Mr. Donald and Dr. Donald

Veronique De Rugy properly takes The Donald to task at The Corner on NRO for the silly things he said about General Motors.

Alert: We are heading off-continent with limited Internet access and this might be our last post for several weeks.  End Alert.

Do read the whole thing but here is a fairly big taste of Veronique:

To be sure, I can see why the president is so upset. Because he has made the revival of American manufacturing the centerpiece of his campaign and presidency, a weird goal considering the incredibly high manufacturing output that the U.S. has experienced in recent years, every American company that doesn’t go with the plan is chastised publicly, sometimes even threatened. Remember Harley Davidson, which the president threatened with a boycott from its consumers? On Monday, the president told GM that it “better get back in” Ohio “soon,” and that “They better put something else in” the Lordstown, Ohio, plant that is now slated to be closed.

Is this what it has come to that the president is meddling with the productive assets of a private company? And don’t get me started on the president’s threat to cut all GM subsidies. I oppose all forms of subsidies to the private sector but I am also appalled by the use of subsidies as a way for the president to get companies to do what he thinks that they should be doing.  [Emphasis added]

We agree with Veronique on her analysis and that the threats made by The Donald are a real distraction to serious issues.  His threat to end GM’s subsidy is a non-starter.  Wikipedia defines a bill of attainder as:

bill of attainder (also known as an act of attainder or writ of attainder or bill of pains and penalties) is an act of a legislature declaring a person or group of persons guilty of some crime and punishing them, often without a trial.

We, with our lack of legal expertise, see The Donald’s action as exactly outlined above.  Such bills do not meet constitutional muster.  It indicates the problem of having a person like The Donald as president.

We, unlike Veronique, see Dr. Donald in this action.  We don’t think he is playing three dimensional chess but there could be a good outcome.  Since they can’t end subsidies for just GM they would need to end subsidies for all companies.  We, like Veronique, want to end subsidies.  Electric cars would be a good place to start.  If this craziness end some subsidies for all companies then we are not happy about the discussion but willing to absorb the silliness of The Donald.  Weird things happen with The Donald.   We await the final accounting of this episode.

 

 

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Sober Democrats

George Will is looking for a sober Democrat.  We think it would be somebody he could disagree on most policy issues but still vote for in 2020.  Showing the difficulty of George’s search, the 44th President was in the news recently:

The former U.S. President said during a talk at the Obama Foundation summit in Chicago that world leaders must solve problems around climate change, education, agriculture, among others, which according to him are not as hard to deal with as they may seem. As reported by the Daily Mail, [the 44th President] didn’t mention [The Donald] by name, but he did say that the world “badly needs remaking” and that “the reason we don’t do it is because we are still confused, blind, shrouded with hate, anger, racism, mommy issues.”

The joy of being a progressive is that you can attack The Donald and the press will say perhaps it was an attack on … well, it might be somebody else.  So the immediate past president would have a hard time making the list of sober Democrats.  George has identified John Delany, an entrepreneur and a Congressman from Maryland, as a reasonable choice for the Democrat presidential nomination in 2020.  He is, as George demonstrates, a progressive:

He checks various boxes that might mollify all but the most fastidious progressives: He likes early-childhood education, a carbon tax, a $15 minimum wage, and extending the Social Security tax to higher incomes. He dislikes the NRA, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, high interest rates on student loans, and “outrageous” drug prices. He would achieve “universal” health care by offering Medicaid for all, and for those who choose to opt for private programs, as he thinks most people would, there would be federal subsidies for those who need them.

The only point of possible agreement for us in that list is the carbon tax.  We are willing to support a carbon tax at a reasonable level that replaces the gas tax.  It is not much to keep a conservative interested but, according to George, he is pleasingly adult compared to the candidates from the Senate.  George is right but it is an exceeding low bar to clear to be declared adult compared to Cory and Kamala.  George says the Democrats could do much worse and probably will.  We agree with him that it helps The Donald.  We would like to see a sober Democrat leader again in our lifetime but it doesn’t look good.  It is too bad because there is an opening for sober leaders.

Election Winners And Losers

Well, political ads are off for a while.  They have been a great windfall for the TV stations in the battleground states like our own.  We now have a triple division at the federal level.  The Donald is president, the GOP has the Senate, and the Democrats have the House.  What is going to happen for the next two years?

With divided government and divided parties the short answer is not much will happen in the next two years.  We expect the status quo to hold.  The Democrats will investigate The Donald and business in every way they can.  Not much will happen to The Donald.  The Climate Change folks in the Democrat camp will unsuccessfully try to scare folks.  The Democrats are the party of the rich and big business so they will try to make a few folks feel bad but it will only be a small headwind for the economy.

The Donald, with support from the Democrats, will continue to win on tariffs.  We won’t move towards free trade but we won’t move far away either.  Citizens will lose and special interests will even out.  That is, some special interests will get special treatment and some will be punished.  It matter for individuals but not the country.

The improvement of the federal judiciary will continue.  This cause was the only clear winner in the election.  The Donald will stick with his nominations and the GOP Senate will confirm them with some support from Democrats.  This common cause will prevent The Donald and the GOP from drifting too far apart.

The clear loser in the election is entitlement reform.  The Donald is against it.  The Democrats in the House are even more against it.  The GOP Senate is ambivalent.  The question is how long can the government ignore entitlement reform?

So enjoy the respite of divided government.  There will be lots of noise but not much will happen.  We might decide we like it.  The big question is how can we get momentum for entitlement reform?  It is a bigger problem with every passing year but ignoring it is currently a winning political issue.  What can happen to change it?  MWG won’t be enough.

Free Trade Agreements

We are for unilateral free trade.  We favor eliminating all US tariffs.  We are OK with helping other countries by reducing their taxes including tariffs but it isn’t really important to us.  Thus any free trade deal is a second best solution for us.

Iain Murray at NRO brings us an interesting issue of all the additional agreements that have cluttered up trade agreements.  Do read the whole thing for a good discussion of the trade-offs.  He says:

Trade deals are better than no trade deals, generally speaking. But bad trade deals can set dangerous precedents. That was why in the 1990s, the staunch free trader Fred Smith, founder of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (where this author works), opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) inclusion of side agreements that had nothing to do with trade. He worried that those provisions, mainly concerning labor and environmental standards, would set a precedent to elevate those goals above tariff reduction—the supposed point of trade deals.

Was he right? The conclusion of NAFTA’s renegotiation, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), suggests he was.

USMCA has 34 provisions, 13 annexes, and 13 side letters.  Iain is right that the expansion of such agreements is a problem.  Some times the problem is a bit of neocolonialism and other times it is the reverse.  We are against both but especially the latter because we live here.  It could be solved most easily with our suggestion of eliminating all US tariffs because.  The problem is that free trade is only high political priority for a few of us.  Many people oppose free trade.  Some folks support neocolonialism and others the reverse.

Free trade is a high priority for us just like Fred but we tend to support such agreements.  It is clear to us that we are not going to take our preferred step of eliminating all tariffs.  It is equally clear that agreements will need to be complex to garner sufficient support to be agreed to by the administration and supported by the Senate.  Rejecting such agreements because they are not ideal is eliminating the possibility of any agreement.  It is a binary choice to approve or reject USMCA.  We vote to support approval of USMCA despite its flaws.

That Strange Tribe

Mark Sherman of the Associated Press was on the front page of the local paper with an unmarked opinion piece on the outcome of Brett on the Supreme Court.  As we and many others have noticed progressives like Mark approach conservatives like they have never met one.  Whatever the reason, Mark’s discussion seems very odd to a conservative because it is not how we think.

Sidebar: Deciding who is a “true” conservative is a difficult task.  Yes, we are aware of the no true Scotsman problem and that conservative are a small part of the big Republican tent.  We think the critical demarcation for conservatives is process.  To oversimplify, conservatives think about process while progressives think about outcomes.  End Sidebar.

We know it is a long quote but here are Mark’s first three paragraphs:

The moment conservatives have dreamed about for decades has arrived with Brett Kavanaugh joining the Supreme Court. But with it comes the shadow of a bitter confirmation fight that is likely to hang over the court as it takes on divisive issues, especially those dealing with politics and women’s rights.

With Kavanaugh taking the place of the more moderate Anthony Kennedy, conservatives should have a working majority of five justices to restrict abortion rights, limit the use of race in college admissions and rein in federal regulators.

The newly constituted court also might broaden gun rights, further relax campaign finance laws and halt the expansion of the rights of LGBT people, who three years ago won the right to marry nationwide with Kennedy in the majority.

Mark has a whole list of outcomes that he is concerned about.  For most of the rest of the article he tries to convince the majority that to use the majority would erode the court’s legitimacy.  We read that part so you don’t need to.

Conservatives are happy because there appears to be an originalist Supreme Court majority.  That majority may lead to some outcomes that conservatives prefer as well as some they don’t.  It will be interesting to see if the progressives continue to vote as a block or will  try to influences outcomes by being part of the majority.  Legal scholarship is not our area but we expect less predictable patterns from the new court.  Perhaps when we have an unhappy outcome we can commiserate with a progressive like Mark.

Brett And Sue

We reading Sue Grafton’s V Is For Vengeance as the Brett nomination follies were going on.  Reading was much better than watching the follies.

Sidebar: Sue wrote 25 alphabet mysteries with her plucky but foolish PI Kinsey Millhone.  We are reading them in order.  V was written in 2011 but it was set in 1988.  One of the joys of the series is Sue is loves to find the right word and the obscure fact.  If you are going to read them you need to read them all because it is like a TV series with the same characters showing up here and there.  End Sidebar.

The confirmation is good for our Republic, excellent for the Republicans, and great for The Donald.  It is good for the country because the Democrat behavior has failed.  It is excellent for the GOP because if they lost this confrontation with the left there would be no reason for the GOP to continue to exist.  It is great for The Donald because those folks (not us) who worship him and his winning will be even more enthralled.

The commonality that got our attention is Sue’s attitude towards the right is a carbon copy of the one we see often and most recently in the Brett follies.  The left continues to control the media and loves to tell stories about folks on the right.  The problem is that they are not aware of what goes on with the right.  Sue wanders away from her attention to detail to do the same.  We will give you three examples and remind you that V is set in 1988.

The first is on page 240: “The club was largely given over to couples in their seventies and eighties, whose homes had appreciated in value while their retirement income had dwindled, subject to the whims of the economy.”  Well, real economic growth for 1983-88 was: 7.9%, 5.6%, 4.2%, 2.9%, 4.5%, 3.8%.  Comparable data for our 44th president was: 1.6%, 1.5%. 2.6%, 2.7%, 2.0%, 1.9%.  Yes, his best year in the last six was not as good as Reagan’s worst year in the last six.  Yes, we know that the president has a limited ability to influence the economy so we are mostly talking about memory.  How about the stock market that might determine retirement income?  The Dow Jones bottomed out below 2100 in June 1982 and was around 4400 when the story began in May 1988.  Yup, it had more than doubled in seven years although it was down from its 1987 high but these couples should be long term investors.  In short, times should be good for investing as well as home ownership.

The second is on the same page 240: “All four [two couples] were ardent Republicans, which meant any talk of politics was quickly addressed as they were all in agreement.”  Ardent Republicans that agree on everything.  It wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now.  The GOP primary in 1988 was a contested one, albeit, not exceptionally contentious. During that era there were many disputes on the right.  One of the most notable was the Panama Canal treaty.

The third is on page 296 when Dante, the hero loanshark says: “The cost of living is up.  The market is down.”  Perhaps we just take this as a convenient lie to cover Dante’s evil nature.  In any case it is untrue.  The market was up as already noted.  We take the cost of living as meaning inflation.  There was some inflation in 1988 but it was way down.  During 1979-81 inflation was in double digits.  It was down to 4% in 1988.  It is a pretty weak case to say that inflation is way down but it is a big problem because it is still more than zero.

Sue is like most of the writers and editors.  The good news is she is writing fiction and might be just adopting a left wing attitude.  What it means is that bad stuff about right wingers and Republicans is too obvious to need research.  Good things about leftist have the same tendency.  Mid-terms can’t come too soon.

NAFTA 2.0

The WSJ (and everyone else) has reported that the US, Canada, and Mexico have reached a new agreement.  It has 34 provisions with 25 annexes or side letters so it is hard to summarize in a post but the WSJ hits the nail the nail on the head in its first paragraph when it says:

The U.S. and Canada reached a dramatic, last-minute deal late Sunday night on revising the North American Free Trade Agreement, lifting a cloud of uncertainty over the quarter-century-old continental commercial bloc.

No agreement is perfect but this does reduce uncertainty and is way better than the alternative.  Congress should support the agreement.  We hope that all the progressives that have been rightly taking The Donald to task for his tariffs will support this.