US-China Trade War Concerns Dominate French G7 Summit

Over the past several weeks, President Trump has made his strategy for re-election next year much clearer. He intends to continue pursuing the mission which defined his 2016 campaign, “Make America Great Again,” by reinvigorating the American economy through tax cuts and the elimination of unnecessary federal regulations on business, and by putting America’s security and national interests first in defining and pursuing his administration’s domestic and foreign policy goals.

Trump continues to act boldly, often disregarding the advice of his White House aides and cabinet members, to follow his instincts as to what course of action would be best for the country. He has done this most dramatically by doubling down on the tariffs he has imposed on almost all Chinese imports, despite the growing threat of the resulting trade war with China to the greatest single achievement of Trump’s presidency – a growing revival of American working- and middle-class prosperity through rising wages and employment, driven by renewed consumer confidence.

Trump seems as determined as the leader of China has proven to be in their test of wills over US demands that China abandon its unfair trading policies. Trump sees it as part of the promises he made during the 2016 campaign to millions of working-class voters in heartland American industrial states who lost their jobs to unfair competition from China, and who, like Trump, recognize the long-term threat that China poses to America’s economic prosperity.

The US trade war with China reached a new level of intensity Friday, the day that Trump was to depart for what promised to be a difficult two-and-a-half-day meeting with the leaders of the G7 nations in Biarritz, France. It was hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, with whom Trump has major differences over climate change policies, the flaws in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and a number of bilateral US-French trade issues.

ESCALATING TARIFF RETALIATIONS

That day, China retaliated to the previous Trump announcement that in September and December, the US would be imposing tariffs on the last segments of Chinese imports that remained untaxed. China announced its new tariffs on a much smaller remaining volume of untaxed American goods that China imports, prompting an immediate response from Trump who tacked an additional 5% in tariffs on all Chinese-made US imports.

The fast-paced exchange of trade retaliatory moves Friday again spooked the stock markets, which had just recovered from the previous round of tariff announcements. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 600 points by the end of the day’s trading, as it appeared that both the US and China had hardened their opposing positions in the trade dispute threatening to poison the atmosphere for economic growth around the world. The escalation in their trade dispute added to the growing a sense of dread over prospects for a worldwide economic slowdown if the US and China could not quickly find a way to resolve their differences.

Last year’s G7 meeting in Canada ended in acrimony when Trump walked out in anger without signing a prepared final statement of agreement among the participants. There was little hope going into this year’s G7 meeting, held in a summer resort area on the French Mediterranean coast, that it would end any more harmoniously, but surprisingly, it did. Contrary to expectations, the G7 leaders found just enough common ground to issue a brief one-page summary listing points of agreement, while avoiding mention of the many points still in dispute. On most of those issues, such as Iran and climate change, Trump found himself still standing alone against the other six leaders of the G7 nations.

GLOBAL CONCERNS OVER THE US-CHINA TRADE WAR

Trump remained steadfast in his determination to force China to stop its unfair trading policies, but did agree with the unanimous opinion of the other G7 leaders that it would be best for everyone if the US-China trade dispute could be resolved as quickly as possible. As Macron put it during the G7’s concluding press conference Monday, “What’s bad for the world economy is uncertainty and the quicker an agreement is arrived at, the quicker uncertainty will dissipate.”

However, Trump also said that behind closed doors, he had found a lot of support at the G7 for his demands that China end its unfair trading practices. “The European Union, and I’ve said this openly, I say with respect, I think they’re as tough as [as I am on] China,” Trump said. He had nothing to add to Macron’s remarks during their joint press conference demanding that China agree to conform to the fair trading practices set by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and that those standards be modernized to better protect valuable intellectual property rights.

Earlier in the G7 summit, reporters got Trump to admit that he had been having some “second thoughts” about the trade war he had started with China. But the White House pushed back against the media’s interpretation that Trump was admitting to regret that he had confronted China over its unfair trading policies, claiming that Trump’s only regret was that he had not imposed higher tariffs on China’s exports from the beginning.

The biggest news out of the G7 meeting on the trade war issue was an indication from Trump that Chinese negotiators had been privately calling their US counterparts in Biarritz to express renewed interest in seriously resuming the trade negotiations next month. That hopeful sentiment was confirmed to some extent Sunday in a statement by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, saying that China wanted to resolve its trade dispute with the US with a “calm atmosphere.”

Trump said that the phone calls and the public statement by Liu gave him greater confidence that the trade dispute will soon be resolved by negotiations, and not linger on through next year’s election. However, Trump insisted that he would never agree to allow China to keep its $500 billion annual trade surplus with the United States, and that the new agreement would have to result in a much fairer balance of trade between the two countries.

TRUMP REVEALS HIS MISDIRECTION STRATEGY

When reporters complained that it was often hard for them to understand what some of Trump’s seemingly contradictory statements really meant, the president admitted that the confusion he often created was intentional. “Sorry. It’s the way I negotiate,” Trump explained, indicating that he had no intention of changing his methods.

Trump seemed pleased Monday that the G7 meeting had been a success. “We’ve had a lot of fake news where they’re saying, ‘Oh, there’s no unity, there’s no unity.’ There’s total unity. I’m talking about all the seven countries, and it’s been really good,” Trump said while standing alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel before the two met for private talks. The G7 meeting also afforded Trump the opportunity to meet privately on the sidelines with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the leader of the lone Asian member of the exclusive G7 club, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Part of the reason this G7 was more successful than last year’s was a conscious effort made by Macron to make Trump feel welcome, including hosting a previously unannounced private luncheon for the American president and his wife shortly after their arrival in France.

AN UNANNOUNCED GUEST FROM IRAN

Macron had his own personal agenda for the G7 meeting, above and beyond the usual discussions about global trade and diplomacy. His agenda included a push for an international initiative to deal with the latest global environmental crisis, an outbreak of forest fires burning up huge swaths of the Amazon rainforest which plays a major role in stabilizing the global ecology. Macron also invited Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to attend the G7 meeting as an observer, in an effort to find a way to repair the broken 2015 Iran nuclear deal and end the dangerous escalation in tensions between US and Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf.

Macron was careful to give Trump advance warning of his intentions, permitting Trump to decide for himself whether he wanted to meet with Zarif to discuss the US-Iran dispute, or to attend a scheduled G7 meeting on climate change issues. In both cases, Trump decided to take a pass, but did not seem to resent Macron’s matchmaking efforts.

At a joint press conference with Macron on Monday to mark the end of the G7 meeting, Trump explained why he thought a meeting with the Iranian foreign minister without any progress on renegotiating the 2015 nuclear deal would be premature. “I think it’s too soon to meet, I didn’t want to meet,” Trump said.

But in response to Macron’s expressed interest in setting up a face-to-face meeting between Trump and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, Trump said, “It’s truly going to be time to meet with Iran” soon. Trump sought to reassure Iran’s leaders that the primary US goal was to settle their disputes over Iran’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs through a re-negotiation and tightening of the 2015 agreement, rather than by trying to instigate regime change, which Trump’s current national security advisor, John Bolton, had suggested publicly many times before he assumed that post.

Trump rejected the suggestion raised earlier by Macron that the US would agree to give Iran “financial compensation” for the losses Iran had suffered due to the renewed US sanctions on its oil exports. He again condemned President Barack Obama for agreeing to release up to $150 billion worth of frozen Iranian assets as part of the 2015 nuclear deal. He also decried the planeloads of more than $1 billion in cash which was the ransom paid to free US citizens whom Iran had been holding in its jails on bogus charges of espionage.

WHY TRUMP WANTS PUTIN INSIDE THE G7 TENT

Trump also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “outsmarted” Obama by talking him out of carrying out his threat to punish Putin’s ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, for using outlawed chemical weapons to kill hundreds of Syrian civilians, including women and children living in rebel-held areas during the Syrian civil war. Trump said that because Putin recognized signs of Obama’s weakness, he was emboldened to order the invasion of Crimea, which was, under international law, Ukrainian territory, by out-of-uniform Russian troops, who were referred to sarcastically as “little green men.”

When Putin then announced Russia’s formal annexation of the Crimea, which had long served as the strategically important base for Russia’s Mediterranean naval fleet, Obama’s response was a slap on the wrist, consisting of the imposition of a few sanctions on the Russian economy and Russia’s expulsion from membership in the exclusive diplomatic club that had previously been known as the G8.

Trump argued over the weekend in Biarritz that it no longer served any purpose to exclude Putin from the G7 meetings. The sanctions and the expulsions imposed in 2014 certainly hadn’t persuaded Putin to change his policies vis-a-vis Ukraine, Iran, the increasing Russian military threat to its other Eastern European neighbors, and Russia’s generally obstructionist role in trouble-spots around the world. Trump said at the concluding press conference that he realized that his call to invite Putin to rejoin the G7 would give his political enemies at home fresh ammunition to accuse him of undue favoritism for the Russian dictator. Nevertheless, Trump argued it would be much better for the G7 to invite Putin to make his case and air Russia’s grievances as part of their policy-making dialogue rather than having to deal later with Russian aggression because Putin felt that his country’s rightful concerns had been ignored.

Trump said he wasn’t sure that Putin would accept such an invitation at this point, five years after he had been expelled from the G8 meetings and his country was branded as an international outlaw for having seized Crimea, but insisted he was suggesting that Putin be invited to the next year’s G7 meeting because it’s the right thing to do. “I don’t do things for political reasons,” Trump said. “I’m only thinking about the world and I’m thinking about this country … I think it would be better to have Russia inside the tent than outside the tent.”

Trump then said he was looking forward to next year’s G7 meeting because it would be his turn as the American president to serve as the host. Trump said he already started preparations by dispatching teams of experts to evaluate up to a dozen potential sites for the meeting across the country. He said that the initial finding was that Trump’s own Doral country club in Miami offered the most advantages for hosting the meeting, including spacious conference rooms, large grounds, separate luxury housing for each of the visiting delegations and close proximity to a major international airport.

Trump bristled at a reporter’s suggestion that he was suggesting the Doral because he would personally profit from its selection. Trump then declared that since becoming president, he was no longer interested in making money for himself, but rather in making the right decisions for his country. Rejecting accusations that Trump has been illegally exploiting the presidency for personal gain, he declared that the business opportunities and potential deals he has given up since entering the White House have cost him between $3 billion and $5 billion dollars, but that he doesn’t care because the welfare of the country is more important to him.

TRUMP THE PROMISE KEEPER

Trump still sees himself as an agent for the working-class American voters who were the key to one of the greatest political upsets in American history – his 2016 electoral victory. He remains determined as president to keep the promises he made to those voters despite the often-fierce resistance of his Democrat opponents and their allies in the mainstream media.

They have always been quick to accuse Trump, on the basis of hotly disputed evidence, of racist, Islamophobic and anti-immigrant motives in his efforts to ban immigration from terrorism-infested countries. They used every means possible, including provoking a partial federal government shutdown, to block the funding Trump sought to complete the building of a security fence to stem the rising tide of illegal immigrants from Central America storming the southern border. Foreign policy experts from both parties predicted dire consequences when Trump recognized Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy there, and when, over European protests, Trump walked away from the flawed 2015 Iran nuclear treaty and re-imposed tough US sanctions on Iran’s oil-export-based economy.

Many of Trump’s supporters in his own Republican party, and even some voices within his own administration, criticized his tactic of raising tariffs on imported goods, such as steel and aluminum, when he thought that they posed an unfair competitive threat to domestic US producers, and ultimately national security.

But by far the most ambitious objective in Trump’s fair-trade agenda has been his effort to force long overdue reforms in China’s unfair trading policies. Yet while Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexico did succeed in forcing it to agree to his non-trade related immigration demands, as did separate tariff threats which resulted in a renegotiation of the NAFTA treaty with Canada and Mexico, China has resisted Trump’s tariffs and retaliated in kind against US exports, while cutting back on its annual purchases of US grains, with the intention of hurting Trump politically with his supporters in America’s agricultural heartland.

CHINA THWARTS TRUMP’S EXPECTATIONS FOR A QUICK TRADE DEAL

Trump had long claimed that China was far more susceptible to American tariffs on its exports than American exporters were, because of the sheer size of the annual trade imbalance between the two countries. He believed that once he had proven that he was serious by imposing modest tariffs on a small portion of Chinese exports, they would quickly agree to a deal that would be to the financial benefit of both countries.

At first, Trump’s strategy seemed to be working. After a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump suspended the imposition of another round of tariffs in return for Xi’s agreement to launch a new round of expedited negotiations to resolve the remaining trade issues. But on the eve of an expected agreement in May that would have ended the tariff war, China pulled back by reneging on several key concessions its negotiators had already agreed to, prompting Trump to impose the tariffs he had suspended at the beginning of the year. The escalation of the tariff war resumed and reached a kind of climax last week, with each side announcing tariffs on virtually all of the other country’s remaining untaxed exports.

Initially, Trump had claimed that the damage to the US economy due to the Chinese exports was negligible, because China had devalued its currency to help shield its American customers from any retail price increases on Chinese imports, and because Trump had redirected some of the additional tariffs the US collected to compensate American farmers for their lost grain sales to China.

REAL COSTS TO THE AMERICAN ECONOMY

However, after the tariff war resumed and rapidly escalated this summer, it became obvious that the US economy was suffering some loss of momentum due to the uncertainty created in global markets by the continuing trade war, even though China was paying a much higher price in lost jobs, factory orders and foreign investment. Trump said publicly that China’s leaders had reneged because they calculated that continuing the tariff war would damage the US economy sufficiently to cause Trump to lose his 2020 re-election bid, and that China expected the new Democrat president to drop Trump’s demands for reforms to its unfair trading practices.

Trump understands the stakes of the political gamble he is taking on the ability of the American economy to withstand the drag of Chinese tariffs, and remain vibrant and strong enough to maintain the support of American consumers and workers for Trump’s policies through Election Day 2020.

Last week, in front of reporters, Trump made a biblical reference to the political courage he displayed in keeping up the pressure on China. Looking up toward the sky, Trump called himself “the chosen one. Somebody had to do it. So I’m taking on China,” by demanding an end to its previously tolerated trade abuses that cost millions of American workers their livelihoods over the past three decades.

Trump denied that he should be held primarily responsible for the pain the American economy is now suffering due to the tariff war with China. “Somebody said it is Trump’s trade war. This isn’t my trade war,” Trump told reporters. “This is a trade war that should have taken place a long time ago by a lot of other presidents.”

FALSE MESSIAH ACCUSATIONS

The anti-Trump media, as usual, exaggerated the significance of Trump’s theatrical declaration as implying that he is on a Messianic mission to take on China over its trading abuses. Trump savaged the media for promoting that extreme interpretation of his words. He said, “Let me tell you, you know exactly what I meant. It was sarcasm. It was joking. We were all smiling. And [phrasing] the question like that is just fake news.”

Trump later tweeted, “When I looked up to the sky and jokingly said ‘I am the chosen one,’ at a press conference two days ago, referring to taking on trade with China, little did I realize that the media would claim that I had a ‘Messiah complex.’”

But Trump was dead serious when he tweeted Friday morning, before departing to the G7 meeting, that he was “ordering” US companies dependent on supply chains in China to start looking for “alternative suppliers.”

When later asked what gave him the authority to “order” US companies to comply with that request, Trump cited the provisions of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act passed by Congress in 1977, which gives the president the power to issue such orders to commercial enterprises during declared national emergencies. But Trump did say that he has no intention of declaring a national emergency now due to the trade war with China.

Trump and his economic spokesman, Larry Kudlow, say they hope that negotiations scheduled with Chinese trade representatives in September will go forward and achieve progress toward an agreement to end the tariff war.

FINDING ALTERNATIVES TO CHINESE SUPPLIERS IS NOT EASY

Even before Trump’s “order” for American companies to seek supply chain alternatives, that process was already well underway.

Large American electronics and computer manufacturers, including Apple, HP, Dell, Microsoft, Amazon and others, have been shifting as much of their production out of China as possible, but have encountered some difficulty in relocating to other nearby low-wage countries, such as Vietnam, which lack the massive industrial infrastructure and skilled labor force that China has built up over the past two decades.

It will also take time for companies that want to build their replacement supply chains in the United States because so much of that infrastructure which this country once had has disappeared, as have the skilled workers who used to work in those factories.

TRUMP STEPS UP PRESSURE ON FED CHAIRMAN

Trump also continued with his running criticism of Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell, who did not indicate a clear willingness to continue cutting interest rates beyond the quarter point reduction that the Fed announced last month.

At the annual economic conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, last week, Powell had said that the uncertain trade environment Trump created for the US economy is an unprecedented “new challenge” for the Federal Reserve, but was not specific as to how the Fed would be likely to react.

Theoretically, even though the president appoints the Federal Reserve chairman, the Fed’s policy decisions are supposed to be politically independent, with the chairman reporting periodically to Congress on the success of its mandate to oversee and stabilize the US financial system and promote economic growth. Trump has publicly blamed Powell’s decision to raise the Fed’s interest rate benchmark last December by a quarter-point, despite clear signs that the economy was already stuttering, for the drop in GDP growth this year to 2% from 3% last year.

Trump declared on Friday, “I’m not happy with Jay Powell. I don’t think he’s doing a good job at all. I don’t think he’s much of a chess player, but I’ve got him, so, you know, that’s what I have.” When reporters asked him directly whether he wanted Powell to resign, Trump said, “Let me put it this way – if he did, I wouldn’t stop him.”

However, the newly released minutes of last month’s meeting of the Fed’s governing Open Market Committee revealed a sharp split among its members over whether last month’s modest quarter-point interest rate reduction was really needed. The apparent lack of a consensus within the Fed on the right direction for interest rates could help explain Fed Chairman Powell’s continued resistance to Trump’s public demands for bigger rate cuts immediately.

EXPECTING DISCORD

Before his departure to France, Trump did not reveal any outward signs of his reported reluctance to attend a G7 meeting at which he could expect little support or cooperation with his views. Most of the European leaders present fundamentally disagree with Trump’s environmental policies and his rejection of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Some who are members of NATO also continue to resist Trump’s demands that they meet their treaty commitment to spend at least 2% of their nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to maintain their military readiness and an effective common defense.

At the end of last year’s G7 summit meeting in Canada, Trump openly clashed with his host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, flying home without signing the traditional closing statement reflecting the consensus that the G7 leaders supposedly had reached.

This year’s G7 host, French President Emmanuel Macron, tried to lower expectations by announcing in advance that there would be no comprehensive G7 policy communique issued at the end of this meeting. Before his departure, Trump said that despite reports to the contrary, the world leaders he would meet in France are “friends of mine – for the most part.”

Yet Trump also criticized Macron for announcing the imposition of a new digital services tax on the operations in France of American online companies, such as Facebook and Google. While Trump admitted that he has his own complaints about the way those firms treated his 2016 presidential campaign, he still considers them to be “great American companies” that France has no right to tax. Trump warned that if France went ahead and taxed them anyway, “we’ll be taxing their wine or doing something else,” a declaration which French officials received with consternation.

While his personal relationship with French President Macron has always been double-edged, given their sharp policy differences, Trump was clearly eager for the opportunity to meet privately at the G7 with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and with the new pro-Brexit British prime minister, Boris Johnson, with whom he is in more agreement on key policy issues, and who offer him a friendlier personal relationship.

While other global issues were discussed, the far-reaching implications of the ongoing US trade war with China were never far from the minds of the G7 participants.

BROAD SUPPORT FOR TRUMP’S STAND AGAINST CHINA

Despite Trump’s rare admission to entertaining “second thoughts” about the trade war with China, it is a position for which he enjoys a lot of quiet support from politicians and diplomats who profoundly disagree with the way Trump governs and most of his other policies.

While opinion polls show Trump’s tariff policies have been broadly unpopular with the American people, the tariffs on China are a notable exception to that rule. Most Americans have long been aware of the considerable damage that unfair Chinese trade policies have inflicted on the US economy, and that American workers in particular have suffered for the cheap prices of the Chinese-made consumer goods which dominate the shelves at Walmart.

Other countries around the world have also suffered from Chinese trade abuses, and while Trump is deeply unpopular with most of America’s foreign allies, in this instance they are quietly rooting for him to succeed in forcing China to begin playing by the rules of international fair trade.

Even some Democrat leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, support Trump’s efforts to keep the pressure on China, while at the same time trying to downplay the obvious success of Trump’s other economic policies for fear that they will lead voters to re-elect him next year as long as the US economy remains strong.

This is why the reporting of the anti-Trump media has been so ambivalent about his tariff war with China. On the one hand, the media has been playing up the mostly Democrat predictions of an increasing chance for a recession next year, especially if China continues to resist Trump’s calls for a deal to end the tariff war before the 2020 election.

AN ECONOMY WHICH REMAINS STRONG

On the other hand, the media cannot completely ignore continued signs of a healthy and growing US economy. While the pace of international trade as a whole is slowing down, and there are growing signs of economic trouble in Europe, the US is clearly the strongest of the large free market economies. Increased consumer confidence and spending, fueled by record low unemployment rates and rising wages, are keeping the US domestic economy strong despite a slowdown in domestic business investment due to the general uncertainty in international and financial markets.

Democrats have sought to minimize the tangible benefits that Trump’s economic policies have yielded for most US consumers, while talking up any available signs of a looming recession and economic disruption due to the tariff war with China,

At the same time, President Trump sought to reassure US consumers that the economy remains strong. Trump is determined to do whatever he must to keep the economy growing through next year, overcoming the drag from the tariff war from China by demanding that the Federal Reserve cut interest rates further, and publicly discussing a possible second round of federal tax cuts designed primarily to benefit middle income families and lower income wage earners, as well as to stimulate lagging business investment.

Trump has delayed the implementation of the latest round of tariffs he had announced on some Chinese consumer goods to minimize their impact on the December retail selling season, whose success is vital to the profitability of many American businesses. Trump and his advisors are closely watching the mixed signals indicating that growth in the manufacturing and housing sectors has been lagging behind the robust growth of the labor market and consumer sales.

WHAT IS A YIELD CURVE INVERSION?

Fears in global markets over a worldwide slowdown in growth and the uncertainties surrounding the US-China tariff war have led to instability in commodity prices, wild price gyrations in the stock markets and a foreign investor flight to the relative safety of long-term US Treasury notes. This has led to a potentially worrying sign that economists call an inversion of the interest rate yield curve. In plain English, this means that short-term one- and two-year term US government securities are now paying slightly higher interest rates than 10-year and 30-year notes, which is the reverse of normal conditions, and sometimes taken as a sign of a lack of investor confidence in short-term economic prospects.

In this case, the inversion is likely due to the investor flight to safety which has created an increased demand for US Treasury long-term notes, driving their market prices up, and their effective interest yields down. Normally, an inverted yield curve is of only technical interest to economists. Inversions have preceded some, but not all recessions in the past, and current financial market conditions are so unsettled due to the tariff war that most economists concede that the significance of the current slight inversions is difficult to interpret. But the anti-Trump media has been playing up the slightest inversions to scare consumers into believing that a Trump-induced recession may be lurking just around the corner.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHINESE TRADING ABUSES

American companies and labor unions have been complaining bitterly about China’s unfair trading practices since US human rights-based restrictions on trade with China were relaxed by President Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s. China’s abuses include currency manipulation, dumping exports in American markets at below-cost prices, erecting non-tariff barriers to US companies trying to enter China’s domestic market, forcing American businesses to share their proprietary technology with their Chinese business partners, and wholesale theft of American intellectual property.

Previous administrations refused to pressure China to end these abuses, in part because US businesses which were saving a fortune in labor costs by outsourcing their production to China used their political influence in Washington to prevent any serious effort to force China to reform.

As a result, China was able to gut much of America’s industrial base, forcing the closure of thousands of US factories and creating a mammoth $500 billion annual trade surplus with the US Since China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001, it has destroyed the good-paying lifelong jobs of an estimated 3.4 million American industrial workers. They were told by Republican and Democrat political leaders alike that their livelihoods had been sacrificed for the greater good of the US-supported global trading economy.

HOW OBAMA MADE IT WORSE

Conventional government-subsidized job retraining programs and temporary unemployment benefits proved inadequate to meet their needs. The millions of replacement jobs that President Obama promised would be created with generous government subsidies for new, high-tech green energy companies mostly failed to materialize.

The Great Recession of 2008 robbed millions of already struggling middle-class families of the life savings they had tied up in their homes. Even subsistence level jobs throughout the economy rapidly dried up.

The politicians in Washington responded by bailing out Wall Street and the banks that had grown “too big to fail” with taxpayer dollars, while millions of hard-working American families were left to face financial ruin, homelessness and despair alone.

The Obama-era economic recovery proved to be painfully slow. Economic inequality increased. The elite chosen few, including the politically well-connected and the rich, got richer, with little help trickling down to the families that had lost the most.

BEHIND THE 2016 US VOTER REVOLT

No wonder former Democrat working class voters in Rust Belt states rebelled at the ballot box in 2016 by voting for Trump – he understood their outrage at having been betrayed by their elected leaders. He promised to be their voice in Washington, by demanding that China stop undermining the American economy and by taking action to bring some of the good jobs that America was still losing to China and other foreign countries.

In April 2018, after Trump’s tax cuts and federal regulation cutbacks had revived job growth and reinvigorated the US economy, Trump announced his imposition of the first round of tariffs intended to persuade China to end its unfair trading practices.

2020 PROSPECTS

It is clear that Democrats have still not fully absorbed the lessons of their defeat in that election. By embracing an openly socialist and minority interest-based agenda, Democrats continue to actively work against the economic interest and traditional values of blue-collar workers in the heartland of America who used to be a large part of their loyal voter base. They were alienated in 2016 when Hillary Clinton publicly condemned them as “irredeemable,” bigoted “deplorables.” But instead of trying to win back these lost voters, Democrats are compounding their alienation by embracing the socialist agenda of Mrs. Clinton’s main competitor for the 2016 nomination, Senator Bernie Sanders, and catering to the liberal special interest and minority groups which have successfully hijacked and radicalized the national Democrat policy agenda.

Trump, on the other hand, is campaigning on his solid record of accomplishment since taking office, despite the Democrat strategy of mindless resistance and determined attempts to obstruct all of his policy initiatives, both in Congress and through the federal court challenges. Most recently, Trump has sought to expose the new Democrat agenda as being opposed to the tradition of patriotic pride in the American values of freedom and democracy and against the concept of pursuing the American dream of personal success through hard work and the opportunities presented by a healthy free market economy.

But the issue which seems most likely to dominate the 2020 election campaign is the outcome of Trump’s trade battle with China, and the related ability of the US economy to maintain its robust growth. The greatest threats to Trump’s re-election prospects now appear to be the uncertainty which has slowed the pace of business investment, as well as overly pessimistic Democrat predictions of a looming recession intended to shake the confidence of the independent swing voters who support Trump’s policies much more than his deliberately disruptive governing style.