Weekly Letter to President Obama
Copyright © 2010
ofthisandthat.org. All rights
INAUGURATION, January 20, 2009
Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape
To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.
The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.
Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.
--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
--- Native American proverb
November 18, 2016
Mr. President: This has been the first presidential election in living memory where it
was difficult to cast a vote. As the voting numbers show, many stayed away.
Better the devil you know ... goes the adage. The choice between 'crooked' Hillary
and, well, the Donald. He who thumbed his nose at the establishment, was labeled a
neo-Nazi, was shunned by the press and the leadership of both parties, offered magic
potions in lieu of policy and spent the least amount of money (adjusted for inflation,
population growth and income growth) since Bob Dole in 1996.
Astute observers tell us it is rare for a party holding the presidency for eight years to
repeat. The voters want a change. Change is what the current incumbent promised
them; instead it was more of the same. So it was Donald Trump, warts and all,
including a wall. He still wants to build a wall although it now includes a part fence!
Hillary is no longer labeled 'crooked' but a 'very strong and very smart woman'. And
he is rethinking Obamacare. Incumbency is so different from candidacy.
Of concern to the world is the future of trade policy, and for US allies the threat to
military alliances. President Obama has met with President-elect Trump and
discussed the issues facing the US. That the president is now off to Europe implies
an effort to prepare allies for the new administration -- the telephone would have
been adequate for reassurances. Europe is not without strengths, however, and can
stand for itself in negotiations with the Trump administration.
On the issue of trade with China, the US cannot unilaterally raise tariff rates above
the bound rate. If it does, China can seek resolution through WTO (World Trade
Organization) dispute settlement process. The right to retaliate or to receive lower
tariffs on other goods exported to the US are possible eventualities. Retaliation of
course means trade war and very negative economic consequences defeating
Trump's original objective.
China also holds $1.185 trillion dollars of US government debt (as of August 2016)
and the threat to unload it in untimely fashion damaging the dollar could be the trump
card trumping Mr. Trump.
On immigration, it is worth noting according to Pew Research Center figures that in
the period 2009 - 2014 immigration from the US to Mexico exceeded the numbers
from Mexico to the US, and the same was true for the period 2005-2010 but only just.
The largest influx of Mexicans occurred in the period after NAFTA from 1995-2000
when almost three million came to the US. The reason was straightforward: cheap
US grain exports allowed through NAFTA bankrupted small Mexican farmers who had
no choice but to leave.
The commonly held belief that immigrants hold down the wages of native workers is
also doubtful. The economic literature is mixed although a paper by Marco
Manacorda, Alan Manning and Jonathan Wadsworth of the London School of
Economics found that economic migrants to the UK have little effect on natives' jobs
or wages. New arrivals apparently affect the pay of recent immigrants. A President
Trump may build a wall wasting $40-60 billion dollars, but for what?
As with most things in life, the reality within is much more complex than the view from
outside. Mr. Trump might find his hands are tied for his signature issues.