Archive for the ‘stinking piece of shit’ Category

Fake News and government propagandists

April 8, 2018

Researching my 1973 book on Albany politics, I pored over early 20th century local newspapers. I was astonished how partisan they were, openly touting candidates, with no division between news and opinion pages. This was typical; many American papers called themselves “The Democrat” or “The Republican.” Some still retain those vestigial names. But the standard journalism model has changed, and for a long time now it’s been universally understood in the news media that opinions go on the editorial page, while news reporting is just that: reporting.

It’s true that most journalists, due to their cultural backgrounds, personally lean liberal. Yet it’s really a lie that their work is skewed by bias (let alone calling it “fake news”). Modern professional journalists are steeped in the ethos of accuracy and neutral objectivity, and generally strive hard to uphold it. Making stuff up is an absolute no-no; correcting errors a must. And if anything, they bend over too far in giving both sides of a story, even when one side is rubbish (for example, lending credence to climate or vaccination science denialism).

I’ve regularly watched PBS’s Washington Week, where reporters discuss the news. It’s striking how their personal opinions are never detectable. Indeed, it’s almost maddening to hear them talk, in bland neutral tones, about Trumpian outrages. And even Jon Stewart, on The Daily Show, making no secret of a liberal stance, was an equal-opportunity satirist, often freely skewering Obama and other Democrats.

But then there’s Fox “News.”

I put it in quotes because Fox is in fact the regime’s fawning cheerleader and propaganda mouthpiece — making a cruel joke of its former slogan, “Fair and Balanced.” Fox is anything but. It’s the real fake news channel, shattering the longstanding paradigm of news media striving for accuracy and objectivity.

And now too Sinclair Broadcast Group. Sinclair owns about 200 local TV stations covering 40% of the country, and aggressively seeks to gobble up more. Like Fox, Sinclair is uncritically all-in for Trump. While it can’t, like Fox, control every word going out over its airwaves, Sinclair can and does put words in broadcasters’ mouths. Recently we saw every Sinclair station (including Albany’s WRGB Channel 6) required to air a script about “fake news.” While the lockstep parroting in these hostage videos was itself ludicrous enough, so was the content: straight out of Trump’s potty mouth, telling viewers not to believe what they hear from supposedly biased mainstream news media, which Sinclair called a threat to democracy. At least Sinclair stopped short of calling them “the enemy of the American people.”

See what’s going on. Trump lauds slimy Fox and Sinclair while demonizing all legitimate news sources. It’s a concerted effort to cripple news media not in the government’s thrall, and replace them with ones that are — with regime propagandists. This is something very new to America, and very chilling. THIS is the threat to democracy.

We saw its apotheosis in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the Communist world; we see it today in Russia, China, Turkey, Venezuela, and too many more places. Malaysia just passed a law with stiff jail terms for “fake news” — defined as anything the government doesn’t approve (presumably including any reference to Prime Minister Rajak’s billion dollar theft from a state development fund).

Am I being alarmist? Yes, I am very alarmed. I do not want America with a government of lies unaccountable to a free press. Like Russia, Turkey, Venezuela, Malaysia, and other such shit-hole countries.

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America’s war on refugees

April 5, 2018

Way back in 2015 (a different epoch), when I wrote here comparing America unfavorably with Germany regarding refugees, my daughter (working in the Middle East for a refugee aid organization) chided me that we’ve actually taken in more refugees than any other Western nation.

That was then.

My lawn sign

Our annual refugee quota had averaged 95,000. Now it’s been slashed to 45,000, and actual admissions will likely be far lower. Our infrastructure of charities helping refugees is crumbling because the pipeline is running dry. Partly it’s because Trump has put additional restrictions on intake from 11 countries on a secret list, said to include South Sudan, Syria, and Iraq. In other words, many of the people most desperately in need of refuge.

This panders to Trump’s most rabid nativist fans, and reflects his own personal vileness.

He’s also trying to build a wall, impose a Muslim travel ban, kick out dreamers and millions of other undocumented residents, and even to cut traditional legal immigration almost in half. He’s already ordered out tens of thousands of Haitian, Salvadoran, Liberian, and other refugees, many of whom have lived here legally for decades under a special program.

A lot of them are now heading north to Canada: refugees FROM America!

All these policies are not only cruel, but harm our own country. We should welcome immigrants and refugees not just because it’s the right thing to do, the humane thing, but because they’re good for America, making it stronger and better. (As it does for Canada.)

Trump’s saying other countries “send” us their worst people is a moronic lie. Migrants are not sent, they’re self-selected, and those with the courage and grit to leave behind everything familiar and start fresh in a new country are the best people. Certainly better than those creeps who revile them.

It’s a lie that migrants cost us money. To the contrary, their productive efforts and talents add to our national prosperity. In fact, with an aging population (collecting ever more benefits) and declining workforce participation rates, we desperately need the new blood of immigrants to refresh our employment pool. It’s a major reason why America’s economy is fizzier than in other countries even less receptive to immigration.

And it’s a lie that immigrants and refugees cause crime or threaten terrorism. In fact their crime rate is lower than for the native-born. None of the three million refugees we accepted since 1980 has ever been involved in a fatal terrorist attack.

All these lying arguments against immigrants and refugees are fig leaves to cover up the naked truth. This is racism. The people being kept out and kicked out mainly have brown skins. That, plain and simple, is the animus behind Trump’s actions.

He also lies in blaming Democrats for lack of a DACA solution. He himself was responsible for creating the problem in the first place; he lied when he said he wanted a legislative fix; he did his utmost to torpedo every effort. And he blames Democrats. What a sicko.

From The Economist

The Economist’s Lexington columnist (who covers America) wrote recently about a South Sudanese teenager he’d met in an African refugee camp in 2000. Read his great article. That refugee now lives in Michigan in a four bedroom house with two cars; he’s so far contributed over $100,000 in taxes. Lexington tells this success story not because it’s exceptional but because it’s typical. And the goodness doesn’t shine just in America. Most migrants doing well here send money back to home-country relatives, uplifting those people and places too.*

Finally, immigrants and refugees understand and uphold, far better than most natives, what America is all about, the ideals and values it stands for (or used to). Everything Trump turns his back on. He’s un-American.

America was great because it was good. Now it’s breaking my heart.

* I wrote here a poem in 2016 inspired by a Somali refugee. I sent him a check; he told me he sent the money to his mother in Africa.

Words you can’t say on TV — or can you?

April 3, 2018

The late great comedian George Carlin’s most famous routine was “The seven words you can’t say on TV.” That was in 1972.

My wife and I are longtime devotees of The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Naughty words — “fuck” came up constantly — have always been bleeped. I found this annoying and silly. If you know the word will be bleeped, why say it?

We’ve also been watching Jordan Klepper’s The Opposition (a sort of Daily Show spin-off). The other night, Jordan said “shitty” and it was not bleeped. I turned to my wife and pointed this out. She, ever word-wise, suggested that perhaps “shitty” (even though it includes the four-letter word) wasn’t bleepworthy because it merely means having the characteristics of shit, which is not the same as shit itself.

Immediately afterwards we watched a DVR’d Daily Show. And guess what? Shit! The plain word was spoken — unbleeped.

So apparently we’re down to six words. Still a long way to go before George Carlin’s ghost can find rest. But at least now I feel free to properly revise this blog’s “posted in” category list.

It’s your economy, stupid

March 25, 2018

Presidents are usually judged mainly on the economy, which most voters care most about. (“It’s the Economy, stupid.”) Yet in truth a president’s economic performance is mainly just luck. He doesn’t run the economy; his actions normally have very little impact on it.

The start of Obama’s term was a rare exception, an economic crisis where he was looked to for leadership. Influencing the economy more than the actual measures he took was their psychological effect. You can argue all day about those measures, but they did combat pessimism, which shaped people’s behavior, and thus boosted the economy. So it’s fair to give Obama some credit.

Trump came into office lucky on the economy. It was doing great. And the prospect of tax cuts and deregulation added to the fizz. All Trump had to do, really, was not screw things up. Which — given a president’s limited ability to actually impact the economy — should have been a piece of cake.

But Trump is a poster boy for the Dunning-Kruger effect I’ve written about: the dumber people are, the less they recognize their dumbness. Trump understands nothing about the global economy while feeling certain he understands everything. A deadly combination.

And he managed to find the one thing within his power to screw up the economy. He can’t set interest rates, regulate the money supply, or by himself make tax and spending policy. But he could start a trade war.

I’ve explained before why this is so dumb. It doesn’t take a PhD in economics to understand that import tariffs — virtually always — hurt more people than they help and weaken the overall economy in multiple ways. U.S. businesses mostly become less competitive, consumers pay higher prices, jobs are lost not gained, interest rates rise, our exports become costlier and hence fall, so our trade deficit is more likely worsened than improved.

And that’s even without other countries retaliating. When they do, as China and others are, that hurts U.S. businesses, jobs, consumers, and our trade position even more.

But do those other countries also take a hit? Oh yes. Tariffs make the whole world poorer. It is a “beggar thy neighbor” policy. An overall poorer world is not good for America — not for our economy, nor our national security.

It’s true that China is guilty of bad things in the realm of trade and commerce (like stealing intellectual property, to name just one). But the self-inflicted wounds of tariffs are surely not the right answer. A far better one would have been the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which America had negotiated with 11 other Asian nations, precisely to combat China on trade. Trump pulled out of TPP on his first day.

His tariffs make Trump like the character in “Blazing Saddles” who took himself hostage by pointing a gun at his own head. Trump has pulled the trigger.

Dow down another 1150 points.

America Trumped (my “Trolley” article)

March 21, 2018

The wonderful New York State Writers Institute (founded by William Kennedy; headed by Paul Grondahl) has published a very interesting online magazine, The Trolley. (Click here.) I was asked to contribute an article, a follow-up to my blog review of their October symposium on post-truth politics.* The magazine’s inaugural issue focuses mainly on the same general topic.

Since the last election, I’ve been grappling with the really dramatic lurch our civic life has taken into uncharted territory. It has a lot of aspects, and I’ve written a lot trying to unravel them. For this Trolley article, I aimed to draw all these strands together into one big picture, titled America Trumped.

I consider myself a student of history. And we are at an historical hinge point, with huge implications for the future of this country and, indeed, the world. I am not one of those fatalists who believes human beings are at the mercy of forces beyond our control; it’s why I continue to call myself a rational optimist. It is by using our rationality that we can master our situation. That’s how we’ve progressed so enormously since the Stone Age. And in order to master our situation, we must first understand what it is. Such understanding is a key quest in my own life; after half a century at it, I feel I’ve made progress. That’s what I’m trying to share on this blog, and in my Trolley article.

* Find it here; scroll down past a few later posts.

Trump ascends to meta-lying: making stuff up about making stuff up

March 19, 2018

Trump now feels he’s hit his stride as president. Now he’s really strutting his stuff, feeling his oats, his instincts comfortably in the driver’s seat. It’s clear from his latest farrago of actions, lashing out unrestrainedly in every direction. The one thing he’s learned — the only thing — is that however he behaves, there are no bad consequences. So it seems to him, and so far it actually seems basically true. His “shooting-someone-on-Fifth-Avenue” line grows more apt by the day.

Republicans, at least, are so strapped in to this roller coaster ride that they can’t get off no matter what stomach-churning twists and turns it takes. So now there are no checks — internal or external — on Trump’s id-based impulses. He’s broken out of his crib; his baby-sitters are powerless.

Last week there was consternation over a Trump speech at a Missouri fund-raiser, talking about his meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Here are Trump’s actual words (my emphasis): “Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy, Justin. He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please.'” (Trump mimicked Trudeau’s voice.) “Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in — ‘Donald, we have no trade deficit’ . . . I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know . . . . I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid . . . . And I thought they were smart. I said, ‘You’re wrong, Justin.'”

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, in 2017 we had a $2.8 billion trade surplus, in goods and services, with Canada.

Many observers were shocked, shocked, that a president would meet with a foreign leader, discussing our trade relations, without even being prepped with the most basic fact about it. Even more shocking was Trump’s just making it up, asserting something he knew might well be false (which it was). And more shocking still that he’d publicly brag about behaving so irresponsibly. As though his tale might somehow be endearing — like a child giggling about his cute mischief.

This is the guy who’s rushing to negotiate with Kim Jong-un about nuclear weapons. (Who couldn’t even successfully negotiate a hush deal with a porn actress.)

But wait. It actually gets worse. How could it possibly be any worse? It turns out the Canadian government doesn’t know what meeting Trump was talking about. Apparently, it never happened — fake news. He lied about lying to Trudeau. As columnist Kathleen Parker commented, “Not only do weary researchers have to check Trump’s ‘facts,’ but now they also have to check his facts about fictions.”

Call it meta-lying.

Andrew Cuomo and corruption

March 17, 2018

Cuomo

When first running for governor, Andrew Cuomo actually made tackling Albany corruption a campaign theme — pointedly declaring his candidacy in front of the Tweed courthouse — a literal monument to political corruption. He pledged his administration would be the “most transparent” in state history.

As Times-Union columnist Chris Churchill put it, “Cuomo didn’t just break the promise that helped him get elected. He smashed it like a plate at a Greek wedding and danced on its pieces.”

Percoco

Joseph Percoco was Cuomo’s longtime right-hand man, and ran his election campaign; Cuomo even likened him to a third brother. Percoco has now been convicted in Federal Court of soliciting and receiving $300,000 in bribes from businessmen, to buy his influence to get them cushy deals with the state.

Throughout, Cuomo’s refrain has been that he had nothing to do with this. So — whose influence was really being bought? Percoco had no direct power over state business. But he could get things done through Cuomo. And Cuomo (famous for micro-managing) says he didn’t know? He’s either lying or stupid. Take your pick.

Also revealed at the trial was Percoco’s breaking the law by continuing to use his government office, even after he’d formally left state employment, to run Cuomo’s political campaign. Right under the Governor’s nose. Cuomo tries to avoid legal complicity by saying he believed Percoco was just doing “transition” work. Which apparently included some 68 days in the office and over 800 phone calls. Cuomo also believes in the Easter Bunny.

Howe

The prosecution of Percoco was almost derailed by their star witness, Todd Howe, another Cuomo goon and Percoco’s partner in crime, who’d pled guilty and agreed to testify against him. Copying The Sopranos, Howe and Percoco referred in e-mails to their bribe money as “ziti.” But anything Howe said lacked credibility because of his huge record of lies and frauds.

Ziti

Highlighting that, while testifying, Howe was actually arrested and jailed for trying to defraud a hotel on its bill by denying he’d ever stayed there. In fact, he’d stayed there while negotiating his plea deal with prosecutors — a deal in which Howe pledged to commit no further crimes.

These two slimeball creeps, Howe and Percoco, were both top henchmen for Andrew Cuomo for many years. What does that tell us about Cuomo?

Kaloyeros

Coming soon is another Cuomo corruption trial, relating to his “Buffalo Billion,” an economic development program that was a honey pot for his donors. And the trial of former Nanotech Czar Alain Kaloyeros, who’d been the second most powerful figure in New York, working hand-in-glove with Cuomo, also charged with abusing his position to extort bribes from businessmen seeking state contracts. And the re-trials of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, former heads of the State Assembly and Senate, likewise charged with what amounts to extortion and bribery.*

Meantime, the bribes Percoco extorted for himself are only the tip of the iceberg. The real scandal is the legal bribery: Cuomo now has over $30 million in his campaign war-chest, mostly contributed by business people not for civic altruism but because they are buying favorable treatment, tax breaks, subsidies, state contracts, etc. It’s called pay-to-play. They’re able to buy politicians like Cuomo with large sums, getting around contribution limits, through the infamous LLC ( limited liability corporation) loophole — which furthermore allows the bribes — er, “donations” — to be hidden from public scrutiny.

Cuomo will likely coast to re-election, using his ill-gotten $30 million kitty to crush any opponent with a barrage of sleazy, smearing TV ads.

Asked to comment after Percoco’s conviction, Cuomo continued insisting, “There was absolutely no suggestion ever made that I had anything to do with anything. Right?”

Wrong. He also said Percoco’s crimes were “a violation of everything my administration stands for.”

Wrong again. They reflect exactly what his administration stands for.

*Their first convictions were reversed based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s egregious ruling in the case of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, defining bribery so narrowly that it’s almost impossible to prove. Yet New York’s finest were so flagrant their corruption may well pass even the McDonnell test.

The Great Deal-Maker tackles North Korea

March 14, 2018

The Great Deal-Maker, Making America Great Again. First day in office, he hands China — for nothing in return — a gigantic geopolitical boost. The TPP deal we’d painstakingly negotiated with key Asian nations, to set the regional terms of trade to our advantage and stymie China, Trump cancels. China’s rulers high-five each other and chortle.

Then on to the Middle East. Actually bragging that he’s removed an obstacle to peace by taking Jerusalem off the table. What The Great Deal-Maker took off the table was one of our own biggest bargaining chips. Making a peace deal virtually impossible.

All leaders face the problem of residing in a bubble insulated from reality. Trump’s never had much grip on it, and now everyone — his flunkeys, GOP politicians, foreign leaders — see this fool can be played by means of fawning flattery, the more cringeworthy the better. Feeding his delusion that he and all his doings are the greatest. Don’t need no stinkin’ policy briefings, etc. Gets all he needs from his instincts. And Fox Fake News.

So on to North Korea.

I’ll say this much: negotiating is better than a military strike that could well bring about the very thing we should ultimately be aiming to prevent. Not North Korea having nukes, but using them.

Normally, a summit meeting between leaders is preceded by substantive negotiations, adumbrating a deal, to ensure a successful outcome. Then the leader is thoroughly briefed with a clear grasp of all the ramifications and well thought-out responses to whatever the adversary might say. But this isn’t Trump’s style. Don’t need no stinkin’ policy briefings. The Great Deal-Maker will just trust his great instincts and wing it. Greatly.*

Meantime, The Great Deal-Maker has (yet again) already given away — for nothing — one of our biggest bargaining chips. A sit-down with the president of the United States is a huge coup for Kim Jong-un, legitimizing and exalting his status. That might have been dangled to Kim as an inducement to make a deal. Instead, he’ll come to the table having already gained a key objective.

The idea of Trump, unprepared, comprehensively ignorant of world affairs and realities, with his unmediated rat’s-nest of wrong instincts, negotiating directly with Kim Jong-un, is frightening. What else will he give away (removing sanctions — and our troops from South Korea?) in order to brag again about a supposed great triumph? The fool will be played, and rolled.

Trump will come out saying he and Kim got along great. And why not? Birds of a feather. North Korea will be our new friend.

Sure, Kim will agree to give up his nukes. Praise The Great Deal-Maker! Raise the champagne glasses! Kim will pocket all concessions and agree to ditch his nukes — but won’t do it. We’ve seen exactly that movie before with duplicitous North Korea. And Trump won’t nail down the nitty-gritty verification safeguards any North Korea deal should require. Rolled.

The sensible policy toward North Korea would have been to ignore it. It was insane to draw a line in the sand, declaring we won’t allow it having nukes, when it does have them and we have no plausible way to alter that. And the saber-rattling was pointlessly juvenile. Kim surely knows we have the capability to obliterate him. Deterrence was always our implicit policy and nothing more was needed.

Teddy Roosevelt had it right: “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Trump speaks loudly and gives away our sticks.

*Crudely firing Secretary of State Tillerson, ostensibly over North Korea policy, was always on the cards since Tillerson called Trump a “moron” (actually “fucking moron”). Everybody sucked into Trump’s orbit gets chewed up and spit out.

Democratic presidential prospects

March 11, 2018

I enrolled Democrat to have a presidential primary vote — for a candidate who can beat Trump, and make America great again. Maybe after four years we can still climb out of this stinkhole. But after eight . . . .

Berlusconi — Italy’s Trump

In a recent column, David Brooks worries that we’ll follow Italy’s path. They too had previously elected a businessman-outsider promising to drain their swamp. Instead Berlusconi deepened it, ignoring Italy’s real problems, and degrading its politics with his corruption and shameless lack of decency. In Italy’s latest election, the responsible center was swamped by nutsy parties. Trumpism could similarly spin future American politics into a race to the bottom.

Several factors push that way. We’ve become poisonously, tribalistically partisan. It’s aggravated by the internet. We once thought the greater access to information would be elevating. Instead it’s a flaming cesspool of confirmation bias, falsehood, and incitement. Russia hardly even needs to lift a finger, we’re doing it to ourselves. For all our education (which rarely includes any civics now), voters are ill-equipped to perspicaciously evaluate what they see and hear. Thus we have the political equivalent of Gresham’s Law — “Bad money drives good money out of circulation.”

Trump exacerbates all this. We won’t wake up suddenly with our democracy dead. Instead, it will be the death of a thousand cuts.

You might think it easy to beat the worst president ever. But think again. Around 38% of voters stick with him no matter what. And the electoral college still works in his favor, enabling him to win last time with only 46% of the popular vote. To repeat that in 2020 he only needs to add around one in eight other voters to his 38% base.

Most of those others are solid Democrats, so actually, of the ones truly up for grabs he needs maybe a third. But that’s still a fairly low hurdle, hence Democrats cannot afford to lose many of those swing voters.

This means playing it safe. Democrats can easily blow this by nominating someone who will turn off enough swing voters; a sitting duck for the dirty campaign of lies, insults, and demonization Trump is sure to mount again.

So: no woman. No ethnic. No ideologue. Sorry, this is pragmatic reality. True, we elected a black president, but a lot of whites Democrats need in 2020 will not vote for another one. And while misogyny is not a big factor, it still does exist, and Hillary would have won if she’d had a penis.* We will have a woman president in due course. But achieving that is far less urgent than ridding ourselves of Trump.

Unfortunately, while Republicans have plunged to the dark side, Democrats — instead of grabbing the vacated center ground — have veered sharply left. The activist base was all gaga for Sanders, and still is.

Will he run again? Well, if you were him, why wouldn’t you? Hillary did beat him in the primaries (by getting more votes, not some sort of conspiracy), but with difficulty, and within the Democratic party she was actually a very strong candidate. Who could beat Bernie in primaries next time? Free college, free healthcare, punish Wall Street — the party’s left-wing base eats this stuff up.

Winning the nomination is one thing; winning the country quite another. It’s a ridiculous delusion that if only Bernie had been the nominee in 2016, he’d have defeated Trump. A grumpy overaged Brooklyn Jew who calls himself a socialist? Please.

Trump would not even need any of his moronic insults, with the word “socialist” a monster albatross hanging around Bernie’s neck. Efforts by lefties to sugar-coat it, as if it merely means government doing stuff like road building and fire-fighting, are dishonest and won’t fly. Call it “democratic socialism,” or “apple pie socialism,” but America won’t buy it.

What America might buy — hopefully, after four years of Trump, will be begging for — is a normal president. A sane, decent, avuncular white male with experience, competence, and understanding of the world, who tells the truth, is not a racist, fraudster or buffoon, and might help unite the country more than divide it. Who reflects America’s foundational principles, values, and ideals.

I have high regard for Kirsten Gillibrand; Kamala Harris is also impressive. But both are penisless. Elizabeth Warren is too, and too far left besides. Oprah lacks a penis and white skin. Cory Booker and Deval Patrick — great guys — have one but not the other. Andrew Cuomo has both and fancies himself presidential timber, but no one else does. (Almost as repellent a character as Trump.) Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy I don’t know much about, but he seems like the kind of plain vanilla candidate needed. And Joe Biden ticks all the boxes. Yes, he’s old. But old beats crazy. I’d be pretty confident of Biden defeatingTrump.

Will Democrats be able to resist the allure of shiny objects, and pragmatic enough to nominate a Murphy or Biden? Or will we follow Italy down the rabbit hole?

*Not one surgically added, of course.

The tariffs: economic nationalism or economic madness?

March 2, 2018

Trump is slapping stiff tariffs (i.e., taxes) on steel and aluminum imports. He says it’s to protect our “vital” steel and aluminum industries from foreign competition. Which he calls “unfair” and “disgraceful” (two of his favorite words) because foreigners sell the stuff cheaper than us. So unfair!

This is part of Trump’s “America First” economic nationalism. Here’s why it’s idiotic:

1. It protects American aluminum and steel companies — a very small part of our economy (we no longer make much steel) — at the expense of businesses that use aluminum and steel — a very big part. Their aluminum and steel supplies get costlier. Making them less competitive against foreign manufacturers. Studies have shown that in such cases, we lose many times more jobs, in all those affected industries, than are “protected” by the tariffs.

2. It raises prices for consumers, on all items made with aluminum or steel. That reduces consumers’ living standard and purchasing power, causing a reduction in other things they might otherwise have bought, which in turn costs jobs in all those industries.

3. The higher consumer prices raise inflation, and thus interest rates, which also flow through to consumers and make U.S. businesses further less competitive. And given the huge national debt, every bump in interest rates costs taxpayers a bundle, and worsens our already dire fiscal situation, weakening America.

4. Higher interest rates also push up the Dollar’s exchange rate vis-a-vis other countries’ currencies, making all our exports more expensive to them, thus reducing our exports and related jobs.

5. Other countries will likely retaliate by slapping tariffs on stuff we export, thus causing us yet more job losses, even threatening a broader trade war. (Which Trump moronically calls “good” and “easy to win.”) We’re antagonizing our foreign friends, making fools of ourselves, and undermining our international influence and standing.

Understanding all this doesn’t take a business genius (stable or otherwise). No economist disputes it.

Trump, and the aluminum and steel guys, say fair trade is fine, but China isn’t playing fair, it’s cheating. How? By making too much steel  and selling it too cheap! Adam Smith said in 1776 that if another country wants to sell us something too cheap, we should take advantage of the bargain. Rather than trying to compete with them on steel, we should instead concentrate on other industries where we have what economists call our own comparative advantage. Every country doing that makes the world richer.

Adam Smith

Flouting this logic doesn’t “protect” our economy, but harms it. Tariffs always hurt the nation imposing them. That will be true of those retaliating against us with tariffs of their own. They’ll hurt themselves too. But they’ll probably do it anyway, to teach us a lesson, and also because they (and their voters) are not always so smart either.

Protectionism is politically seductive because some people get big benefits, while the vastly greater number who get screwed don’t realize it.

Trump’s view of trade centers upon the old-time mercantilist fallacy that imports exceeding exports is bad (which Adam Smith labelled “absurd”). Trump says China “rapes” us by selling us more than it buys from us. If that’s true, I get raped by a lot of coin dealers. But in fact we make such purchases because it’s advantageous. Walmart buys things from China (and I buy coins) to make money. Consumers buy them to save money. Trade is not a zero-sum game, it’s win-win. A no-brainer.

Too bad we have a no-brain president.

Wall Street gave its verdict on Trump’s tariffs, the Dow promptly plunging 420 points.