Category Archives: Business

Trump And The Economy

His policies would crush the winners:

Like Google and Facebook, Amazon is under attack by European antitrust regulators. If Trump were really the economic nationalist he plays on TV, he would be defending these U.S. stars. But in his picture of the economy, these companies simply don’t count, perhaps because they weren’t around during his 1980s business heyday. Trump is neither pro-market nor pro-business, the usual Republican choices. He’s just pro-Trump.

He’s oblivious to most U.S. success stories. On just about any list of excellence — the most admired companies, the most valuable brands, the world’s supply-chain leaders — U.S. enterprises dominate. Nike has even surpassed long-time champion Louis Vuitton as the world’s most valuable apparel brand, a triumph for American culture as well as a U.S. business. The chemists coming up with new products at 3M or Procter & Gamble are no more important to Trump than the FedEx and UPS drivers delivering packages, the longshoremen offloading cargo at the ports of Long Beach and Charleston, the animators creating new films for Pixar, or the buyers finding bargains for T.J. Maxx. Whether you work for a U.S. company or a foreign company with U.S. operations, if you’re a successful player in a global supply chain, you simply don’t exist to him.

This is a candidate who promised to bring big steel back to Pittsburgh without considering why it disappeared. In Trump’s version of the economy, the only threat to established industries comes from diabolical foreigners and stupid U.S. trade negotiators. (Never mind that Chinese steelmakers already face nearly 500 percent punitive tariffs for corrosion-resistant products, with more tariffs for other types of steel potentially on the way.) He can’t imagine disruption that comes from changing demand or better ideas.

He’s an economic ignoramus, or a demagogue, or both.

But one possible good outcome; could he cause “progressives” to rethink big government?

Having watched the rise of Trumpism — and, now, having seen the beginning of violence in its name — who out there is having second thoughts as to the wisdom of imbuing our central state with massive power? Have progressives joined conservatives in worrying aloud about the wholesale abuse of power?

That’s a serious, not a rhetorical, question. I would genuinely love to know how many “liberals” have begun to suspect that there are some pretty meaningful downsides to the consolidation of state authority. I’d like to know how many of my ideological opponents saying with a smirk that “it couldn’t happen here” have begun to wonder if it could. I’d like to know how many fervent critics of the Second Amendment have caught themselves wondering whether the right to keep and bear arms isn’t a welcome safety valve after all.

Furthermore, I’d like to know if the everything-is-better-in-Europe brigade is still yearning for a parliamentary system that would allow the elected leader to push through his agenda pretty much unchecked; if “gridlock” is still seen as a devastating flaw in the system; if the Senate is still such an irritant; and if the considerable power that the states retain is still resented as before. Certainly, there are many on the left who are mistrustful of government and many on the right who are happy to indulge its metastasis. But as a rule, progressives favor harsher intrusion into our civil society than do their political opposites. Are they still as sure that this is shrewd?

Unfortunately, I’m not sure they’re really capable of thinking those sorts of things through.

[Update a while later]

“Even within the private sector, Trump’s background does not extend to the sorts of decision-making situations that would confront, say, the chief executive officer of a large, well-established corporation. Instead, Trump’s career, apart from his flings at presidential campaigning, has almost exclusively been about deal-making aimed at personal enrichment and enhancing recognition of the Trump brand name. Against the backdrop of U.S. history and past U.S. presidents, Trump’s personal qualifications are breathtakingly narrow and shallow, and his endeavors inwardly oriented.”

You don’t say.

The Trump Phenomenon

Thoughts from Walter Russell Mead:

I don’t think the system is quite as corrupt as some Trump supporters believe or, perhaps more accurately, I lack their confidence that burning down the old house is the best way to build something new. But it would be equally wrong and perhaps more dangerous to take the view that there is nothing more fueling his rise than ignorance, racism and hate. The failure of the center-Left to transform its institutional and intellectual dominance into policy achievements that actually stabilize middle class life, and the failure of the center-Right to articulate a workable alternative have left a giant intellectual and political vacuum in the heart of American life. The Trump movement is not an answer to our problems, but the social instinct of revolt and rejection that powers it is a sign of social health. The tailors are frauds and the emperor is not in fact wearing any clothes: it is a good sign and not a bad sign that so many Americans are willing to say so out loud.

Those of us who care about policy, propriety and the other bourgeois values without which no democratic society can long thrive need to spend less time wringing our hands about the shortcomings of candidate Trump and the movement that has brought him this far, and more time both analyzing the establishment failures that have brought the country to this pass, and developing a new vision for the American future.

Yes, as I’ve been saying for months, I get that people are angry, and I get why; the current political class is the worst in memory, and I’m angry too. I just can’t see a willful ignoramus and reality-show con artist who doesn’t even know what liquified natural gas is as the solution.

Nutrition Labels

The guy who came up with the stupid idea says they don’t work:

If the nutrition label doesn’t work, how else can the government help consumers make more informed, healthier choices? For starters, the FDA should be more like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the people who created the Internet. Instead of just focusing on trying to fix the unfixable, the FDA could shift its focus toward thinking more creatively about viable solutions and give up on what isn’t working.

First, the FDA would need to honestly concede how little it knows about how different foods and food combinations actually affect individuals with distinct genetic and environmental factors, along with their personal preferences or capacity (or willingness) to exercise. The FDA would need to expand its base of knowledge and understanding within these areas and then consider how manufacturers and consumers would respond to any changes the FDA suggests as a result.

But that would involve having to do real science.

And of course, despite their failure, Michelle and the FDA commissioner continue to cheer lead for them.

[Update a while later]

Sorry, there’s nothing magical about breakfast.

I rarely eat breakfast, except on weekends, or vacation. I’ll generally go all day without eating if I’m just working at home. But when I do eat breakfast, I try to make it mostly protein and fat. Cereal is a dietary abomination, invented by a scientific whack job in Battle Creek.

Choosing Airline Seats

I have to say, I learned absolutely nothing from this, and one of the things I “learned” is wrong. It used to be that the earlier you chose seats, the better your choices, but that is no longer true. American is now charging extra for “premium” (read window or aisle, or more leg room), and if you are early, and want one, you have to pay for it. One trick I have learned, though, is that they open up for free at check-in time if passengers have canceled. When we flew back from Miami last week, we managed to change our previously assigned center seats to windows the afternoon before flight, without having to pay the $34 they had asked previously.

California’s “High-Speed” Rail

It is beyond boondoggle:

they build a boondoggle to nowhere in the middle of a sparsely populated area and expect people to ride just for the thrill of it?

The politicians responsible for this disaster — including Governor Jerry Brown — should go to jail for misuse of taxpayer funds.

Instead, they’ll be reelected, because idiots now have a majority among California voters.