Walking the Cat . . .

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Archive for February 2018

All of the Credit, None of the Blame

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     One of the things — one of the many things — about the current resident of the White House that angers me (and I’m guessing a lot of other people) is his penchant for taking credit for things that happen, whether he had anything to do with their happening or not. The recent unemployment figures for African-American workers is an excellent case in point.

     The employment figures for African-American workers has been going up, or rather the unemployment figures for African-American workers has been going down for several years. The trend started in 2009-10, long before Donald Trump was even a candidate for office. Still, when the numbers reached an “historic” low, the president (with characteristic hyperbole) touts how great the numbers are, and that they are the result of his policies. Of course, we could say his policies regarding police excessive use of deadly force when dealing with African-American offenders, or suspected “offenders”, could account for the numbers; fewer African-American men alive to claim benefits, (Sorry, I know that’s a stretch). But the numbers don’t take into account those who haven’t yet filed for benefits or those whose benefits have expired. Still, Trump takes credit. He’s in office, he gets the credit.

And then there’s a report citing a “hike” in wages, (I wonder how many people working in the “service sector” saw a hike in their wages>) Never mind Trump’s refusal to raise the federal minimum wage prompted many businesses and municipalities to raise their minimum wage (setting off something of a “wage war” between the municipalities and their state governments; some of the state governments, mostly those controlled by Republicans, passed laws prohibiting municipalities from raising the minimum wage.) Never mind Trump’s highly touted wage increase has less to do with any Trump policy, and more to do with simple market forces. With falling unemployment numbers there is a corresponding decrease in the availability of cheap labor; businesses are forced to raise wages to attract needed workers. Still, Trump takes credit. He’s in office, he gets the credit.

And then there’s the stock market, which has been “on a tear” lately. The Dow Jones has topped 20,000 on its way to 25,000. It’s been quite a ride. That is until the “Jobs & Wages” report arrived and Trump started crowing. Those numbers made Wall Street nervous. Seems what’s good for “the man in the street” isn’t at all good for the boys on “The Street”. More jobs and higher wages mean businesses won’t have as much money to invest, meaning less profit for traders, hedge-fund managers and banks. Add to that the fear that more money in circulation, instead of in the Banks, will lead to inflation, forcing the FED to raise interest rates, making it harder to borrow money. No more easy money. And if that happens, it won’t be just Wall Street that suffers. Credit will tighten throughout the economy, making it harder for “the man in the street” to get credit for the things he needs: homes, cars, washing machines, etc. All of this combined to trigger a startling and traumatic stock “sell-off”. The Dow dropped more than a thousand points in a week, and panic briefly ensued. The decline halted but the fear hasn’t subsided. And from the White House, nary a peep. Trump gets credit, due or not. Blame, that’s somebody else’s problem.

And I haven’t even touched on the ramifications of a recent declaration from the European Union.

When president Obama signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, aka The Paris Accords, it was hailed as a significant step forward in the fight to combat climate change, and the United States’ commitment to take a leadership role in that fight.

When Trump decided, unilaterally, to abandon the Accords, and America’s leadership role, saying, “it was a ‘bad deal’ for America” and would cost trillions of dollars (not an altogether true statement since the carbon reduction goals agreed to in the Accords were entirely voluntary), he shocked and angered many of the world’s leaders. Well, the shock may have worn off, but not the anger.

A few days ago, French President Macron announced that as long as the United States remained apart from the Paris Accords, France would not trade with the U.S. It’s unclear whether or not the other members of the European Union will follow France’s lead, but since no other European leader has voiced disagreement, it’s likely the others (all signatories of the Accords) will do so.

While it’s uncertain what impact, if any, the French president’s pronouncement will have on Wall Street, it’s a fair bet it will do little to endear Trump to the business community at home. And, given his penchant for abandoning deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (PACC) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, which he is currently struggling to wriggle out of), and levying excessive tariffs and fines on trading partners he says are taking unfair advantage (and for “unfair advantage” read “beating him at his own game”), it isn’t likely his standing is going to improve any time soon; in the world at large, or at home.

But hey. Let’s give credit where, and when, it’s due. There are a lot of people who think this country ought to be run more like a business. Wasn’t it Herbert Hoover who said, “the business of America is Business”? We all know how that worked out. (They do still teach students about The Great Depression in school, don’t they?)

Not to worry, though. No matter how bad things get for the rest of us, President Trump will land on his feet. What’s one more bankruptcy, anyway? He’s got his “golden parachute”.

 

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