29 December 2016

President Trump: the End of Pax Americana?

As we now know, Angry White People (AWP) voted in droves for Donald J Trump because they believed that he was going to make America Great Again.

Now, this is a slogan The Donald plagiarized borrowed from Ronald Reagan and already this fact gives you a clue about the likelihood of America being great again.

Let me make a bold prediction.

Not only will America not become great again but Trump's presidency will hasten the end Pax Americana. And will prepare the way for the rise of Eurasia as the new power center.

Allow me to explain.

What the US needed for this election cycle was a president like Bernie Sanders or Elisabeth Warren, a Keynesian who would push for income redistribution. Real wages declined or stagnated for several decades (in fact since Reagan, save for a few short Clinton years), household debt is staggeringly high and savings are non-existent. Most Americans cannot afford to retire comfortably and cheap and comprehensive health care eludes middle class families.

If this trend is not reversed, the shrinking purchasing power of Americans will lead to a major contraction of the economy.

Contrary to what AWP believe, the current US economy is arranged to benefit the One Percenters. Look at its leading segments: Finance, Defense Industries, High Tech and Cultural products. Any openings for non-college graduate middle aged guys?

Moreover, according to American Society of Civil Engineers the US infrastructure is crumbling. They give it an overall grade of D+ and estimate the amount to be spent by 2020 would need to be as high as $3.6 trillion. It is not just the roads and bridges but transit, levees, aviation and of course the whole electricity grid.

Education is broken with the US students posting middling to dismal results compared to most developed countries. Public schools are under-funded and they have a hard time finding qualified teachers. College tuition has risen sharply and at $1.3 trillion, student debt is crippling many young adults. And many middle class families are unable to send their kids to college.

America's defense spending is unsustainable. At $598 billion, it represents 54 percent of the country's discretionary expenditures.The military industrial complex and its allies want to "freedom bomb" more and more countries to maintain the US in a permanent state of war.

One Percenters and companies that suck the system dry do not wish any of these funds diverted to climate change prevention. So they simply deny that it is happening.

I could go on.

Since borrowing costs are essentially negative for the US, the country needed a president who would spend a lot domestically to fix these problems and make peace abroad to get military spending in check.

Instead they got The Donald.

When you look at his cabinet you realize that he does not want to reverse these negative trends, he is set out to reinforce every single one of them.

One Percenters' Cabinet

Department of Health and Human Services is given to Tom Price who is a vocal opponent of Affordable Care Act (ACA, sometimes known as Obamacare). He has vowed to repeal it.

His choice of Education Secretary is billionaire Betsy Devos, called ""the most ideological, anti-public education nominee" since the position became a cabinet position." She is there to gut public schools and give the money to denominational institutions.

The Department of Labor will be headed by Andrew Puzder, the CEO of a fast food chain who opposes minimum wage laws and overtime compensation.

Department of Energy will be run by former Texas governor and Dancing With The Stars contestant Rick Perry. In 2011, he declared that if he was elected president he would abolish the Department of Energy. Except he couldn't remember its name. Now he is going to manage it.

Justice Department is relegated to Jeff Sessions whose candidacy to the federal bench was once rejected by the Senate "over allegations that he made racist comments and praised the KKK while criticizing the NAACP and the ACLU." He thinks Voting Rights Act is intrusive and NAACP and ACLU are un-American.

Steve Bannon is the Chief Counselor to the President and as such the most powerful person in the White House. He is a former Goldman Sachs banker and CEO of Breitbart and a white nationalist who hates all minorities, including Jews.

Department of the Interior will be managed by Ryan Zinke, a climate change skeptic who favors drilling everywhere. "Zinke "frequently votes against environmentalists on issues ranging from coal extraction to oil and gas drilling" and received a 3 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters."

Department of the Treasury will be run by Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive who made his fortune by buying mortgage lender IndyMac and selling it for a yuge profit. His appointment came as a bitter surprise to some Trump supporters whose houses were foreclosed by his bank.

Department of Defense goes to James "Mad Dog" Mattis a retired general who never passed any opportunity to "freedom bomb" some place in his long career. He calls himself a warrior-monk for having devoted his life to the army. He is an implacable enemy of Iran.

Another retired general, Michael Flynn, was appointed National Security Adviser. He is a white supremacist with a penchant for making up facts. His time at the head of the military's clandestine branch Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) was characterized as "Scorched-earth leadership." He believes that the infamous Pizzagate stories about a pedophile ring ran by Hillary Clinton were true. He is a rabid Islamophobe and he hates Iran. And he knows and likes Putin and had dinner with him once.

Trade Council chief will be Peter Navarro, "an economist known for his extreme anti-China stance who has accused the Asian superpower of waging an economic war against the United States."

Finally, the Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil. He made many deals in Russia and Putin awarded him the Order of Friendship in 2012. He opposed sanctions to Russia after the annexation of Crimea and border conflicts in Eastern Ukraine.

What about his Vice President, you might ask, the guy most likely to govern on Trump's behalf? He is something else. He hates gays and women.
Mike Pence also signed a “religious freedom” bill that allowed businesses to explicitly discriminate against LGBTQ customers. And he backed several “personhood bills” that granted legal status to zygotes (zygotes!) and which would effectively ban abortion outright—along with some types of birth control. Pence also wanted women seeking abortions to have to undergo forced ultrasound exams where the provider would “describe the embryo in detail to her.” And of course, there’s also that law he signed requiring women to bury or cremate their aborted fetuses.
I left a few people out like billionaire Wilbur Ross (Commerce) the CEO of Rothschild Inc or Elaine Chao (Transportation) former Labor Secretary and wife of Mitch McConnell or Ben Carson (Housing and Urban Development) who believes that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain, but you get the overall picture.

Collectively, the members of the Cabinet are worth $4.5 billion. That is without counting Trump's own $3.7 billion or Army Secretary Vincent Viola ($1.8 billion) or Deputy Commerce Secretary Todd Ricketts ($5.3 billion) or Small Business Secretary Linda McMahon ($1.16 billion).

If you add all up, the grand total (excluding mere multi-millionaires like Chao) is $16,460,000,000.

Very populist indeed.

As you can see from the list above, the cabinet, besides billionaires who aim to run their portfolios to the ground, is composed of hawkish generals, white supremacists, homophobes, Islamophobes, climate change deniers, China haters and people with special ties to Russia.

It is not much of a stretch to assume that they will work to make life more difficult for low income people and minorities. Social services will be dismantled, household income will plummet, minimum wage will no longer be applicable, health care will once again be a rare commodity, charter schools and vouchers will replace many of the public schools and women's reproductive rights will finally be eliminated.

It is also quite likely that vote suppression measures will be introduced and voter ID laws will become more restrictive.

And of course, despite Obama's last ditch efforts to ban drilling in the Arctic and elsewhere, oil exploration and mining activities will increase, climate change regulations will be rolled back. There are at least nine cabinet members who deny global warming is caused by human activities.
The heads of Donald Trump’s transition teams for Nasa, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy, as well as his nominees to lead the EPA and the Department of the Interior, all question the science of human-caused climate change, in a signal of the president-elect’s determination to embark upon an aggressively pro-fossil fuels agenda.
AWP will be angrier. And more destitute.


But as bad as things are domestically, the real danger is in the foreign policy area.

The World According to Trump

There are four crisis points for the Trump Administration.

Middle East

Middle East used to be the most challenging region in the world even for highly knowledgeable and skilled politicians. This was before Putin turned it into an even more complicated place.

Shia-Sunni proxy war is always on the brink of engulfing many players. Shia Iran is the ascending super power while Sunni Turkey, the previous regional power, is in disarray.

Sunni Saudi Arabia that had been bankrolling all kinds of conflicts and Jihadi efforts has serious economic woes and its military is stuck in an expensive and unpopular quagmire in Yemen.

Putin formed an alliance with Iran and Syria and effectively destroyed any chance of Sunni powers creating Pipelineistan which was meant to get Qatari natural gas pipeline to Europe. In the process, he put Turkey in its place and made it subordinate to his plans.

He helped liberate Aleppo and dealt a significant blow to Islamist opposition groups. The end result of his engagement in Syria was to bolster Assad's government and reverse the course of the civil war.

Perhaps his most significant achievement was to prevent the US and EU countries to play a relevant role in the conflict. He brought together Turkey and Iran under Russia's leadership as the group with the final say. This clever move not only made the Geneva talks pointless, kicking the US off the table but also brought together the two regional powers, one Sunni, the other Shia.
President Vladimir Putin had said earlier they were in the process of organizing new peace talks that would exclude the United States and the United Nations and that such talks could be held in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. “All efforts by the United States and its allies to coordinate their actions have failed. None of their moves have really affected the situation on the ground,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
Donald Trump now faces a Middle East where Putin gets to decide almost everything and he has no way in.

Worse still, senior members of his cabinet wants to have a military conflict with Iran. While this might temporarily please Saudi Arabia and other Sunni countries, they will be more than upset by Trump's choice of ambassador to Israel and the imminent collapse of the two-state solution.

David Friedman is an extremist who wants Israel to annex West Bank outright. He is a vocal supporter of settlers. He called a liberal Jewish group J Street "worse than Kapos" referring to Jewish collaborators of Nazis. He labeled Obama an anti-Semite, a man who signed off on the largest military aid package ever to Israel. You can be sure that his actions will stir a lot of resentment in the Arab world.

Perhaps more importantly, Trump's blind support for right wing Israelis will force Netanyahu to take steps that even he deemed too radical and will push Israel down the racist road of one state solution.

China and the Pacific Region

As for the Pacific region, Trump has been provoking China with his words and actions. Calling Taiwanese President or suggesting he might end One China policy or selecting Peter Navarro as his Trade Tzar are all designed to get a reaction out of China.

The problem is that the US is in no position to put pressure on China.

Trump Administration is dealing with a very determined Chinese President who sees the Pacific region as China's backyard. Xi Jinping's impunity in militarizing South China Sea gives a good idea about how little he things of America's opinion on his actions. China already announced that it would ignore the UN Conference on Sea Arbitration for its dispute with the Philippines.

Trump's pledge to abandon Trans Pacific Partnership, which excluded China, put China in an even better position. It might even be a factor -besides chemical imbalance- in Duterte's decision to scrap his country's alliance with the US and establish closer ties with China. Given Trump's early actions, most of the region is likely to follow suit.

There is also a thorny issue of North Korea and its nukes. Reportedly, Dear Fat Leader is racing to get his nuclear weapons by next year. China is the only country with any influence in North Korea. Do you really believe that the Orange Man will succeed to persuade Xi Jinping to do America's bidding with his late night tweets?

Finally, China is part of Shanghai Cooperation Organization which has a military component. And Putin is part of that alliance. An actual confrontation with China would end in humiliation for the US or in a dangerous nuclear chicken game.

Either way, it would hasten the rise of Eurasia as the new center of power.


During his campaign, Trump frequently stated that he might abandon NATO unless member states paid the US more for its protection. You might call it the Don Corleone doctrine of protection. In fact, he specifically mentioned Article 5 for NATO members: "he suggested that, if one of them was attacked, the US would be entitled to ask "have they paid?" before deciding to go to their assistance."

Needless to say, this Mafia/landlord approach to collective defense is Putin's wet dream. He has been working to stop the expansion of the alliance and the inclusion of former Soviet states or satellite countries.

He has even been trying to lure Turkey out of NATO and into Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). You may be surprised to find out that Turkey, a non-member country, was invited to assume the chair of the Energy Club of SCO for 2017.

What happens if Trump begins to question America's commitment to NATO and its members?

This could open the way for Putin to throw Russia's weight around. There are the vulnerable Baltic countries. Georgia is another possible target. And obviously Ukraine would be on a very short list.

Even if outright annexation of these countries might not be in the cards, in terms of enlarging Russia's zone of influence this would accelerate the rise of Eurasia.

Trump Brand Under Attack

The fourth issue is what happens when Trump's brand is targeted.

Recently Tom Engelhardt wrote about an interesting scenario. An ISIS suicide bomber blows himself up in Trump Towers in Istanbul. Trump policies in Asia and Middle East result in terrorists targeting his properties, hotels, golf courses and resorts around the world, destroying the Trump brand, his most (perhaps only) valuable asset.
Next, take into account what you already know about Donald Trump, a man inordinately proud of his brand and hypersensitive beyond belief.  Now, try to imagine -- and in Trumpian terms we’re talking about a truly dystopian world here -- what American foreign policy might look like if, amid the fears of resort-goers, golfers, business types, and the like, that brand began to tank internationally, if raising those giant gold letters over any city immediately ensured either mind-boggling problems or staggering security costs (and, at a minimum, a life of TSA-style lines for consumers). 
Under these circumstances Engelhardt is convinced, and I agree, that the US diplomatic and military resources will be used extensively to salvage his brand.
Don’t for a second doubt that, under such circumstances, American foreign and military policy would end up being focused on saving the Trump brand, which, in turn, would be a nightmare to behold.
If that happens, the Trump presidency will become indistinguishable from a regular fascist dictatorship.

The problem is that his supporters will not see this as a dystopian setting as Engelhardt believes. They will think that he is making America great again.

Until it isn't, that is.

When I wrote:
Do you really believe that the Orange Man will succeed to persuade Xi Jinping to do America's bidding with his late night tweets?
I was being sarcastic. Well, he already did it.

First he claimed that Dear Fat Leader could be stopped from developing long range missiles, fully knowing he has ne way to stop him other than relying on China.

Then he chastised Xi to do his bidding with this highly persuasive tweet.

I think they should simply close down the State Department, Trump can handle diplomacy.

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