Letter To A Friend
The following is an email I sent to a German friend who had sent me a worried email on Wednesday following Donald Trump’s upset victory. Germany and many other parliamentary system countries have great trouble in understanding how someone with ruthless, mean spirited, and fact-free claims could suddenly be selected. In these countries, the heads of State come from the majority party and are not unknown, inexperienced new comers. Germany as well as many other European and Asian countries also worry about their security should the US under Trump tilt to a more isolationist foreign policy. Bluntly, would a President Trump cut deals with Russia and China ceding chunks of Eastern Europe, Africa, and Southeast Asia to the influence of Russia and China?
Here is my reply to his question on my assessment
Beginning late Tuesday night as the election results began to show up on TV, the realization that the “unthinkable” was about to happen became clear. Philadelphia residents are mostly “center to center left” and therefore strong supporters of Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s defeat left many (including me) feeling somewhat like one does when a close friend dies.
As for the question about what I see for the future… it is complicated. There is little known about Trump except as related to his business dealings. His real estate developments were all constructed around contracts where Trump got a large commission upfront. This payment insulated Trump from whether the project succeeded or failed. Reports also indicate that Trump would attempt to renegotiate sub-contracts trying to get his suppliers to accept 70 cents instead of the one dollar agreed to.
Most political observers think that Trump said anything he thought, without regard to whether his words were truthful, informed, or not, if he thought it would help his candidacy. He was trying to gain “free” television time, and cleverly trying to find which issues appealed to enough voters to win the election.
Complications (of my answer) continue when one considers that he will be a Republican President with a Congress controlled by the Republican Party. The Republican Party, however, is not of one mind, and unlike the parliamentary system, are free to vote against Trump’s proposals if they want to. Many of Trump’s campaign proposals will increase government spending which much of the elected Republican Congress are against. Trump’s stated views on trade run against long stranding Republican Party views. Trump’s statements about Putin, NATO, and Japan/Korean nuclear policy are strongly opposed by Congress. How these differences will translate into policy is unclear.
• Most commentators are predicting Trump will move quickly on repealing our healthcare law (called the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare). His and Congress’ problem is what to replace it with. Will Trump agree to a different type of national program or push the problem by to individual States?
• Environmental regulations is another area where Trump could use “executive orders” to change existing Obama orders. Clean energy and in particular emissions from coal fired power plants could take steps back.
• On business matters, Trump’s policies are just as unclear. He has talked about cutting corporate taxes but if he does so, how does he replace this tax revenue?
• One of my greatest concerns is who (advisors) will he surround himself with. Many of the faces that were seen with him during his campaign are seen as narrowly focused and of questionable national stature.
For me personally, most of his proposals for domestic policy would not affect me directly. Lower taxes would of course be advantageous, healthcare changes would adversely impact the poor not me, changes like abortions or contraceptives are not relevant, and in my lifetime, burning more coal does not directly affect me. I am against all these changes (including lower taxes), however, on the basis that they are unfair and have dangerous long term consequences.
Lastly, there are many reports that the US is deeply divided, red versus blue, Republican versus Democrat, Conservative versus Progressive. I think this is an incorrect conclusion. Rather, there are many special interest groups who seek certain objectives. (Each special interest group feels zealously about their issue but are not exercised about another special interest’s hot issue.
Those who cry out for smaller government are in fact in favor of more power at the State level so that they can gain some advantage in farming, manufacturing, or real estate. (These small government advocates are really about seeking advantages on their playing field.) Other groups want lower taxes but still want the big government services. Some groups claim they want more religious freedom but in fact wish really to impose their religious views on others or selectively discriminate against others (like blacks or gays/lesbians). While these views might predominate the Republican Party, not all Republicans share these views and most Republicans who share one or two, don’t share them all.
The same can be said for Democrats. Some democrats favor more welfare or healthcare type programs but don’t want to see higher taxes (tax the rich is ok for them). Most Democrats favor less discrimination (more opportunity for minorities) but don’t want it to impact their job. Similarly, many progressives support tougher environmental regulations but resist higher prices or loss of employment. And union workers who have traditionally been Democrats, simply want good paying jobs and don’t want to hear they may have to retrain because those jobs no longer exist in the US.
My point in this is that Donald Trump cleverly built an alliance of voters by saying what each subgroup wanted to hear or believe. If he delivers on his economic promises, all will be forgiven and he should easily enjoy his two terms (8 years). If forces beyond his control or forces resulting from his misjudgments on policy push the US economy into recession (or even do not improve our current 1.5% GDP growth) he could be a 1 term President since his current supporters are united on bread and butter, not philosophic reasons.
Enough for now. As Trump begins to select his advisors more clues will emerge. There is still a good chance of major conflicts with his own Party in Congress. Some are saying this will not happen because Trump will want his legacy to be not just positive, but almost heroic. We shall see.
Keep safe and healthy.
I have not heard back from my friend. When I do I will report more.