He spins like a top, President Donald Trump does. He can get you going one minute, disappoint you the next and leave you wondering whether, in three more minutes, it will be tears or cheers that ultimately await the nation.
Notice, for instance, how he said he was not going to toy with Social Security taxes, which would be oh, so wise, and how he then said he might just shrink payroll taxes in ways dangerous to both the economy and Social Security itself.
Then we have the issue of gun control. President Barack Obama spurred increased guns sales by the millions by threatening gun bans. And Trump? He said there would be no controls and sales dwindled dramatically. And then he said there would be controls, to the displeasure of the National Rifle Association. He then changed his mind again, meaning sales may keep decreasing.
Finally, we had his tough stance on more tariffs on China, actually doing serious harm to the U.S. economy, and then his saying he was going to let up on some goods for a while, making some wonder whether he is going to continue to confront this ever scarier, thoroughly crooked international bully.
To get back to Social Security, understand that, along with Medicare, current revenues aren’t nearly enough to sustain the programs, that they have to rely on trust funds that are essentially words on paper. To pay the way, the government borrows money, increasing deficits that the Congressional Budget Office says could lead to a fiscal crisis down the road if nothing is done.
Decreasing the tax that employers and employees now pay would hasten the day of reckoning even if it helped delay a possible recession until after the 2020 election. Trump has maybe changed his mind again, however, and his budget proposals do include some Medicare efficiencies that could save money.
Moving on, it might seem a contradiction to say that pursuit of new gun laws gives you lots more new guns, but it’s true. And there’s an even bigger contradiction that’s true: the more guns, the less crime. That, at any rate, is how it has mostly worked out since 1993, not necessarily as cause and effect but as a fact to make you wonder why guns dominate so much of our thinking after a dramatic shooting, although even I am not opposed to more background checks.
Obviously, firearms facilitate killing, but we have any number of experts who have argued that cultural issues are mainly at play, such as the late social scientist James Q. Wilson. He observed that people in the U.S. do not just kill others with guns at a higher rate than in England, but also a much higher rate using other means. Something more than guns is clearly at play.
As regards China, we shouldn’t make too much of the president holding back on high tariffs on some China goods until mid-December. These are toys and the like and low Christmas prices just could be at play, some say. Other tough tariffs are going into effect Sept. 1, and sour consequences could be waiting for American consumers. Is there another approach to facing this dangerous, authoritarian competitor? Yes.
What Trump really should do, a number of informed observers say, is join with Europe and other parts of Asia to form a coalition that could work together not just on trade, but digital spying, Chinese aggression against its neighbors, its disregard of international norms and agreements, its theft of intellectual property, its Cold War antics. Alliances count; Trump should get that and he should act on it.
He’s something to watch, this president is, but no more so than Democratic presidential candidates who also hate trade and want to spend the nation into oblivion. Joe Biden, more of a centrist, said China was a buddy and then that it was a challenge while downplaying his son’s financial connections there.
Lots of tops are spinning out there.