Category Archives: trade war

Memo to The Donald: Cut Tariffs NOT Rates

trump tariff

So far, President Trump’s economic response to a potential coronavirus outbreak and a further stock market sell off has been expected – calls for more interest rate cuts and an additional round of monetary stimulus.  For the stock market, economy, and the virus itself, neither measure will have their desired effect and, in fact, may exacerbate things.

Further rate cuts and more money printing will not alleviate the situation since it has been the Federal Reserve’s recent “repo operations” which has pushed the market to its unsustainable highs.  For President Trump’s re-election hopes, the current “correction” better be short lived since he has repeatedly boasted about the stock market and has tied its success with the supposed health of the economy.  He will pay a political price if the market continues to tank and brings the economy down with it.

While President Trump and economic nationalists have bashed China for its trade practices, they are now going to see first hand how dependent the US and the West are on Chinese exports, as supply chains are disrupted over the coronavirus.

A Bloomberg article describes China’s weakest factory activity ever recorded:

The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index plunged to 35.7 in

February form 50 the previous month, according to data received by the

National bureau Statistics on Saturday, much lower than the median

estimate of economists.  Both were well below 50, which denotes

contraction.*

The expected reduction of Chinese goods will mean higher US domestic prices, however, the increase in prices can be offset somewhat not by rate cuts, but by tariff reductions, or, better still, elimination of duties on imports.  Increasing the money supply or cutting interest rates, which is what Trump, the market, and 95% of economists favor, will only mean higher prices for dwindling imports as greater amounts of money will chase fewer goods.

In the President’s comments on the coronavirus and the stock market plunge, he has repeatedly cited other nations’ (Japan, Germany) – lower interest rates as a policy that the Fed should pursue.  Apparently, the President is not aware that recent data out of Japan has shown that the economy shrank at an annualized rate of 6.3% for the fourth quarter of 2019 while the German economy only grew at 0.6% last year.**  Low rates have not helped either economy or anywhere else where they have been foolishly tried.

What President Trump, world policy makers, and central bankers do not understand, whether deliberately or from willful ignorance, is that the artificial suppression of interest rates and money printing does not lead to economic growth. Instead, prosperity can only come about by the arduous process of saving (abstention from consumption), which provides the means for capital formation, which leads to production.  Employment, wage growth, and income are also ultimately tied to savings.  For the creation of wealth, there is no way around this elementary economic principle – one that few profession economists comprehend.

For saving and investment to have their most efficacious impact and for individuals to engage in such sacrificial behavior, a sound monetary order must be in place.  Unfortunately, ever since the US went off the gold standard internationally in 1971, its monetary system has grown increasingly unstable.

If the Trump Administration would eliminate, or at least reduce significantly, tariffs, it would more than likely induce China to do the same.  The benefits of lower import prices for the millions of out of work Chinese due to the coronavirus shut downs would be a tremendous help and would also boost America’s export industries.  Such action would show to those who elected him that Donald Trump was not a typical politician, but one who thought outside the box.

While it did not cause the Great Depression, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 contributed to its severity.  If the recent sell-off is indeed the beginning of the long anticipated bust, following a supposed decade long expansion, then policy makers should do all in their power to alleviate the coming suffering.  The reduction of tariffs not only on Chinese goods, but those the world over would be a step in the right direction.

Let us hope that someone will convince Donald Trump that tariff reduction and not rate cuts will help Americans better deal with the troublesome and potentially economic and socially devastating coronavirus.

*China Posts Weakest Factory Activity on Record,” Bloomberg News, 29 February 2020.  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-02-29/china-feb-manufacturing-pmi-at-35-7-est-45-0

**Megumi Fujikawa, “Japan’s Economy Shrinks Faster Than Expected.”  Market Watch.  16 February 2020.  https://www.marketwatch.com/story/japans-economy-shrinks-faster-than-expected-2020-02-16;  “German Economy Stagnates as Eurozone Growth Hits Seven-Year-Low,”  The Guardian,  14 February 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/business/live/2020/feb/14/german-economy-stagnates-growth-eurozone-gdp-business-live

Antonius Aquinas@AntoniusAquinas

https://antoniusaquinas.com

The Geopolitical Consequences of a Coming Recession

Irian Military

With the recent ominous inversion of the 2-10 year yield curve and its near infallible predictive recessionary power, the consequences for the economy are plain to see, however, what has not been spoken of by pundits will be the effect of a recession on US foreign policy.  If a recession comes about prior to November 2020, or if economic indicators such as GDP plummet even further, the chances of a Trump re-election is extremely problematic even if the Democrats nominate a socialist nut case such as Bernie Sanders or Pocahontas.

Elizabeth Warren has been the most vocal about coming economic troubles:

Warning lights are flashing.  Whether it is

this year or next year, odds of another

economic downturn are high – and growing. . . .

 

When I look at the economy today, I see

a lot to worry about again.  I see a

manufacturing sector in recession.  I see

a precarious economy built on debt – both

household debt and corporate debt and that

is vulnerable to shocks.  And I see a number

of serious shocks on the horizon that could

cause our economy’s shaky foundation to crumble.*

Warren

A “doom and gloomer” Demo?

If the economy cannot be reversed, despite the likelihood of rate cuts in September and a possible resumption of “QE” by the end of the year, President Trump will probably look for some “victory” or success to divert public attention away from deteriorating economic conditions.  The most likely targets will be renewal of hostilities toward Iran and/or an escalation of pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to resign.

Of course, the US has been conducting economic warfare on Iran ever since Trump stupidly pulled out of the nuclear agreement and began applying even more crippling sanctions on Iran.  In June, armed hostilities were about to take place over the Iranians downing of a US drone over its air space.  Reportedly, at the last minute, Trump called off retaliation, enraging, no doubt, the bloodthirsty neocons itching for an excuse to unleash more death and destruction.

Another factor, which has been little spoken of, but may contribute to foreign intervention is that Trump has alienated a number of his political base especially the spokesmen among the Alt Right.  While he still commands high poll numbers among Republicans and still attracts impressive rallies of “deplorables,” a number of his prominent backers, who were so crucial for his success in 2016, are, to say the least, disappointed over his inability to stem the tide of illegal immigration.  Moreover, these voices feel rightly betrayed since he has done nothing to halt the Internet tech giants from de-platforming many of their social media activity.

Another group which may be quickly added to disillusioned Trump supporters are gun owners and free-speech advocates if the President goes along with the proposed draconian “red flag” legislation. If these totalitarian measures are enacted, 2nd Amendment defenders will probably not vote for Trump’s opponent in 2020, but instead, may stay home in protest.

In electoral politics, voter enthusiasm can sometimes offset money and media control which was certainly the case for Trump both in the Republican primaries and the general election.  To win again, he will need to mobilize similar sentiment.

The politically savvy neocons, which the President has insanely surrounded himself with, are certainly aware of this dynamic which will give them considerable leverage to push forward their agenda.  A desperate Trump will surely be more malleable if a second term is in jeopardy.  Just look at the recent capitulation when there is, as of yet, no recession, yet, he called off the additional Chinese tariffs after the Dow plunged 800 points.

Even if a recession does not rear its ugly head, an armed conflict with Iran is a distinct possibility.  The more hard line neocons understand that they would be out of power under a Democratic president who may revert to compromise and negotiations to re-engineer a nuclear deal with Iran.  The push for war will intensify if Trump’s poll numbers drop as the election gets nearer due to a moribund economy.

Of course, the US is infamous for provocations and with the huge military build up in the Persian Gulf, any of the many trip wires may spring, leading to a local war which might turn into a general conflagration.

While it is not a certainty that a recession will lead to regime change in Washington, Trump has mistakenly tied his political fortunes to the well being of the economy especially the stock market.  He had the chance and the public support at the beginning of his term to level with the country and explain the monumental financial and economic problems which exist and that he had pointed out during the campaign.  Unfortunately, for both his and the nation’s future, he chose business as usual putting his own political goals (re-election) over the good of the country.

The cost of that choice is now coming to bear which may end in another war that will certainly seal the President’s fate and likely that of America.

*Sanjana Karanth, “Elizabeth Warren Predicts Another Economic Downturn.”  Politics.  22 July 2019.

Antonius Aquinas@antoniusaquinas

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