Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Last Honest Republican


Now that George Herbert Walker Bush is in the ground, I think we can lay off the eulogies and take a realistic look at what he actually did.

Well, he certainly picked a good time to die.  Although nobody actually put it into words, it was inevitable that he would be compared to the current occupant of the White House — and by that standard, even William Howard Taft would have come off well.  We also shouldn't forget that he had the advantage of leading in far less threatening times, when the Soviet Union was collapsing and Islamic holy warriors were our allies in Afghanistan.

I give him full credit for not invading Iraq after pushing Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, and I wish he hadn't subscribed to the parenting style of letting one's children make their own mistakes.  Did he resent Dick Cheney?  If not, he must have been very nearly as saintly as his eulogizers claimed.  I like to remember him, though, as the last honest Republican: the man who coined the phrase, "voodoo economics."

Ever since Arthur Laffer first drew his magical curve, Republicans have espoused the fiction that tax cuts "pay for themselves" by spurring economic growth that increases government revenues.  Variously called "Reaganomics," "supply-side," and "trickle-down," this big lie has justified every transfer of wealth from ordinary Americans to the ultra-rich for forty years, culminating in the recent tax travesty that will send our budget deficit over one trillion dollars next year.  George H. W. Bush knew it was a lie — and when push came to shove, he violated his "Read my lips: no new taxes" pledge, and became a one-term president.

I can admire that.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

A little bird told me...


So, Our President went to the G-20 and had dinner with Xi Jinping; since they didn't release a joint statement, it's safe to assume there wasn't much of an agreement.  Nevertheless, Tr*mp did some enthusiastic tweeting on his way home from Argentina, and markets rose.

What actually was said at that dinner?  Here's my guess: Tr*mp volunteered to hold off for ninety days on the new tariffs he'd promised, then presented his wish list of what he hoped for in return.  Xi smiled and nodded, but committed to little more than a few soybeans.

So why were Tr*mp's tweets so enthusiastic?  Most likely because he's in the habit of claiming victories he hasn't won — but there could be another explanation.  Barely more than a day later, he sent out his "tariff man" tweet, which sent the major stock indexes crashing down over three percent in one day; and certain predictable stocks lost even more.  If you had shorted some of those shares on Monday, you could have made a lot of money on Tuesday.

Personally, I missed that opportunity, and I suppose you did too — but there might be individuals, LLCs, and/or hedge funds with more "insight" into what Our President might tap out on his phone than your average Wall Street algorithm has.  Previous Presidents took great care to minimize the impact of their statements on financial markets.  It doesn't seem to matter to Tr*mp.

Then again, it might matter to him a great deal.