Under Trump America Goes From World Leader to Banana Republic 

On Christmas eve conservative pundit William “Bill” Kristol made it clear that in its current iteration, the Republican Party he identifies with has become a cult of personality worthy of a banana republic. Kristol didn’t mention Trump by name, but he almost certainly was projecting his abhorrence of Trump on the entire GOP; a surprising development for a dyed-in-the-wool conservative but an apt projection all the same.

It is true the Republican Party is taking the country back to the 1920’s long before America became a global leader and was hardly a world super power, but even during the Great Depression when the filthy rich became incredibly wealthier, America was hardly considered a banana republic. All that changed less than a century later.

Whatever leadership role America enjoyed prior to Trump’s poorly attended inauguration is now just a memory despite what Trump claims. World leaders are well aware that although America has military might, and is a rapidly waning economic force, its influence globally is second-rate at best; in many areas it is nothing more than an irritating spectator.

Instead of leading on addressing climate change, America under Trump is watching China “assume the leadership mantle,” and subsequently the economic prosperity that will accompany it. And as the Los Angeles Times noted, “Russia has taken over Syrian peace negotiations that Moscow officials only allowed America to attend as observers.”

Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) look to Germany and France for leadership since Trump has isolated America from even its allies and trading partners. And speaking of international trade, America is now a global trade outlier and any number of American industries are living proof that Trump’s big mouth and isolationism kills American businesses.

This is an issue because Trump gave his assessment of America’s place on the global stage during a speech last week that is as far from reality as the Earth is from the edge of the observable universe. (Roughly 46.6 billion light years)

Trump claims that since January there has been a never-before-seen “broadening of U.S. influence throughout the world.” It is an odd assertion even for a buffoon like Trump; particularly since his executive actions since January are the sole force behind America ceding its global leadership role.

That is the consensus opinion of international leaders, diplomats, and foreign policy experts who contend that Trump is guilty of “reducing U.S. influence or altering it in ways that are less constructive on a broad range of policy issues.” In fact, what those leaders and critics actually say is that “Trump has taken positions that disqualify the United States from the debate or rendered it irrelevant on that ‘broad range of policy issues.’”

This is a serious issue because no matter what horrors Republicans are in the process of unleashing on Americans, Trump represents an existential threat because besides the insanity of isolationism in a truly global era, America under Trump is dangerously unreliable and untrustworthy to the rest of the world.

In India, a nation Trump has not attacked yet, the leaders are like most sane human beings concerned about ‘Trump’s unpredictability” and doubt that he can be trusted “as a reliable partner;” especially with his rush towards isolationism. Manoj Joshi is a scholar at a New Delhi think tank, Observer Research Foundation, who fairly summed up what the rest of the planet knows about Trump.

The president Trump can and does turn things inside out. So the chances that the U.S. works along a coherent and credible national security strategy are not very high.

Nicholas Burns, a long-serving senior diplomat under both Republican and Democratic administrations said Trump’s strategy, or lack thereof, “has left the U.S. ineffective.” Mr. Burns continued by remarking on an issue many critics have warned about to no avail; a weak and aimless Department of State.

“Trump needs a strong State Department to implement its strategy. Instead, State and the Foreign Service are being weakened and often sidelined. Trump’s policy of the last 12 months is a radical departure from every president since WWII. Trump is weak on NATO, Russia, trade, climate, diplomacy. The U.S. is declining as a global leader.”

What seems to be the final straw for nearly the entire world of nations was Trump’s gift to Benjamin Netanyahu that eliminates any opportunity for a “two-state” solution. The only people Trump “delighted” by formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital were many Israelis.  Trump incited rage in the Muslim world, wiped out decades of “international consensus” on a peaceful Palestine-Israeli resolution, and incurred the wrath of “an overwhelming majority of the U.N. General Assembly.

As most of the world understands, Trump unilaterally eliminated America as “an honest broker in mediating peace by clearly siding with Israel.” As many world leaders have noted, “From now on it is out of the question for a biased United States to be a mediator between Israel and Palestine; that period is over.”

A former U.S. ambassador to both Israel and Egypt under Presidents Clinton and Bush, Daniel Kurtzer, said  that any peaceful resolution in the Middle East  “won’t be from American policy. Trump took America out of the peace process for the foreseeable future.”

There is probably a detailed list of the myriad ways Trump single-handedly diminished American influence globally, but the real horror is that he accomplished that feat in less than a year. America is going to be in trouble going forward just on the basis of Trump’s isolationism and withdrawal from trade agreements and never-ending threats against our allies and United Nations member nations for daring to disagree with Trump. Add to that prospect the Republican Congress’ well-laid plans to wipe out the government and create an impoverished population; it is no longer a question of “if” America is a banana republic, but when the entire world recognizes what it is and turns against it.

Image: Matt Rotman

Trump’s Betrayal Cost Steelworkers Their Jobs

The reports of Trump supporters struggling to realize they were really duped by a second-rate two-bit con man because he was on television continues unabated.

It is getting more difficult by the day, even for a lifelong avowed secular humanist to have a modicum of empathy for “betrayed and lied to” Trump supporters.  Their stupidity, evangelical fanaticism and racism has and will continue adversely affecting all Americans for a couple of decades at least – just think permanent corporate tax cuts.

The latest group to comprehend that they were lied to are steelworkers who are not looking forward to a very happy holiday season because they are looking for their impending layoff notices. And it is noteworthy that those layoffs will likely be permanent because last April Trump said America has no issues with China over its trade or currency policies. Remember, a pillar of Trump’s tough-guy campaign persona was clamping down on trade with China; he was not going to “let them keep raping America.” Instead, as a Merry Christmas to steelworkers, Trump’s ineptitude and China course reversal contributed to the steelworkers losing their jobs.

The New York Times reported that a “sprawling steel mill” on the outskirts of Philadelphia will lay off 150 of the plant’s 207 workers.  The job losses are considered “severe” in that  “they go so deep that even workers with decades of experience will be cast out.” It is a trend that is not going to change anytime soon.

This was a terrible assault to the senses of the workers after they celebrated Trump’s election last year and relished their part in helping him “making America great” and resurrecting America’s manufacturing sector. His campaign promise to create “a new dawn for the American steel industry with a strong ‘buy America’ agenda never happened. Trump promised to protect factories “from unfair imports” and made special pledges to  “revive the American steel industry” with what he touted was his world-renowned trade expertise and negotiating skills. Instead he made the issue worse.

Trump has done nothing to help the steel industry and in fact indicated early after his poorly-attended inauguration that loyalty to his friendly Russian oligarchs supersedes any effort to protect American jobs or manufacturers. Add to that betrayal, Trump’s big mouth and incompetence in international trade has put more than one sector of American industry in the exact opposite position he promised – at a distinct disadvantage in global trade.

Even though he has done nothing to help American industry, foreign steel makers rushed to get foreign steel into America in case Trump actually did anything. According to the American Iron and Steel Institute, there was a 20 percent increase in imported steel in the first 10 months of Trump’s tenure than in the same period last year. That is a direct result of Trump running his big mouth that he would stop steel imports with high tariffs and demonstrates the fallacy of his so-called business acumen and negotiation skills to put “America first.”

The only thing Trump accomplished was producing the same results as pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and threatening to “renegotiate” NAFTA. Just the “threats of reneging on the NAFTA trade pact sent Mexico to implement its ‘Plan B’ trade strategy.” A strategy that is leaving American farmers struggling to survive and drove America’s favored trading partners to forge new and more prosperous economic alliances that America is no part of with Trump. America’s agriculture industry is the big loser and America is further isolated from the rest of the world.

In fact, just pulling out of the TPP back in January prompted the president of the United Steelworkers International Union to express an industry-wide fear of exactly what is happening today; steel workers losing their jobs. Leo W. Gerard said after Trump’s ill-advised exit from TPP:

It’s frustrating because of the impact it’s having on the [steel] industry. It’s creating a crisis that’s being exacerbated.”

For the steelworkers losing their jobs in Pennsylvania, the crisis prompted one single mother at the plant for over 22 years to tell her children:

Christmas is going to be kind of scarce, because Mommy’s going to lose her job.”

Because of Trump, the surge of imported steel hurt American steel makers who were already struggling to compete against cheaper Chinese steel. When the ArcelorMittal Philadelphia plant announced the layoffs it blamed cheap imports, as well as the low demand for American steel, on the job cuts.

It is noteworthy too that Trump did not do the industry any favors and broke another pledge that hurt the steel industry he swore to revive by allowing TransCanada to use “foreign steel” in its Keystone XL pipeline. Instead of following through on a line in the sand that TransCanada would be forced to use “American-made steel exclusively or we’re not building one,” Trump gave TransCanada a pass because one of his Russian oligarchfriends” is heavily invested in manufacturing cheaper foreign steel TransCanada wanted to use. The Russian oligarch didn’t have to do much heavy lobbying for his BFF Trump to exempt TransCanada from the “buy American” pledge and give his blessing for them to use all the foreign steel they wanted; American steelworkers and the industry they work in be damned.

To make matters worse for the steelworkers duped once by a Trump con, his Commerce Department spokesman, James Rockas, said that Trump is “aware of the plight of American steelworkers and will continue working to halt unfair trade practices that harm our economy and kill American jobs.”

Trump has no regard for the plight of American workers and it is stunning that steelworkers are just now coming to that painful realization; but losing one’s livelihood does inform a new level of sober reflection. Trump has single-handedly hurt American workers in several industries with his ineptitude on trade, and the GOP tax reform Trump is championing is full of incentives for corporations to outsource more American manufacturing jobs to avoid paying what little corporate tax the new plan envisions.

Of course it is a shame that the steel workers Trump promised to protect are losing their jobs, but they should have known the con man was lying the minute he said he would work to help them. The president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, Scott Paul, heads up a trade group representing steelworkers and he summed up exactly what Trump’s campaign pledge to help save jobs and “revive the industry” was really all about.

The president [Trump] has been using the steelworkers as political props. The president’s [Trump’s] own words and lack of action have actually put the industry in a worse position than if he had done nothing at all.”

It cannot be overstated that no small number of pundits, commentators, Nobel prize-winning economists, and regular folks warned Trump supporters they were being double-crossed. It is something they can reflect on while they stand in line for unemployment benefits – if Trump and Republicans don’t eliminate them first.

Image: AFL-CIO