White House update -Strategic disasters in the making….
I thought I’d continue my monthly political commentary at the end of Mr. T’s second month in the office. At first I started to recount all of the confusion, obfuscation and ineffectual leadership of the second month but that quickly became tedious. Instead I thought I’d comment on some of the emerging strategies of this administration and what that may portend for the next 46 months. While most of the strategies that I list may have not been formally announced, they are clear in the context of the administration’s actions to date.
Belief and Propagation of a Fact Free Environment
This has become a central feature of the administration and is a continuation of Mr. T’s fact free campaign. I am writing this as the Director of the FBI is confirming that there is absolutely no evidence that T’s assertions of illegal wiretapping of his campaign/administration. This tweet has been widely debunked since he sent it but he has reaffirmed it several times. It follows a long line of attacks on the credible media as well as most of the governmental institutions that we depend on every day. While his supporters may believe him and his conspiracy theory sources (Fox news and the farther right alternative media), his strategy appears to be to attack and attempt to discredit anyone who disagrees with him – even if it is an outrageous claim. The press is then wasting their coverage following his false leads and forgetting the important issues of the day. I hope that may be changing – it is telling when the questions at the white house press briefings now are frequently about “why and when should we believe anything the president says”. Our allies and people around the world are also and already asking that same question. Hopefully we can soon get back to questions that matter – such as inauguration sizes or imaginary voter fraud.
Hard Power vs Soft
The recent budget submission as well the administration’s stated strategies revolve around increasing our military and improving our “Hard Power” capability. This is a strategy that is simple (so even the Commander and Chief can understand it) but it doesn’t fit the complex world that we live in. We already outspend our closest military rivals by several multiples (2.7 times in the case of the next largest, China). While I would applaud efforts to streamline the military spending to make it more effective, the vast majority of rules and regulations that truly effect efficiency have been imposed by Congress itself and are unlikely to be changed. In any case, we and our allies are more than capable of defeating any credible adversary in a hard power confrontation. I would focus instead on what the new National Security Advisor, General McMasters has said about the need to “integrate all elements of power: military, political/diplomatic, economic”. Unfortunately, the budget proposal threatens huge cuts to our diplomatic corps and major cuts to financial capabilities to effect the behaviour of both our friends and our opponents. This is happening at a time when China is quadrupling its diplomatic corp and has already become the primary financier and supporter of development activities across the world. One visit to Africa with signs of Chinese construction and infrastructure projects everywhere will convince you that we are not the ones trying to build those relationships at the local level anymore. It will only get worse under Mr T’s hard power strategy – the only relationships we will strengthen are within our own military industrial complex. Update: a group of dedicated former Generals and Admirals are currently lobbying against the draconian cuts to the State Department in order to preserve our “soft power” alternatives.
Some of Mr T’s most publicized campaign promises where to the coal and fossil fuel industries. While he has done little to follow through on these promises so far, his cabinet appointments and his budget spell real trouble. There is practically no-one that thinks the coal industry is going to recover (2 Ohio coal plants announced closures this week) – the market just doesn’t exist. It was an empty promise that despite his best efforts will not be kept. All around the world, people are moving to renewable fuel sources which also happen to be green. Again, even China recognizes this trend and is transitioning its industries. Meanwhile we have an administration of climate change deniers (with the notable exception of the Defense Department) while the rest of the world invests in, and moves toward renewables. Combine that with the proposed cuts to energy science, research and technology across the departments and we risk falling behind in the race for trillions of dollars in future investments.
Income/wealth inequality – I’ve been one of “those people” for years that believe that inequality is a large problem and that the hollowing out of the middle class is a significant issue. I admit that I cannot personally identify where the middle class of the future will come from. Other than human intensive activities like public health, education and safety, and service jobs which are today lower paying jobs, I haven’t been able to envision where the jobs are to create that core economic group. While some people tout that technology and innovation will invent these new jobs, I’m not convinced that they will create more jobs than they will help eliminate. In any case, I only see the problem getting significantly worse under Mr T. His budget will certainly harm many on the lower wealth/income spectrum and his (Republican generated) health care plan creates more inequality by eliminating many of the subsidies of the ACA and also provides massive tax give-aways to the insurance industries and the most wealthy americans. Update – the Mr T/Ryan healthcare plan has been defeated so at least that does not appear to be a continuing threat! I can hardly wait to see the (again Republican generated) tax reform plan which shows all signs of distributing more wealth to the rich in an effort to stimulate the illusive phenomenon of effective “trickle down” economics.
In summary I’ll just state that I believe Mr T has seriously degraded the office that he now holds and he shows no sign of recognising that effect or trying to change his ways. Even more importantly, his personal strategic views of the world are simplistic and potentially very damaging to this country. While his plunging approval ratings provide some evidence that the public may be waking up to his con job, there is still no evidence that the Republican party will abandon its seriously flawed front man before he can wreak more havoc.