Some Random Political Thoughts
My Attempt to Quickly Summarize the Politics of the Moment
I have not been writing much of anything or engaging in any Facebook "dialogues" about American politics lately. These days, writing, thinking, or talking about politics mostly just pisses me off. But I am still keeping up more or less with what has been going on, so for what it's worth, here are some quick thoughts in no particular order about current events. If I write about topics in short doses, then I can probably avoid going off on any emotional rants:
- The economy seems to be in pretty damn good shape at the moment, with unemployment at a historic low and the stock market setting records on almost a weekly basis. After almost 10 years of steady growth, history indicates that a recession could be coming soon. While recessions are inevitable, there are a few factors that could make this happen sooner rather than later. Inflation is very likely to be rearing its ugly head within the next year or so for a combination of reasons: low interest rates, heavy deficit spending, and new tariffs that will eventually drive up prices. The FED will then be compelled to raise interest rates and the stock market and economy in general will start to come back to earth. The only question is how bad this downturn might be and which party will perform the most effective spin job in trying to use it to their advantage.
- The behavior of the federal government doesn't make any sense at the moment. I can understand tax cuts and heavy spending when the economy is not doing well. But when times are good, the federal government should be taking steps to get its books in order, largely in preparation for the next recession. But one thing that has been made crystal clear for decades is that neither party is interested in reducing the deficit when it is in power.
- You have to hand it to Donald Trump. Back when Obama was in power and the outcome of the 2016 election was in doubt, Trump continually claimed that the stock market was inflated and unemployment was not as low as the numbers indicated. Now that he is in office, the good economic numbers are proof of how awesome he is. Apparently the numbers stopped being inflated starting in early 2017.
- Surprise, surprise. The United States and North Korea have not reached any kind of a deal of consequence. Anyone who thought that having a meeting was the equivalent of a deal must have been smoking something.
- The Middle East is still a mess, with conditions in Syria and Yemen particularly dire at the moment. Democrats might be tempted to blame Trump for this situation, just as Republicans often blamed Obama when he was in power. While there may be things that the United States has done in the past to make the place worse and there may conceivably be things that can be done now to make things better in the future, I don't blame either Trump or Obama for the Middle East being a mess. (Although both Trump and Obama would agree at the moment that Bush helped screw things up with the invasion of Iraq.) The Middle East is mostly a mess because it is always a mess, and there are limited things even the President of the United States can do about it. While there is something to be said for Trump's position that the United States should avoid getting even more tangled up in the mess, he is not really following this message in Yemen, with the United States providing the weapons being unleashed on that disaster area. If nothing else, the United States could have a little less blood on its hands if it stopped helping Saudi Arabia do whatever the hell it wants. Of course, the Saudis do have a hell of a lot of oil, and they are very good customers for American defense contractors.
- The whole Kavanaugh confirmation circus has dominated the news for the past couple weeks, and I have to admit that I wasn't paying that much attention. I was operating under the assumption that he would ultimately be confirmed. What I find hilarious is that Trump and Senate Republicans are acting like his confirmation was some kind of a victory. The victory that guaranteed his confirmation came when Trump was elected President and Republicans managed to hold on to a slim Senate majority. What this whole process has made clear is that even if Kavanaugh or any other conservative judge were Satan's love child, he or she was going to be confirmed by the Senate. While the Supreme Court to some degree has been a partisan institution throughout American history, this has never been more obvious than over the past couple weeks.
- I also find it hilarious that Trump is acting like the new NAFTA or whatever the hell they call it is some major achievement. After calling NAFTA the worst deal in human history, his people signed on to something that is a relatively minor tweak. While it is possible that some of the new provisions could bring some manufacturing and jobs back to the United States, there is also the possibility of unintended consequences. If car companies don't want to follow the rules of paying workers $16 an hour or having 75% of car parts made in North America, they might just go all in on China and eat the tariffs. The fundamental problem with reworking trade deals or imposing new tariffs is that they threaten to disrupt well-established supply chains and trade networks. And many companies may simply conclude that changing how they do things significantly is not worth the cost. (And on a side note, it is kind of funny that Trump thinks it is a good idea to impose a higher minimum wage on car companies that manufacture in North America. Aren't high minimum wages bad for business?)
- I don't know what is going to happen in the upcoming midterm election. Polling seems to favor Democrats, but if pollsters always knew what they were doing, then Hilary Clinton would be President. Even if national polls are to be believed, Democrats face a few problems. In the Senate, there are more Democratic senators trying to hold on to seats than Republicans, largely because Democrats did well in 2012 elections. In the House, Republicans have benefited since 2010 when Republicans did very well in state elections and therefore had more control of redistricting. So if I have to venture a guess, I would say that the margin of victory for control of both the House and Senate will be close, and I can envision either party having control of one or both houses of Congress. I have this nagging feeling, however, that Republicans will barely hold on to both. The 2020 elections at all levels of government are going to be more important anyway. That will be a census year, and if the Democrats can find anyone who is a remotely decent presidential candidate, and if Trump is still alive by then, they should be able to get the White House back. Maybe if Democrats pull their heads out of their collective asses, they can also do better at the state level than in 2010.
- If the Republicans had a normal president, they would probably be in very good shape right now for the midterms. The economic numbers are really good, which feeds the Republican narrative that their policies are good for the economy. (They hope that people have long forgotten the economic state of the country at the end of George W. Bush's "pro-business" presidency.) Donald Trump, however, is not a normal president, and the fact that his party might do badly during an economic boom is an indication of how much he is a drag on the Republican Party. Over the long haul, I suspect that Republicans will rue the day that they became the party of Trump.
- Needless to say, the Mueller investigation has gone on for a long time, but I can understand why. I suspect that Mueller already has a pretty good idea about whether or not Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia. He may even know some things about other skeletons in Trump's huge, amazing closet. But Mueller also knows that if he announces that Trump is guilty of collusion or anything else, the evidence must be overwhelming. Trump's loyal drones are not going to believe any accusations against their hero, and liberals are going to keep hating Trump no matter what Mueller might conclude. The trick is swaying the political independents who determine which way general public opinion sways. But if people are hoping that the Mueller investigation will lead to Trump's impeachment, it may already be too late. If Republicans hold on to the House, Trump is not going to be impeached regardless of what Mueller concludes. And even if Democrats get a majority in the House and vote to impeach Trump, they will not have the votes in the Senate to toss him from office. As Trump has said in the past, he could be caught on video shooting someone and his supporters would still stick with him. Based on what I have seen over the past few years, he is probably right.