The most amusing thing about the reaction to the Trump administrations’ ‘policies’ is just how shocked everyone seems by his announcements.
He campaigned on the issues that are making him so unpopular with the liberal media right now. Why is anyone surprised?
While I personally don’t like Trump’s policies, I do like the fact that he is doing what he says he would do. Up until now, just about every election campaign in a western democracy came with a mountain of gibberish about what a party will or will not do in power.
Then when they got into office and safely strapped in for the next few years, contempt for the electorate became palpable. They usually renege on 80% of their promises.
But not The Donald!
He said he was going to build a wall along the US/Mexican border, and he has backed this up in the first weeks of his presidency. As an aside, I very much doubt that you’ll see a physical wall built across the border. There will be some additional construction, but drones and increased patrolling will take care of a lot of the ‘wall’.
Trump is simply being a different kind of politician. He’s talking tough early, but knows full well the end result won’t be as dramatic. It’s like asking for a 20% raise when you’d be happy with 10%.
The crackdown on travellers from certain Muslim countries shouldn’t come as a surprise, either. Trump said he was going to get tough on terror.
That it’s stupid, divisive, and will continue to produce more enemies for the US in the long run are all beside the point. Trump is making a very visible statement to his supporter base that he is acting on his promises.
The History of Fear
The Reformed Broker blog points out nicely that there is a history of scapegoating in the US, so this is hardly new. Whatever the minority, they are always safe to demonise by those in power:
‘To my Jewish, Irish, Asian and Italian friends, let’s remember:
‘Your ancestors were lower than dirt when they arrived here.
‘Italians were referred to — openly — as a subhuman race of rats and criminals.
‘Irishmen were apes and monkeys.
‘Laws were passed to keep Chinese women out of the country, so that the Chinese males who were brought over for menial labor couldn’t produce offspring.
‘Jews were spat upon in the streets and routinely excluded from polite society.’
The message is that ‘we’ (as in humans) have always been fearful and intolerant. You could say it started on a large scale with the Catholic Church, but they were simply exploiting a primal and deeply powerful emotion — fear.
Trump is doing the same thing. And it’s working, because, done right, it always works. I’m not sure where this fear emanates from in the brain. But I bet it comes from an ancient part of it. A part that evolved with the very earliest humans.
That’s because fear is linked to survival. Without fear, we wouldn’t have survived and evolved as a species. But a brain that took millions of years to evolve is now having to deal with some very rapid social developments.
We have only been dealing with different types of humans (different races) on a large scale for a few hundred years. The Age of Discovery, spanning from roughly the 15th to the 18th centuries, brought a wide variety of people into contact with each other for the first time.
The evolution of our brain has taught us to be fearful of new people. Having someone ‘protect’ us from our fears gives us comfort.
Which is pretty much the platform Trump campaigned on. Fear. And he is the protector against this fear.
But we have also evolved the capacity to reason. An evolved and enlightened individual should be able to use reason to overcome their fears — in most cases anyway. But it takes application. Without it, the dominant emotion of fear will overcome reason every day of the week.
Why Fear Rules the Market
Fear is what causes stock market panics. Fear dominates all else. There is no reason. Just raw, primordial fear.
This tells you Trump is a fearful person. He is driven by base instincts, and has no room for nuance or considered reason.
Which is hardly a revelation…
But then again, Obama at least seemed like a President with nuance, and what did he do?
Now I’m just depressing you…damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Anyway, the point I was trying to make before I got sidetracked on the fear and brain stuff was that at least Trump is making good on his promises. I don’t like the promises, but I like that he is doing what he was elected for.
So you shouldn’t be surprised by anything he says or does. He’s said it all before.
It’s the same on trade. Overnight, one of Trump’s trade advisers, Peter Navarro, told the Financial Times that Germany was using an undervalued currency to gain an unfair trade advantage. The greenback promptly fell.
But was that really new news?
Navarro is a protectionist. Everyone knows he equates economic strength with a trade surplus. But there are plenty of hardcore free traders in the Trump economic team, too. Navarro’s is not necessarily the party line on trade.
But in the early days of the presidency, Navarro will get some airplay because Trump campaigned on a ‘get tough on trade’ policy.
The fact is that Germany is taking advantage of a cheap currency. For example, it has a massive trade surplus. From Reuters:
‘Germany’s current account surplus is expected to have hit a new record of $297 billion in 2016, overtaking that of China again to become the world’s largest, the Munich-based Ifo economic institute said on Monday.
‘This would be equivalent to 8.6 percent of total output, which means it would once again breach the European Commission’s recommended upper threshold of 6 percent. In 2015 the current account surplus stood at $271 billion.’
So Navarro’s comments, which made front page news in the world’s most read financial paper, are hardly shocking.
But in the early days of the Trump presidency, ‘shock’ seems to be an active policy. And the world’s media are only too happy to oblige.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss Germany’s trade surplus in greater detail, and why cutting it might not be as good for the US as Peter Navarro hopes.