Alternate Title: Four Ways Donald Trump Isn’t a Complete Moron
You may think I made a mistake in this headline. Donald Trump pulled off an upset and won the 2016 presidential election, fair and square. Shouldn’t I be on the path to losing?
No. In fact I’m winning. Here’s the pledge I made on April 30, 2016:
If President Donald Trump ever negotiates for Mexico to build a wall along the border with the United States, I will put a Donald Trump banner ad on this blog for as long as the Mexican-financed wall stands.
So the pledge was not that Trump wouldn’t win, for which I assigned a 25% probability.
I assigned a 0% probability to the Mexican government agreeing to spend $25 billion – about 1% of their annual GDP or 7% (!!!) of the government’s annual budget – to build a humiliating symbol of its inferiority to the Yankees up north. To put that in perspective, that’s like Canada telling the United States to spend $280 billion to build a wall on its northern border “so your inbred hicks don’t come here with their guns.”
Not much of a gamble, but not many things are so sure that you’d risk putting an ad for the National Disgrace on your personal blog.
While Trump has cleared the first hurdle, we are seeing early indications that he will not attempt the second.
“He’ll spend a lot of time controlling the border. He probably may not spend much time trying to get Mexico to pay for it. But it was a great campaign device,” top surrogate Newt Gingrich told NPR.
Well, that was fast. He hasn’t even taken office yet. We haven’t even seen what kind of pushback from Mexico he’d get, what kind of pushback at home in the border regions and among construction companies.
My Donald Trump dream from March. It was all a device! Alert Merriam-Webster, Cambridge and Oxford, we have a new innovation in the use of the English language!
Device: noun, de·vice di-ˈvīs. A line of shit told to gullible dumb asses.
I have just submitted that definition on Urban Dictionary (not yet up at time of publish). Go vote it up!
Give him a chance
Many Americans are engaging in illegal behavior to protest Trump’s election. He lost the popular vote – maybe by a million – but won the electoral college which our democratic system is based on. It’s great to be vigilant against his most dangerous policies such as deporting millions of people, defaulting on sovereign debt or instigating trade wars in the world economy.
But he hasn’t done any of that yet. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong, but I believe he will pivot to a more moderate position. Even if he doesn’t, save the civil disobedience for when it matters. It’s not time yet.
I’m going to set the example in highlighting some positive aspects of his campaign policies which have been overlooked in favor of his reckless and fascist ideas.
Slash corporate tax rate
Lowering the corporate tax rate to 15% is far and away Trump’s best policy and it’s encouraging to see the otherwise populist back something based in economic study. Trump’s proposal is only bested by the unrealistically ambitious Bobby Jindal, who would eliminate corporate income tax altogether. There are notable hybrids from Mike Huckabee and Rand Paul, and Ben Carson curiously offered 14.9%. See the corporate-tax reforms from all the 2016 presidential candidates.
This may have non-econ-nerds scratching their heads. I won’t waste space but if you want to read how economists across the political spectrum – including leftists whose top priority is income inequality – all oppose the corporate income tax, see:
- Abolish the Corporate Income Tax (New York Times)
- Why abolishing the corporate income tax is good for American workers (PBS)
- How to Kill the Corporate-Income Tax (Bloomberg)
- Top 10 Reasons to Abolish the Corporate Income Tax (Wall Street Journal)
Inspiring Europe to invest in defense
I do not agree with Trump’s idea to charge countries with military bases in their territory, a proposal which betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the point of having forward-deployed troops abroad. And certainly not withdrawing from NATO. But his rhetoric has spooked a continent which had largely relied on the United States military to preserve the world order created after the world wars, while complaining and criticizing most of the way.
Trump’s election forced Europe to seriously consider their security and national interests if the United States withdraws into a pre-Spanish-American-War breed of isolationism. Putin’s Russia looks a lot different in that light.
Now I think right-wing characterizations of European countries’ military capacities are wildly exaggerated to please their audiences. But it’s undeniable that Europe led calls to topple Gaddafi in Libya, dragging along a reluctant Obama, and later had to lean on the U.S. to do all the heavy lifting. Europe’s political and military leaders definitely noticed that.
That’s actually one of the big stories Trump has already affected. Europeans agree defense plan after campaign swipes by Trump and EU agrees defense budget increase as Britain lifts block.
Reexamining foreign policy
Trump’s style in spouting off the kind of things the local know-it-all would say in the bar isn’t what I like to see in a president. But it is inspiring something I advocate very much: questioning assumptions no matter how obvious the basis or how absurd the question. Always ask “why” or “why not.”
And he’s probably wrong on issues from nuclear proliferation, Syria, Russia, Israel, Iran, Europe, Japan and South Korea. But he’s turning assumptions on their head. And that’s never a bad thing. For a good read on that, see Why Donald Trump Should Be Taken Seriously on Foreign Policy.
I believe a large part of Trump’s election was inspired by a silent majority of Americans who are tired of political correctness, “safe spaces” and shaming people as racists, sexists, homophobes, white privilege or whatever it is these days. I think they are exhilarated by his brash demeanor and the fact that he really doesn’t care what you think. He didn’t back down and apologize for any of the often horrible things he said. He reminded everybody that we have freedom of speech, and the PC fascists can only take it away if you let them.
Again, I deplore the stuff about Mexicans, Muslims and women. But I thought “Grab them by the pussy” was, in fact, locker-room banter. While that’s not something I’d want in a president, many women like aggressive men and I wouldn’t go condemning his soul to hell just yet.
But his funniest jab, which is still funny and I dearly hope he keeps it up throughout his term, is calling Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.” The anti-banking, leftist Senator who I don’t mind so much listed herself as Native American for years during her tenure at Harvard. That’s funny!
Gold Star for Allan Lichtman
I had read about this history professor during the 2012 election because he had correctly predicted every presidential election for 30 years without looking at any polls. He has 13 true/false criteria which spells victory or not for the party in power. I noted that he was backing Trump before AND AFTER “grab them by the pussy.”
That’s serious confidence because Trump is an unprecedented candidate. If he lost with enough macro-political-economic factors going his way, he would have BROKEN THE MODEL, a model based on historical data from every election since 1870.
Would the Trump candidacy break the model? No, it would not.
Want to see the 13 criteria, some of which are fairly difficult to answer a definitive “True” or “False”? The Keys to the White House is on Wikipedia.
That’s all I got. Maybe a piece in the future expounding the benefits of free trade.
Very easy to get Mexico to pay for the wall. The illegals send 25 billion dollars home each year. Put a 1 to 3 percent tax on this money.
A lot of people automatically assume that he would’ve lost if the election was based on popular vote. Maybe, maybe not. He campaigned to get 270 electoral votes and he didn’t care about the popular vote. Hillary, too. If the election was based on popular vote they both would’ve campaigned differently and the vote would’ve been different. Don’t underestimate Trump (again). Pass a constitutional amendment and he may win the popular vote in 4 years. I don’t know how he did what he did this time. It boggles the mind.
@Larry – a purely pedestrian analysis would conclude something like that, which might be possible if Mexico were governed by a dictator with an iron hand over the country, or if it were a small company like Trump’s in which the leader makes all the decisions and faces little pushback from stakeholders and no scrutiny from the public. It would also assume the United States has enough control over capital flows that it could turn them off like closing a valve.
Both of those assumptions are obviously false as Mexico is a democracy of 100 million people with elected leaders and a free press — absolutely ZERO political leaders will support paying for that wall. See the Mexican-American War.
And of course the United States does not have complete control over what enters the country, much less what leaves, and especially what doesn’t even have to leave physically but can leave electronically.
So the completely dumb-ass plan to tax remittances would immediately be challenged in court not only by immigration groups but also the full weight of free-trade interest groups, the multinational business community and banks who don’t want to face those taxes.
At your most ambitious tax rate of 3%, it would take 35 years to raise $25 billion NOT ACCOUNTING for interest. A more realistic tax rate that would actually scare Mexico into paying for their Wall of Shame would be in the neighborhood of 7% to 10%.
In the doubtful any remittance tax were actually implemented it would IMMEDIATELY spawn a parallel industry dedicated to sending money to Mexico without paying the tax. Private initiative will find ways to move money into Mexico at a lower cost.
Businesses will spring up which have legal-entity status in both the United States and Mexico which can receive cash payments in the United States and disperse them in Mexico. They might use electronic means such as PayPal and Skrill. They might use Bitcoin. They might hire people to physically carry the legal limits of hard currency across the border all day long.
These are just legal operations. Imagine the border-enforcement effort it would take to prevent illegal smuggling OUT of the country, as opposed to coming in. It beggars the imagination. And there is a long-established criminal industry in Mexico already smuggling cash out of the country.
So this dumb-ass plan is destined for failure, it has already been widely ridiculed. It won’t be implemented, which is why Trump is already backing off.
But there’s still a kicker. What if everything I mentioned was wrong and it worked. The United States — don’t laugh — actually put a dent in the flow of dollars to Mexico because they wouldn’t build the wall.
Remittances are effectively Mexico’s largest export, and they serve as a safety net or direct payment to many of Mexico’s poorest in the population. Take away that safety net and what happens? MORE IMMIGRATION INTO THE UNITED STATES. Trump’s presidency would see a surge in illegal immigration, which surely wasn’t lost on his calculus after withdrawing the stupid-ass plan.
@Steve – Agreed. While I don’t think it’s likely the result of the popular vote would change under a popular-vote system, it changes the political calculus so much it’s not certain that Hillary would have won.
It’s like saying that if there were no three-point shot in basketball, the Golden State Warriors never would have made an NBA Finals. But without a three-point line, Stephen Curry wouldn’t take so many shots from so far away. Nobody has any idea what their strategy would be so we just don’t know.