Even for Donald Trump, last week was unusually eventful.
He told U.S. businesses to get out of China, which retaliated against his proposed tariff increase from 25% to 30%.
“Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing … your companies HOME and making your products in the USA.”
Trump would use the International Emergency Economic Powers Act of 1977, which provides broad powers regarding sanctions in emergency situations, but hasn’t been invoked in trade disputes. Whether he can force a fire sale of U.S. assets in China is debatable.
At the G-7 meeting of industrialized nations, Trump had second thoughts about the China trade war.
“Yeah, sure. Why not?” Asked again, he answered: “Might as well. Might as well … I have second thoughts about everything.” Press secretary Stephanie Grisham later clarified, “President Trump responded in the affirmative — because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher.”
But, Trump admitted, “I have no plan right now.”
Had he stayed in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade group formed as a counterweight to China, and not alienated other allies, such as the European Union, a united front might have been possible, rather than continually upping the ante.
Most Democratic presidential candidates — except for former Vice President Joe Biden — aren’t much better, railing against multilateral trade pacts by citing a skewed study of 851,700 jobs “displaced” (not necessarily lost) in a 24-year period following the North American Free Trade Agreement.
But the Congressional Research Service and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development claimed NAFTA-related losses impact were minimal, while trade was significantly ramped up. The big hit came when President Bill Clinton conferred normal permanent trade status on China and 3.2 million jobs disappeared in 12 years.
Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve Board chair, ignored Trump’s request to cut interest rates from 2.25% to 1.25%. “Monetary policy is a powerful tool,” he said, but added, “It cannot provide a settled rulebook for international trade.”
An indignant Trump, who appointed Powell, tweeted, “My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or (Chinese) Chairman Xi?”
Trump also reversed himself on a payroll tax cut on Social Security and Medicare to boost the economy as the 2019 budget deficit headed above $1 trillion despite record employment.
The Congressional Budget Office forecast another $1.9 trillion in added debt through the next decade thanks to a bipartisan spending deal. It also predicted an economic slowdown.
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Before leaving for France, Trump called Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen “nasty” after she said his idea for the U.S. to purchase Greenland from Denmark was “absurd.”
Frederiksen then picked up the phone, and Trump reversed himself.
“We had a great conversation,” he said. “We have a very good relationship with Denmark, and we agreed to speak later. But she was very nice.”
Greenland (pop. 57,000) is strategically located in the Arctic Circle. The U.S. already has military operations there — Air Force and space related. The Chinese recently tried to make inroads by proposing to build airfields, which the Danes rejected.
Greenland has valuable minerals (uranium, gold and diamonds) plus oil and gas newly accessible as glaciers melt. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gushed about the “opportunities” during an Arctic Council meeting in May, but not its statement on global warming.
The U.S. bought the Danish West Indies (now the Virgin Islands) in 1917.
After vilifying “The Squad,” four Democratic congresswomen who don’t support Israeli policies, Trump expanded his scope to American Jews.
“In my opinion, you vote for a Democrat, you’re being very disloyal to Jewish people and you’re being very disloyal to Israel,” Trump said. He cited a conservative U.S. radio host who said Israeli Jews love him as if he were the “King of Israel” and “the second coming of God.”
Except that U.S. Jews aren’t monolithic about Israeli policies and were taken aback by Trump’s “very fine people” claim about white nationalists in Charlottesville. That makes it hard for him to chip away at the 71% of Jews who supported Hillary Clinton.
Then the Trump administration intervened in a U.S. Supreme Court case to allow a business to fire an individual based on sexual orientation.
Aimee Stephens presented as a man when beginning work at a Michigan funeral home in 2007, but was fired six years later after announcing her plans to transition. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that was discriminatory.
In the 1964 Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Justice Department maintains, “the ordinary public meaning of ‘sex’ was biological sex,” and even anti-gay discrimination isn’t unlawful because gay men and women would be equally poorly addressed.
For the ongoing Trump presidential reality show, it was a head-spinning week like few others.