HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » General Discussion (Forum) » Friday Talking Points (47...

Fri Apr 6, 2018, 10:09 PM

Friday Talking Points (479) -- Welcome To The Trump Trade War

First, Donald Trump announced new tariffs on steel and aluminum. Then China reacted with $3 billion in tariffs on U.S. goods (mostly farm goods -- fruit, nuts, and pork). Trump hit back with the threat of tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods. The Chinese, not to be outdone, announced that if this happens they'll be slapping their own tariffs on $50 billion in American goods -- most notably, soybeans. Trump then tripled down, announcing further tariffs on $100 billion of Chinese goods. So begins the great Sino-American trade war of 2018. Or, as we like to call it, the Trump trade war. Why not give proper credit where it is due, after all?

The stock market reacted to the latest salvos by dropping over 750 points today. It clawed back some of this at the very end of the day, but it was yet another day of volatility. The markets were down for the whole first quarter of this year, for the first time in a long time. The Trump bump has given way to the Trump slump, in other words. Also, the March jobs report was pretty underwhelming, and wages still have yet to rise for millions of hardworking Americans.

Now, a quick historical quiz: what were Republicans saying just three short months ago about the economy? Back in January, before stocks took their first dive, the GOP was pleased as punch with the gigantic tax cut they had just passed for the wealthy and corporations, and they all were optimistically predicting that the economy would now "be unleashed" and thus soar to new heights. We would all, to use a memorable phrase, soon get tired of all the winning.

That was then. This is now. The supposed magic of the tax cuts has not lived up to its billing, to put it mildly. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down around 3,000 points from its previous high (at the end of January). And we're smack in the middle of a trade war, with no end in sight. Just the thing to inspire confidence!

For his first year in office, Trump largely coasted on the continuing Obama economy. Since the Republican Congress couldn't seem to pass much of anything at all, the economy (and to a large extent, the federal budget) continued on autopilot. Since the Republicans passed their tax cuts, however -- and since the trade war began -- this is now unquestionably the Trump economy. We may all be in for a very bumpy ride, folks. In fact, Trump was so preoccupied with China this week that he seems to have forgotten to fire any of his top advisors -- but, hey, there's always next week, right?

The most ironic thing about the tit-for-tat tariffs with China is that the hardest hit American industry is unquestionably going to be agriculture. Farm country. Which overwhelmingly voted for Trump. We explored this subject in detail earlier in the week, but what it boils down to is that the Midwest, the Plains, and the South are all in for a whole lot of economic pain if the trade war lasts longer than a few months. Just the thing to convince your base to turn out and vote in November! "Don't worry about making payments on your farm's mortgage, because we're really sticking it to the Chinese!" is not going to sound very convincing, to put this in snarkier terms.

Speaking of surfing the incoming blue wave, Democrats chalked up a big win in Wisconsin this week, as they won an open seat on the state supreme court -- which hasn't happened since 1995. In January, Democrats picked up a Wisconsin state senate seat in a district that voted for Trump over Clinton by a margin of 17 points. And now Scott Walker is one scared little puppy, since he's up for re-election in November. He's issuing dire warnings about the incoming blue wave, and we certainly hope all his fears come true in November.

In other blue wave news, a poll just out in Tennessee shows the Democrat (ex-governor Phil Bredesen) up by 10 points over Republican Marsha Blackburn in their Senate race. In Tennessee! Looks like the big blue wave might reach pretty far inland, folks.

Other good news on the election front: 2018 has officially set a record for "most women running for Congress ever," as the total climbed to 309 women candidates across the country (the previous record was 298 in 2012). Now, not all of them are Democrats (although most are), and not all of them will make it through the primaries, but we have to say that's an impressive showing! And the total could go even higher, as not every state has reached its filing deadline yet.

And an extraordinary poll revealed that an astounding one in every five Americans has taken part in either a political protest or rally since the beginning of 2016. That translates to tens of millions of citizens, which is why it is such a jaw-dropping figure. Out of those who had protested, 70 percent disapprove of President Trump. Respondents also were eager to volunteer for congressional campaigns later this year. At this point, predicting the height of the blue wave is still impossible, but it's got all the makings of an enormous tsunami.

As previously mentioned, Trump actually didn't fire any top aides this week, which is somewhat notable for this administration. Sad but true -- Trump firing someone by tweet has now become the norm. But two top advisors seem to be clinging to the front bumper of the bus in a desperate attempt not to get completely thrown under it.

First up is White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. In the past month or so, Kelly has become more and more marginalized by Trump, and is slowly being cut out of all the major decision-making processes. At this point, it's tough to know when the final straw will drop for him (or what particular straw it will be), but an article on his woes closed by officially putting him on the deathwatch:

Kelly, who took the job last July, had previously told confidants he hoped to be on the job for a year. One person familiar with his thinking said the chief of staff recently voiced doubt he would make it that far.

Didn't we run a contest here to guess Kelly's tenure a long time ago? We suppose we better go look it up to see who played the long game....

Also on the deathwatch (in much more visible fashion) is the head of the E.P.A., Scott Pruitt. At this point, it is tough to even try to keep up with all the Pruitt scandals, because they've been coming pretty fast and furious all week. Let's see, there was the condo room he rented from an energy lobbyist... oh, excuse me, the lobbyist's first name on the lease was crossed out with a pen and his wife's first name inserted (at some point in time). Even with a sweetheart deal, Pruitt reportedly was late with his laughably-low rent. Oh, and his adult daughter used another of the bedrooms, although that wasn't part of the lease at all. Then there were the two massive raises he pushed through for two of his buddies who followed him to the department (one of these raises was for over $56,000, it bears mentioning). Then he lied about his involvement with these raises on national television. Of course, there are plenty of older Pruitt scandals as well, such as his love of private jets -- he reportedly wanted a private jet lease for his own use but found out it'd cost the taxpayers $100,000 per month, so he backed off. Then there were the five people who pushed back against his high living and got either demoted or fired, such as a security detail agent who was "removed from the team and had his gun and badge taken away" after voicing concerns about the massive security detail Pruitt demanded. And then there's always his super-secret "cone of silence" phone booth he had installed in his office, of course.

But Trump likes Pruitt, mainly because he is a human buzz saw when it comes to overturning environmental regulations meant to protect all Americans from rampant pollution and death. So he may yet survive, even though he's generating roughly a scandal a day in the media nowadays.

Chris Christie, who knows a thing or two about how the Trump team handled the transition period, appeared last Sunday on a political show to vent his frustration with how he was unceremoniously shown the door when attempting to run the Trump transition (which he called "brutally unprofessional" for good measure). He also had some choice words about Pruitt: "I don't know how you survive this one, and if he has to go, it's because he never should have been there in the first place." Tell us what you really think, governor!

What else? Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood, has a new book out where she tells the story of Ivanka and Jared's ham-handed effort to essentially bribe her into betraying what her organization stands for. The wonder-kids offered her more federal money if Planned Parenthood would only totally stop performing abortions. She writes that it was "surreal, essentially being asked to barter away women's rights for more money."

Bob Mueller's investigation grinds on, and he got his first jail sentence this week -- 30 days in the hole for one of the peripheral figures. This certainly won't be his last conviction and sentence, that's for sure. One interesting note from Mueller's team surfaced this week, but was largely lost in all the other news:

Armed with subpoenas compelling electronic records and sworn testimony, Mueller’s team showed up unannounced at the home of the business associate, who was a party to multiple transactions connected to Trump's effort to expand his brand abroad, according to persons familiar with the proceedings. Investigators were particularly interested in interactions involving Trump's longtime personal attorney and a former Trump Organization employee.

So there's that to look forward to, sports fans!

And finally, before we get to this week's awards, we have an update from one of last week's. Representative Elizabeth Esty has announced that she will not be running for re-election, because of the scandal detailed in last week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. A little late, but the right thing to do nonetheless.

By the rules, we cannot hand out the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to the person we would most like to this week, because she ran in what was technically a non-partisan judicial election. So while we can offer our hearty congratulations to the next state supreme court justice in Wisconsin, Rebecca Dallet, she is not technically qualified for the MIDOTW. Her 12-point win was pretty impressive, though, and it sure scared the heck out of Scott Walker (as icing on the cake).

Fun Badger State supreme court trivia: there will now not only be two Rebeccas on the court, but a whopping six of the seven justices will be women.

The teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky deserve recognition as well, but once again, they are not a partisan organization.

Democrat Beto O'Rourke, who is running to take on Ted Cruz in the Senate race this fall in Texas, deserves at least an Honorable Mention for his continued fundraising prowess. While Cruz hasn't reported his first-quarter totals yet, O'Rourke raised an astonishing $6.7 million last quarter. Previous to that, he outraised Cruz in three of last year's four quarters, but only managed to pull in between $1.7 million and $2.4 million each time. O'Rourke reportedly raised his first-quarter haul from more than 141,000 contributions, of which he said "about 70 percent" came from within Texas, and the average donation was "a little over $40."

Cruz, meanwhile, was asked by an irate constituent this week whether he'd be willing to take a DNA test "to prove he is human." Here's the full quote, from a woman with seven pre-existing conditions:

If you force me into a high-risk, you will either bankrupt me or kill me. I take these threats of medical aggression personally and seriously, and I can assure you I'm not the only Texan who does. My question is: Will you pledge to submit to a DNA test to prove that you're human?

Cruz refused to provide a straight answer, so make of that what you will.

But our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week is actress Cynthia Nixon, and all the other Progressives trying to oust some eminently oustable so-called Democrats in New York state. HuffPost took a fairly deep dive into what's been going on:

For years, a breakaway faction of Democrats helped Republicans control the state Senate in New York, one of the country's most liberal states.

On Wednesday, all that appeared set to change. The group of turncoats, known as the Independent Democratic Conference, have tentatively agreed to return to the mainstream Democratic fold, striking a deal that could ultimately hand Democrats unified control of New York government.

And progressives -- who've spent the past few years hammering the breakaway Democrats -- are declaring victory. Activists and the candidates they support see the outcome as evidence of the effectiveness of primary challenges against the IDC members, as well against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat who brokered the agreement. They do not plan to let up anytime soon.

"The heat is clearly on. They wouldn't have agreed to come back to the Democrats, if they did not believe that their seats were at risk," said Alessandra Biaggi, a former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer challenging state Sen. Jeffrey Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference.

The eight members of the IDC participate in a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans that affords them committee leadership posts and controversial financial stipends known as "lulus."

. . .

IDC critics have also drawn attention to the fact that under the current system, New York's budget negotiations are hammered out between four men -- Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R), Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D) and IDC Leader Klein who has been accused of sexual misconduct by a former staffer. IDC-enabled GOP domination of the state Senate prevents Democratic Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a black woman, from playing the leadership role in negotiations that Democrats' numerical majority would otherwise afford her. If Democrats regain control of the chamber, Stewart-Cousins would be the first black woman in charge of a legislative chamber in New York history.

This year, members of the IDC face their first serious primary threats. Biaggi is one of seven Democrats challenging IDC members with the backing of major progressive organizations like the Working Families Party. (State Sen. David Carlucci is the sole IDC member without a progressive challenger.)

Cuomo, often blamed for failing to leverage his power against the IDC and Felder, has also elicited a left-leaning primary challenge from Cynthia Nixon, an actress and progressive education activist. Nixon has made Cuomo's alleged complicity with the IDC a major theme of her run.

But at a Manhattan steakhouse meeting Tuesday evening where Klein, the IDC leader, and Stewart-Cousins, the Democratic Senate leader, were both present, Cuomo played the role of peacemaker. He publicly called on Klein to rejoin the mainline caucus as Stewart-Cousins' deputy, the New York Times reported and HuffPost confirmed from a Democrat close to Cuomo. Stewart-Cousins tentatively accepted the deal with a handshake at the time, and her caucus has since embraced it, though many details still need to be worked out. For Stewart-Cousins, it is an improvement on a November proposal blessed by Cuomo in which she and Klein would serve as co-leaders.

The Progressives weren't that impressed, however:

"Grassroots groups are not gonna let up the pressure particularly when a lot of these candidates are getting momentum," said Sean McElwee, a Manhattan-based left-wing activist and policy writer affiliated with No IDC New York. "Spending 2, 4 or 6 of the last 8 years caucusing with Republicans -- the Democratic base isn't gonna forget that in a second because you had a steak dinner with Andrew Cuomo."

For her part, Nixon slammed the governor for supposedly allowing the IDC to persist for so long. Her campaign distributed dozens of links to articles suggesting he facilitated the arrangement and allowed it to continue so he could avoid voting on more progressive legislation.

"If you've set your own house on fire and watched it burn for eight years, finally turning on a hose doesn't make you a hero," Nixon said.

She also tweeted:

Today's announcement on the IDC deal shows the power of our movement. Power concedes nothing without a demand. We demanded -- and now a terrified establishment is throwing voters a bone.

Andrew Cuomo and the rest of them are, quite obviously, running scared. The whole point of this new arrangement is to circle the wagons against primary challengers:

A condition of the deal is that neither former IDC members, nor mainline Senate Democrats would back primary challenges against incumbent members.

That means that the IDC's challengers cannot expect support from the mainline caucus.

Which is pretty ironic, because "circling the wagons" is what they should have been doing all along, rather than let the Republicans run the chamber even though they were in the minority.

The moral of this story is that Progressive primary challengers are already starting to make a difference in the world of Democratic Party politics. We are awarding this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to Cynthia Nixon and all the Progressive challengers of the members of the I.D.C. (Jessica Ramos, Zellnor Myrie, Robert Jackson, Alessandra Biaggi, and Rachel May).

Something stinks in the swamp known as Albany, and it has stunk for a very long time now. The I.D.C. challengers and Cynthia Nixon deserve a lot of credit for fighting back against such an odious arrangement. We have no idea what their chances will be in the primary, but already their campaigns have made a difference. For that, all the Progressives taking on both Cuomo and the I.D.C. in New York are the winners of this week's MIDOTW. Good luck in the primaries!

{As a rule, we do not provide links to candidate webpages, but you can learn more about these candidates on the "No IDC New York" coalition pages, if you're interested.}

Since we're on the subject, we're also awarding the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to everyone in the so-called Independent Democratic Conference in New York state politics. As well as (the article is unclear on whether he's actually a member of the group or not) "conservative Brooklyn Democrat Simcha Felder," who also has been caucusing with the Republicans.

Governor Cuomo tried to brush off any suggestion that their own political skins could have anything to do with the new agreement, but his effort was not notably believable:

Cuomo insisted at a Wednesday afternoon press conference that primaries did not affect the timing or terms of the agreement. Instead, the policies of President Trump and the Republican Congress, as well as the two looming special state Senate elections on April 24, one of which is competitive.

"What we're saying here today is we have a common enemy," Cuomo said flanked by Stewart-Cousins and Klein. "And the common enemy is defeating Trump and Ryan and McConnell and defeating their agenda and taking over the New York state Senate so we can protect the state the way it needs to be protected."

However, Cuomo also revealed at the press conference that his re-election campaign would be coordinating closely with the campaigns efforts of Senate and Assembly Democrats. He framed the effort as a demonstration of his commitment to retaking the Senate, but it could also potentially create the perception that Nixon is running against the entire slate of New York Democrats.

A key matter of contention for progressives is the timing of the breakthrough almost immediately after the passage of a state budget in which Cuomo, together with IDC and state Senate Republican leaders, notably excluded key liberal priorities. Cuomo also chose to schedule the special elections for open state Senate seats vacated by two mainline Democrats only after the new budget's deadline.

Critics do not consider the new budget adequately progressive. IDC primary challengers highlighted that it failed to abolish cash bail, pass a state-level version of the DREAM Act or add new protections for vulnerable home renters. It also didn't incorporate an Assembly bill that aims to mitigate the impact of climate change on the state, they added in their letter.

"Now that the budget is done he can play like a progressive," McElwee said.

There's really no excuse for this kind of behavior, really. If you're going to turn your coat politically, then do so. Declare yourself a Republican. Or, at the very least, become an Independent. But whyever would any politician still call themselves a Democrat when they are handing power of one of the legislative chambers over to the Republicans?

After all, if they had done so, then none of them would even be eligible for an award with the title Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week. As it is, though, they all seem like the poster children for the "throw the bums out" Progressive movement. We sincerely hope New York Democratic voters are paying attention.

{You can see who is in the IDC on their Facebook page, to let them know what you think of their actions.}

Volume 479 (4/6/18)

Congress was away for the second week of their spring break vacation, so there wasn't much to work with on the legislative front. Luckily, state-level Republicans leaped into the fray and provided plenty of fodder for this week's talking points. Sometimes Republicans can be quite sneaky about achieving their real goals, and then again sometimes they don't even bother to try to disguise what they're doing. This is one of those latter times, obviously.

Cleanup on aisle Trump (part 1)

Trump couldn't have gotten this one more wrong if he had tried, really.

"Early in the week, Trump tweeted, and I quote: 'Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. "Caravans" coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!' Let's just take that one bit at a time to show how laughably wrong Trump truly is. First, 'catch and release' is not a Democratic policy -- just ask George W. Bush. The border has not gotten notably more dangerous, in fact border crossings are at incredibly low levels right now. Republicans aren't even considering using the 'nuclear option' in the Senate -- which would mean permanently jettisoning the legislative filibuster -- because even if they did they would not have the votes. Trump's hardline immigration plan only got 36 Republican votes in the Senate, which is far short of even a simple majority. As for 'no more DACA deal'... well, Trump seems to be the last person in Washington to realize that this deal is not just dead -- it is now pushing up the daisies. In fact, pretty much everyone else was aware of this fact over a month ago. I guess someone finally told Trump -- or maybe Fox News did a segment on it or something?"

Cleanup on aisle Trump (part 2)

Trump has been giving more off-the-cuff speeches, which is always a danger for him, because you never quite know what he'll say.

"In a freewheeling speech this week, Trump decided to announce that American troops will all be coming out of Syria 'very soon.' Remember back in the presidential campaign when Trump made so much political hay over Barack Obama following an agreement (signed by George W. Bush) to withdraw our troops from Iraq? Trump thundered and fulminated against 'warning the enemy what your strategy is' and swore up and down that he'd never, ever do such a rash thing. However, Trump now reportedly wants all the troops out of Syria in five or six months at the most, despite all the generals over at the Pentagon who think the idea is a disastrous one. So much for listening to the generals, eh? So much for broadcasting a military pullout timeline being such a bad thing, as well, it seems. I mean, is there any campaign promise Trump made that he hasn't broken into dozens of tiny pieces yet?"

Kentucky Republicans show their true colors

Gotta love all that winning!

"Kentucky's Republicans just passed a tax bill that is breathtaking in kowtowing to the wealthiest of the wealthy. They effectively shifted a major part of the state's tax burden from the highest income-earners to the lowest, in one fell swoop. The original Washington Post headline is really all you need to understand what just happened: 'Kentucky Lawmakers Pass Tax Cuts For Wealthy, Tax Hikes For Other 95 Percent.' But don't worry, Kentuckians who aren't in the tippy-top income bracket, it'll all doubtlessly trickle down to you someday. At least the Republicans in Washington try to disguise their real aims, or at the very least give lip service to knee-slappers like 'most of the tax cuts will go to the middle class.' But it seems in Kentucky, they can't even be bothered to attempt to disguise their real aims at all."

Arizona Republicans show their true colors

Shhh! It's a secret!

"Out in Arizona, Republicans are also acting pretty unashamedly. There was a time when it used to be Republican orthodoxy that the smaller the government, the better. Ask them about national education standards, and you'll get some form of this reasoning. But it turns out that local isn't always best, sometimes the state government has to step in and slap down all those liberals in urban areas who vote in sane laws. Seems the citizens of Tempe voted for a ballot initiative that would have forced outside groups spending money on local elections to disclose their donors. An astounding ninety-one percent of the people voted for this measure. It was so successful that Phoenix was considering a similar law. So the state legislature hustled through a law which expressly forbids localities from enforcing any such law, all so that more and more dark money could flood their state's elections. A recent national report on dark money spending concluded that 'Arizona was by far the worst state observed during the 2014 election cycle, with more than $10 million in dark money spent that year alone.' So there's obviously an ocean of cash up for grabs over on the Republican side. No wonder they didn't want their own citizens knowing who is footing the bill for their campaigns. Yet again, Republicans are fighting hard to keep all elections as rigged as humanly possible."

Florida Republicans show their true colors

Speaking of rigging elections...

"In Florida, meanwhile, the Republican governor is appealing a court ruling because he also wants to fight hard to keep his state's elections as rigged as he can. A federal judge ordered Rick Scott to come up with a fairer process that the travesty that currently exists for felons to regain their right to vote after they have paid their full debt to society. The judge ruled that Florida's current system is not only designed to handle a tiny fraction of the people eligible (insuring decades-long backlogs), but also that the panel charged with reinstating ex-felons' voting rights showed a clear bias towards restoring conservatives' rights while denying the franchise to those with opposing political views. The entire system was ruled unconstitutional, but of course Rick Scott is appealing because he wants to continue to pick and choose who he allows to vote in his state. The system is patently unfair, and Scott is just fine with that, obviously."

Obamacare still going strong

Some good news for Democrats who are teeing up health care as the number one issue to run on in November.

"The Trump administration and the Republicans in Congress have done all they can in their misguided attempt to kill Obamacare. They slashed the time available to enroll in the system by half, they yanked all the money for ads to inform people to sign up, they did everything they could to see that premiums would go up, and through it all Obamacare just had another pretty good year. Even after all those attacks on the signup process and the system itself, 11.8 million Americans signed up this year, a drop of only 400,000 from last year. Additionally, since Donald Trump got elected, he has managed something neither Obama nor the Democrats could previously -- Obamacare is now popular. A majority of the public approves of the system, and the number who oppose it has plummeted. The more they try to kill Obamacare, the more it bounces back. And Democrats know that affordable health care is now the number one issue on voters' minds. In other words, the 'kill Obamacare' effort by Republicans has completely backfired."

The dumbest possible way

And finally, we end where we began, on the front lines of the Trump trade war. The following is from Republican Senator Ben Sasse, who hails from the farming state of Nebraska. He had a few choice words on the effects of the Trump trade war on his constituents. If the soybean tariffs materialize, look for this sort of statement from more farm-state Republicans in the very near future:

Hopefully the president is just blowing off steam again but, if he's even half-serious, this is nuts. China is guilty of many things, but the president has no actual plan to win right now. He's threatening to light American agriculture on fire. Let's absolutely take on Chinese bad behavior, but with a plan that punishes them instead of us. This is the dumbest possible way to do this.

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Follow Chris on Twitter: ChrisWeigant
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com
All-time award winners leaderboard, by rank

1 replies, 809 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 1 replies Author Time Post
Reply Friday Talking Points (479) -- Welcome To The Trump Trade War (Original post)
ChrisWeigant Apr 2018 OP
AJT Apr 2018 #1

Response to ChrisWeigant (Original post)

Fri Apr 6, 2018, 10:50 PM

1. The craziness of Albany is unbelievable.

I had no idea, thanks for the info.

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread