Monday, 28 November 2016

Four Hot Years Ahead

The subway train was eerily quiet on the day after the election. As usual my fellow travelers averted their gaze, but there was a certain wariness in the eyes of African-Americans that I hadn’t seen since the Giuliani mayoralty. 

I felt like shouting, “Hey, I didn’t vote for Trump.” But what was the point? Back in the day, I didn’t vote for Giuliani either.

On the other hand, congratulations, President-Elect Trump! You won fair and square, aided by Secretary Clinton’s spectacularly inept campaign.

Leaving aside her email server debacle, ceding the campaign trail to her opponent’s monster meetings, and employing a tone deaf, numbers-cruncher like Robby Mook as campaign manager was political suicide.

Sure, there was anger out in the hinterland that might have swept aside any Democrat this year. That anger will not dissipate under a Trump administration. Coalmines will not reopen due to the availability of cheap natural gas, and the industries that have moved overseas because of lower wages are gone forever. Capitalism, indeed, can be cruel.

A nod to the wise, if you were thinking of nailing down a mortgage or any kind of loan, move fast, interest rates are already rising.

President Trump intends increasing infrastructure spending to the tune of a trillion bucks. Hallelujah! Many of us have been urging such a move for years; however, the Republican controlled congress wouldn’t okay it for President Obama. 

One caveat - fiscal intervention seems to work best when used at the height of unemployment, with the debt repaid during the ensuing boom. But we are already down to 4.9% unemployment while this year’s third quarter boasted a not insignificant 2.9% in US economic growth.

Not to mention that the president-elect is also promising to cut taxes, particularly for the wealthy. These two initiatives combined will lead to a ballooning of the deficit and a consequent increase in interest rates. 

Still, the new president claims to the “the king of debt.” So, let’s hope he knows something we don’t.
Don’t get me wrong! I wish the man and his economic policies much success – we’re all in this together. It’s just that his agenda seems to be a recipe for a bracing increase in the cost of living.

Send millions of undocumented people south and you cut the workforce correspondingly. What native-born American is willing to step into the many poorly paid jobs that will be vacated? 

Dump the Affordable Care Act and health insurance costs will rise – assuming you can get insured in the first place; and forget about crossing state lines for your new inexpensive coverage – imagine showing your doctor’s receptionist your brand new Mississippi insurance card.

Of course we’re all to blame for not questioning Mr. Trump on the specifics of his policies during the campaign. Not that he would have answered – “kings of debt” rarely do – they renegotiate or declare bankruptcy.

I don’t doubt that income inequality and the loss of decent paying jobs fueled the pitchfork uprising that we just witnessed. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump’s policies will likely lead to more of the same, particularly if he gets into trade wars with China, Mexico, or God forbid, Pearl River.

I hope I’m wrong but inflation looms on the horizon. Mercifully we have been spared this specter over most of the Bush/Obama years. Once inflation rises it’s a tough nut to crack, as anyone who lived through the Carter years will remember.

Leaving aside economics, we should not forget that the genie of racism, anti-Semitism, and other taboos were deliberately uncorked during the election. It didn’t take a brain surgeon to notice that Mr. Trump did not disavow the despicable David Duke’s support until after some important Southern Republican primaries were won.

It’s hard to put that genie back in the bottle. This malignant and powerful little fellow was only too apparent on my subway train the morning after the election. 

The country has done major work banishing his like and influence over the last eight years. Let’s hope this genie does not become a major player in President-Elect Trump’s campaign to make America great again.

If so, we have a hot four years ahead of us.

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