Trump’s Corporatism Is Not New

Donald Trump as president is promoting corporatism, if not corporatocracy. It is the same old corporate welfare and corporate socialism, but even greater. He did promise to make America great again. His supporters forgot to ask about the details, though.

He is giving out subsidies and bailouts to particular companies and sectors, which means picking the winners and losers. It doesn’t even follow an ideological pattern, as he has simultaneously criticized wind energy while quietly subsidizing it. On top of that, he is using tariffs and trade war as economic protectionism, more akin to how the old empires used to operate — with about 12 percent of US imports during 2018 having fallen under Trump’s trade protectionism. Nor did Trump eliminate any of the subsidies and tariffs he inherited. He even had the audacity to present adding even more farm subsidies as if they were his own original idea, never before tried.

If a Democratic president did a fraction of this, Republicans would call it communism, although it would be more fair to call it fascism or well down that path. Instead, some supposed “fiscal conservatives” (a meaningless term even at the best of times) are proclaiming Trump’s policies as defending “free trade” (which in turn demonstrates how meaningless that is as well) — not unlike how constitutional conservatives will complain about Democrats for judicial activism and so use that complaint as a justification to vote for Republican politicians who promote their own preferred judicial activism. This psychotic disconnection from reality is impressive, to say the least.

I’m neither for nor against government regulation on principle, and so I’m not critical of Trump for being an economic interventionist — the entire system is the problem from my perspective. But I do like to label things correctly, in order to promote rational and fair debate (such intellectual ideals sound quaint these days). It is dishonest and plain depressing to call Trump’s policies anti-regulatory because he has helped further empower corporate rule within the political system and has attempted to use the US government to enforce US economic might throughout the world. If this is deregulation, I wonder what regulation looks like?

In the end, the rhetoric of neoliberalism always translates as the policies of neoconservatism. Something like NAFTA, for example, was always intended as economic interventionism and corporate protectionism — actual free trade would disallow corporate charters and international trade agreements militarily enforced by imperial-style governments, instead requiring each business to freely determine its own trade relations. It is why the rhetoric of “free trade” always goes hand in hand with trade sanctions, wars of aggression, CIA covert operations, etc — along with the numerous forms of corporate welfare (e.g., natural resources on public lands being sold at below market prices). That is to say it is about the wealthy and powerful maintaining and extending their wealth and power by any means necessary. This form of nationalism is what tends to get ramped up more overtly before major international conflicts, maybe at present indicating the early stages of World War III. I don’t doubt that Trump wants to be a war president with war powers.

Trump doesn’t care about economics, much less the American people. He is a narcissist. It’s a power game to him. He has threatened other countries to do what he wants and when they refused his ego was hurt and so he is retaliating. As president, he now sees the US government and economy as an extension of himself. And he has never experienced real consequences for any action he has taken in his entire life. It’s all a game, until it suddenly becomes real. After everything goes to hell, I wouldn’t mind seeing footage of Trump being pulled out of a hiding hole like Saddam Hussein.

It’s not really about Trump, though. He isn’t doing anything now that Republicans and right-wingers haven’t been supporting and inciting for decades. Trump is simply a version of Ronald Reagan in having began his presidency already in a state of dementia — one might call it late stage Reaganism. Even Trump’s bigotry is simply a more open expression of the dog whistle rhetoric that got so many Republicans elected over American history. Democrat’s have played their role as well with Jimmy Carter’s fiscal policies and anti-labor stance and later Bill Clinton’s corporatist ‘deregulation’ and racist crime bill (a speech about which Clinton gave in front of a KKK memorial with black prisoners chained behind him). Worse still, executive power has been increasing in every administration for decades with full support of Congress, and Barack Obama could have reversed this course but he didn’t and so opened the door for Trump.

This situation has been a long time coming. Trump is simply the fruit of bipartisan corruption and corporatism. This is the American Empire, what it always has been and becoming worse (inverted totalitarianism is what America will likely become, assuming we aren’t already there). The sad state of affairs only stands out for what it is because of the distorting lens of Trump’s personality, his unintentional way of speaking bluntly that almost approximates honesty on occasion. He has revealed what for so long remained hidden in the mainstream mind. But now that we have been forced to see what so many of us didn’t want to see and can’t unsee, what should we do as a society?

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Protectionism was threatening global supply chains before Trump
by Chad Bown

Trump’s Protectionist Con Is Not New: Remembering The Bush Steel Tariff
by Bill Scher

Trump’s Allies Say He Really Wants Free Trade. Fat Chance.
by Ramesh Ponnuru

Trump Is a Protectionist — But Who Is He Protecting?
by Robert A. Blecker

Steel Profits Gain, but Steel Users Pay, under Trump’s Protectionism
by Gary Clyde Hufbauer (PIIE) and Euijin Jung

Trump’s corporate welfare problem
by Timothy P. Carney

Measuring Trump’s 2018 Trade Protection: Five Takeaways
by Chad P. Bown and Eva (Yiwen) Zhang

The High Price of High Tariffs
by Tori K. Whiting

Trump’s Tariffs Grow Government
by Jordan Bruneau

Trump Administration Issues 30% Solar Panel Import Tariff
by Julia Pyper

Trump’s $12 Billion Bailout Is No Remedy for Farmers Caught in Trade War
by Keith Johnson


Protectionist America

I was wondering about protectionism in terms of free trade. So, I did some research.

From what I can tell, the US was founded on and has always been a protectionist country. The reason for this is that the Founding Fathers were fighting against transnationals that were undermining the local industry. There can’t be even a semblance of free trade in a country if the national economy isn’t protected against transnationals monopolizing global markets. Many worshipers of free trade like to point to the Gilded Age of industrialization as an example, but protectionism was going on then as well. Even the great Ronald Reagan was one of the most protectionist presidents.

I don’t understand the complexities of protectionism, but it seems obvious that the American economy grew strong through protectionism. I’m not arguing that protectionism is necessarily good. It seems problematic when combined with the imperial aspirations of the US in the last century (which was the problem early Americans faced with the imperialism of the British protectionist economy). However, like the US, many countries around the world grew strong economies through protectionism.

There are always countries that will use protectionism (that is, until there is a global government to force a single policy on all countries). Any country that doesn’t protect against the protectionist policies of other countries will inevitably be taken advantage of and taken over by foreign entities. Modern economic colonialism is filled with examples of countries economically controlled or manipulated by countries that grew powerful and wealthy through protectionism.

Obviously, there is both good and bad to protectionism. It’s simply a tool that in itself is morally neutral. The reality of our world is that protectionism exists. Fantasizing about a hypothetical free market utopia won’t make it become real. Any country that doesn’t use protectionism is doomed. Protectionism is essentially self-defense. Why wouldn’t a country economically defend itself just as it militarily defends itself? Being economically taken over can be just as bad as being militarily taken over.

One other thing. Many of the pro-capitalist types like to complain about income tax. It’s true there wasn’t always an income tax. Previously, the government relied upon high tariffs on imports.

I don’t know the answer or even fully understand the problem. What I do know is that free trade worshipers are naive. Yes, if you are a person with power and connections seeking personal wealth, free trade is good for you and your associates. However, for most of the rest of the world’s population, free trade will mean getting taken advantage of by people with power and connections.

I’m not saying protectionism is always the answer. I just get tired of the ideologues who righteously put forth simplistic ideals.