The incidents at Charlottesville and the seeming flip-flop of the American President have been the issues that dominate the public airwaves in the US, notwithstanding another terrorist incident in the world, this time in Barcelona. Coverage of it has been surprisingly muted or may be, I did not look in the right places.
It should not have been too difficult to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis even if one had sympathies for the underlying feelings of disempowerment that middle-aged or elderly white males were experiencing. These are sensitive issues and one has to be good at nuanced communications separating one emotion from the other. Thus far, the President had not given much inclination of indication of his capabilities for nuanced expressions. A somewhat dated piece (last month!) by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal is a very good read.
At the same time, it is rational for politicians to do their electoral calculations in their heads and figure out how far they would be alienating their core constituencies. Many other political leaders, over the years, in democratic societies have equivocated in verbalising their own disapproval or angst over specific conduct. What is important is whether the country allows such forces to get away with it. There is very little to fear on that score. In the case of the U.S, that has not and does not stand in the way of the pursuit of the matter as law and order is in the hands of the State and they are going about it.
Rather separately, on the underlying issue of Confederacy statues, this Wall Street Journal article pointed to a NPR/PBS poll:
An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll finds that even a survey sample that gives Mr. Trump his standard lousy approval rating overwhelmingly agrees with the President that statues of Confederate leaders should not be torn down. Even a plurality of African-Americans agrees that the statues should remain in place as symbols of our history. [Link]
I checked out the poll directly. This is the question that was posed to the survey respondents:
Do you think statues honouring leaders of the Confederacy should
Remain as a historical symbol?
Should be removed because they are offensive to some people?
You can see the survey results yourself here or here. Once again, as Mark Lilla had written (extracted his from his book) here, the hyper-ventilation of the so-called elites and the media types is out of touch with the reality and the opinions of the people on the issue of Confederacy statues:
It is time to admit that American liberalism is in deep crisis: a crisis of imagination and ambition on our side, a crisis of attachment and trust on the side of the wider public. The question is, why? Why would those who claim to speak for and defend the great American demos be so indifferent to stirring its feelings and gaining its trust? Why, in the contest for the American imagination, have liberals simply abdicated?….. [Link]
Of course, the elites and the media types are not dumb. Why are they doing it? Two reasons, as I can see:
(1) They have to avenge the humiliation of not having been able to stop Trump from becoming their President in 2016.
(2) Two, they do not want to repeat the mistake of 2016 in 2020. They have to stop him right now. So, they are employing all tactics possible. Breaking up his core constituency, creating alienation between him and them, try and impeach him or get him to resign. Whatever. It is shock and awe. Just like banks are ‘too big to fail’, he is ‘too big to be allowed to be re-elected’.
On the economic front, check out this news snippet:
Reuters reviewed NFIB’s data and brought attention to the record number of small business owners that are planning to create jobs in July, which hit a seasonally adjusted net 19 percent that hasn’t been achieved since December 1999. [Link – this link will not be the same next month as it is updated every month]
NFIB stands for the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Also, check out the Greg Ip article in Wall Street Journal here. The title of the article captures it all.
Six months into his presidency, Donald Trump’s detractors portray him as a do-nothing president with no big wins on issues such as health care, taxes and infrastructure.
That may be true if the benchmark is legislation, but that is an incomplete benchmark. To gauge a president’s impact you have to go beyond the laws he signs to the vast authority he wields through departments and agencies that apply the law. On that score, Mr. Trump is on track to do a lot. On finance, the internet, immigration and drugs, to name just a few issues, Trump appointees have begun nudging the economy and the country in a more conservative, pro-business direction. Whether that is good or bad is to a great extent in the eye of the beholder. What isn’t debatable is that the imperial presidency, after expanding under Barack Obama, remains just as formidable under Mr. Trump.
The American mainstream media has no time nor inclination to report this. They are drowning these news out. See the above two reasons as to why they are doing so.
To be clear, I am not in favour of all the de-regulation that is happening – on bankers’ compensation or dismantling Dodd-Frank without a proper debate (two wrongs do not make a right), etc. With respect to financial markets and the financial sector, I am more on the side of Elizabeth Warren than on the side of Donald Trump’s cabinet. But, if they manage to prescribe a simple but higher bank equity to bank assets ratio, they will have done far better than the Obama Administration did on fixing ‘Too Big to Fail’.
Of course, then there are issues of corporate executive compensation, Wall Street’s short-term tendencies, monetary policy obsession with asset markets, particularly stock markets. On these matters, perhaps, the Trump administration is on the wrong side of the debate, in my view. In fact, the hope was that, at least on some of them, they would be on the right side (e.g., monetary policy). But, those hopes are receding.
Not that all de-regulation is for the good. I have also told my class that the world of finance and the world of non-financial sectors are different.
But, perhaps, the final word has to rest with an article in India’s ‘Swarajya’ magazine. There is no byline for the article.
Alternatively or even better, I would recommend Amy Zegart’s article in ‘The Atlantic’. The article is titled, ‘The Three Paradoxes Disrupting American Politics’ and the sub-title is ‘They didn’t start with Trump, and they won’t end with him.’. Quite.
Trump may personify America’s descent into coarse discourse and amplify its spread. But it didn’t start and will not stop in Trump Tower or the White House. The root causes lie deeper.