Opinion: Trump’s Economic Policies Undermine Democracy and National Security

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In the last Democratic debate, candidates challenged the narrative that record-setting stock market performance and historically low unemployment rates signal the success of Trump’s economy.  They countered describing how this economy is failing most Americans. Despite low unemployment, wage stagnation means people work multiple jobs. The high cost of housing and healthcare are leaving people with insufficient access to either.  Trump’s tax cuts disproportionately enriched corporations and the wealthy. In short, the “booming economy” is just another massive transference of wealth from the middle and working classes to the top wealth hoarders.

This story, while accurate, is also incomplete.  There is another damaging dimension to Trump’s economic policies that pundits have not substantially pursued, and that is the way these policies operate both domestically and internationally to undermine the U.S.’s national security and thus, whether or not by Trump’s own intention and design, serve the interests of our foreign adversaries not only by damaging the lives of the majority of Americans but weakening the U.S.’s influence on the global stage.

Despite his protestations of “no puppet,” Trump’s effective allegiance to Vladimir Putin has been well-documented.  We recently learned, for example, that Trump might actually believe the story he’s been peddling that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to undermine his chances.  Why does he believe it? Because “Putin told him.”  Our national intelligence sources mean less to him than the pronouncements of a foreign dictator who has no interest in strengthening, but only weakening, a healthy, prosperous, and secure democracy and economy in the U.S.

And let’s not forget that long before that the Republicans were complicit with Trump in altering the Republican platform at the 2016 GOP convention to weaken support for Ukraine, thus making the Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian aggression. Putin could not have penned the platform any more favorably for Russia.

And, of course, I really don’t need to rehearse the way the Trump administration either participated in or at a minimum turned a blind and denying eye to the way Russia interfered in the 2016 election in “sweeping and systematic fashion.”

Or the way his recent withdrawal of troops from Syria, contemplated since the end of 2018, enabling Turkey’s genocidal assault on the Kurdish people, has been understood as largely serving Russian rather than U.S. national interests.

And yet in analyzing Trump’s deleterious policies and the way his behavior has threatened national security, pundits let Trump off the hook when it comes to the economy, neglecting to connect his puppet-like behavior in the foreign policy arena to his behavior in the arena of economic policy, which appears to equally damaging to the nation’s security interests, not to mention tens, even hundreds, of millions of American lives.

Take Trump’s ill-conceived trade war with China. His tariffs are devastating American farmers  and have not only led to the lowest incomes American farmers have experienced in years but also caused a record number of bankruptcies for Midwest dairy farms. Over the past two years 1,200 dairy farms have stopped producing milk and another 212 have simply disappeared.

Consider that Trump took $16 billion of taxpayers’ money to bailout farmers from his manufactured crisis. Americans could find better ways to spend  $16 billion, if Trump’s mismanagement had not destroyed farmers’ global market relations.

How does this behavior undermine national security, empowering our nation’s adversaries?

Trump’s tariffs are accomplishing little other than substantially harming Americans and our economy.  Even  “deals” being reached in the current moment are more about simply lifting the tariffs each nation has imposed, a return to the status quo rather than some novel recalibration of trade policies.

In the meantime, who enjoys the benefits of trade tensions between China and the U.S.? To quote Nancy Pelosi, “All roads lead to Putin.”

Andrea Kendall-Taylor and David Shullman, writing for

Foreign Affairs read more

Opinion: Fuller Picture Shows Trump’s Policies are Devastating to Americans’ Economic Well-Being

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In response to news that the economy created 266,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate dipped to 50-year lows, CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza rehashed the tired but nonetheless damaging and deceptive narrative that “the economy” is indeed strong, providing Trump a clear path to re-election if only he were politically deft and disciplined enough to stay on it.  Cillizza suggests he isn’t and that it is precisely his inability to stay on point about the success of the economy that threatens his 2020 re-election bid.

We have heard this narrative again and again.

What is damaging and deceptive in this narrative is the premise. The assertion that the economy is strong is, if not entirely wrong or untruthful, problematic and distorted.  As I’ve written elsewhere in PoliticusUsa, democrats would be wise not to concede this premise and, in fact, to make Americans’ economic well-being a central issue in 2020.

“The economy” is not the same thing as people’s economic life and livelihood.

As Steven Horwitz, Distinguished Professor of Free Enterprise at Ball State University, reminds us, “The economy isn’t a thing.” He explains, “Things are not ‘good/bad for the economy.’ They are good or bad for the people . . . Trump’s policies may well enrich many firms, but they will impoverish the average American.”

When we paint a fuller, more detailed, and indubitably more accurate picture of the economy, we can see very clearly the way Trump’s policies on healthcare, education, the environment, taxes tariffs, food stamps, and more, have inflicted and promise to inflict more pain on Americans’ pocketbooks and lives.

One place to start in providing a more accurate view of Trump’s handling of the economy is with the deficit.

Reports indicated that in October the federal government’s budget deficit ballooned 34% from a year earlier to $134.5 billion, projecting that the annual deficit will top $1 trillion for the first time in eight years.

Hmmm. If the economy is booming, shouldn’t the federal government’s coffers be filling up and not depleting?

We can certainly understand how in a time of recession the government would need to provide economic stimulus and thus run a deficit, but when the economy is supposedly experiencing record performance?

When Trump slashed corporate tax rates from 35 to 21 percent, we were told, as usual, that these tax cuts would pay for themselves, create an economy that enriches us all.

But deficits actually take money from Americans. How? Well, first, more of our tax dollars are diverted from paying for services and infrastructure (education, healthcare, roads, etc.) we all use and need, to simply paying interest for which we receive nothing in return.

The American people, then, thus receive less for each tax dollar. Our tax dollars are going to enrich corporations and the wealthy rather than pay for the services and infrastructure we are used to receiving for those same dollars.  It’s like going to the grocery store and having the cashier take your milk and bread, which you can typically afford with your budget, when you check out.

Consider that Trump’s proposed 2020 budget called for significant cuts to education and services, even though we know, for example, that investing in education promises to serve the health of the economy overall as well as helping individuals increase their earnings over the course of their lives, thus also creating more tax revenue. In short, these cuts are harmful to ordinary citizens as well as the overall health of the economy.

And the ballooning deficit resulting from the Trump tax-cuts, for example, cultivated a fertile context for Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to loudly renew their insistence that cuts to Medicare and Social Security are necessary to address the out-of-control deficit their own policies immediately exacerbated. Far from benefiting Americans, these tax cuts, which were supposedly to trickle down, just keep cutting Americans and increasing economic precarity, not prosperity. How about we measure that?

And while we need to support farmers for our national and individual well-being, the reason taxpayers are contributing $28 billion to bail them out is precisely because of Trump’s failing trade war with China and the tariffs he has levied.

Again, this is $28 billion dollars effectively taken out of Americans’ pockets for which they receive nothing in the return. In fact, they will lose more, as these payouts lead to cuts elsewhere as well as rising deficits.  Now that cashier just took your bag of apples as well.

And consider healthcare.   Last year a federal judge in Texas threatened millions of Americans’ healthcare, declaring the entirety of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. The Trump administration effectively supported the suit, doing nothing to support or defend the federal law.  As of yet, despite promises, Texas legislators have done nothing to develop a replacement should the Affordable Care Act disappear in Texas.

Healthcare is an economic issue for Americans.  Is Trump doing anything to improve their financial well-being through healthcare policy? No, he is only undermining people’s ability to secure affordable and quality healthcare, hugely impacting Americans’ lives.

And consider the costs of his hostility to addressing climate change in meaningful ways.

Trump’s own  scientists issued a report on climate change in November 2018, focusing on its environmental and economic impacts, highlighting the need for urgent short-term action to ensure our long-term survival. Among many alarm bells, the report warns,

“Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems, including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security.” read more