WASHINGTON – Like the lost “armada” led by the aircraft carrier USS Vinson, President Trump’s grand economic plan is almost all sizzle and no beef.
Trump’s firebrand pledges to, in effect, make China eat dirt for “stealing American jobs,” a vow that wowed 2016 rallies in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, are now ashes in his mouth.
There are two reasons for this. One is that Trump rarely means what he says in public. The second is that Steve Bannon, the reviled former Breitbart executive who was a principal adviser to candidate Trump, has been benched.
Bannon holds views, scorned as primitive by neoconservatives and Washington insiders, such as fair trade for American workers instead of globalist free trade and jobs for East Asians. Bannon has been summarily demoted by Trump to “a guy I know.”
Replacing Bannon in the White House are two prosperous New York Democrats, which is to say rich men who watch out for Wall Street instead of Main Street. One is Gary Cohn, former boss of Goldman Sachs. Cohn is Trump’s principal adviser on business.
The other is developer Jared Kushner, a Democrat until last year and the wealthy husband of Trump’s acquisitive daughter, Ivanka. Both Kushners have been elevated to the rank of special assistant to Trump.
Mere days after Bannon’s demotion, Trump invited China’s president, Xi Jinping, to his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. Trump dumped the whole truckload of his anti-China campaign rhetoric. He told Xi he would not label China a “currency manipulator,” jettisoning what he promised at dozens of rallies last year. Right after the party, Xi awarded Ivanka seven patents for her retail products.
Yes, Trump was under pressure to win Chinese cooperation because of North Korea’s bloodcurdling threats against its neighbors and the United States.
But he didn’t have to go that far. Robert Scott, a lead scholar at the Economic Policy Institute, said Trump “turned his back on working Americans who have lost millions of manufacturing jobs since China entered the World Trade Organization (courtesy of President Bill Clinton).
Scott said China’s trade advantages (aided by Clinton’s 2000 edict) “have reduced the wages of non-college graduates by $180 billion a year in 2011 alone.”
The mechanics of currency manipulation require a textbook. Trust that China’s currency games, and the complaisance of the Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama administrations, are the cause of those vacant tracts in Lackawanna, Cheektowaga, the Tonawandas and Niagara Falls.
Now Trump is behaving just like his predecessors. He will chant outworn heroic slogans like “buy American,” but real gains for blue-collar Americans who helped elect him will be only at the margins.
Trump himself used imported steel and aluminum on his own buildings. His order to “buy American” and the probe into imports of foreign steel have massive holes in them. And with the Wall Street types running our economics, Trump’s new initiatives have a good chance of turning out like Trump University, and the promises made to investors in Trump Tower, Toronto.
From 400 miles away, my two bits on the decision to build a new railroad station in downtown Buffalo, instead of at a refurbished Central Terminal: Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, was absolutely right, and the deciding majority tragically wrong.
As Higgins said, the process lacked transparency and sufficient community feedback. We threw away a matchless asset. What if Buffalo had tossed the Guaranty Building, the Darwin Martin House and the Richardson Towers, once derelict and effectively abandoned? They were saved by visionaries like the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the late Buffalo News Publisher Stanford Lipsey.