Monday, January 9, 2017
A Trump Presidency: a possible perspective.
In but a few days Donald J Trump will put his hand on the Bible and take the oath to the highest office in the United States and become, undoubtedly, the most powerful man on the Earth. It would do no good to wonder how this all happened, and no it is not a dream you are in, this is reality. In time the election itself will be dissected and analysed in a million ways, and that is fine, but for the moment as history will etch the new Presidents name it will beg the question of what sort of Presidency should we expect from a man who evoked only two emotions; of die hard loyalty or pure hate. Indeed, you either loved the man and forgave him his sins with bucketfuls of sanitising votes or you loath the man and wonder how a man so low in character can occupy an office so high in expectations?
On the domestic side, and I am not expert on the pulse of the American people, not that many are these days, he will roll back on some of his earlier election promises. Here is the reason why? When he decided to run for office he had no choice but to make the most bizarre statements, (ala Mexicans, Muslims, China, whatever), as this gave him free air time. The media love a nasty story and he was out to make those nasty stories. With time as he emerged as the GOP candidate he did take a few mellowing steps to his earlier statements, but by no means humbling ones. So I believe while the tax cuts and perhaps suspending Obama care or modifying it will happen rather rapidly, the Mexican wall might be a subject which will be bounced about a lot but building the wall may not happen as easily not because of funding issues only, but become of the many government departments that have to get involved in the process. The promised trade wars may not break out immediately, but I do expect skirmishes as a trigger happy President may be itching for a fight far more than his advisors.
On the economic side as much as lower taxes are promised to expand the economy, its effects will come in slowly, prompting the government to go out and borrow more to fund not only the current expenditure but also the promised spending by Mr Trump. Will the trade off between lower taxes and higher growth happen within a reasonable time table? My honest opinion is that the lag time to get the tax benefit to work its way into the economy could take 3 odd years and that too if everything goes to plan. The joker in the pack will be the position on international trade only because in a codependent economic world slapping on import tariffs will mean higher consumer prices till domestic production of those goods catches up, and we assume the domestic production will be at the same price as in say China.
On the international front, politically speaking, the going is going to be tough. First of all Trumps position of NATO will need to be spelled out more clearly, and a failure to carry NATO partners with him might well mean the whole web of US security arrangements around the world will get untangled at worse or frayed at the edges at best. The power gap this will leave in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and perhaps the Far East will be filled by both Russia and China. The Middle East will be the region most effected given the current conflicts going on there and the need to keep the allies together to deal with the threat of ISIS and others. Yes Russia can deal with those threats too, but it will be at the expense of further destabilising the region and the not necessary in a manner that will help the cause of the US. The more delicate issue for Mr Trump will be how he handles Eastern Europe and specifically the Crimea situation. Given he has not made any substantive remarks on this during the election or since winning the election, I would assume the Crimea's annexation by the Russians will be sadly put aside and Putin and Trump try and work out a new working relationship.
From a more holistic perspective the Trump Presidency will have enough drama to keep us occupied and at times amused, yet it is clear the man does not have the class, the manners or the depth of intellect to catch out attention when he speaks. We may or may not agree with President Obama but we have to agree what a fine orator he is and when he spoke it was almost mesmerising to hear him hold the floor. This is a trait Mr Trump cannot buy, borrow and steal and we may have to be 'bigly' disappointed in this respect. The test for many of us will be to see if the man who ridiculed a disabled reporter can have the humility to change and more importantly to hear him apologise with sincerity within the first few days in office? Personally I doubt he can become humble, that bone just was not put in by the factory.
For America's sake, and perhaps for the sake of the world at large, I do pray Mr Trump will reach deep down within himself and see that he has to rise to the occasion and this position cannot be moulded to suit him, he has to fit the position. Cleaning swamps, building walls, dismantling alliances which are decades old, and redefining the world trade map are all fine and illustrious goals to some, but Presidencies are made by the legacy of values they create, the mantle of empathy and patience and maturity that come out of that office. This is the litmus test to which Mr Trump has to be measured as much as he is to be measured by the successes of jobs, GDP growth and America's standing in the world.