• The world’s next financial disaster comes with a spray tan and a bad comb-over

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    Ben D. Kritz

    ONE of the most ironic observations anybody has made about the goblin currently occupying the White House is that, in contrast to most recent presidents, Donald J. Trump has been remarkably consistent in following through with his campaign promises. That is why he must be stopped before he is able to do any more harm to the rest of the world.

    Over the weekend, we received the news that Trump signed an executive order banning arrivals from seven Muslim-majority nations, which was exactly what he’d said he would do during the interminable election campaign last year, and which is just the latest in a string of miserably oppressive bad decisions the Tangerine Tyrant has made in little more than a week in office.

    As of now, people arriving in the US from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen will be refused entry for at least the next 90 days. Although a New York Federal Court judge’s emergency order “blocking” the ban on Saturday (Sunday here in Manila) was widely cheered, it turns out not to have much of an effect – only those with valid green cards, i.e., those who are already legal residents of the US, and those with approved asylum applications will avoid detention and deportation under the judge’s order.

    Again, the “Muslim ban” is only the latest example of Trump’s boorishness; prior to that, he signed executive orders banning government scientists (such as from the Environmental Protection Agency) from speaking to the media, ordered the building – at Mexican expense – of a wall on the US-Mexico border, officially removed the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, began the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act health care program (otherwise known as “Obamacare”), froze all hiring of Federal employees except for the military for at least 90 days, and authorized the construction of two oil pipelines that were previously rejected on social, environmental and engineering grounds.

    In addition, he has cut off any Federal funding for foreign NGOs that support abortion rights, said he would also cut off Federal funding (which goes mostly to programs for the poor) to “sanctuary cities” that do not actively enforce Federal immigration laws, promised to withdraw the US contribution to the Green Climate Fund, suggested that the US should leave the United Nations and evict the world body from New York, and issued an order to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, which is as close as he could come to officially giving the finger to Palestine and the Arab world in general.

    He has also said he will impose tariff or other tax penalties on American companies who do business outside the US, and has at various times suggested that he will use tariffs as a weapon against foreign countries or companies whose business he deems contrary to US interests.

    Trump’s decisions are going to be massively destructive to the US economy on two counts. First, most of them represent bad business decisions. The blanket hiring freeze, for example, will have a detrimental effect on government operations, because most of those positions that now cannot be filled are vacant due to federal workers retiring, transferring, or otherwise leaving government service; the US is not really adding government jobs, and where they are, it is in areas that are critical – air traffic controllers, health care workers, customs and immigration agents, firefighters. As we have seen during numerous “government shutdowns” over the years, when the government slows down, so does the economy.

    Trump’s most controversial move so far, his “Muslim ban,” is already causing difficulties for American multinationals, particularly those based inside the US (one of the very business segments that Trump says he supports). Although the ban is supposed to be temporary, the follow-up policies are likely to be even more sweeping and restrictive, once the Trump administration figures out that the “Islamic terrorists” he is trying to keep out of the US don’t actually come from the seven countries subject to the original order. That will raise some obstacles to hiring, but more than that, it will discourage business expansion and investment.

    The second way Trump’s idiotic edicts will hurt the US economy is through social distaste. In the wake of the Muslim ban, this was directly expressed in thousands of people deleting their Uber accounts (to protest Uber’s disregard of public furor over the decision, and the company’s CEO’s cozy relationship with Trump), but will be reflected in a much more substantial way over time as frustration and uncertainty cool consumer spending.

    Any tremor in the US economy rattles the rest of the world – it is still the largest economy on the planet, after all – but if Trump is left unchecked, his policies will have a direct negative effect on countries all over the world. The Philippines is particularly at risk, because it relies on preferential tariffs for exports to the US, and many of those products – especially sugar – are competing with a domestic lobby in the US that has been complaining about imports undercutting their industries for years.

    The OFW component of the Philippine economy may be at even greater risk. Trump’s harangue against immigrants taking American jobs has been directed against Mexico for the most part, but is unlikely to stay so focused, especially once Trump and his advisors realize that the problem is not really Latin Americans sweeping up the jobs Americans don’t want anyway, but Filipinos and other Asians doing skilled work like nursing. Or for that matter, increasingly sophisticated business process outsourcing jobs.

    When the rest of the world begins to understand the harm the very existence of Donald J. Trump is going to inflict on their economic well-being, the backlash will grow quickly, and the current government of the Philippines is going to find itself hard-pressed to justify its borderline sycophantic approach to relations with Trump’s America, on either political or economic grounds. Now would probably be a good time to exercise some of that independent foreign policy President Rodrigo Duterte was, at one time in the not-so-distant past, fond of talking about in public; the US is far too heavy a stone for the Philippines to be chained to once it starts to sink.

    ben.kritz@manilatimes.net

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