What Obama’s tire treatment teaches us about his administration

 At 9:18 Friday night, I got an alert from the Washington Post. Barack Obama had slapped tariffs on imports of Chinese tires. Barack Obama’s handling of this issue shows several things. First, it shows a real contempt for China, trade policy, and his international relationships more broadly. As one of my liberal friends likes to point out, this action demonstrates how the Democrats really cannot be taken seriously as the internationalist party.  And it shows the implicit contradictions in much of Obama’s economic policy.

Let’s start with the time of its announcement: 9:18pm. Really? Saturday morning in China? This tells us who the audience for this policy was: the United States. It tells us that Obama is willing to subordinate trade policy — just before the G-20 meeting no less — to domestic politics that he is embarassed about. Why else release this late on a Friday night?  (note that by statute, he didn’t have to release a response to International Trade Commission recommendations until the 17th. He picked this timing)

By Saturday afternoon, China issues scathing remarks. By Sunday, they announce counter-tariffs against US chickens and auto-parts. We have a full scale trade war.  And Asian and European markets open the week down. Thanks Barack…

So Barack Obama started a trade war for entirely domestic reasons, jeopardizing the recovery, and is afraid of the headlines here, why he doesn’t care about international opinion. How does that sound?

Now, why chickens and auto parts? I don’t immediately understand the chickens, although I suspect it is a pretty good business for us, but I understand auto parts. 

US auto parts are made by the United Autoworkers, the same union that Obama bailed out when he bailed out GM and Chrysler, two companies that had becoming wards of their union pension funds. In addition to hurting the unions, this could hurt the auto manufacturers themselves, which Obama owns and which opposed the tire tariffs because it will raise their costs. First he screwed the car companies for the UAW, now USW. Perhaps this is a lesson for when he takes over the health care sector. 

So where was the logic in this? He helps his allies, with one hand, but hurts them with the other. He hurts the economy. He hurts the government run companies. And he opens a trade war just in time for the G-20 to create real structural damage to the US economy.

Furthermore, this is how he is celebrating the anniversary of the death of Lehman Brothers. By sticking the knife in the economy.

That’s change I can believe in.

4
Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

What Obama’s tire treatment teaches us about his administration

 At 9:18 Friday night, I got an alert from the Washington Post. Barack Obama had slapped tariffs on imports of Chinese tires. Barack Obama’s handling of this issue shows several things. First, it shows a real contempt for China, trade policy, and his international relationships more broadly. As one of my liberal friends likes to point out, this action demonstrates how the Democrats really cannot be taken seriously as the internationalist party.  And it shows the implicit contradictions in much of Obama’s economic policy.

Let’s start with the time of its announcement: 9:18pm. Really? Saturday morning in China? This tells us who the audience for this policy was: the United States. It tells us that Obama is willing to subordinate trade policy — just before the G-20 meeting no less — to domestic politics that he is embarassed about. Why else release this late on a Friday night?  (note that by statute, he didn’t have to release a response to International Trade Commission recommendations until the 17th. He picked this timing)

By Saturday afternoon, China issues scathing remarks. By Sunday, they announce counter-tariffs against US chickens and auto-parts. We have a full scale trade war.  And Asian and European markets open the week down. Thanks Barack…

So Barack Obama started a trade war for entirely domestic reasons, jeopardizing the recovery, and is afraid of the headlines here, why he doesn’t care about international opinion. How does that sound?

Now, why chickens and auto parts? I don’t immediately understand the chickens, although I suspect it is a pretty good business for us, but I understand auto parts. 

US auto parts are made by the United Autoworkers, the same union that Obama bailed out when he bailed out GM and Chrysler, two companies that had becoming wards of their union pension funds. In addition to hurting the unions, this could hurt the auto manufacturers themselves, which Obama owns and which opposed the tire tariffs because it will raise their costs. First he screwed the car companies for the UAW, now USW. Perhaps this is a lesson for when he takes over the health care sector. 

So where was the logic in this? He helps his allies, with one hand, but hurts them with the other. He hurts the economy. He hurts the government run companies. And he opens a trade war just in time for the G-20 to create real structural damage to the US economy.

Furthermore, this is how he is celebrating the anniversary of the death of Lehman Brothers. By sticking the knife in the economy.

That’s change I can believe in.

4
Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

What Obama’s tire treatment teaches us about his administration

 At 9:18 Friday night, I got an alert from the Washington Post. Barack Obama had slapped tariffs on imports of Chinese tires. Barack Obama’s handling of this issue shows several things. First, it shows a real contempt for China, trade policy, and his international relationships more broadly. As one of my liberal friends likes to point out, this action demonstrates how the Democrats really cannot be taken seriously as the internationalist party.  And it shows the implicit contradictions in much of Obama’s economic policy.

Let’s start with the time of its announcement: 9:18pm. Really? Saturday morning in China? This tells us who the audience for this policy was: the United States. It tells us that Obama is willing to subordinate trade policy — just before the G-20 meeting no less — to domestic politics that he is embarassed about. Why else release this late on a Friday night?  (note that by statute, he didn’t have to release a response to International Trade Commission recommendations until the 17th. He picked this timing)

By Saturday afternoon, China issues scathing remarks. By Sunday, they announce counter-tariffs against US chickens and auto-parts. We have a full scale trade war.  And Asian and European markets open the week down. Thanks Barack…

So Barack Obama started a trade war for entirely domestic reasons, jeopardizing the recovery, and is afraid of the headlines here, why he doesn’t care about international opinion. How does that sound?

Now, why chickens and auto parts? I don’t immediately understand the chickens, although I suspect it is a pretty good business for us, but I understand auto parts. 

US auto parts are made by the United Autoworkers, the same union that Obama bailed out when he bailed out GM and Chrysler, two companies that had becoming wards of their union pension funds. In addition to hurting the unions, this could hurt the auto manufacturers themselves, which Obama owns and which opposed the tire tariffs because it will raise their costs. First he screwed the car companies for the UAW, now USW. Perhaps this is a lesson for when he takes over the health care sector. 

So where was the logic in this? He helps his allies, with one hand, but hurts them with the other. He hurts the economy. He hurts the government run companies. And he opens a trade war just in time for the G-20 to create real structural damage to the US economy.

Furthermore, this is how he is celebrating the anniversary of the death of Lehman Brothers. By sticking the knife in the economy.

That’s change I can believe in.

4
Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Clinton’s dishonest foreign policy

The Democrats talk about restoring America’s role in the world. Hillary Clinton, in particular, talks about her ability to do so. Of course, for all of her husband’s post-White House international fame, it is worth remembering how low his international reputation was. This was a guy who used his veto of a UN Secretary-General as a domestic political issue in 1996. This is a guy who signed international agreements with no chance of passing, just to preen for the media. The world understood at the time.

Now Hillary Clinton is trying to remind the world why they hated the Clintons. She wants to submit international treaties to 5-year reviews. If she doesn’t like them she wants to walk away from them.

Hillary Clinton, frontrunner for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, on Monday said that all US trade agreements should be evaluated every five years and, if necessary, amended.

The process should start with the North America Free Trade Agreement, which was the signature trade pact of her husband, Bill Clinton, when he was president.

Don’t these people realize that international trade is now the fundamental building block of our foreign policy? Don’t they understand that our trade relationship is why our relationship with Europe will be good over the long term?

The Europeans have a new term for this kind of politics. Schroederism. After Gerhard Schroeder’s embrace of totalitarian Vladimir Putin and attack of the United States for domestic political reasons. (of course, maybe he just wants a paycheck)

I certainly have a lot of disagreements with the Bush administration on foreign policy, especially on tone. But Clinton’s dishonesty and irresponsibility remind me of why I am a Republican.

See also Dan Drezner, who also gets it.

More on Huckabee’s endorsement by Machinists

I think that this is fascinating. Here’s what the Machinists say:

Mike Huckabee was the only Republican candidate with the guts to meet with our members and the only one willing to figure out where and how we might work together,” said Buffenbarger. “He is entitled to serious consideration from our members voting in the upcoming Republican primaries.”

Mike Huckbee’s campaign fills out a little what they talked about:

Huckabee spoke before over 700 members of the IAM in Orlando, Florida on Monday about jobs, globalization, health care, and other 21st century domestic issues.

What does that mean? Specifically, on trade, or "fair trade" as Huckabee calls it:

Huckabee also said he believes in fair trade. “Free trade has to be fair trade. We are losing jobs because of an unlevel, unfair trading arena that has to be fixed. Behind the statistics, there are real families, real lives, and real pain. I’m running for President because I don’t want people who have worked loyally for a company for 20 or 30 years to walk in one morning and be handed a pink slip and be told, ‘I’m sorry, but everything you spent your life working for is no longer here.’"

What does this mean? Why aren’t we losing jobs because the skill sets and technology are changing. Protectionism isn’t going to help that. New skills are.

I repeat. Mike Huckabee is running as an economist populist, the likes of which this party has not seen in a while. BTW, he is going to suck up lots of oxygen from Duncan Hunter with this. And this is going to be very, very, very powerful in South Carolina, where the main division in the last US Senate race was between free-trading Jim DeMint and (now coke-head) Ravenel. Between that and the whole Southern Baptist thing, Huckabee could really do well. Especially if his numbers keep going up in Iowa.

More of my thoughts on Huckabee (long)

Reihan Salam responds to one of my recent posts about Mike Huckabee. I had said:

On a deeper level, I hear in Huckabee an instinct towards the isolationism that Eisenhower fought against.  …

Reihan responds:

I say "somewhat strangely" because Eisenhower was the peace candidate (i.e., the one who pledged to end a foreign war), and he is widely remembered as a staunch critic of the military-industrial complex. I find it very difficult to believe that Eisenhower would find much to criticize in Huckabee’s remarks, particularly since they are very much in the historical mainstream of conservative foreign policy discourse.

Reihan is referring to a different part of the Eisenhower legacy than I am.  Paul Gigot summarized the part that I am referring to:

[The GOP] was an isolationist party for a long time coming up to the 20’s and 30’s and into the 40’s and cost them at the presidential level. Ike changed that in the 50’s and then Goldwater, the conservative from the West became the anti-Communist candidate and the right moved to an internationalist position.

From that point on, the GOP was the party of internationalism on everything from intervention to trade, and the Democrats took the old isolationist GOP position.  Indeed, a friend of mine, Lorelei Kelly, who writes for Democracy Arsenal and informally advises the House Progressive Caucus, once noted that today the GOP "is the real internationalist party," much to the shock of her liberal friends.

There is another quote that I can’t find right now (and I have an early flight so I won’t be able to track it down until next week) in which Eisenhower says that his highest priority was to not let the GOP be the isolationist party. In fact, Eisenhower’s internationalism was precisely his most party-internal divisive characteristic, later being accused of being a communist, among other things, by radical Birch and other elements of the GOP.

So what does this have to do with anything? Gigot continued:

There’s a faction on the right that has moved back to the old isolationist wing – these are the Buchanan Republicans, the McGovern Republicans, if you will. And they wouldn’t appreciate that reference but I think it is apt.

There are several inter-related components to whatever a Buchanan/McGovern Republican would be, among them isolationism, protectionism, and "culture war," a phrase that Buchanan actually used with pride. It is clear that, right now, international intervention will continue to be part of the GOP platform. It is less clear that globalization will, especially in light of the revolt against the Bush administration’s attempt to liberalize the movement of labor, that is, immigration reform. Note that I also accept the moral argument for the imperative of immigration reform; in fact, I think it is primary.

In the end, this is my fear. Would Huckabee care about the international trade agenda and continued globalization? Would Huckabee invest political capital in a renewed Doha round and some level of regulatory coordination with, for example, the European Union? On a deeper level, is he a populist? This would be bad. Or is he merely attuned to the need to address some of the dislocation caused by economic liberalization? (and pay for it by increasing the rate of liberalization) After all, in my issues for a new movement, I wrote:

Massively increase skills-based educational opportunities at the state level. Stronger community colleges. Probably increase tax breaks for this kind of stuff. …

[W]e have to recognize that protectionism and healthcare concerns are grounded in concerns about economic insecurity. This is important because we need to have a credible economic story to offer the working class. …

My suggestions were, basically, that we need to offer real plans for managing human capital through healthcare, education, and retirement and pension reform, among others. In this way, I feel like I share a lot with David Brooks, who said:

But today, many of those old problems [the problems Reagan faced] have receded or been addressed. Today the big threats to people’s future prospects come from complex, decentralized phenomena: Islamic extremism, failed states, global competition, global warming, nuclear proliferation, a skills-based economy, economic and social segmentation.

In fact, I suspect that I share a lot with Reihan and Brooks, his mentor. Perhaps on a deeper level, my policy inclinations derive from two sources: my (Old?) Whig-ish economic instincts and my moderate-to-liberal religious instincts. These don’t so much come in conflict (in a reason versus faith way) as they mutually inform how these would be implemented. Call me a libertarian-moderate evangelical, if you will. Huckabee’s economic statements sound, sometimes, in opposition to my economic preferences. And his roots in the conservative movement of the Southern Baptist Convention raise alarm bells for my religious and theological preferences.

Finally, there’s a political analysis. As Reihan noted, I quoted Jim Antle saying:

I’d also point out that the fusion of economic populism and social conservatism has generally been a losing strategy in Republican politics, …

I don’t mean to put words in Jim’s mouth, but I think that he’s saying that there’s a political logic to fusionism. Economic conservatives and social conservatives are (or least have been) different constituencies, at least within Republican politics. The person who can put both together gets more votes. In the broader coalition of the party, emphasizing social conservatism brought significant people and energy into the party. And, as both Joe Carter and Pat Hynes have noted, often people will enter the party as social conservatives and acquire (some or more) economic conservatism over time. (there is also a pattern that moves in the other direction as people assimilate to their peers)

In conclusion, I see a lot of unanswered questions in Mike Huckabee. Here are a couple:

  • Is Huckabee an economic populist? (I consider this a bad, backward, and immoral thing) Perhaps stated more precisely, does he embrace the new globalized and liberalized economy but believe that some of its problems must be alleviated? Or must the underlying process be reversed? I rarely hear the man from Hope talk about hope. His main economic policy, the Fair Tax, seems like a gimmick.
  • While I am sympathetic to his "life doesn’t begin at conception and end at birth" line that incorporates education, health care, etc., without an economic analysis to incorporate it, this too looks like a gimmick.

Perhaps fundamentally, I fear that Huckabee is just a Baptist pastor. He thinks deeply about morality and conscience, but is he shallow about economics?

Huckabee’s foreign policy. Neo-isolationist?

Now that Mike Huckabee is in the first-tier, he is going to need a foreign policy, which he hasn’t articulated much of, as of yet.

My friend David Adesnik dug up some on Huckabee’s foreign policy, as articulated in the Presidential debate two weeks ago:

HUCKABEE: Well, the problem is, George, sometimes when you get what you want, you don’t want what you get. And this is a great case of that happening. I don’t think it’s the job of the United States to export our form of government. It’s the job of the United States to protect our citizens, to secure our own borders, which we have failed to do for over 20 years. It’s the job of our government to make us free and us safe, and to create an enviable kind of government and system that everybody else will want, much in the same way I think we ended up seeing the fall of the Soviet Union. And as far as how do we get there…

In a followup he said:

HUCKABEE: Absolutely not, because I don’t think we can force people to accept our way of life, our way of government. What we can to is to create the strongest America: change our tax system, make it so that people are healthier, create the enviable education system on this planet, make sure that jobs come back to this country rather than disappear from this country.

David, who might even accept the label "neoconservative," finds this troubling. Frankly, I do too, on a certain level. While I wouldn’t accept the "export our form of government" language, it seems clear to me that the United States has a clear role in the world. Some of this is because we are still the strongest superpower, with the strongest economy, the strongest military, and the most dynamic popular culture (which conservatives here and abroad hate)

On a deeper level, I hear in Huckabee an instinct towards the isolationism that Eisenhower fought against. For example:

  • "don’t think it’s the job of the United States to export our form of government"
  • "secure our borders"
  • "make sure that jobs come back to this country rather than disappear from this country" (nevermind the updated "lump of labor fallacy that seems implicit. Where is he on trade?)

Now, I believe that there is a lot of isolationism in the GOP. This was a driving force for Pat Buchanan, and it is certainly not an accident that George W. Bush included language that Pat Buchanan attacked his father with. Much of the Ron Paul energy can be linked to this. And Duncan Hunter’s campaign could be predicated on that too. There is also a tremendous amount of isolationism amongst the Democrats. The response to NAFTA and trade, especially when combined with a deep anti-war sentiment can be read that way.

In any case, Huckabee could try to meld a social conservative message to an anti-globalist energy within the party.

Curiously, there is room for tension between this message and his religion. Huckabee seemingly flip-flopped on immigration from a pro-comprehensive stance, supported by the Southern Baptist Convention among others. Huckabee has also expressed a lot of concern over global warming and international poverty and AIDS. His comments on these have been very similar to the "prophetic voice" and "social justice" language that comes out of the evangelical left on many of these issues. (and that, full disclosure, I am sympathetic too)