The Bankruptcy Of America’s Word

We are nearing the one year mark of Donald Trump’s presidency. Many things concern me, but perhaps none more so than the bankruptcy of America’s word. Simply put, why would any nation or entity trust us? Let’s explore.

If Trump has “accomplished” anything it is that he has done a good job of reversing many of Obama’s achievements. Substance didn’t much matter. Other than greed, Trump really doesn’t have a political philosophy. (I’m not certain you can call greed a political philosophy.) This has played well to his largely racist base but unless Trump exits the presidency in shame I feel America will have a difficult time recovering from the sins of Trump.

Like many progressives I actually favored pulling out of TPP. (Just exactly how you pull out of something that doesn’t exist perplexes me. Maybe it’s like America invading Texas, which the last time I check was part of America.) However, Trump proclaimed that he would negotiate a better deal or series of deals in its place. Trump, along with every other leader got to walk on the red carpet when he visited Asia but he failed to become part of any deals made at the meeting. Instead deals were made (greatly to China’s advantage) excluding America.

A larger deal to me was Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. That cemented French President Emmanuel Macron as de facto leader of the free world. Before Trump, never in my lifetime had anyone questioned that the American President was leader of the free world. When you welch on a deal that includes virtually every other country in the world and certainly every other country of consequence there is a price to pay.

Trump’s stance on NATO appears to change depending on the audience he is addressing. NATO is the military backbone of the western alliance. When Trump spoke at the United Nations he lectured the world and threatened the destruction of a sovereign country if they didn’t acquiesce to his demands. This in front of a world body dedicated to global peace.

Domestically Trump began his administration (aided by enabling Republican Senators) by putting people in charge of agencies that were opposed to the core missions of those agencies. Since then the appointees have been on a mission to destroy or neuter the agencies they were charged with leading. If they couldn’t overturn rules they simply would not enforce them and cut staff along the way.

Viewing domestic and international politics largely from a business perspective is not a bad way to analyze things. One of the things markets hate the most is uncertainty. I was coaching college basketball when they instituted the three point shot. I didn’t like the rule but since I knew what it was I just incorporated it in my recruiting and continued to put winning teams on the floor. I knew what the rule was, knew it was going to last for decades (if not forever) and simply modified my behavior to adapt. Even if I disliked the rule it came with certainty which was much more important from a decision making standpoint.

If America changes the rules with each administration what foreign entity will want to make a long term commitment to a country where the rules of the game may change dramatically within four years? It takes that long and generally longer, to build facilities, staff them and make a significant enough market penetration to deliver a return on investment. Much the same can be said for a domestic entity. In fact, bringing it down to the family level we see the same challenges. How do you plan for retirement, finance a purchase for a long term, or help your child choose a college major if you have no idea what the future holds.

Progressives will soon face a challenge. Trump has done a lot of harm and undoubtedly will do more before he is replaced with a progressive. (Whether Trump stays in office or not that cannot possibly take place until January 20, 2021.) Does that progressive (hopefully with a cooperative Congress) reverse Trump like he reversed Obama? The danger is that we start a losing seesaw where America becomes unstable and its word bankrupt from an investment standpoint.

The solution is to put America back on a steady course and keep her there. Remember that the next time you decide to sit out an election, cast a “message” vote for a candidate that can’t win or a protest/unrealistic wish vote for a Trump. Remember, in America we get the government we deserve.

It has become my practice to take the end of the year off from writing. Therefore today’s article was written well before publishing.

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