The damage being done every day by the Trump Administration falls into two categories: that which can be reversed relatively quickly if a Democrat wins the Presidency in 2020, and that which will take much, much longer–if it can be reversed at all.
For example, Betsy DeVos is the gift that keeps on giving to for-profit “colleges” and religious voucher schools, but once she has gone–and it can’t happen soon enough–her efforts to reverse the student-centered policies of the Obama years can themselves be wiped clean.
On the other hand, there’s climate policy. We can’t recover the years we’ve lost in the increasingly critical, time-sensitive effort to keep the planet habitable. A Democratic administration will have to spend time and political capital just reversing the reversals of previous efforts to keep air breathable and water drinkable, let alone measures to halt climate change.
Most long-lasting of all–at least domestically– will be the damage done by dozens of unqualified ideologues who will sit on our federal courts for many years.
It’s hard to know the extent of the damage to America’s global relationships and reputation. Optimists believe Trump will be seen as a temporary aberration; I’m not so sure. (It sure doesn’t help when other countries see him getting away with caging children and green-lighting war crimes.)
And then, of course, there’s the damage his insane tariffs have done to the economy–especially but not exclusively to farmers. CNBC is not a “liberal” news organ; quite the contrary. So it was sobering to read the following from the CNBC website:
President Trump announced a month ago that his administration had clinched a trade deal with China. Well, actually, the first in a series of deals, which the White House now refers to as “phase one.”
Since then, countless declarations of “winning,” but agreeing to a deal only “if the terms are right,” have added to the year and half long conflicting cacophony of rhetoric about the content of any trade agreement with China.
Bottom line? The constant bluster has blurred the reality of what a deal would even accomplish, if anything at all. The only way to shovel away the pile of broken promises and contradictory comments is to analyze the flow of maritime trade.
Why? With 90% of all items in a house transported over water, it is the purest form of showing supply and demand. The flow of trade is agnostic. It moves regardless of who is “winning” or “losing.”
And what does that “agnostic” flow show? That a deal, no matter how good, will never make up for the losses sustained during this trade war.
For a perspective on the losses, look no further than the Port of Los Angeles, the largest port in the country. U.S. exports to China from the bustling harbor decreased for 12 consecutive months. It suffered a 19.1% drop in export volume when comparing October 2019 with the same month in 2018.
China’s retaliatory tariffs hit 96.6% of the purchases of U.S. exports that traveled through the L.A. port complex, with a price tag of $19.9 billion.
Add on the additional retaliatory tariffs from the other countries the U.S. is sparring with on trade, and that brings the total of impacted export cargo to $20.2 billion, or 28.8% of all export value through the L.A. port system. Considering 95% of the world’s consumers are outside of the U.S., the tariffs imposed on American goods have priced them out of the global marketplace.
Add to this analysis other reports strongly suggesting that America’s farmers will never recover the soybean markets they’ve lost during this trade war (other countries, after all, can grow and supply soybeans), and the picture is grim. And agriculture isn’t the only sector hurting; CNBC says China is expanding natural gas trade with Qatar and Australia “while essentially shutting off the United States.” The retail and technology sectors have announced losses in the billions.
So as the bluster blows and promises of winning mount, the actual flow of trade paints a very different picture.
A picture that looks increasingly long-term.