Saturday, July 28, 2018

Trump's Tariffs Are a Protection Racket

Good points:
Why did Trump start a trade war? The answer seems to me blatantly obvious. The tariffs and trade war are basically a big shakedown aimed not at foreigners but at Americans.

It goes like this: the tariffs, by instituting an international trade war with our country, were intended to create hardship not only abroad but more importantly, in the US. This provides the Trump administration a splendid opportunity to offer "protection" to its loyal supporters. Protection could come in the form of exemption from the tariffs for specific business sectors or in the form of cash payoffs to offset the financial burden. A shakedown racket depends upon creating problems for those to be shaken down. And, as the hardships deepen, the protections Trump provides his supporters will become all that more valuable.

As for those who don't support Trump? The administration can simply respond, "No can do. There's a trade war going on. Blame Europe for your problems. Blame Obama for the lousy deals that forced us to institute tariffs in the first place. It's not our fault."

That's it. The trade war really isn't about international trade. Of course, if Trump can shake down some foreigners, too, hey, why not? But they're not the primary marks for the grift. This is really about establishing Shakedown Nation, where supporters are openly protected and all other Americans face ruination. This is an attempt to accumulate and maintain political power here at home.

...The major challenge the Trump administration faces in creating Shakedown Nation is to properly calibrate the amount of protection. It's essential that the protection never be complete, making those "protected" ever more desperate to prove their loyalty in order to get what they can from a too-small pool of goodies. But it's also important that the protection not be so inadequate as to create an organized revolt.

..."But wait a doggone minute!" you might object, "They're just not that smart. Everyone sees that this is a Trump-created problem in the first place! In fact, the article makes it very clear that Republicans are howling right and far right about the trade war and explicitly blaming Trump. There's no plan at all, let alone for a shakedown. This is just Trump being his stupid self, out of his league, blundering into major serious trouble." Here are two responses to this objection:

1. Attention-spans are short, the media are subverted, and the base loves Trump. In a month, all that recipients of the farm aid will see will be (some) cash handed out to them due to Donald Trump's largesse. They will gullibly watch Fox News while propagandists falsely assert that Obama was really responsible for the trade war (and the mainstream media will carefully parse the effects of Trump's grants on the Homeland). A large number of people will believe this. And congressional critics, facing Trump approval ratings among Republicans that hover between 85 and 90 fucking percent (!!), will shut up. Fast.

2. I never said they were smart. A shakedown racket is a really dumb idea that doesn't work for very long. But if you're dumb enough to think a shakedown is a good idea, you'd also be prone to thinking that a trade war with other nations is a terrific way to shake American businesses down.

Just as the separation of children from their mothers was both utterly immoral and fully intentional,* so this trade war is utterly irresponsible and fully intentional. With immigration, the intent is to pander to Trump's base by restricting immigration. Shutting borders by placing children in cages is an incredibly stupid away to go about that but that's exactly what they did. With the trade war, the intent is to consolidate Trump's power in the US by creating loyalty to the Trump administration. And setting up a protection racket is just about the dumbest way imaginable to try to do so, but that is exactly what they are doing. Yes, indeed, these are incredibly stupid people.

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