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April 24, 2018

Unglued!


Well what a week it’s been at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or, as Bob Corker once referred to it, the “day-care center.” Let’s recap:

On Monday, Cadet Bone Spurs said if he had been in Parkland, Florida during the mass shooting, he would’ve rushed in even without a gun. Right, the guy who had five deferments during the Vietnam War and was freaked out when a bald-headed eagle unexpectedly made a move towards him would’ve challenged someone with an AR-15. The only way this guy rushes into a high school is if the shooter happens to be a porn star or is holed up in the girl’s locker room.

Then on Tuesday, it was reported that Jared Kushner had his security clearance downgraded to the level of a cook. Seems Jared was negotiating financial deals in the White House to save his sorry ass and was being blackmailed by officials of several countries who knew about his shady business practices. And you thought Eric was the dumb one.

Moving along to Wednesday, Trump attacked his attorney general Jeff Sessions on Twitter for again not doing his bidding. For some reason this president seems to think the Justice Department is his own personal private eye service. Trump’s nickname for Sessions, according to some, is Mr. Magoo, a blind, old man who constantly gets himself into trouble only to miraculously get out of it. Yes, in case you had any lingering doubts, Trump is irony deprived.

And he wasn’t done. At a roundtable meeting that same day, Trump announced his solution for dealing with mentally ill people who have guns. He would take them away whether or not there was a court order. “Take the guns first, go through due process second,” he said with a straight face. Hey Trump voters, turns out there IS someone who will take your guns, and you voted for him. Not to worry, old blood and guts had an intervention meeting with the NRA, and I’m sure they brought him back to his senses. After all thirty million dollars goes a long way.

Later on that day Trump’s communications director Hope Hicks resigned after it was learned that she testified before Congress that she told “white lies” on behalf of her boss. I don’t know which is more offensive: the fact that a 29 year-old former model with no experience in communications was the communications director at the White House, or that Hicks thinks fabricating a deliberately false story regarding the meeting Don Jr. had with the Russians at Trump Tower about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton is a white lie. I’m pretty sure Bob Mueller knows.

But all that paled in comparison to what happened on Thursday. At yet another White House meeting, surrounded by representatives of the steel and aluminum manufacturing industries, Trump announced that the United States would be imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports. The reaction on Wall Street was immediate. The Dow Jones dropped almost 500 points.

In case you were wondering if Trump had misspoken, which is a phrase that has come to define virtually everything that comes out of the man’s mouth, or if this was yet another example of Trump saying one thing one day and reversing himself the next, just like he did with the DACA fix back in January, our fearless leader doubled down on his decision on Friday by stating, “Trade wars are good and easy to win.” Yeah, they’re easy to win so long as you don’t care about exports which, if this dimwit goes through with this hair-brained scheme, will tank.

Already other countries are threatening retaliatory measures against the United States. American exports could face similar tariffs from those countries and that would lead to massive job losses here at home. Additionally, the cost of steel and aluminum would go up and consumers would bear the brunt at the cash register. Whatever temporary relief American steel and aluminum manufacturers might get under Trump’s plan would be undone by a reduction in overall demand. In other words, it would be similar to taking ten dollars out of Peter’s pocket and putting it in Paul’s pocket. In the end, you still have the same ten dollar bill.

Not only aren’t trade wars easy to win, historically no country has ever started one and won. The Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 is a case in point. It raised tariffs on over 20,000 imports in an attempt to help American companies that were struggling during the Great Depression. Instead, it ended up boomeranging. Overall U.S. exports fell from $7 billion in 1929 to $2.4 billion in 1932, further exacerbating the effects of the Depression. While economists are divided as to how much damage the Act did to the U.S. economy, most agree it likely prolonged the Depression by several years.

There’s no way of knowing how much damage Trump’s trade war will have on this economy, but it’s reasonable to assume that we can see a reduction in GDP growth, along with a slowing of exports. The costs of goods that use steel or aluminum will go up which will affect everything from a six pack of beer to cars and trucks to planes. Seems an awful lot of things get made with aluminum and steel.

And the reason for this incredibly reckless decision, we’re told, is because Trump became “unglued” over the Hicks resignation and his son-in-law’s downgraded security clearance. Yep, that’s right, the former leader of the free world – remember, Angela Merkel now holds that title – was having a bad week and he threw a hissy fit. It’s comforting, don’t you think, that someone with access to the nuclear launch codes can be so easily bent out of shape?

Seriously, though, trade wars, apart from having unintended economic consequences, can lead to cold wars, which can then blossom into hot wars. For instance, less than nine years after Smoot-Hawley was passed, World War II began. That war devastated all of Europe and most of Asia and resulted in the deaths of over 80 million people, six million of whom were Jews, murdered in Hitler’s concentration camps.

World War III, if it happens, would devastate the entire planet and lead to the mass extinction of all its inhabitants; 7.4 billion of whom just happen to be human.

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Peter Fegan

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