A Pre-Buttal to Trump’s ‘State of the Union’ Address
(Jumping onto the stage and mustering up my best Kanye West impression)
“Imma let you finish, Stacey Abrams and Xavier Becerra, but first, here is my assessment of the State of the Union under the Trump administration.”
Job creation and economic growth is slowing – the Federal Reserve Board recently confirmed that assessment by declining to raise interest rates – reversing a trend that began in December 2015 – citing disappointing quarterly corporate reports and the ongoing impact of the trade war;
The stock market is experiencing turbulence and since 2018 has reversed most of 2017’s gains;
The annual deficit is rising to alarming and possibly unsustainable levels, an anomaly under periods of low unemployment and modest growth;
Farmers’ crops are rotting in the fields because of a trade war and tariffs that have reduced opportunities in overseas markets, and a misguided immigration policy that has decimated the migrant farm workforce;
Automakers are closing plants and cutting back on thousands of jobs.
Thousands of children of refugees seeking asylum are being held hostage in detention camps, creating a humanitarian crisis because of President Donald J. Trump’s insistence on a southern border wall.
And overseas, our allies are facing tariffs, Ukraine is under siege from the Russians, the Middle East is set for another eruption over news of an imminent U.S. pullout from Syria and our intriguing with Saudi Arabia and the major Gulf states, and North Korea just exposed Trump’s pursuit of a “denuclearization summit” as a complete non-starter when they said they would denuclearize only after a U.S. withdrawal of forces from Japan and South Korea, which would destabilize the entire region.
And similarly potentially dire and destabilizing consequences await as the result of Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal: In an attempt to avoid U.S.-imposed penalties on nations who still desire to uphold the historic nuclear agreement and continue to trade with Iran, the European Union is developing a workaround that would sidestep U.S.-based banks.
This development could potentially serve as the basis for decoupling the U.S. dollar – the world’s reserve currency and the basis for much of the business conducted globally – from international trade and further isolate the U.S. diplomatically, monetarily, and economically.
Given the ambivalence and even outright contempt that Trump has shown to NATO and our European allies – and to our existing alliances in general – it’s not hyperbole to state that the world’s leaders are now reevaluating and re-examining their relationship to the U.S.
There were reports that at last year’s NATO summit, Trump greeted German Chancellor Angela Merkel with the derisive comment, “You owe me three trillion dollars,” in a ludicrous and gross mischaracterization of Germany’s, and other NATO members’, contributions to this successful and historic trans-Atlantic defense alliance.
That same contempt was also evident when Trump, pushing to get to a front-and-center spot for a photo opportunity, shoved aside the president of Montenegro, whose country had only recently become a NATO member – over Russia’s vehement objections.
Trump also has recently announced his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty arms reduction agreement negotiated by President Ronald R. Reagan, raising the chilling specter of Europe becoming the arena and staging ground for a new lethal arms race between the U.S. and Russia.
Trump also downgraded the diplomatic status of the European Union’s delegation to the United States last year without warning Brussels of the decision, and has withdrawn the U.S. from membership in the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization and the United Nations Human Rights Council.
There were reports that he even discussed withdrawing from NATO.
And don’t think that these moves have gone unnoticed: French President Emmanuel Macron recently called for an all-European defense alliance to counter Russia, China, and – unbelievably – the U.S., and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated that Europe might no longer be able to rely on the U.S. to defend it in a time of crisis.
And on the economic front, an international trade agreement recently went into effect between the European Union and Japan, creating potentially the world’s largest trading bloc. Last year the EU reached a similar agreement for an international trade agreement with Canada.
The U.S. is not a party to either of these deals.
And in the Asia-Pacific region all of our previous commitments to those countries — economic as well as military — are now in doubt, and some adversaries in the region are becoming emboldened and more adventurous, now that we have strategically ceded ground:
Trump, in the first days of his presidency, withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an international trade agreement among, initially, 12 nations in the Asia-Pacific Rim – the world’s fastest-growing region – that was negotiated by the Obama administration. Both Canada and Japan are members of the TPP, which also included a renegotiation of NAFTA.
The original TPP comprised 40 percent of the world’s economy and was designed to:
Boost exports and reduce tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers among member nations;
Counter China’s rising influence in the Asia-Pacific region;
Level the playing field for American workers and exporters by reducing the financial incentives to move American jobs and factories overseas to low-wage countries with lax or non-existing labor, human rights and environmental regulations;
Extend favorable trade conditions upon member countries that exhibit enforceable, verifiable labor and human rights standards and environmental protections – a first among international trade agreements, and meant to liberalize these countries by “globalizing” human and labor rights and environmental protections by linking economic opportunities with the Western values that the U.S. has historically upheld; and
Strengthen strategic relations with our military and economic partners.
Given the above mentioned features, much of the world saw the TPP as a work of masterful diplomacy that would strengthen the U.S. position and standing in the region – both economically as well as strategically – and counter authoritarian China’s hegemonic rise. And it was the strategic value of TPP in strengthening our ties with military allies and trading partners that was noted by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former Defense Secretary Mattis, who both supported, to no avail, the initiative.
Because instead of enacting TPP and pocketing those gains, Trump withdrew from it over the objections of his advisors and without holding any hearings.
And don’t think that move has gone unnoticed.
On December 30, a portion of the TPP tariff reductions went into effect in six of the 11 remaining TPP signatory countries, and in this and subsequent years U.S. farmers are increasingly going to be at an undeniable competitive disadvantage with foreign competitors because of our non-membership in TPP.
Similar tariff reductions for other industries are scheduled to go into effect at various timetables.
Trump also cut off and abandoned negotiations initiated by the Obama administration for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed international trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union, soon after he was inaugurated.
And Trump’s attempt to strike a trade agreement with China is similarly untenable and doomed to failure because he has no agenda, no coherent strategy, no leverage, and no momentum: some of our key allies, who might otherwise be expected to lend their support to us, are currently laboring under U.S.-imposed tariffs.
And now here we are, facing a restive and anxious set of allies around the world who are now as uncertain of our commitments to them as we now are of our own place in the world – and in an international order which we largely created and have led for over 70 years.
And in this rapidly changing state of affairs the world is being forced to call into question our previous assumptions and position of moral authority, status, and fitness for leadership.
Yes, European as well as Asian leaders have grave concerns about Trump’s intentions, as do many Americans, given the continued exodus of U.S. national security, military, and diplomatic personnel, and all of the treaties and agreements Trump has abandoned.
And because of Trump’s moves to upend and withdraw from existing agreements and alliances, and because of the ambivalence he has displayed toward military and trade partners, the world is now undergoing a realignment that threatens to leave the U.S. increasingly isolated diplomatically, economically, culturally, and militarily.
In just two years under Trump, the U.S. has gone from the recognized and respected Leader of the Free World to something akin to rogue superpower status.
And in the event of a miscalculation or ill-conceived policy that leads to a general economic reversal or collapse, a widespread outbreak of war, or humanitarian crisis, the U.S. could find itself a pariah nation.
And that, my fellow American citizens, would be a disastrous State for our Union.
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