Self-Hatred: Would-Be Latino Builders of Trump's Wall

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/26/2017 08:03:00 PM
As Eddie Money once sang, "Gimme Some Water."
To me, it's the most distasteful thing imaginable: why would persons of Latin American heritage help build the infrastructural centerpiece of Donald Trump's bigotry? As it turns out, however, there is no shortage of such folks in the construction industry who are eager to commence work on the Great Wall of Trump. As you would imagine, their excuse is that it's just business--that's all. Nevermind the social consequences and all that jazz.

As the bidding process commences on bits and bobs of this project, the evidence is there for all to see:
Ten percent of the companies interested in bidding for the first stage of the construction of Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico are Hispanic-owned businesses, as construction firms wrestle with the morality of profiting from the controversial infrastructure project.

More than 600 businesses have formally registered interest since 24 February, when the Department of Homeland Security issued a presolicitation notice for contractors to perform the “design and build of several prototype wall structures” for the border.
Excuses from would-be contractors vary. A common refrain is that the wall is incidental to comprehensive immigration reform:
“The story isn’t, ‘Hey there’s a Latino guy building a wall to keep other Latino people out,” said Michael Evangelista-Ysasaga, CEO of the Penna Group in Fort Worth, Texas. “It’s that we need comprehensive immigration reform.”
That said, the Mexican government has now applied moral suasion against Mexican-owned contractors building the accursed wall:
Mexico's government on Tuesday warned Mexican companies that it would not be in their best "interests" to participate in the construction of U.S. President Donald Trump's border wall, though there will be no legal restrictions or sanctions to stop them if they tried.

While some Mexican companies stand to potentially benefit from the controversial infrastructure project, residents south of the border view the wall and Trump's repeated calls to have Mexico pay for it as offensive. That is putting public pressure on firms to abstain from participating.

"We're not going to have laws to restrict (companies), but I believe considering your reputation it would undoubtedly be in your interest to not participate in the construction of the wall," said Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo.

"There won't be a law with sanctions, but Mexicans and Mexican consumers will know how to value those companies that are loyal to our national identity and those that are not," Guajardo added.
His comments echo those of Mexico's foreign minister Luis Videgaray, who said on Friday that Mexican companies that see a business opportunity in the wall should "check their conscience" first.
To me, there are things simply beyond the pale that I wouldn't do for any amount of money. If I were a Mexican construction contractor, this would easily be one of them. It is the moral equivalent of normalizing extreme bigotry.

America the Protectionist: Mnuchin at "G-19" (Without US)

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/22/2017 05:36:00 PM
He adds nothing: physically present, mentally absent Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.
I almost forgot to post about this one: at the just-concluded meeting of G-20 finance ministers in Germany over the weekend, the new US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin left a lot open to interpretation. With the Trump administration itself unsure what its trade policies will be going forward, Mnuchin was unable to offer boilerplate reassurances that the United States would disavow all forms of protectionism that previous meetings did:
Finance chiefs of the world’s largest economies set aside a pledge to avoid protectionism and signed up to a fudged statement on trade instead, in response to the Trump administration’s call to rethink the global order for commerce.

Group of 20 nations said in a communique on Saturday that they are “working to strengthen the contribution of trade to our economies.” While the U.S. didn’t get all it wanted -- such as a explicit pledge to ensure trade is fair -- that’s a much pared-down formulation compared with the group’s statement last year, and omits a promise to “avoid all forms of protectionism.”

In two days of meetings in the German town of Baden-Baden, the argument by U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in his first appearance at an international forum in the role, reflects claims by President Donald Trump that his nation has had a bad deal from the current global trade setup. That attitude pitched him against most other delegates, who favored a multilateral, rules-based system as embodied in the World Trade Organization.
I do not exaggerate that it's now the G-19 after the United States abdicated on its role in global governance. In effect, it was 19 against 1:
I “regret that our discussions today didn’t end in a satisfactory manner,” French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said in a statement. In a press conference later, he said that “there wasn’t a G-20 disagreement, there was disagreement within the G-20 between a country and all the others. This isn’t a caricature, this is the reality of things.”
The galling thing is that while Mnuchin had some idea what his boss wasn't into--disavowal of protectionism--there was no articulation of an alternative:
Mnuchin wasn’t able to deliver a clear view on how the “America First” thrust of the Trump administration will mesh with the rules embodied in the World Trade Organization system that currently stand -- or even if the U.S. will remain substantially engaged over the long term. As the administration is less than two months old, the former Goldman Sachs banker was given the benefit of the doubt when he didn’t offer much detail.
Having been instrumental in setting up the G-20 in the first place, the United States seems to be abdicating from it. Will it continue to have global policy relevance going forward? Actually, it's hardly the only international body the Yanks thought of that's having existential questions: NATO, the UN, the WTO and so forth may not continue to function as we've come to know them without American support.

Worse still, the guy behind all of this has an exceedingly poor understanding of how such bodies actually work. In his testy meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel:
Trump reprised his complaints that the U.S. had been treated “very, very unfairly” and poured loaded praise over German trade officials for besting their American counterparts. “The negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the United States,” Trump told reporters in the East Room alongside Merkel Friday. “But hopefully we can even it out.”

Merkel, whose visit with her new U.S. counterpart was marked by cool distance in their public appearances, was left to explain that trade negotiations are the province of the European Union, not her government, and that there are no such German interlocutors. “We’ve transferred competencies over to the European Union,” Merkel said. “That means the European Commission negotiates these free trade agreements.”
These are dark times, indeed, when people choose their leaders from among the most ignorant bunch.

FIFA Non-Grata: Muslim Ban USA Can't Host World Cup

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/18/2017 03:52:00 PM
Iranians not welcome here (among others): On the USA's non-existent prospects for hosting the 2026 World Cup.
It's pretty evident that you should not host one of the world's most international sporting events if your country is run by a Muslim-banning race-baiter. Yet, that the organization running the World Cup is FIFA--hardly the model of "global governance"--may have placed the possibility in some question as the United States is considering a bid to host the 2026 event. Despite FIFA's odiousness, it is nonetheless remarkable that it won't go near an even more disreputable entity, the United States of America, run by one President Donald J. Trump.

To be sure, there are procedural issues: what if one of the Muslim-banned countries qualifies for the World Cup? One has done so a number times before--Iran--and the others cannot be completely ruled out especially now that the competition has increased its number of participants from 32 to 48.
Donald Trump’s travel ban could prevent the US from hosting the World Cup in 2026, Fifa has warned.

Gianni Infantino, the president of world football’s governing body, said on Thursday that Trump’s revised executive order, which temporarily bars entry to the US for citizens from six majority-Muslim countries, could invalidate any bid from the US. The president’s policy, Infaninto suggested, is incompatible with tournament regulations.

Infantino told reporters in London: “Teams who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup. That is obvious.”
The above-mentioned bid requirement will probably disqualify Trump's USA:
“We are now in the process of defining the bid requirements. In the world there are many countries who have bans, travel bans, visa requirements and so on and so forth. It’s obvious when it comes to Fifa competitions, any team, including the supporters and officials of that team, who qualify for a World Cup need to have access to the country, otherwise there is no World Cup. “The requirements will be clear. And then each country can make up their decision, whether they want to bid or not based on the requirements.”
Donald Trump will probably dismiss this all by saying that no Americans watch soccer anyway since he doesn't--a perfectly uninformed response from a remarkably ignorant America-firster.

TrumpCare: The Adios, Geezers "Health" Plan & IPE

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/14/2017 06:58:00 PM
I try not to focus excessively on US-only topics, but this I cannot resist since it has the potential to delay or waylay the rest of Trump's racist-isolationist-protectionist agenda. (Which is a good thing, obviously.) The gist of TrumpCare goes like this: Republicans have been planning to repeal and replace ObamaCare--the existing US health care law formally knows as the Affordable Care Act. However, incredible promises that this replacement would (a) cost less to patients, (b) cost less to the US government and (c) extend coverage to more people was always a stretch.

Just out is the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office [CBO] report scoring TrumpCare on (a)-(c). Accorcing to the CBO's estimates, (b) the cost of the health program to the US government will be reduced over a 10-year period. However, (a) the key senior constituency is set to pay significantly more than they pay now and (c) coverage would go down because TrumpCare makes healthcare unaffordable to many seniors by reducing their state-provided benefits. Moreover, many states will find little to gain by participating in TrumpCare given its unfavorable terms, making more seniors lose coverage.

As such, there is little care going on in TrumpCare or, more formally, the American Health Care Act. The way "savings" are achieved is by getting rid of older people from government health programs--those most in need of health care and those whose health spending is obviously the highest as a result. No mystery here:
But the way the bill achieves those lower average premiums has little to do with increased choice and competition. It depends, rather, on penalizing older patients and rewarding younger ones. According to the C.B.O. report, the bill would make health insurance so unaffordable for many older Americans that they would simply leave the market and join the ranks of the uninsured.

The remaining pool of people would be comparatively younger and healthier and, thus, less expensive to cover. Other changes would help make health insurance skimpier — cheaper, but with deductibles that are higher than those criticized by Republicans under Obamacare.
The American Association of Persons [AARP] summarizes the talking points of how the bill harms its members bigly:
AARP reiterates our opposition to this harmful bill. The nonpartisan CBO  revealed today that ‘the legislation would increase the number of uninsured broadly, [and] the increase would be disproportionately larger among older people with lower income; in particular, people between 50 and 64 years old…

The CBO analysis found that premiums would rise ‘20 percent to 25 percent higher for a 64-year-old.’ Putting the financial burden on older Americans is not the way to solve the problems in our health care system.’  Premiums for a 64 year old earning $26,500 would increase by $12,900 in 2026, from $1,700 to $14,600.
Another interesting facet is that the elderly turned out in yuuuge numbers for Trump. However, they will be among the worst affected--especially those living in rural areas where choices are few and costs are high as a result:
Among the counties where Trump won his biggest victories, nearly all would face deep cuts in tax credits under the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. And, in the parts of the country that would lose the most in tax credits, a majority of voters were Trump supporters.

The following chart shows the 25 counties where Trump captured the largest share of votes. In all but one, a typical middle-aged man buying health insurance on his own would lose money under the proposed GOP change, according to recent calculations from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It is not for me to discuss the motivations of American voters for Trump in the limited space available. Even more perplexing are Trump's best efforts to do the most harm to his most committed voters. (I think seniors will still be around come the 2018 elections despite Trump's best efforts. Sorry, Trump.) Suffice to say, little political goodwill appears likely to emerge from the upcoming effort to pass TrumpCare. Either seniors are hurt in a big way--those whose age group has not only the highest voter turnout but also the highest Trump share of the vote--or much useless activity will be expended in promoting an ultimately futile bill in a manner that offends the electorate.

What will likely happen is that Republicans will suffer large losses in the Senate and, to a lesser extent, the heavily gerrymandered House in the 2018 midterm elections. So, there is a two-year windows before the midterm elections for Trump to get the rest of his wish list done. However, a TrumpCare setback will likely delay or (hopefully) derail other parts of his agenda until such a time that Republicans will not control the White House, House, and Senate simultaneously. The more legislative losses, the fewer congressional backers Trump will have. As Trump has correctly observed, few people back "losers." In the international sphere, his wish list includes:
To paraphrase one of his predecessors, heckuva job, Trumpy. The less congressional allies Trump has for his quixotic agenda(s), and the fewer (predominantly elder) voters putting Trump sympathizers in office, the better off the rest of the world is.

I will elaborate more on the other international elements of Trump's racist-isolationist-protectionist policy package soon, but for now, rest assured that gridlock in Washington is better for the rest of the world. Or at least we should hope. I feel bad for American seniors, but again, they did vote for a known con artist.  Caveat emptor.

Pro-, Anti-Trade Voices Duke It Out at White House

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/10/2017 07:41:00 PM
Death by economic insanity: Maybe the lunatic fringe will be sidelined on trade, at least, at the White House.
It was always going to end up here, I think: American President Donald Trump has appointed a bunch of isolationist America-firsters who would like nothing better than to slow down the United States' engagement in international trade, or at least sign extremely lopsided deals with prospective trade partners. (Witness the call for "bilateral" deals that the US can easily extricate itself from if it views the other party as being "unfair.") On this side you have the wingnut Steve Bannon and the Jeff Sessions acolyte Stephen Miller, both of Muslim Ban fame. Throw in the ultra-protectionist, China fearmonger Peter Navarro as well who acts as trade adviser to Trump. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has also written a protectionist screed together with Navarro.

On the other hand, Trump has appointed more conventional sorts--"neoliberal" if you will--like Goldman Sachs alumni Gary Cohn who heads the National Economic Council and of course Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary.

Things are coming to a head as those egregious "trade violators" the Germans are coming to town next week in the form of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany runs the third-largest trade surplus with the United States at $64.87 billion in 2016. What to do? Obviously, the wingnut anti-trade faction wants to put Merkel on notice for Germany's evil ways, whereas the Cohn and Mnuchin don't want any part of this tomfoolery:
According to more than half a dozen people inside the White House or dealing with it, the bitter fight has set a hardline group including senior adviser Steve Bannon and Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro against a faction led by Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs executive who leads Mr Trump’s National Economic Council.

At the centre of the debate is Mr Navarro, a firebrand economist who has angered Berlin and other European allies by accusing Germany of exploiting a “grossly undervalued” euro and calling for bilateral discussions with Angela Merkel’s government over ways to reduce the US trade deficit with Europe’s most powerful economy.
The Goldman Sachs duo is trying to portray Navarro as he really is: an isolationist extremist:
According to people familiar with White House discussions, Mr Cohn and others have seized on Mr Navarro’s public comments — and widespread criticism by economists of his stand on trade deficits and other matters — to try and sideline him. That has led to discussions over moving Mr Navarro and the new National Trade Council he leads out of the White House and to the Commerce Department, headed by another Wall Street veteran, Wilbur Ross. Mr Cohn has also been featuring more prominently in discussions over the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, one of Mr Trump’s top trade priorities. 
For now at least, Cohn seems to be winning the battle with Navarro in building a White House presence:
People familiar with the White House battle over trade said that Mr Navarro, who did not respond to a request for comment, was cutting an increasingly isolated figure in the administration. He has been operating with a very small staff out of an office in the Old Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House, while Mr Cohn has been adding staff to his NEC base inside the president’s residence itself.
Fun times. I guess we'll see how Angela Merkel is treated as to how this internal conflict is playing out early on in the Trump administration. Its consequences will obviously have significant implications for US trade policy and the world economy more broadly speaking.

PRC Hits S Korea Economically Over ABM System

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 3/03/2017 02:19:00 PM
China's communists are getting back at South Korea economically over the deployment of a THAAD system.
We are constantly reminded of the Chinese government having no reservations about using its considerable economic heft to punish other countries that defy its will. That's a perk of having the world's second largest economy. Now, this particular story isn't new, but the latest twists are regarding South Korea intending to deploy an American anti-ballistic missile system to protect against North Korea possibly launching an attack against it.

Let's go back to the beginning: South Korea's government has been seeking land to base the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system near the border with North Korea. In this instance, the Korean conglomerate Lotte had such available land. Lotte's diverse holdings include a confectioner, groceries, and even theme parks. As it so happened, Lotte was also planning to build a theme park in mainland China. Let's just say that plan has been trashed by PRC authorities upset about the proliferation of ABM systems in Asia which will be based on Lotte-owned land:
Lotte Group has been forced to suspend the construction of its theme park in northeastern China, the latest in a series of retaliatory steps against Korea's decision to deploy a U.S. anti-missile defense system. Korea's fifth-largest conglomerate has been the main target of the reprisal for its decision to provide a golf course as the site for a U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery.

The Chinese government ordered Lotte last December to stop building the Lotte World Theme Park near its department store and cinema in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, according to Lotte officials Wednesday. They said the authorities took issue with the construction site's preparedness for fire emergencies.
Yeah, whatever; fire hazard my foot. Lotte recently finalizing a land swap deal only kicked the PRC into overdrive as the PRC is now hitting South Korea on nearly all fronts where there's economic interaction. Today, the PRC's actions arguably sent the Korean stock index KOSPI down over a percent:
China has the economic power to move markets, and it isn’t afraid to use it. South Korean stock trading offered a case in point Friday, with a selloff in hotels, cosmetic makers and other tourism-related companies that made the country’s benchmark the worst performer among Asian equity markets. The slide followed a Yonhap news agency report on China ordering travel agents to halt sales of holiday packages to South Korea.
Travel to Korea seems an obvious target, but how about makeup?
Amorepacific Corp., South Korea’s biggest cosmetics company. Chinese authorities have ordered the destruction of about 700 kilograms of Amorepacific’s imported product, saying they included bacteria. The company slid 13 percent Friday...

Kim Yeong Ju, an official at South Korea’s Korea Tourism Organization, said its Chinese counterpart issued the ban, which also covers flights to South Korea and hotel bookings. Almost 50 percent of the foreign visitors to Korea in 2016 were from China, according to the KTO.
I agree though is that the "soft power" of Korea is too strong a lure for these PRC covert sanctions to have much traction:
The move may be more about conveying China’s displeasure than inflicting lasting wounds to the relationship, said JJ Kang, head of equity at Franklin Templeton Investment Trust Management Co. in Seoul.

“China never does things that are against their economic interests,” Kang said. “Shoppers will do anything they can if they want Korean products. Tourism will be difficult but it is hard for China to drag this problem on long term.”
Make no mistake: the Koreans offer really good stuff in terms of makeup, tourism, etc. that Chinese tourists crave and certainly cannot obtain locally.

UPDATE: Also follow the online war between citizens going on due to this deployment. 

How Much US Tourism Will Trump the Xenophobe Kill?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 3/01/2017 05:38:00 PM
Pre-Trump America used to welcome other people (like us coloreds); not anymore I guess.
My oh my, the price of Trumpism: Having indicated to the rest of the world that the United States of America is now only interested in the welfare of its citizens--the non-colored Trump-voting variety, at least--intentions to visit the Land of Bigotry have been dropping. The interesting part is that even countries not affected by Trump's Muslim ban have been greatly turned off. Various gauges of interest in visiting the USA such as Internet travel searches have shown considerable drops:
The travel research site ForwardKeys found a 6.5 percent drop in international flight searches to the United States after Trump signed the order, compared with the same eight-day stretch in 2016. “The data forces a compelling conclusion that Donald Trump’s travel ban immediately caused a significant drop in bookings . . . and an immediate impact on future travel,” said Olivier Jager, CEO of ForwardKeys. The British company monitors travel patterns by analyzing 16 million flight reservation transactions a day.
The percentages may not sound large, but specialists caution that a drop in the 77.5 million international tourists who come to the United States, spending $133 billion here, could have far-reaching consequences for the economy. According to US Travel, tourism directly supported more than 8.1 million US jobs in 2015.

“I’ll tell you quite honestly, when I saw these reports my reaction was, ‘Oh, my God,’ ” said Douglas Quinby of PhocusWright, a travel-market research company. “To see a decline in search and booking volume in the 6- to 8-percent range is a profound shift.”
The question is, how much will declines in online searches result in declines in actual travel to the US?
Interest in travel to the US has “fallen off a cliff” since Donald Trump’s election, according to travel companies who have reported a significant drop in flight searches and bookings since his inauguration and controversial travel ban.

Data released this week by travel search engine Kayak reported a 58% decline in searches for flights to Tampa and Orlando from the UK, and a 52% decline in searches for Miami. Searches for San Diego were also down 43%, Las Vegas by 36% and Los Angeles 32%.

Though flight prices are holding firm (they usually take weeks rather than days to adjust to consumer trends), Kayak has identified a knock-on effect on average hotel prices. It found prices in Las Vegas are down by 39% and New York City by 32%.

It is the latest in a string of reports from the travel industry that suggests a “Trump slump”, with the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) estimating that since being elected President Trump has cost the US travel industry $185m in lost revenue.
Despite US stock markets reaching record highs on a daily basis now, many of the mainstays driving the US economy appear to be negatively affected by Trumpism: housing, retail, tourism, etc. To me at least, it's a stretch to believe that a con man is the economic savior of America.The signs are not looking good in any number of industries.