Tuesday, November 03, 2020

President of the US 2020?

In the song Mrs Robinson Simon and Garfunkel say:

Going to the candidates' debate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you've got to choose
Every way you look at this you lose

This US election looks like that.  I'm far more tempted to take this article from Reason by John Stossel, which is to note that the most important parts of life are outside politics and we should be SO grateful for that, because in totalitarian countries, this is not the case.

You're meant to care about it, because it is for the leadership of the world's largest economy and military power, and as a result the great leadership of world institutions and norms.  However, it is a contest between two incredibly flawed individuals, neither of whom care much for the freedom of the individual, neither of whom care much for the rule of law and neither of whom have visions beyond the attainment of power.  It is hardly impossible to note how most media comment and news reporting on Trump is negative, and this is in part because it isn't hard to see the negative in a man who is utterly counter-cultural to the narrative as to what is good in a political leader or even a human being.  It is difficult to look past that, but that is what has to be done.

It is difficult to not take into account John Bolton's (a hawk if ever there was one) critique of Trump as being amenable to foreign leaders flattering him, even if nothing is ever achieved.  Sure, his wooing of Kim Jong Un achieved virtually nothing, and was never likely to, but Trump has not been afraid to confront the PR China, largely on very sound grounds (although China is all too keen to portray him as being racist to undermine this).  Sure, Syria remains a mess, as does Yemen even moreso, but the Middle East in general is more peaceful than it has been in many years. Iran is more contained than it has been, and Russia remains in retreat.  The biggest critique of Trump on foreign policy is his opposition to multilateralism, which has given China huge inroads to fund and populate such institutions with their own people, by paying off smaller countries to back their candidates.  Trump's withdrawal is a blunt mistake. He would be better off leading the WTO and pushing UN organisations to be more accountable and transparent. He was right to critique the WHO, because of its woeful performance and disgraceful isolation of Taiwan (and its disgraceful leader, former Ethiopian dictatorship Minister Dr Tedros who peddled accusations of racism against Taiwan).  Biden is likely to be more amenable to international institutions, but he is as much a protectionist as Trump. Given the Obama Administration's largely passive approach to China and the Middle East, it is difficult to expect Biden to be better overall, other than he might be able to get more US influence internationally because he isn't Trump.  Bigger questions have to be whether Taiwan would get military support more from Trump than Biden? Frankly, who knows.  On climate change, there is an obvious difference, because Biden is willing to surrender this issue over to multilateralism, although he might be able to do that with little actual change in domestic policy on the issue, given reductions in emissions in recent years.

A lot is made of Trump being racist (talking about many Mexican immigrants being criminals and rapists secured that accusation), and him appearing to be not be 100% critical of far-right extremists, although some wont think this blundering of his isn't just that, there isn't much evidence policy wise of this. As a President who is vehemently in support of Israel, and has been a part of peace deals between Israel and Bahrain, the UAE and Sudan, he's no neo-Nazi (although he has not been effective at deterring white nationalists).

The biggest criticism of Biden recently is allegations of corruption linked to his son Hunter, none of which is a huge surprise.  Corruption is endemic in much of US politics, in both parties, the difference is Trump is less susceptible because he doesn't need the money, but his appointment of relatives to high level jobs in the Administration is ludicrous, although much less toxic than some of the allegations against Biden.  What it does show is that both men are more than willing to use power to advantage their families, which is one reason why I think there isn't much between them.

Domestically, Biden has had to embrace some of the socialist agenda that part of the Democratic Party has embraced.  He'll increase taxes (on those on high incomes), but of course wont reform taxes in any meaningful way.  He'll subsidise the rent-seekers in the renewable energy sector and promise that his big spending will be better than Trump's. It's all mindless stuff, it will largely be a waste and be captured by businesses that will make a lot of money out of it.  He's feeding a Marxist style battle between capital and labour, which will be bad for education in the US, and bad for employment and economic competitiveness.

And on Covid? Trump has been chronically inept, that's no doubt and it's difficult to believe Joe Biden could be as worse (at least he wouldn't be diverted down all sorts of dead ends). 

So really I don't care. I'll have residual schadenfreude if Trump wins, because it will so upset so many on the left, but if he loses his ego will take a hit, assuming that he ultimately accepts defeeat. 

More importantly, whoever wins wont make a big difference.  What I DO hope is that no one party wins the House and Senate and Presidency.  So if Biden wins, the Republicans should retain the Senate, and if Trump wins, the Democrats should retain the House. Both men will grow the debt, will feed the monetary policy addiction bubble and neither will accomplish anything significant.  If Trump wins, he will at least not kneecap the economy with more regulation, taxation and climate change sacrifices, but there will no doubt be agitation from BLM and Antifa.  If Biden wins, he will at least rebuild multilateral institutions to move them away from Chinese dominance, but he'll waste more money and engage in follies that are futile and there will be some agitation from a few far-right groups.  

and no, Jo Jorgenson isn't worth it either.

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