this is heavily weighted toward the perspective of this somehow being a political and “unserious” response by Trump, as if Schumer’s initial letter was anything more than a stunt the President shoved back down his throat.  The Democrats really have no room to complain here, as it was Pelosi’s shenanigans, aided by Schumer, who tied up the relief bill for several additional days.  As Glenn Reynolds says, when the Republicans make a mistake, it’s the news.  When a Democrat makes a mistake, the Republicans’ response is the news.  Schumer tried to make the administration look foolish; the administration merely responded in kind, with point-by-point precision.  Read both letters in order (Schumer’s, then Trump’s), and this is evident.

The Democrats still haven’t figured out that this sort of thing makes Trump more popular, rather than less, among those of us who are tired of our nation’s so-called ‘elite.’

Make America self-reliant again

Learn the word: autarky

For decades Americans have enjoyed access to cheap goods, due in large part to the fact that we’ve outsourced our industrial and supply capacity to cheap, overseas markets like China and Vietnam. The free traders, roosting in their D.C. think tanks and on Wall Street, worry that the U.S.-China trade war is uprooting our supply chains and that Huawei (shown to have deep connections to the Chinese intelligence apparatus) is only a theoretical threat. They tell us that we must come to terms with China’s rise, that there is no other way. But what if there was?

My critics will more than likely dismiss this idea either insane or reckless. But throughout the late 19th and 20th century, it was a policy that led to prosperity and self-sufficiency. I’m talking about autarky. In our over-globalized world, a policy of total autarky is infeasible. But a degree of autarky should be recognized as self-evidently in America’s national interest.

Autarky, for those unfamiliar, was an economic and industrial policy of self-reliance wherein a nation need not rely on international trade for its economic survival. This is not to say that said nation rejected international trade or isolated itself from the global economic order, rather that it merely could survive on its own if necessary…

In the early days of the American republic, Alexander Hamilton advocated for a limited measure of autarky. Hamiltonian autarky—or industrial self-reliance—aimed to protect weak American industries from foreign manipulation by the likes Great Britain and France. Today, we must look to protect what remains of American industry from the manipulations of state-backed industrial sectors in China…

Critics, namely neoliberal internationalists and free-trade libertarians, will assuredly wail and gnash their teeth about the bounty of cheap consumer goods we have “won” from free trade, but to that I would caution: The United States risks becoming its own special category of the “sick man”—an obese has-been that sinks into a recliner and stuffs its face with cheap consumer goods provided by its global rivals, looking back woefully on its glory days. But it is not yet too late.

Hamilton was far from the only advocate of American economic independence.  Henry Clay, possibly the most influential Congressman in the nation’s history, fervently believed in the “American System” that emphasized a tariff to protect and promote American industry, a national bank to foster commerce, and federal subsidies for roads, canals, and other “internal improvements” to develop profitable markets for agriculture.  It was an inward-looking “America First” way of developing the young nation’s economy into the powerhouse it would eventually become.

Bringing critical manufacturing home reduces our dependence upon others, and provides large numbers of well-paying jobs — jobs that will be essential as our economy recovers from the COVID crisis.  It will also reduce avenues of influence and espionage by our enemies, such as the telecommunication company Huawei.  We’ve been given a glimpse of how helpless we will soon be if we stay on our current path.  Will we be foolish enough to return to the status quo ante when this is all over?

The clueless would-be rulers

Today’s must-read, by Walter Mead:

This is not what his critics expected. At 49% overall job approval in the latest Gallup poll, and with 60% approval of the way he is handling the coronavirus epidemic, President Trump’s standing with voters has improved even as the country closed down and the stock market underwent a historic meltdown. That may change as this unpredictable crisis develops, but bitter and often justified criticism of Mr. Trump’s decision making in the early months of the pandemic has so far failed to break the bond between the 45th president and his political base.

One reason Mr. Trump’s opponents have had such a hard time damaging his connection with voters is that they still don’t understand why so many Americans want a wrecking-ball presidency. Beyond attributing Mr. Trump’s support to a mix of racism, religious fundamentalism and profound ignorance, the president’s establishment opponents in both parties have yet to grasp the depth and intensity of the populist energy that animates his base and the Bernie Sanders movement. . . .

That a majority of the electorate is this deeply alienated from the establishment can’t be dismissed as bigotry and ignorance. There are solid and serious grounds for doubting the competence and wisdom of America’s self-proclaimed expert class. What is so intelligent and enlightened, populists ask, about a foreign-policy establishment that failed to perceive that U.S. trade policies were promoting the rise of a hostile Communist superpower with the ability to disrupt supplies of essential goods in a national emergency? What competence have the military and political establishments shown in almost two decades of tactical success and strategic impotence in Afghanistan? What came of that intervention in Libya? What was the net result of all the fine talk in the Bush and Obama administrations about building democracy in the Middle East? . . .

On domestic policy, the criticism is equally trenchant and deeply felt. Many voters believe that the U.S. establishment has produced a health-care system that is neither affordable nor universal. Higher education saddles students with increasing debt while leaving many graduates woefully unprepared for good jobs in the real world. The centrist establishment has amassed unprecedented deficits without keeping roads, bridges and pipes in good repair. It has weighed down cities and states with unmanageable levels of pension debt…

Mr. Trump’s supporters are not comparing him with an omniscient leader who always does the right thing, but with the establishment—including the bulk of the mainstream media—that largely backed a policy of engagement with China long after its pitfalls became clear. For Americans who lost their jobs to Chinese competition or who fear the possibility of a new cold war against an economically potent and technologically advanced power, Mr. Trump’s errors pale before those of the bipartisan American foreign-policy consensus…

…the U.S. establishment won’t prosper again until it comes to grip with a central political fact: Populism rises when establishment leadership fails. If conventional U.S. political leaders had been properly doing their jobs, Donald Trump would still be hosting a television show. (emphasis added)

To reinforce the point, Exhibit A, from the just-passed Senate coronavirus relief bill:

Kennedy Center

The legacy media portion of the establishment is no better, in their deranged hatred both for Trump and those in the country who prefer risking him rather than the proven failures of past leadership.  CBS screamed in a headline recently that a man died and his wife was seriously hurt after taking an anti-malarial drug (hydroxycloroquine) Trump and Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have expressed optimism about as a possible treatment for COVID-19.  The problem?  What the Arizona couple actually did was notice their fish tank cleaner contained the chemical, and consumed it as a preventative measure, without consulting any medical expert.  Only two-thirds of the way through the story does it clarify the headline: “The difference between the fish tank cleaning additive that the couple took and the drug used to treat malaria is the way they are formulated.”  In other words, despite the headline, the couple didn’t take the drug.  They drank fish tank cleaner!  A factual headline, though, wouldn’t have been potentially damaging to Trump, which seems to be the primary goal of all mainstream journalism these days, facts and context be damned.

We’re supposed to be practicing social distancing.  But the elites in this country are (and have been for some time) so far out of touch with the common person’s daily experience that it shouldn’t be a surprise the latter has had more than enough of the former.

The bankruptcy of America

The current COVID-19 crisis is highlighting more starkly than ever that our nation no longer has much in the way of reserves to draw on in times of crisis.  We’ve been borrowing against our future in so many ways for so long, that the chickens are coming home to roost.  Symptoms:

No savings in reserve: Only 40 percent of Americans can afford an unexpected $1,000 expense with their savings. In fact, nearly 80 percent of workers are living paycheck to paycheck. It is no surprise that the probability of an economic recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic caused many to worry…  The need for all Americans to be able to sustain themselves for at least a few months on savings is accentuated during a time of crisis. This means planning ahead when times are good.

Many people object that they don’t have enough income to save.  But as the article above points out, half of American households own more than one high-definition flat screen TV.  We walk into Starbucks for overpriced coffee, playing on our $1,000 iPhones while in line, texting friends to join us for dinner at the fancy new restaurant in town.  We’ve lost the ability to deny ourselves something today in order to have something tomorrow.  Economists refer to this as a time preference.  Economics aside, it should be easy to see how people who live for today with little thought for tomorrow (including their descendants) will inevitably run into trouble.

While one can argue just how representative our government is these days, it does reflect society in this manner: it, too, has nothing for a rainy day except resorting to “printing” money (which creates its own problems).

The coronavirus stimulus bill House Democrats unveiled Monday would cost an estimated $2.5 trillion, nearly 40 percent more than the $1.8 trillion bill being considered in the Senate… A $2.5 trillion package would increase annual government spending, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, by more than 50 percent. It would triple the annual deficit.

While it’s understandable the government will incur additional expenses by marshaling resources to fight COVID-19, that’s a mere fraction of the proposed spending.  In addition to Continue reading