Our so-called president is teaching Americans it’s OK to be a bigot!

❝ It’s easy to find anecdotal evidence that America has grown more reactive, coarser, and less tolerant of outsiders since the 2016 presidential election.

Last week, congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body-slammed a reporter in response to a question about health care. Then he won a special election. Everyday Trumpisms like “Sad!” and “Loser!” seep deeper into conversations. Politicians become more brazen and crass in their dismissal of facts that don’t suit their worldview. And then there are hate-fueled crimes against Muslims and other minorities, like Friday’s deadly attack on a Portland train.

Empirically, though, a shift is much harder to pin down. But some preliminary evidence is starting to emerge that suggests America is becoming a more hostile place for outsiders.

❝ The most recent: A working paper in NBER wondered if Trump’s election acted as a validation of anti-immigrant sentiment. That if you could become president while stoking xenophobia — building walls, restricting immigration, trumpeting “America first,” etc. — would that make xenophobia more socially acceptable?

And it turns out the answer is yes: More participants in the study became willing to openly donate money to an anti-immigrant organization after the election. (Before the election, too, more participants were more willing to openly donate if they were told Trump’s victory was assured in their state.)

RTFA. A preliminary study awaiting publication and peer review. Still, we’re stuck with four years of ethical corruption, fake news, agitprop substituted for fact – and bigotry ultimately used to justify suppression of rights long accepted as especially “American”.

Trump affects America’s tourist business the way we expected


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❝ Trump Tower, in midtown Manhattan, has become a modern-day Mount Vernon. Tourists have long visited George Washington’s homestead. Now they venture through Trump Tower’s brass doors to ogle the decor—“it’s so gold,” said a German teenager standing near the lobby’s waterfall on a recent afternoon—or buy souvenirs. The Choi family, visiting from South Korea, wandered the marble expanse with their new “Make America Great” hats (three for $50).

❝ The question for America’s hoteliers and airlines is whether such visitors are just anomalies. A strong dollar is one reason for foreigners to avoid visiting America. Donald Trump may prove another, suggests a growing collection of data. Yet measuring the precise impact of Mr Trump’s presidency on travel is difficult. In addition to the currency effect, many trips currently being taken to America were booked before his election. Marriott, a big hotel company, reported an overall increase, compared with a year earlier, in foreign bookings in America in February.

But Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s boss, has voiced concern about a potential slump in tourism. In February, ForwardKeys, a travel-data firm, reported that in the week after Mr Trump first tried to ban travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, international bookings dropped by 6.5% against the same period in 2016. Hopper, a travel app, found that average daily searches for flights to America have declined in 99 countries since Mr Trump tried to issue his travel ban, compared with the last weeks of Barack Obama’s term. Russia is one of the few places where demand has risen…Tourism Economics, a forecaster, expects 2 million fewer foreign visits to America this year, a 1% drop from 2016. Without Mr Trump it had expected a 3% jump…

❝ The industry has been here before. International tourism in America slumped by around 3% each year from 2000 to 2006. Most analysts blame not only the attacks of 2001 but stricter visa rules and anti-American sentiment abroad. Countries that had the dimmest view of America, according to surveys during that period, tended to see drops in travellers there, says Adam Sacks of Tourism Economics. “We are facing a potential rerun,” he says…

I’m not surprised. Are you? I expect the most insular, if not xenophobic of Trump voters will think the question unimportant. Some people hate realtors. Some people hate travel agents. Usually for not very well thought-out reasons.

Ain’t any Trump Bump in tourism!

❝ TRUMP Tower, in midtown Manhattan, has become a modern-day Mount Vernon. Tourists have long visited George Washington’s homestead. Now they venture through Trump Tower’s brass doors to ogle the decor—“it’s so gold,” said a German teenager standing near the lobby’s waterfall on a recent afternoon—or buy souvenirs. The Choi family, visiting from South Korea, wandered the marble expanse with their new “Make America Great” hats (three for $50).

The question for America’s hoteliers and airlines is whether such visitors are just anomalies. A strong dollar is one reason for foreigners to avoid visiting America. Donald Trump may prove another, suggests a growing collection of data. Yet measuring the precise impact of Mr Trump’s presidency on travel is difficult. In addition to the currency effect, many trips currently being taken to America were booked before his election. Marriott, a big hotel company, reported an overall increase, compared with a year earlier, in foreign bookings in America in February.

❝ But Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s boss, has voiced concern about a potential slump in tourism. In February, ForwardKeys, a travel-data firm, reported that in the week after Mr Trump first tried to ban travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, international bookings dropped by 6.5% against the same period in 2016. Hopper, a travel app, found that average daily searches for flights to America have declined in 99 countries since Mr Trump tried to issue his travel ban, compared with the last weeks of Barack Obama’s term. Russia is one of the few places where demand has risen…Tourism Economics, a forecaster, expects 2m fewer foreign visits to America this year, a 1% drop from 2016. Without Mr Trump it had expected a 3% jump…

America’s main tourism lobby group is now urging Mr Trump, who presumably has some sympathy with other hoteliers, to emphasise that the country continues to welcome foreign visitors despite all the new security measures. The tourism agency for New York city, NYC & Company, is trying to counteract negative rhetoric from Washington, DC with advertisements in Britain, Germany, Mexico and Spain.

A bit more detail in the article. I wouldn’t expect any of this to be unexpected. George W gave us a similar present. And he was less boorish, less of an Ugly American.

Our Travel Industry Worries Over a ‘Lost Decade’ Under Trump


Click to enlargeAnadolu Agency/Getty Images

Keeping an eye on peaceful protestors, American style

❝ Like many Washington lobby groups, the U.S. Travel Association was quick to congratulate the new president on his victory last November…

But almost immediately, things started to go sideways. A steady drumbeat of news and policy proclamations seemed likely to damage America’s $250-billion travel industry and its roughly 15 million U.S. employees.

❝ Initial contacts between Trump and leaders of Australia, Germany, Mexico, and China didn’t go well, resulting in negative publicity in countries that send lots of travelers to America. Then came the majority Muslim nation travel bans, with protests and news coverage that made for a global public relations disaster…

Meanwhile, the White House has instituted an airline cabin restriction on electronic devices for people flying from airports in eight nations. And last week, a U.S. State Department policy was revealed that mandates extra vetting of visa applicants in nations where U.S.-bound travelers must apply for one. This includes inspection of social media accounts for some and is likely to make it more difficult for millions of people to travel to America…

❝ So for the USTA’s chief executive officer, Roger Dow, and the industry he represents, what looked like the beginning of a beautiful friendship became in just two months something bordering on adversarial. Even America’s closest ally and next-door neighbor is wavering on sending its kids across the border for a field trip…

The new visa rules may have been the last straw for the USTA. Last week, Dow’s group issued an almost plaintive statement: “Mr. President, please tell the world that while we’re closed to terror, we’re open for business. Imbalanced communication is especially susceptible to being ‘lost in translation’ — so let’s work together to inform our friends and neighbors, who could benefit from reassurance, not just who is no longer welcome here, but who remains invited.”

RTFA for a deeper understanding of the mediocrity and ignorance delivered upon businesses other than real estate developers by our new so-called president.

Republicans are now committed to Total War – on American democracy

❝ The election is just five days away, and something truly frightening is happening, something with far-reaching implications for the immediate future of American politics. Republicans, led by Donald Trump but by no means limited to him, are engaging in kind of termite-level assault on American democracy, one that looks on the surface as though it’s just aimed at Hillary Clinton, but in fact is undermining our entire system…

Consider these recent developments:

❝ There appears to be a war going on inside the FBI, and from what we can tell, a group of rogue agents, mostly in New York, may be in such a fervor to destroy Hillary Clinton that they may be aggressively leaking damaging innuendo to the press against her in the waning days of the campaign. They succeeded in their apparent goal of making FBI director James Comey a tool of their campaign — and the basis for their investigation is an anti-Clinton book written under the auspices of an organization of which the CEO of the Trump campaign is co-founder and chairman. Pro-Trump FBI agents now seem to be coordinating with Trump surrogates to do maximal possible damage to Clinton…

High-ranking Republican officeholders are now suggesting that they may impeach Clinton as soon as she takes office. These are not just backbench nutbars of the Louie Gohmert variety, but people with genuine power, including Ron Johnson, the senator from Wisconsin, Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and veteran legislators like James Sensenbrenner and Peter King. The message is being echoed by top Trump surrogates like Rudy Giuliani…

There is a growing movement among Republicans in the Senate to simply refuse to approve any nominee appointed by a Democratic president to the Supreme Court, leaving open any and all vacancies until a Republican can be elected to fill them.

State and local Republican officials are engaged in widespread and systematic efforts to suppress the votes of African-Americans and other groups likely to vote disproportionately Democratic; in many cases officials have been ordered by courts to stop their suppression efforts and they have simply ignored the court orders.

❝ And please, spare me any explanations for this phenomenon that rely on how “divided” Americans are. Are we divided? Sure. But there’s only one party that is so vigorously undermining core democratic institutions in this way. You may not like what Democrats stand for, but they aren’t engaging in widespread official vote suppression, chanting that should their candidate win her opponent should be tossed in jail, promising to prevent any Republican president from filling vacancies on the Supreme Court, suggesting that they’ll try to impeach their opponent as soon as he takes office, cheering when a hostile foreign power hacks into American electronic systems, and trying to use the FBI to win the election.

Only one party is doing all of that. And we should all be very worried about what Republicans will do after November 8, whether they win or lose.

RTFA if you’re not already fully aware of the details.

Regardless, understand that this election and the ideology dedicated to replacing democracy with autocracy, corporate plutocrats profiting, populist mob rule utilized as a tactic – ain’t new and will continue beyond November 8th.

The Fascism of the Affluent – by Joschka Fischer

There is an alarming political shift to the right occurring on both sides of the Atlantic, linked to the growing force of openly chauvinist political parties and figures: Donald Trump in the United States, Marine Le Pen in France. Other names could be added to the list: Hungary’s prime minister, Victor Orbán, who advocates “illiberal democracy,” or Jarosław Kaczyński and his quasi-authoritarian Law and Justice party, which now rules Poland.

Nationalistic, xenophobic political parties had been on the rise in many European Union member states long before Syrian refugees first arrived in appreciable numbers. There has been Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, the Vlaams Blok (succeeded by today’s Vlaams Belang) in Belgium, the Freedom Party of Austria, the Sweden Democrats, the Finns Party, and the Danish People’s Party, to name just a few.

The reasons for such parties’ rise and success vary greatly at the national level. But their basic positions are similar. All of them are raging against the “system,” the “political establishment,” and the EU. Worse, they are not just xenophobic (and, in particular, Islamophobic); they also more or less unashamedly embrace an ethnic definition of the nation. The political community is not a product of its citizens’ commitment to a common constitutional and legal order; instead, as in the 1930s, membership in the nation is derived from common descent and religion…

First and foremost, there is fear – and apparently a great deal of it. It is a fear based on the instinctive realization that the “White Man’s World” – a lived reality assumed by its beneficiaries as a matter of course – is in terminal decline, both globally and in the societies of the West. And migration is the issue that brings that prognosis home (not just metaphorically) to today’s angst-inspired nationalists.

RTFA. Much of Fischer’s article applies equally well to the United States. Xenophobia with the added extremism of an economic and political devotion to racism unmatched outside apartheid nations.

Beggar thy currency or thy self – says the good doctor El-Erian?

guerra-cambiaria

Not many countries nowadays seek a strong exchange rate; a few, including systemically important ones, are already actively weakening their currencies. Yet, because an exchange rate is a relative price, all currencies cannot weaken simultaneously. How the world resolves this basic inconsistency over the next few years will have a major impact on prospects for growth, employment, income distribution, and the functioning of the global economy.

Japan is the latest country to say enough is enough. Having seen its currency appreciate dramatically in recent years, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s new government is taking steps to alter the country’s exchange-rate dynamic – and is succeeding. In just over two months, the yen has weakened by more than 10% against the dollar and close to 20% against the euro.

European leaders have already expressed reservations about Japan’s moves. The US auto industry is up in arms. And, a few days ago, Jens Weidmann, the president of the Bundesbank, publicly warned that the world risks a harmful and ultimately futile round of competitive exchange-rate depreciations – or, more bluntly, a “currency war”…

Of course, Japan is not the first country to go down this path. Several advanced and emerging economies preceded it, and I suspect that quite a few will follow it…

One need not be an economist to figure out that, while all currencies can (and do) depreciate against something else (like gold, land, and other real assets), by definition they cannot all weaken against each other. In order for some currencies to depreciate, others must appreciate. Here is where things get interesting, complex, and potentially dangerous…

None of this is unprecedented, and there is a lot of scholarship demonstrating why such beggar-thy-neighbor approaches result in bad collective outcomes. Indeed, multilateral agreements are in place to minimize this risk, including at the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization…

Unlike the old days, the threat of currency wars is not directly related to trade imbalances and balance-of-payments crises. Rather, an important driver is major central banks’ pursuit of experimental measures in order to compensate for policy inadequacies and political dysfunction elsewhere…

The risk is that the phenomenon leads to widespread disruptions, as increasingly difficult national policy challenges stoke regional tensions and the multilateral system proves unable to reconcile imbalances safely. If policymakers are not careful – and lucky – the magnitude of this risk will increase significantly in the years ahead.

Meanwhile, the hypocrisy of nations like the United States and Japan – manipulating their own currencies counter to each other’s national interests becomes a symphony of xenophobia orchestrated by politicians and mass media, each less interested in truth than enhancing power and profit for the interests they serve. And that ain’t you and me.

Internally, they make legitimate points about liquidity, attempting to nudge the economy into something more than desultory bumps.

For even a broader examination of opinion and analysis on the topic, return to Project Syndicate and wander through their “Currency War Drums” Focal Point.

Asian voters send a message to Republicans


So, when did you realize you need to be Christian to run for office?

The story of Mitt Romney’s loss among Hispanic voters is on the front pages of today’s New York Times and Washington Post. And it should be.

According to exit polls, President Barack Obama won the Hispanic vote by a whopping margin of 71 percent to 27 percent. That’s larger than Obama’s margin against McCain in 2008. Having doubled their share of the total vote since 1996, Hispanics constituted 10 percent of the electorate in 2012. In the next presidential race in 2016, more than three million additional Hispanic citizens will be eligible to vote.

You don’t have to be a statistician to see where this is going. Even Republicans see it, though they don’t know what to do about it. The quandary inevitably leads to discussion of comprehensive immigration reform. Hispanics are for it, Republicans are not. But the alienation of Hispanics, many of whom are culturally conservative, from the Republican Party is both bigger and smaller than the issue of immigration.

For a little perspective, consider the votes of another minority — Asians. Romney won among all voters making more than $100,000 a year by a margin of 54-44. Asian-Americans happen to be the highest-earning group in the U.S., out-earning whites, and they generally place enormous emphasis on family. A perfect fit for Republicans, no?

No. Asians voted for Obama by 73-26; they were more Democratic than Hispanics…

Perhaps the decisive characteristics are not in the Asian and Hispanic communities so much as in the Republican Party. The GOP is overwhelmingly white and insistently, at times militantly, Christian. Democrats, by contrast, are multiracial with a laissez faire attitude toward religion and spirituality. If you were a black-haired Buddhist from Taipei or a brown-skinned Hindu from Bangalore, which party would instinctively seem more comfortable?

Republican exceptions prove the rule. As Shikha Dalmia has pointed out, the two high-profile Indian-Americans in the Republican constellation — Governors Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana — both converted from their traditional eastern faiths to Christianity. It’s unlikely that’s a coincidence.

There is also the problem that polite people avoid identifying: the persistence of a rump of racists in the Republican base and on conservative airwaves. Nothing the party advocates — from walls along the border with Mexico to the “papers please” laws of Arizona and Alabama — is designed to disabuse those conservatives of their racial views or of their belief that the party will tolerate them.

For many years the racial smoke signals worked in Republicans favor. Now Asians, blacks and Hispanics are sending the signals. Blacks vote Democratic 9-1; Asians 3-1; Hispanics almost 3-1. Support for immigration reform will help. But Democrats have a four-decade head start in building and managing multiracial coalitions. Republicans have a lot of catching up to do in a hurry.

I think it unlikely there will be a serious effort to do the catching up addressed in Wilkinson’s article. Lip service. Yes.

How could you expect action on racism, internal and ideological, when the only significant change in the Republican rank-and-file in decades has been the infusion from the Tea Party? Sure, the moneyboys, the Kochs and Rove whispered to leaders who floated to the top like crap in a cesspool to lose overt racists from the public eye. But, the crowd marching around proclaiming their self-identified importance in the Republican Party are still composed of fundamentalist white Christians. Twice in the past few months, here in New Mexico, folks have shuddered over their public activities while flying the Confederate flag.

Anyone expect this crowd to deal with xenophobia and racism? Wait! Let me get my rubber boots on.

Reject Cold War politics opposing Chinese investment in the US

In a rare act of bipartisanship, the United States Congress recently passed legislation to encourage more inward foreign direct investment. Democrats and Republicans agree that FDI, or “insourcing,” is important to US jobs and competitiveness. They are right.

But, even as they propose new measures to court foreign investors, many members of Congress in both parties harbor deep concerns about FDI from China, on both national-security and economic grounds. These concerns are unwarranted, and discriminatory policies to restrict such investment are ill-advised.

Not that I expect good economic sense to make an impression on egregious and out-of-date politicians.

The US government already has adequate controls in place to review and block FDI from all countries, including China, that pose anti-competitive and national-security risks. Investments that clear these controls benefit the US economy in numerous ways and should be welcomed.

Foreign-owned firms in the US account for 5% of private-sector employment, 17% of manufacturing jobs, 21% of exports, 14% of research and development, and 17% of corporate-income taxes…

To be sure, the US remains the world’s leading destination for FDI, accounting for 15% of global flows. But its share is declining, while China…has become the second-largest destination…

An increase in FDI outflows is a priority in China for two reasons. First, China has an understandable interest in diversifying its substantial holdings of foreign-exchange reserves away from low-yielding US Treasuries to real productive assets with higher returns. That is why China established its sovereign-wealth fund, China Investment Corporation, and why CIC decision-makers are seeking more FDI opportunities…

Of course, alongside the potential economic benefits of attracting a much larger share of Chinese FDI, legitimate competitive and national-security concerns do need to be addressed…

We have idiots in Congress who think selling copies of Microsoft Office to Chinese companies is a security threat. Well, maybe it is – to China.

Feeding this perception, some members of Congress are now exhorting CFIUS to block CNOOC’s proposed acquisition of Nexen, a Canadian energy company with holdings in the Gulf of Mexico, until China resolves ongoing disputes with the US over preferential government procurement policies and barriers to FDI by US companies in China. Heeding these calls would be a costly mistake that would undermine the objective, non-discriminatory CFIUS process and encourage Chinese companies to look elsewhere at a time when Chinese FDI is poised to explode and the US economy sorely needs the jobs, capital, and trade benefits that it would bring.

Congress is no stranger to costly mistakes. Our history of imperial arrogance, invading nations on behalf of Big Oil and any year’s White House ignoranus-in-residence, has been consistent for all the decades of the Cold War.

That Cold War continues with China the focus of xenophobic politicians and equally ignorant voters who return these economic Sluggos to office.

Turning down an opportunity for economic growth to spite foreign capital – regardless of nation of origin – is about as self-destructive as it gets. Because those investments are going elsewhere to compete with our economy. A double-edged commercial sword.