Making America great isn’t so easy

Making America great again isn’t so great. Contrary to popular opinion floating around the White House, it may actually be slipping further into decline.

Paul Krugman, opinion columnist for the New York Times, writes a summary of events that are unflattering, given the well-known fact that the United States, for decades following the end of World War II, has been the undisputed leader of the free world.

In his June 18 column, he writes the U.S. government, as a matter of policy, is literally ripping children from the arms of their parents and placing them in fenced enclosures, which officials insist aren’t cages. I would add—and violating all norms of morality and values we hold dear.

He continues, the president is demanding that law enforcement stop investigating his associates and insisting they go after his political enemies instead. He is insulting democratic allies while praising murderous dictators, while a global trade war seems increasingly likely.

Since the column’s publication, the beginning salvos of that trade war has just begun, and not just between potential adversaries like China against the U.S., but also between long-standing allies such as Canada, Great Britain and the European Union, all united against the United States.

Today, we stand alone as Mr. Trump has not only threatened to withdraw from every trade agreement, but has already withdrawn from the Trans Pacific Partnership, which would have added, at a minimum to American agricultural coffers, $3 billion a year, with subsequent years rising to over $5 billion annually. That and NAFTA, which is on the ropes, does not bode well in this easily begun—but difficult and extremely painful to conclude—trade war.

Mr. Trump is literally playing with the lives of people of this once great country, not to mention, the lives of immigrants and refugees who flee tyranny and war.

Our market share, already declining precipitously below historical standards, will further erode as nations respond in kind, not only with tariffs of their own, but also as they complete and initiate bilateral trade agreements between other nations, to the exclusion of our country. China has already taken advantage of the colossal failure of our inclusion in TPP trade arrangements and have fashioned financial and trade deals with emerging economies, giving them an inside track on market access and placing them on the road towards dominance and influence in those regions.

Our cash markets, having lost tremendous value in a time when agriculture is struggling to maintain profitability have dropped further still. Last Friday’s close in new crop local cash beans was at $7.80 per bushel. Back on the Feb. 28 of this year, new crop beans closed at $9.45. Spread over the nation’s roughly estimated annual production, and you have a loss in value exceeding $3 billion. Corn has also lost value as well, regardless of steady consumption as well.

How much more of this “making America great again” can agriculture take? As farmers struggle to maintain profitability, increasing financial pressures are giving rise to an old phenomena: farmer suicides, now occurring at a higher rate per capita than suicides by veterans who have PTSD.

Though much of the growing region in the Northern hemisphere is experiencing exceptional heat and drought, markets are not reacting as much to it because of uncertainty following the newly declared global trade war.

Mr. Trump, via Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s comments during his multi-state tour, promised agriculture will be protected via a plan that is “in the works,” but is still under wraps, so as to not give China a “heads-up” regarding the plan. However, there are no legislative tools in place, with the exception of the old CCC structure, which is woefully inadequate in addressing current needs in a trade war. Meaning, we got nothing.

Promises are easily made, but very difficult to keep when the plan is known only to the relative few at the top. Historically, there has never been a successful conclusion of any trade war—initiated by any country, including the United States—in modern history.

Mr. Krugman concludes: “So all the things happening are of a piece. Committing atrocities at the border, attacking the domestic rule of law, insulting democratic leaders while praising thugs, and breaking up trade agreements are all about ending American exceptionalism, turning our back on the ideals that made us different from other powerful nations…..And rejecting our ideals won’t make us stronger; it will make us weaker. (The underline emphasis is mine.)

…Trump is delusional if he thinks that other countries will back down in the face of his threats. And if we are heading for a full-blown trade war, which seems increasingly likely, both he and those who voted for him will be shocked how it goes: Some industries will gain, but millions of workers will be displaced.”

This war has already been joined since the column was written. We will soon see how it plays out and the economic and social impact on the world and this once great country.