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Economy

Trump’s trade war, Harley-Davidson, and the coming depression

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After reaching record highs in January when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act took effect, the DOW Jones Industrial Average has been on a downhill slide following Trump’s declaration of war against free trade.

Unfortunately, as we witnessed this past weekend, Trump isn’t showing any indication that he is prepared to “deal” in order to bring this self-inflicted war to an end. Instead, Trump threatened to level additional “tariffaxes” (H/T Shannon Joy for the cool new word) and “more” against any trading partner who dares to retaliate by leveling tariffs against the US.

Trump’s “Art of the Deal” approach to free trade is having an adverse effect on consumer prices. His first round of tariffs in January on solar panel and washing machine imports resulted in significant price increases. And Trump’s across-the-board tariffs on steel and aluminum in March are responsible for doubling the price of steel on US manufacturers and price-gouging by steel providers.

While the casualties in Trump’s trade war have been kind of “faceless” so far, that changed yesterday with the announcement by Harley-Davidson that the US motorcycle company would be moving more of its production outside of the US in response to Trump’s tariffs.

“To address the substantial cost of the tariff burden long-term, Harley Davidson will be implementing a plan to shift production of motorcycles for EU destinations from the US to its international facilities to avoid the tariff burden.”

Shortly after the November 2016 election, Federal Reserve officials expressed concern over Trump’s economic policies and how aggressive changes in the areas of taxes, spending, and trade could be come inflationary and cause interest rates to rise. With tariffs causing rising prices, and with the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, it would appear their concerns were justified.

Ever hear of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930? This law started out as a bill to raise tariffs on some agriculture products to protect farmers, but as big government is prone to do, it grew to protect a host of special interests affecting all sectors of the economy. By the time it reached President Hoover’s desk, Smoot-Hawley represented one of the largest tariff increases in history, and though they didn’t cause it, these tariffs are considered a contributing factor to the Great Depression.

By the way, Smoot-Hawley is an example of how tariffs are supposed to be created under the Constitution. Whether tariffs may be good or bad, they should originate in Congress and be signed into law, not arbitrarily imposed by the president.

Despite Trump’s sunny outlook about how trade wars are “good” and “easy to win,” could his “knee jerk impulses”—as the Senate Finance Committee recently described it—regarding tariffs be the final nail in the coffin that, when added to rising prices and rising interest rates, causes a recession or depression?

History isn’t on our side when it comes to answering that question.

Originally posted on The Strident Conservative.

 


David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative. His daily radio commentary is distributed by the Salem Radio Network and is heard on stations across America.

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Democrats

Stop underestimating the ignorance and gullibility of the left

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Stop underestimating the ignorance and gullibility of the left

As a conservative, I can break down the left vs. right paradigm by using two edited axioms. For the left, it’s “If at first you don’t succeed, double down and make it even worse.” For the right, it’s, “If it ain’t broke, do everything to keep the left from trying to fix it.”

I’m sure my friends on the left (few, but present) would disagree. I do what I can to keep and never completely alienate my progressive friends because I need them to help me understand why they react certain ways to different people, ideas, and circumstances. For example, a cordial conversation I had with a former Bernie supporter the other day revealed to me she still likes him, but she’s much more excited about Beto O’Rourke and Elizabeth Warren. I asked her opinion of Pete Buttigieg. She knew nothing about him.

Yesterday, she told me she was all in for Buttigieg. I asked why. She said he seemed more genuine than Beto and a better campaign strategist than Pocahontas (her choice of nicknames).

That’s the state of affairs in the Democratic Party. Every candidate has their share of faithful followers, but outside of Sanders’ and possibly O’Rourke’ most faithful, the game is wide open for most Democratic voters. They move their preferences up and down, left and right just as Republicans did during the early days of the 2016 primary season. In that regard, the left and right aren’t very different. At this stage, a lot of the popularity of the candidates will be based solely on personality. People like who they like and as long as they check the right ideological boxes, the early days are nothing more than a personality contest.

This is why every candidate is picking and choosing their policies to promote as well as the policies to avoid. You can tell when a candidate believes in a more moderate approach to handle any issue when they’re not willing to say much about it. When they’re radical on an issue, they blast it out there. This is the part that scares me.

Those who were paying attention in the late months of 2014 and the early months of 2015 know something that would probably shock most voters today. There was a topic the GOP wanted to avoid altogether. Strategists said not to bring it up. Analysts said it was a losing issue. Then, Donald Trump announced his intention to run and suddenly the taboo topic was front-and-center. That’s right, before Trump entered the race and gave his famous speech about deporting Mexicans, the GOP consensus stated that immigration was a topic to be avoided through the primaries and possibly onto the general election.

It’s important to understand this because it demonstrates very clearly how election season, especially primary season, sets the stage for not only the topics that will be discussed but also the way the country will be governed based on which side wins. It concerns me greatly that the topics being discussed by the Democrats today are Medicare-for-All, Green New Deal, reparations, higher minimum wages, eliminating student debt, and socialism in general. The presence of these radical ideas in the early days of the primary season tells us these are the topics that will be driven home by the eventual winner of the Democratic nominee.

If the Democrat then wins, they’ll be expected to start implementing these ideas just as President Trump was expected to repeal Obamacare and build the wall. He ran on those ideas, so he’s expected to deliver.

Republicans might think, “Bring it on.” I hear about it when talking to GOP strategists. I see it in the bluster of keyboard pundits on Twitter. I even see it in the posts and statements by the GOP itself. Most are licking their chops at the opportunity to take on these radical progressive ideas. Unfortunately, they’re not doing it right, and by “they” I mean I’ve seen a tiny handful who are even taking it seriously.

What we’re seeing instead is the complacency that goes with underestimating the ignorance and gullibility of the left as well as the malleability of the center. That friend who now supports Buttigieg happens to be a nurse and happens to adore the ideas of both the Green New Deal and especially Medicare-for-All. When one of my other friends (who happens to be a more moderate leftist) asked her the standard question of how they’re going to pay for it, the new Buttigieg fan said, “The rich will pay for it.”

I started to rain on her parade with actual numbers, but stopped immediately. This wasn’t the time to debate anything, let alone the idiocy of believing only the rich would be dramatically affected by such insane increases in the budget. After all, I need to keep some progressive friends around and this particular one would never have spoken about politics with me again if I shared the truth with her. I let it go.

It’s anecdotal, but I have a very strong feeling this thinking is common and growing more prevalent every day. This wasn’t a random reasoning. This is what they’re saying among the hyper-leftists in the Democratic Party. It seems every candidate has a variation of the “hose the rich” plan. They know very clearly that the numbers are far too large for the average American to stop and think about. There are sheep on both sides of the political aisle, but the numbers are going up dramatically on the left thanks to the sudden total disregard for fiscal responsibility that is now Kosher to the new Democrats.

And the people will follow. They won’t challenge them. They won’t question them. They won’t do the math. They’ll nod their heads in unison as these candidates promise exponentially more than Bill Clinton or Barack Obama ever had the gall to promise.

The fact that these socialistic ideas absolutely, positively cannot work will be ignored by the candidates as they fly over the heads of the leftist voters. I’m not saying they’re stupid. Many are quite bright. But anyone who believes socialism has any chance of success is willfully ignorant to the facts and gullible to the progressive sales pitch.

It is incumbent on conservatives to do everything we can to educate the population. If you’re as cynical as me, you’ll probably think it’s a nearly impossible task. If you’re as worried as me, you’ll know there’s nothing else we can do but try.

What we MUST NOT do is take jabs at the ideologies and policy proposals with an assumption the voters will get the jokes. Here’s Tweet tonight from the GOP:

As Tweets go, this one is horrible. Imagine a leftist or even a centrist leaning towards Medicare-for-All reading this. Government takeover of the healthcare system, single-payer, and elimination of private health insurance – to someone who doesn’t understand the numbers, this might seem like the GOP is endorsing Buttigieg because none of the negatives they pointed out are negatives in the minds of most leftists.

But it’s worse than that. This Tweet nor anything I’ve seen from the GOP so far on Twitter or elsewhere does anything to teach Republican voters how to counter arguments in favor of Medicare-for-All. Zero. The next election is going to be won or lost based on whether the GOP can demonstrate these “new” ideas are bad. And it won’t just be the candidates and pundits who need to do this. The voters themselves need to be able to make a solid case for why any one of these ideas are horrible.

The GOP needs to step up its game and attack the horrible leftist policy proposals with facts. Right now, it seems like they assume most Americans believe socialism is bad. Come election day, that may not be the case if the GOP doesn’t fix their messaging.

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Economy

PragerU: Is Denmark socialist?

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Is Denmark socialist

Not too long ago, many socialist, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, thought the model of the future for America was Venezuela. They saw the prosperity that the oil-rich nation was enjoying in its early days of socialism and said, “That’s us. That’s where America needs to be.”

Fast forward to today and suddenly every socialist is disavowing Venezuela altogether, claiming that the model of America was never really the model they thought it was and it’s not even real socialism. Why? Because it failed. Therefore, by the socialists’ reckoning, that must mean they didn’t do it right.

Now, Denmark is suddenly the model for America’s future. But there’s a problem. Denmark is a free-market nation that has been peeling away at its socialist foundation for decades. While they enjoy some of the most robust social programs in the world, they’re doing so at such a high price that the people are left with very little other than the essentials. Yes, they have free healthcare, but more citizens are turning to private insurance to bypass the poor treatment and long wait times associated with single-payer healthcare. Yes, they have free schooling, but grade-level students are being shifted to private schools at nearly a 20% pace while the “free” college system is being taken advantage of by those who are clever enough to realize they’re better off staying in college indefinitely than graduating and being thrown into the world of working to pay for the system.

This video by PragerU’s Otto Brons-Petersen breaks down the reality of the socialist utopia leftists often point to as their beacon of hope for a failed economic and political philosophy.

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Economy

Note to Nashville: Privatization is good, except when it’s idiotic

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Note to Nashville Privatization is good except when its idiotic

This will be the first and hopefully the last time I speak out against a government plan to privatize anything. But as much as I like a blanket approach to taking control away from government in the vast majority of situations, the plan to privatize public parking in Nashville is so loaded with problems, it shouldn’t move forward.

I first heard the details of the plan when I read about the rare occurrence of a Democratic mayor wanting to privatize an element of city government. Generally, Democrats push for more control over their territories, not less, which is why I was hoping to find an instance where the realities of limited-government federalism and capitalistic privatization was seeping into the psyche of a Democratic leader. What I found was appalling: a desperate mayor, David Briley, throwing anything he could against the fiscal walls in hopes of making it stick. His city faces a woeful budget shortfall, something that should not be happening in a city as vibrant and growing as Nashville.

But, they need money immediately to make up the shortfall before the end of the fiscal year and this seems to be their last resort following an atrocious set of attempts to sell off public land to make up the cash difference. The attempt was so botched, the city council passed a resolution preventing such an attempt from being used in the future to cover operating expenses. But now, they’re ready to push the parking privatization scheme through with a rubber stamp and hopes nobody will look closely at the details.

The latter is unlikely, as many are already speaking out. Mayoral candidate Carol M. Swain urged the city to halt the plans, clearly pointing out it’s a very bad deal:

Nashville must oppose Mayor David Briley’s public parking privatization plan

We the People of Davidson County and surrounding areas will be adversely impacted if Mayor Briley, who is up for re-election, can push through this deal that would entail a 30-year commitment.

No agreement of this magnitude should be for more than any one term of the mayor’s office.

Once they have the contract, there is nothing to prevent the bid-winning private company from also raising rates until they match rates common to larger cities such as Chicago and New York City.

As Swain noted, this is a 30-year deal that essentially turns a public revenue source into a for-profit scheme that will sacrifice the people’s control for decades in exchange for saving a single year’s budget. The loss of future revenues and control aren’t the only things at stake, though. The deal will include increases across the board for citizens of Nashville, including:

  • A rise in the number of parking spots designated as paid that will essentially double them over four years
  • Increased cost per hour by 25 cents
  • More than doubling fines from $11 to $25
  • Decreasing free parking times by four hours per weekday
  • Removing free parking on weekends
  • Removing free parking for green vehicles

The mayor is pushing the deal as a way to innovate and catch up with the rest of the nation, citing technological improvements. But any such improvements could be made by the city, as could the changes to the times, costs, and fines, so his points are moot. The reality is this: They need cash now and they don’t have any other schemes that can work this quickly.

There’s a solution to all this: cut budgets. Fiscal responsibility should not be obfuscated by get-cash-quick schemes that will harm Nashville’s citizens. Make cuts. Increase revenues long term. Make Nashville as business-friendly as possible. These are the ways that work in America. Corrupt land deals and desperate privatization schemes always hurt in the long run. This time, they’re hurting Nashville in the short term as well.

Nashville’s parking plan is the equivalent of taking an important part of many citizens’ daily lives and pawning it off to pay the city’s bills. They’re giving up 30 years of control to save a single year’s budget.

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