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Legacy: Trump Loses China Trade War, Fails to Deliver on Major Policy Promises

Defending insurrectionist disgrace Donald Trump in his final days inherently requires deceit. One must lie about the January 6 insurrection, saying it was “antifa” and not Trump’s own supporters acting on his direction. One must lie about impeachment, saying that Democrats are dividing the country by seeking to hold Trump accountable and prevent him from abusing office again rather than acknowledging the moral culpability of the criminal impeached and admitting that the division one really fears is internal party discord in the 2022 GOP primary.

Even the arguably least morally deplorable defense, the effort to pivot toward a discussion of the policy achievements made before Trump quit doing his job, requires the fundamental lie that Trump actually achieved anything positive that outweighs the damage he has done. It’s not just that his achievements are small; it’s that many of them are fictions.

Take, for instance, Trump’s signature trade war with China. John Tsitrian  notes that Trump’s long assault on China is ending in total defeat for Trump:

China’s trade surplus last month was $78 billion, which took its overall surplus for 2020 to a record $535 billion, up 27% over the year before.

In the head-to-head match-up with the United States, Beijing clobbered us in raw numbers.  As I and a jillion other economists have fruitlessly noted in recent years, trade surplus/deficit numbers are poor barometers of economic well being, but going by those numbers, so dear to Donald Trump, the outgoing prez and his gullible followers have reason to be chagrined. The U.S. trade deficit with China last year was $317 billion, a 7% increase over 2019 and the second highest on record.

This comes in the aftermath of Trump’s famously uninformed utterance on twitter (sorry, it’s no longer findable due to the suspension of the president’s account, but I’m pretty sure most of us remember it) that “trade wars are good and easy to win.” The tariffs he subsequently imposed on nearly $400 billion worth of Chinese exports to the United States accomplished squat in terms of re-balancing our trade accounts with China and only ended up costing American importers and consumers money because Americans had to pay the tariffs – a reality that Trump never seemed to get.

What’s more, the trade wars took a serious toll on America’s GDP (gross domestic product, aka the overall economy).  Pre-pandemic, the price was high, the growth loss in 2019 costing GDP anywhere from -.3% to -.7% according to a wide range of economists surveyed by Barron’s.  2020’s pandemic-riddled economy is hard to gauge, but considering that Trump’s trade war did significant damage in 2019, there’s not much reason to expect last year’s blowout trade numbers favoring Bejing to look much better to Americans [John Tsitrian, “As if the Past Few Days Haven’t Been Bad Enough, Here’s a Final Kiss-Off to Trump: China Won the Trade War,” South Dakota Standard, 2021.01.15].

Trump’s promises on trade were as empty as his promises on other concrete policy goals. Trump gave polluters the most coal-friendly White House in decades with reckless and deadly deregulation, but he was helpless to reverse the smarter market forces that caused the U.S. coal industry to continue to shed jobs. His failure to respond effectively to the coronavirus pandemic erased the economic gains he hoped to coast on to reëlection. He could have put millions of Americans to work building all the roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, and hospitals he promised, but he never passed, let alone laid out in detail, any infrastructure plan.

We’ve just survived four years of total White House flim-flam. Whether he was talking about his commitment to law and order or to real policy action, Donald Trump was lying to us. So, too, are the diehard Trumpists who now wish to fabricate myths about Donald Trump’s policy “achievements”.

27 Comments

  1. jerry 2021-01-17

    trump did this aided and abided by Dirty Johnson, Vladimir Thune and Short Rounds along with the rest of the trumpian republicans. The BRIBES handed out for votes and support were just the ticket to lay around bitching and moaning while blaming the poor for making them take the BRIBES.

    Hide and watch, those who took the BRIBES will be doing the same whine when their crops go back on the markets, opened back up under Biden. Where is old Sonny Purdue? Did covid get him or gout?

  2. Jake 2021-01-17

    Here, upon reflecting on the past four years at his last Sunday (thank God) in office I have only this about his term – FOUR YEARS OF PRESIDENTIAL INDUCED CHAOS!!!!!
    You’re right, Jerry, those sycophant Republicans enabled him all to promote the GOP and now they have a fractured, civil war party.

  3. Edwin Arndt 2021-01-17

    Jerry, corn and soybean markets are on fire at the moment.
    In the last six months or so corn has jumped roughly 1.50 and
    soybeans have increased approx. 5.00. You imply that markets for
    our corn and soybeans are closed. They are not. I’m not giving
    Trump all the credit. But the Chinese will buy what they need as cheaply
    as they can, and they will buy what they need no matter what
    it costs.

  4. Donald Pay 2021-01-17

    Brazil had a bad soy harvest this year. At the same time China is rebuilding it’s pork industry after losing 40% during a two-year outbreak of African Swine Fever. So, yeah, China is buying and will buy soy and some pork from the US, but it isn’t going to be exclusively from the US market if they can help it. They won’t necessarily look only at price. They will look for quality and diverse suppliers.

  5. Edwin Arndt 2021-01-17

    Right now, the USA is the only supplier with any significant quantity
    of soybeans to sell. By mid Feb. the Brazilians should have beans in
    position to be exported. For the most part the grain market is
    a global market and market forces have more to do with
    market prices than some political shenanigans. Ending stocks of
    soybeans in the US will be, according to USDA, around 3% of use. That means
    on 8/31/2021 the US will have (roughly)3% of the beans it had at the start or the
    marketing year, 9/01/2020. This is historically extremely tight.
    Hence the rise in prices.

  6. Edwin Arndt 2021-01-17

    Sorry for the typo.

  7. jerry 2021-01-17

    So then, we taxpayers can expect the return of the BRIBES can we now. As the markets rise, then the need for the BRIBES subsides or will there be just more whine about those pesky poor folks and their need to eat and have a roof over their heads.

  8. Edwin Arndt 2021-01-17

    In my view, politicians on either side of the aisle do not cover themselves
    with glory when they promise voters money for votes. There are plenty of
    examples, the most recent was Joe Biden going to Georgia and telling people
    they would get 2000.00 if they voted for the democrats. I hope that
    was not his finest hour.

  9. mike Livingston 2021-01-17

    Ed how does this bull market stack up with the losses incurred? When did you get into analyzing the commodities market. Sounds like more of the tighty rightly trickle on economics.

  10. jerry 2021-01-17

    Actually, your boy trump said that Edwin, but of course, you knew that didn’t you. Your boy trump also promised $200.00 to each of us old fellers, you included, but that didn’t happen after the election now did it.

    The $600.00 was the start and soon the $1,400.00 that Biden has put into motion will help to jump start this economy. Soon, Biden will put the vaccine on the front burner so we can really jump start the whole thing. Great days to be an American watching the Democrats/Independents fixing your screw ups. republicans cannot govern, they can only corrupt the system.

  11. jerry 2021-01-17

    Keystone XL will be shut down. No man camps, and maybe, just maybe, no ethanol. Use that corn for food or use that land for hemp, but stop wasting it on crap we don’t need.

    “U.S. president-elect Joe Biden has indicated plans to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline permit via executive action on his first day in office, sources confirmed to CBC News on Sunday.

    The purported briefing note from the Biden transition team was widely circulated over the weekend after being shared by the incoming president’s team with U.S. stakeholders.

    The words “Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit” appear on a list of executive actions supposedly scheduled for Day 1 of Biden’s presidency.” Booyah!

  12. Edwin Arndt 2021-01-17

    Ho-hum Jerry, every time we have a change of political parties the
    party coming in has a mess to clean up. I’ve seen it several times.
    I’ve said it several times on this blog and I will say it again. I am not
    a fan of Donald Trump although I do support a lot of his social policies.
    I never thought the border wall was much of an idea. I never liked
    the way he conducted himself.

    Mike, I started farming with my Dad out of high school and I still have
    some interest in the farm. A new generation is now running things.
    I do not claim to be a market analyst but I do read articles by grain
    market analysts every market day, some that I pay for and some that are free.
    I’m not going to attempt to compare losses to gains as it would be
    different for just about every farmer. I have found that in general
    terms, things are seldom as bad or as good as they first seem.

  13. Edwin Arndt 2021-01-17

    Jerry, I’m almost positive that in no more than a few weeks,
    things will be going swimmingly, or hummingly, or really really good,
    or something like that.

  14. mike Livingston 2021-01-17

    Ed I am just saying that it seems you come off as an apologist for the con man that does nothing that does not benefit him personally. The apprentice dictator is willing to sell anybody down river just for a moment of notoriety.

  15. Edwin Arndt 2021-01-17

    I’m sorry I misunderstood Mike. I thought you asked me about
    grain market analysis. I’m going to bed now.

  16. cibvet 2021-01-18

    The farm subsidy vote was bought and paid for by the American taxpayers just like the tariffs and the wall that Mexico was going to pay for, also the tax cuts for the middle class that went only to the wealthy. The only”American exceptionalism ” that I see is the gullible fools who were enamored of a con man and still sing praises about him.

  17. John Rowe 2021-01-18

    I think Trump biggest legacy will be: The United States Government will NEVER be a threat to world peace ever again. The rest of the world watches as the United States Government make fools out of them, The impeachment started 19 minutes after Trump was sworn in as president, blame Russia . the fake election and now another impeachment. Screw balls running a sinking ship. Pelsio Army protecting HER capital and the up comming “Quid Pro Joe Show” . It a government without a Country

  18. o 2021-01-18

    John Dale, again, you show your partisan hackery in lieu of data. The first line of. the article you linked says: ” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imports were having no impact on the United States economy, an assertion that was at odds with a raft of increasingly gloomy economic data and industry surveys.” So the man who co-captained crashing the economy says he didn’t crash the economy, even though the data shows the economy crashing.

    You do not get to have your own facts. You do not get to ignore facts.

  19. Donald Pay 2021-01-18

    I appreciate Mr. Arndt’s knowledge of farming and grain markets. I think his philosophy that things are never as good or as bad as they seem at the time to be about right. I tend to be pessimistic most of the time, a hangover from being a progressive in South Dakota.

  20. Donald Pay 2021-01-18

    And about that $2,000? Trump wanted that passed, as did the two defeated Republican senators from Georgia. They should have upped it to $3000.

  21. jerry 2021-01-18

    As the corn and bean prices are red hot, then the sales of the stored grains will be a bonanza, or a double dip. How can you accept a BRIBE for not being able to sell the now red hot commodities, but then sell those same commodities to keep that red hot money along with the BRIBE you got? Stop the whine and help your fellow Americans who are homeless and hungry, they certainly are not double dippers. Be a single dipper and pay back the BRIBES.

    Mr. Pay is correct, $3,000.00 along with the forgiving of rents due to landlords. The landlords should be made whole by intervention from the taxpayers. We bailed out farmers and we bailed out banks, how about the working mend and women that kept us fed and safe?

  22. Jake 2021-01-18

    Jerry, your last above sentence needs reading and re-reading! In 2008 we bailed out the auto companies, the big banks etc. The economy recovered, yes and Trump inherited a recovering good economy from Obama.
    If $1000.00 is paid from the treasury to the lower economic scale people, that money will be immediately into the economy, turning over in the hands 6 or 7 times on its way up the economic scale to the richest. Want to feed the economy? feed the bottom-it will rise like rich cream to the top, rising all boats!

  23. Roger Elgersma 2021-01-18

    When Biden started to lead trump in the polls on a consistent basis the price of corn and soybeans came up. Then the crop reports started to show less corn and beans on hand than expected and the prices went up more. But the Biden effect started it before supply and demand changed.
    As for your comments on trump producing no infrastructure plans, I had though this was one thing the trump was right on and could have done well, but as you say, he did nothing. Never gave a reason and just kept on lying. When he was right he failed anyway.

  24. mike from iowa 2021-01-18

    I see corn was down a nickel and beans down 14 cents as I went by the market boards in Cherokee iowa this morning.

    Trade wars are easy to win. Just do the reverse of what drumpf did and you should be fine..But, I caution maybe not starting one in the first place would be a better option.

    drumpf lost his nukular war with Li’l Kim, too.

    New Nafta isn’t much different or better than old Nafta. But the wealthy managed to squeak by, just barely, under drumpf.

  25. mike from iowa 2021-01-18

    drumpf’s big beautiful wall contains only about 40 miles of new wall and the rest is replacement construction. I guess that constitutes a major failure and Mexico has paid nada, zero, zip, zilch of the cost.

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