Climate · Economics · Trump

Trump’s Rogue America

This is a review of an article by Joseph Stiglitz in Project Syndicate titled Trump’s Rogue America.  It was published on June 2, 2017.

Joseph Stiglitz is probably the best known economist in the US.  ” Joseph E. Stiglitz, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001 and the John Bates Clark Medal in 1979, is University Professor at Columbia University, Co-Chair of the High-Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress at the OECD, and Chief Economist of the Roosevelt Institute. A former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank and chair of the US president’s Council of Economic Advisers under Bill Clinton, in 2000 he founded the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, a think tank on international development based at Columbia University. His most recent book is The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe.”

Stiglitz says that Trump has thrown a hand grenade into the workings of the world economic community.

Stiglitz says that, “The world is only slowly coming fully to terms with the malevolence of the Trump administration’s agenda. He and his cronies have attacked the US press – a vital institution for preserving Americans’ freedoms, rights, and democracy – as an ‘enemy of the people.’  They have attempted to undermine the foundations of our knowledge and beliefs – our epistemology – by labeling as “fake” anything that challenges their aims and arguments, even rejecting science itself. Trump’s sham justifications for spurning the Paris climate agreement is only the most recent evidence of this.”

By doing all this Trump has rejected everything that lifted the modern world above the pre-Enlightenment world, a world that was marked by extreme poverty for all but a very few kings and their courts, a world where no one ever had enough to eat, a world where the lack of even basic medical services doomed everyone to a very early death, a world where clean air and clean water were unknown in any of the cities, a world where piles of human excrement were stored in piles many feet high on every street corner,  a world where people lived lives based on magic and superstition, and a world where standards of the equality of all were completely unknown.

It was only after the Enlightenment, after the middle of the eighteenth century, that “the idea of human equality – and its corollary, basic individual rights for all – quickly spread, societies began struggling to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and, eventually, other aspects of human identity, including disability and sexual orientation.”

And Trump wants to reverse all of this.  “His rejection of science, in particular climate science, threatens technological progress. And his bigotry toward women, Hispanics, and Muslims (except those, like the rulers of Gulf oil sheikhdoms, from whom he and his family can profit), threatens the functioning of American society and its economy, by undermining people’s trust that the system is fair to all.”

As a populist, Trump has exploited the justifiable fears of the middle and working classes of America to win the presidency and he where, he says he will make America Great Again.  However, his real plan is only to enrich himself and his family at the expense of the rest of the world.  This is clearly revealed by the laws he seeks to pass: his health care act, and his tax and budget plans.

Trump’s health care plan is purely bogus.  ” In a country where life expectancy is already declining, his health-care overhaul would leave 23 million more Americans without health insurance.  And his tax cuts, if passed, would gut the human services that his base depends on to give massive tax cuts to the very rich, himself included.

And Trump and his cronies have absolutely no idea how the US or the world economic system works.  If Trump’s campaign promises were actually implemented they would result in an even larger trade deficit and an even greater decline in American manufacturing.  All at the expense of the American middle and working classes, many of whom are already bordering on devastation.  Right now today, most of lower middle class and working class Americans have not have a real income increase since the Reagan days.  (Taking inflation into account of course.)

By withdrawing from the Paris Climate accord, America will lose the trust of the more than 190 countries that it promised to lead in a fight against global warming.  The global leadership role the US once enjoyed is being destroyed as we watch.  At this point regaining that leadership becomes more and more difficult every day.  What is going to happen is pretty obvious.  The world is simply going to move on without America; it is already happening.   The rest of the world realizes that there is no other choice and it additionally realizes that this is the direction in which their own future business profits lie.

So, Stiglitz asks, “What should the world do with such a babyish bully in the sandbox, who wants everything for himself and won’t be reasoned with? How can the world manage a “rogue” US?”  German Chancellor Angela Merkel pretty much answered this when she said that the rest of the world can no longer count on the US.  She basically said the US is now on its own and can count on no help from the rest of the world.  And that if the US thinks it can do without help from the rest of the world, it is badly mistaken.

And then there is Nato.  Europe can no longer rely on a the US for its defense.  Europe, says Stiglitz, should understand that the cold war is over even if this is difficult for the US military-industrial complex to understand.  “While fighting terrorism is important and costly, building aircraft carriers and super fighter planes is not the answer … Political stability may be more surely gained by Europe’s recommitment to its social-democratic economic model.”

And now the world can no longer count on the US to be the leader in the global fight against climate change.  Europe and China have already decided to seriously deepen their commitment to a green future.  And they realize that this is not only right for the planet but right for their own economies.  “Just as investment in technology and education gave Germany a distinct advantage in advanced manufacturing over a US hamstrung by Republican ideology, so, too, Europe and Asia will achieve an almost insurmountable advantage over the US in the green technologies of the future.”

If the US continues with such policies, it seems to me, that the role of the US as world leader is at an end.  The rest of the world is simply going to go on without the US.  And from the point of view of the rest of the world, this is probably a good thing.  And not only that, I’m thinking that the rest of the world is simply taking advantage of America’s temporary lapse.  I suspect they are glad the US dropped out of the Paris accord, they now have their chance to politically and economically bury the US.

In addition, the rest of the world will surely realize that a rogue US cannot be allowed to destroy the planet.  “Nor can it let a rogue US take advantage of the rest of the world with unenlightened – indeed anti-Enlightenment – “America first” policies.”  The rest of the world is going to have to penalize the US to limit these kind of actions.  And Stiglitz says that “If Trump wants to withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement, the rest of the world should impose a carbon-adjustment tax on US exports that do not comply with global CO2 standards.”

Stiglitz finishes the article by saying that “The good news is that the majority of Americans are not with Trump. Most Americans still believe in Enlightenment values, accept the reality of global warming, and are willing to take action. But, as far as Trump is concerned, it should already be clear that reasoned debate will not work. It is time for action.”

And it is pretty clear that the rest of the world is going to take some kind of action against Trump that will be to the detriment to the US.



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