Category Archives: US Politics

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Let’s hope Trump is a con

Today was a huge day for the USA and the world. Donald Trump was elected president, against expectations and what polls told us. We were entertained, we were glued to our screens and our social media, we were amused at the absurdity of the whole situation, but we did not expect this to become real. But it did. We had our 9/11. Now the millenneals have their 11/9. All we can hope for is that Donald Trump is a con. That he galvanised feelings of bigotry and racism (in addition to feelings of disenchantment with Washington and the economic direction of the US) and said many horrible things, simply to get elected. Let us hope that now he will follow sensible policies and that his reign will not result in global uncertainty and a reversal of hard-won freedoms for those most vulnerable.

Trump’s acceptance speech was nothing like his utterances during the hard-fought election process. There was no talk of a wall between Mexico and the US; he said nothing about a ban on Muslims; he did not talk about defunding NATO, allowing more countries to get nuclear weapons, bombing ISIS families or starting a trade war with China; and he did not hint at prosecuting Hillary Clinton. Instead, he praised her for her efforts in the campaign and her meaningful contribution to US politics. This was a different Trump, a Trump that had achieved his goal (no matter the cost), a Trump looking for reconciliation, a magnanimous Trump even.

So maybe we will be lucky. Maybe most of the extreme things he said during his campaign were simply uttered so that he could ignite the heartland of America, the rustbelt, the South, the social conservatives, the evangelicals to support him. Maybe he did not really mean these things. Maybe it was all a con to achieve his ends, which was to occupy the White House. Not everything he said was predicated on hate of the foreign, distrust of the unknown and a yearning for a return to simpler times (at least for white people). Much of what he said was aimed at those middle class and working families that have seen their economic exclusion grow over the past 30 years. A grouping that have become exasperated and tired with the way that Washington operates. This is the same group of people that Bernie Sanders was targeting.

So if Donald Trump has just pulled off the greatest con in US political history, what are we to expect? Walls, bans, hate, trade wars, buffoonery and groping? I don’t think so. I see no wall being built and I see no ban on Muslims. Current immigration vetting is already very strong and I would not rule out an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

I would think that his presidency would have an internal focus with much less attention given to global diplomacy. He is unlikely to deviate from current US involvement in conflict areas such as Iraq and Syria, but would likely be pro reducing involvement over time. New hotspots will likely be left to sort themselves out – a new period of US isolationism.

A quick win in the US would be to commence a large (and much overdue) infrastructural spending programme, creating jobs and rewarding his base for their votes. This will likely lead to ballooning debt, but is a price that he may be willing to pay. Tax cuts will likely also be on the cards, but may be phased in over time, especially in the light of large infrastructural spend.

On the trade front, we may see a more protectionist attitude with the Trans-Pacific Partnership being the first victim. The biggest downside of such an approach would be rising inflation in the US, which could also usher in the end of quantitative easing and finally lead to a rise in US interest rates.

Interestingly, even though (Republican) Trump will have a Republican Senate and House to theoretically support his policies, it may not be that easy with many representatives not agreeing with his approach. We may find him having to build coalitions across the aisle to enact some of his plans.

On the positive side (for Republicans), the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is likely to commence shortly after his inauguration. However, it is not clear whether it will simply be rolled back or whether something else will be put in its place. Ironically, many of his (non-traditional Republican and even traditional Republican) supporters will probably favour some alternative rather than nothing at all.

On the negative side (for Republicans), Donald Trump may not be as conservative as Republicans would like in appointing Supreme Court judges. His progressive New York values (as Ted Cruz referred to) probably puts him on the side of at least maintaining the recently won (marriage equality) and entrenched (woman’s right to choose) freedoms. If I am correct (and he was conning his base), he may once again have to build a cross-aisle coalition to affirm his nominees.

If we are very lucky, he may even address inner city decay (as promised) and support reasonable gun laws. This may be overly ambitious, even if he conned the base, but we can hope. Global warming may be the biggest (and most serious) issue that is left unaddressed, regardless. On this topic, all we can do is to continue agitating.

If, however Donald Trump is not a con. If he meant what he said during his election campaign, the US and the world is in for a rough ride and the most vulnerable in the US and the world will suffer most. So, let’s hope that Trump is a con. Let’s hope that now that he has the position he sought, that sanity will prevail. Let’s hope that he does not do too much damage. And maybe, just maybe, he could do something good.

 

Are you exasperated after the US election? Are you scared of what a Trump presidency may mean? Do you think that maybe he was just conning (at least some of) his supporters to get the position and that his policies will be more reasonable than we expect? I would love to hear your feedback.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

@realDonaldTrump #USElection #119 #NotMyPresident

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man

Photo by DonkeyHotey


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$500m spent for every US terror victim!

In one of the strangest and saddest news reports after two journalists were gunned down in Virginia last week, the one victim’s father says that despite his determination for stricter gun control, he will likely have to purchase a gun to protect himself from opponents of such stricter control. Excluding 911, mass shootings have killed more people than terrorism since 1982, whilst the US ranks the highest of any developed country in terms of firearm deaths. Why then has the US spent more than $1.6trn on wars to combat terrorism ($500m for every US victim of terrorism), whilst gun control is an issue that cannot get wide support?

The mass shooting of last week was the 246th in the US this year and by the end of this weekend, it had risen to 249. Excluding the deaths on 11 September 2001, US mass shootings have killed more people (553 according to Mother Jones) than terrorist attacks (540 according to the Johnson Archive) since 1982. Both fade into insignificance (even total terrorist death including 911 at 3533) when considering firearm homicides (11208 just in 2013) and total firearm deaths (33169 in 2013) according to the CDC. The US ranks tops of all developed countries when it comes to firearm deaths (10.6 per 100 000) with Finland next (5.6 per 100 000), followed by France (3.0 per 100 000).

Terrorism has been a national priority for the US, especially since the devastating attacks on 11 September 2001. These attacks directly or indirectly led to two ground wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and several military interventions, including in Libya and Syria. The latest estimate for the cost of these wars is $1.6trn (based on the Overseas Contingency Operations fund), which is an astonishingly high amount. This equates to more than $500m ($500 000 000) spent for every US victim of terrorism since 911. In comparison, the US only spends $2500 for every death from heart disease (the leading cause of death).

Even if this astronomical spend had led to the elimination of all terror deaths globally, it would be very difficult to justify to the US people, considering that almost 10 000 American soldiers have lost their lives to date in these conflicts (more than 3 times the number of US terrorist victims), while documented Iraqi deaths alone (excluding Afghanistan and other) were c.220 000 and some estimates are as high as 1.4m since the invasion.

In addition, c.800 000 US citizens die annually of heart disease, c.600 000 from cancer, c.40 000 in car accidents (and c.100 000 in other accidents), and c.33 000 from firearms. In 2013, c.3400 Americans died of malnutrition, more than have died from terror attacks since 2001. Imagine the difference that a redirection of the $1.6trn war budgets could have had on the lives of ordinary Americans, not to mention the reduction in deaths and hardship for Middle Eastern citizens.

The sad truth is that the “War on Terror” has not made the world a safer place. According to the Global Terrorism Database, annual terrorism deaths have increased from under 3000 p.a. in the early 2000s to c.12 000 in 2013 and more than 17 000 in 2014. Without the War on Terror, the human death count in the Middle East and North Africa would have been considerably lower. Without the War on Terror, many economies of the Middle East and North Africa would not have been decimated, leading to poverty and hunger. Without the War on Terror, ISIS would not be a rising threat to the region and an increasing exporter of terror attacks to the rest of the world. I don’t feel safer, do you?

I would like to appeal to the US Government and the US citizens that vote them into power to please reassess your priorities. You are in such a strong position, whether financial, technological or influential to save lives, whether it is in the US or in the wider world. Please learn from your mistakes – war should be an absolute last resort and the Second World War was probably the last one you really could not have avoided. I am not saying, do not use your influence and money for good, even if it is to effect positive change to oppressive regimes. However, please try and be lighter on the guns and heavier on the butter. I am not saying you should start dismantling your military-industrial complex, we may well need a policeman in this world. But please, keep your powder dry if at all possible. Support countries, companies, NGOs, opposition parties that can further your interests and please make sure that there is at least some correlation between your interests and that of the people in these countries. Please reclaim your position as a force for good in this world, something that has slipped significantly since the end of the Cold War, in my opinion.

 

Are you shocked by how much the US has spent to combat terrorism? Is there any way that such spend was justifiable, in your opinion? Is the world a better place? Can the US reclaim its position as a force for good in the world or has it never lost it? I would love to hear your feedback.

In the mean time, keep your talking straight!

 

Marius Strydom is the CEO of MLAX Consulting

https://www.facebook.com/straighttalkingstrydom

https://twitter.com/Marius_Man


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