The US president may destabilize his own country and the rest of the world in the next 60 days
After a reasonably successful term as president and the loss of an election largely due to the impact of Covid-19 on the economy, Trump is about 60 days away from losing his position. Trump is fighting to continue in office, but he is also taking a number of actions that will harm the United States, make Biden’s presidency difficult in the next few months, and raise political conflicts, making governance more difficult.
Trump’s strategy can be viewed in two ways:
The rational analysis
The short run key is the outcome of the two Senate elections in Georgia. The medium term key is the outcome of the Congressional elections in 2022, and finally in the ultimate prize, the presidential election in 2024. Trump wants to run again; as part of the task of being successful in 2024, he wants to do as much harm to the Biden presidency as he can.
This includes presentation of the real election as being stolen by the Democrats. The second element of the strategy is during his final days to do as much damage as he can to Biden’s ability to govern.
The irrational analysis
Trump is deeply flawed with a mental disease of an extreme narcissistic personality, that sees the whole world as subservient to him. In this view, Trump has little control over what he is doing. He is out to harm those who he perceives have wronged him.
He has no strategic plan, he is like a small child screaming because he cannot have something that he wants.
This article examines some of these actions.
First and most important is the refusal to deal with the pandemic. After a successful program to support rapid development of vaccines, the Trump government has walked away from the problem with horrible results.
The neglect was one of the main issues that caused him to lose the election. Trump has a lot of blood on his hands; by the time the vaccine is widely distributed in the United States, perhaps August 2021, there will be an estimated 500,000 deaths.
A well-organized early program could have reduced this to 100,000 (using the German death rate compared to the American and allowing for the population difference). Trump will have the blood of 400,000 Americans on his hands. He will be haunted.
No misgovernance of this scale has ever been experienced in the United States.
Hurting the economy
Second is the failure to take the steps for the economy to continue to improve over the next year. There are five areas where the Trump administration has acted to hurt the economic recovery. In Trump’s dark mind he is anxious to see Biden fail and is acting in ways that he thinks will achieve such failure.
Here are the five areas:
The Federal Reserve, America’s central bank, had 15 lines of credit that it was managing as part of the Congress-approved actions to handle the pandemic. The Federal Reserve wanted to continue to maintain these credit lines more or less as a precaution during the next year. The Trump administration has refused.
Trump has refused to reach an agreement with the Democrats on continuation of programs to provide funding for unemployed persons. This is leaving tens of millions of persons in dire condition. Many to become homeless and many with insufficient food and limited health care.
Trump is exposed as a desperately cruel man who delights in hurting other people. His niece Mary has made this point in his treatment of his family.
Funding for the government ends in early December, and there is no agreement yet on continuation. If not achieved, the government shuts down. This is a complicated game discussed in a second article.
Trump has refused to support financing of state and local governments in the United States. The states generally are not permitted to run deficits; so when the pandemic struck and revenues declined, many state and local governments have found themselves under immense financial pressure. This will grow worse over the next 18 months, and the failure to provide federal support will have unhappy consequences for the provision of services to ordinary people.
Trump has taken no effective action to manage student debt problems. The burden of student debt falls heavily on the lower half of the income distribution. University education is expensive; the main reason for this is the demand for high salaries of the teaching faculty, the growth of the administrative state within the universities, and the high costs of facilities to attract students.
Much of the debt has been incurred to attend private universities that were largely fraudulent and did not provide the students with the knowledge and quality degrees needed to improve their salaries.
Third, he is trying to manipulate the census to produce low-quality results and disputed estimates that will result in a shift of House seats back to rural areas where the Republicans have more political support.
The Census Bureau is fighting back, claiming it cannot produce the results on the time schedule that Trump ordered. The outcome of this battle will be an important force shaping the American political system over the next decade.
Damaging the environment
Fourth, he is taking steps to increase the degradation of the environment, apparently driven by his desire to be the opposite of Obama and to cater to the backroom demands of the parts of the energy sector.
Apart from removing many regulations that tried to provide protection for air and water quality, he is trying to lease out federal lands in sensitive areas in Alaska on the Arctic ocean. This is unlikely to be successful, but many middle size oil and gas companies will try to gain some benefits from this.
Fifth, Trump will be issuing a lot of pardons to protect many persons that are in danger. Will he sell these pardons? It is hard to believe he will not, since he has never given anything away.
His Trump Foundation was a fraud that the New York authorities forced to close down.
Sixth, he is likely to force the declassification of information that suggests the Russians were not involved in the attempt to influence the 2016 election. This is in fact a beautifully orchestrated operation by the Russian intelligence service to expose American agents high in the Putin regime and surveillance procedures, revealing the extent to which the United States can intercept Russian communications.
Foreign policy and national security
Seventh, Trump is taking a number of foreign policy or national security actions that will certainly make things difficult for Biden. The full extent of such actions is not yet known, but some things are now in the open.
Withdraw most of the United States military forces from Afghanistan. The number of troops remaining is too small to provide protection for the American facilities and to provide training to the Afghan security services.
Cadet bone spurs are bugging out, leaving an unstable mess behind. The Afghan elites will follow closely. Pity the Afghan women whose future is now in the hands of the Taliban. This comes at a terrible time for India, and will destabilize an already shaking South Asia.
It is reported that Trump wants to reduce the security forces the United States maintains in Iraq. When Obama did this, IS, an extremist organization, arose. What will happen now? The United States will be gone, and the battle between Shia and the Sunni involving Iran and Saudi Arabia is all too likely to explode.
Finally, Trump may take some ill-conceived action towards China. For example, taking some actions in support of Taiwan to enrage the Chinese, or pushing the limits in the South China Sea to embarrass the Chinese leadership.
The next 60 days promise severe conflicts in the United States as Trump seeks to destabilize both his own country and the rest of the world.
Forrest Cookson is an economist who has served as the first president of AmCham and has been a consultant for the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.