Keeping one eye on the ball is hard, as political operatives and media performers keep moving shells, distracting and reprioritizing. Next week will not bring traditional holiday fare, much less “peace on Earth.” That said, it may bring better news than many expect. There is sun behind the clouds.
On the political front, the impeachment fandango – complete with castanets and tambourine – will keep vying for media attention. Most know it is more noise than light. One Democratic House member is switching parties, others wringing their hands. Their leadership has made life hard – to stick it to a President. That has been the goal for three years.
Now, as many as 40 House Democrats must cast a vote damaging chances of victory in 2020. While 31 hail from districts Trump won, another 12 succeeded Republicans; all 43 districts are likely to be heavily contested. If a majority go Republican, Democrats lose the House.
Objectively, Donald Trump is unique; history will record the fact. He is about to get the distinction of becoming the first president to suffer an all-partisan, legally groundless, over-hyped impeachment, devoid of due process, impartiality, or pretense to fairness.
The Democratic victory will be short-lived, emotional hoopla at damage wrought, coiffed hair and lines about sadness, no time to worry for country, Constitution, national security, international standing or splintered caucus. They will gloat, lecture the Senate, watch in mock suspense, then regret the president was not convicted – which he will not be. That takes us through mid-January.
Good news is elsewhere, under a different shell. Year end economic numbers look to be extraordinary, in historical context. We should see two major trade deals – the largest in decades – go final. First, the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement will level the playing field across North America, gains for US producers and consumers.
Specifics include greater tariff-free access to Canada, plus reduced prices on Canadian dairy products, and a seven-fold increase in US duty-free limit on purchases. On auto parts, more will come from across North America (rather than outside the region), 75 percent of auto value derived from North American manufacturers, US accounting for much of the value. Wages in Mexico will rise for more regional fair play.
Expect more protections for intellectual property, cross-border business, better dispute settlement, a six-year review (or sunset) provision, and less currency manipulation and state subsidies. In short, expect new efficiencies and the regional market to pop.
Then we get “first phase” of the hard-won China deal, after two years of parrying. This will deliver near-term benefits and longer reforms. Serious dialogue produced double American exports to China by 2021, and an uptick in US exports to China by at least $100 billion annually in the several years ahead, plus reduced tariffs.
Liberal economists are hesitant to give Trump credit, saying the stand-off was costly. That assessment is hard to square with a soaring stock market, US labor market, US labor productivity, record low unemployment, consistently low inflation, wage and income growth, widening US supply chain and new international markets.
China has paid an added 40 billion dollars in tariffs, and much of that has not been passed to US consumers. Note, inflation remains unchanged, so Chinese profit margins appear to have absorbed much of the cost.
While farm exports fell, they are set to bounce higher by magnitudes, and President Trump pressed short-term compensation from Congress to cover near-term income drops. So, for now, the Trump strategy has worked – and China is on course to take more seriously US insistence on fairness.
In the end, non-partisan economists grudgingly admit the upside of these deals. They are a turning point. They represent what no other US President dared seek in recent decades, a reset of the international trade dynamic, greater fairness for US producers, new economies for buyers, greater access to restricted markets.
Other good news abounds. As one looks ahead, a major trade deal is likely with Great Britain, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson turns to finalizing “Brexit” and pivots West. NATO countries realize they must carry more weight in out-years and appear poised to do so, adolescent tittering aside.
North Korea has halted – lest we forget – nuclear testing and long-range missile testing under Trump. Oppressive Iran struggles with mass uprisings internally, after Trump ended the nuclear deal, re-imposed sanctions, and encouraged an end to their nuclear weapons gambit.
Globally, from Russia and Turkey to China and Japan, Saudi Arabia to Colombia, the United States is engaged, not recalcitrant, demur, undependable or apologetic. That has implications for future trade, security and foreign relations. Socialism is reeling from Cuba and Venezuela to human rights pressure on China. America is back in the game.
Net-net there are some curious days ahead, with a gaggle of struggling socialist and semi-socialist Democratic presidential candidates urging more centralized control. That control would cost individual liberty – and Americans know it. Lots of “free stuff” for higher taxes, less speech, restricted religion, press, association and firearm freedom? No thank you.
Few takers for that shell game either. So, prepare for more discord, fear mongering, and spectacles like Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler on December 15th crying the choice is “impeachment or tyranny.” That may not sell. Still, expect the next week to bring a must-have-it approach to impeaching this president, without much interest in constitutional procedure, legal predicate, or bipartisanship.
This too will pass. Keeping one eye on the ball is hard, but good news lies ahead. Sometimes you must wait out dark, billowing banks of clouds, to get to sun. But the sun is there – always was.