FAREED ZAKARIA



FAREED ZAKARIA - MY FAVORITE WRITER
NO ONE SAYS IT BETTER OR CLEARER

STEVE BANNON HAS A POINT

Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 - The fire and fury over Michael Wolff’s book has largely centered on the personalities and power struggles within the White House. But behind all of that lies an important political development, one that explains the real rift between President Trump and his former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon. Trump seems to have abandoned populism.

Remember candidate Trump? His signature issue was immigration, on which he promised an unyielding hard line, including a border wall and mass deportations. His “Contract with the American Voter” was brimming with populist measures, from tough actions against China to a trillion-dollar public works program. 

His economic plans focused on goodies for the middle class, from a 35 percent tax cut for middle-class families to deductions for child and elderly care. He called for severe restrictions on lobbying and for term limits on members of Congress.

Trump’s final campaign ad featured images of billionaire financier George Soros, Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet L. Yellen and Goldman Sachs’s chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, darkly narrated by a Trump speech in which he warns against the “global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”

Flash forward to Trump today. There is no wall, and the president now speaks of a “bill of love” that could offer a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants he once promised to deport. His relations with China have been decidedly chummy, as have those with another country he excoriated on the campaign trail, Saudi Arabia. The focus of his economic program has been to return vast sums of money to large corporations. Most of his tax law’s benefits go to those firms and to people in the highest income brackets.

Oh, and these economic policies are being designed and implemented by Blankfein’s former No. 2 at Goldman Sachs, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, and a former Goldman partner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

More so than the personality clashes between Bannon and Jared Kushner, and the gossip about who is up and down in the White House, this is the great divide that developed in the early months of the Trump administration. Bannon must have watched with incredulity as the candidate who campaigned as a fiery outsider against the Republican establishment essentially handed over the reins of his government to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). McConnell is quoted in Wolff’s book as saying, “This president will sign whatever is put in front of him.” Moments after Trump blasted Bannon last week, McConnell’s political team tweeted out a GIF of the majority leader beaming.

Where did Trump’s populism come from in the first place? To answer this question, the book to read is not Wolff’s gossipy confection but Joshua Green’s highly intelligent “Devil’s Bargain.” In it, Green points out that Trump originally had a mish-mash of political views that leaned in no particular direction. But he began going on talk radio and addressing conservative audiences and realized that it was not economics but social and cultural issues such as immigration that fired up crowds. Trump was initially “indifferent to the idea” of a wall, according to Green, but campaign aide Sam Nunberg is quoted as saying that when Trump tried out the idea for the first time at the Iowa Freedom Summit in January 2015, “the place just went nuts.”

Unencumbered by any deep ideology of his own or any ethical qualms — as demonstrated by his embrace of birtherism, for example — Trump was able to adopt these issues far more quickly than his 16 competitors in the Republican primaries. He distinguished himself by taking on the most hard-line positions, thus winning over the GOP base. That, in addition to his colorful, charismatic style, created a bond between him and a new bulwark of the Republican Party, the white working class, that appears, for now, unbreakable.

I don’t agree with many of Bannon’s proposals, but he was surely right in recognizing the populist fury that runs through a large swath of the country. One wonders what will happen to it as time passes and Trump’s voters notice that they have ended up with something quite different than they had imagined. 

During the presidential transition, Bannon told Wolff that the Trump era would be like America in the 1930s, with a massive public works program that would get blue-collar workers back into shipyards, mills and mines. Instead we appear to have a return to the 1920s, an era of unrestrained capitalism, giddy market exuberance, a shrunken state and dramatically rising inequality. Is this what the laid-off steelworker in Ohio voted for?

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group


IRAN HAS THE INGREDIENTS FOR REVOLUTION – BUT A STRONG REGIME TO WARD IT OFF

Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018 - The most enlightening commentary on what is going on in Iran right now was written 162 years ago. In his book on the French Revolution, Alexis de Tocqueville said: “Revolutions are not always brought about by a gradual decline from bad to worse. Nations that have endured patiently and almost unconsciously the most overwhelming oppression, often burst into rebellion against the yoke the moment it begins to grow lighter. The regime which is destroyed by a revolution is almost always an improvement on its immediate predecessor, and experience teaches that the most critical moment for bad governments is the one which witnesses their first steps toward reform.”

Why are these protests taking place in Iran and not in, say, North Korea? This is the question that Tocqueville answers for us.

The deeply antagonistic relationship between Washington and Tehran makes it easy to forget that Iran today is more open than many other countries in the Middle East. Compare the status of women and minorities in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and you will find that there is really no comparison. And in recent years, Iran has taken steps toward even greater openness, although they’ve often been reversed as the hard-liners win out over the reformers in what is still a generally repressive regime.

Over the past two decades, the country has consistently elected presidents who are opposed by the hard-line establishment. In 1997, it elected Mohammad Khatami, who is now under virtual house arrest. Then came Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose radical rhetoric and manner masked the fact that he was a rank outsider to the mullah-ocracy that had run Iran since 1979. Ahmadinejad was a street-smart politician with no theological credentials and thus was deemed a threat to the clerics’ hold on power. Today, the nation has another reformist president, Hassan Rouhani, who has been twice elected, the second time with a thumping majority. Iran’s hard-line establishment has actively sought to undermine Rouhani’s reform agenda. In fact, some serious observers of the country speculate that the protests have been engineered by the hard-liners, who will use them to justify a crackdown and a total end to reform.

Iran’s Green Movement of 2009 is an illustration of Tocqueville’s thesis. It happened only because the country held elections, complete with debates, candidates with opposing views and secret balloting. The process raised the hopes of many Iranians, who were then deeply disappointed when, in the end, the elections were thought to have been rigged and the more reform-minded candidate was defeated. In Egypt today, no one expects an actual election, so when Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi wins 97 percent of the vote, no one protests.

“The abuses with which the French government was charged were not new, but the light in which they were viewed was,” Tocqueville wrote. “More crying faults had existed in the financial department at an earlier period, but since then changes had taken place, both in government and in society, which made them more keenly felt than before.” Similarly, the Iranian economy has always been a dysfunctional mess — a toxic mixture of autarky, state socialism and corruption. But in recent years, people’s hopes have been raised by the promises of reformers, the expectation that sanctions would be lifted and the knowledge of life outside Iran. In fact, the protests were triggered by a series of economic reforms.

Ian Bremmer’s smart 2006 book, “The J Curve,” argued that some countries are stable because they are closed — North Korea and Belarus, for instance — while others are stable because they are open, such as the United States and Japan. The former shield themselves from the winds of globalization; the latter are flexible and resilient enough to adapt to those forces. The most difficult period is when a country is moving from being closed to being open. If the regime is enlightened and strategic, it might be able to reform enough to weather this rocky transition. But there are two other more likely paths — the chaos produces a return to repression or a collapse of the state.

Iran has the ingredients for a revolution. More than half of the population is younger than 30, many youths are educated yet unemployed, almost 50 million Iranians have smartphones with which they can learn about the world, and reformers have consistently raised expectations yet never delivered on their promises. But the regime also has instruments of power, ideology, repression and patronage, all of which it is ready to wield to stay in control. What appears likely for Iran is a period of instability — in an already volatile Middle East.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group


IRAN HAS THE INGREDIENTS FOR REVOLUTION – BUT A STRONG REGIME TO WARD IT OFF

Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018  -  The most enlightening commentary on what is going on in Iran right now was written 162 years ago. In his book on the French Revolution, Alexis de Tocqueville said: “Revolutions are not always brought about by a gradual decline from bad to worse.  Nations that have endured patiently and almost unconsciously the most overwhelming oppression, often burst into rebellion against the yoke the moment it begins to grow lighter. 

The regime which is destroyed by a revolution is almost always an improvement on its immediate predecessor, and experience teaches that the most critical moment for bad governments is the one which witnesses their first steps toward reform.”

Why are these protests taking place in Iran and not in, say, North Korea? This is the question that Tocqueville answers for us.

The deeply antagonistic relationship between Washington and Tehran makes it easy to forget that Iran today is more open than many other countries in the Middle East. Compare the status of women and minorities in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and you will find that there is really no comparison. And in recent years, Iran has taken steps toward even greater openness, although they’ve often been reversed as the hard-liners win out over the reformers in what is still a generally repressive regime.

Over the past two decades, the country has consistently elected presidents who are opposed by the hard-line establishment. In 1997, it elected Mohammad Khatami, who is now under virtual house arrest. Then came Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose radical rhetoric and manner masked the fact that he was a rank outsider to the mullah-ocracy that had run Iran since 1979. Ahmadinejad was a street-smart politician with no theological credentials and thus was deemed a threat to the clerics’ hold on power. Today, the nation has another reformist president, Hassan Rouhani, who has been twice elected, the second time with a thumping majority. Iran’s hard-line establishment has actively sought to undermine Rouhani’s reform agenda. In fact, some serious observers of the country speculate that the protests have been engineered by the hard-liners, who will use them to justify a crackdown and a total end to reform.

Iran’s Green Movement of 2009 is an illustration of Tocqueville’s thesis. It happened only because the country held elections, complete with debates, candidates with opposing views and secret balloting. The process raised the hopes of many Iranians, who were then deeply disappointed when, in the end, the elections were thought to have been rigged and the more reform-minded candidate was defeated. In Egypt today, no one expects an actual election, so when Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi wins 97 percent of the vote, no one protests.

“The abuses with which the French government was charged were not new, but the light in which they were viewed was,” Tocqueville wrote. “More crying faults had existed in the financial department at an earlier period, but since then changes had taken place, both in government and in society, which made them more keenly felt than before.” Similarly, the Iranian economy has always been a dysfunctional mess — a toxic mixture of autarky, state socialism and corruption. But in recent years, people’s hopes have been raised by the promises of reformers, the expectation that sanctions would be lifted and the knowledge of life outside Iran. In fact, the protests were triggered by a series of economic reforms.

Ian Bremmer’s smart 2006 book, “The J Curve,” argued that some countries are stable because they are closed — North Korea and Belarus, for instance — while others are stable because they are open, such as the United States and Japan. The former shield themselves from the winds of globalization; the latter are flexible and resilient enough to adapt to those forces. The most difficult period is when a country is moving from being closed to being open. If the regime is enlightened and strategic, it might be able to reform enough to weather this rocky transition. But there are two other more likely paths — the chaos produces a return to repression or a collapse of the state.

Iran has the ingredients for a revolution. More than half of the population is younger than 30, many youths are educated yet unemployed, almost 50 million Iranians have smartphones with which they can learn about the world, and reformers have consistently raised expectations yet never delivered on their promises. But the regime also has instruments of power, ideology, repression and patronage, all of which it is ready to wield to stay in control. What appears likely for Iran is a period of instability — in an already volatile Middle East.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group


THE DECLINE OF U.S. INFLUENCE IS THE GREAT GLOBAL STORY OF OUR AGE

Thursday December 29,  2017 - Daniel Kahneman, who won a Nobel Prize in economics for reshaping our understanding of human motivation, once said: “No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.” That’s as true for nations as for individuals. Countries have always oriented themselves within a larger international story. But what is today’s global story?

For decades, the great overarching narrative was the Cold War. Almost every nation acted or reacted in the context of that ideological, political and military struggle. Then came 1989 and the collapse of communism. For the next 20 years or so, the opening up of the world — globalization — became the dominant thread, as countries jostled to become hot new markets and Western democratic capitalism seemed inevitable, undergirded by U.S. power and prestige. The attacks of 9/11 dealt a sharp blow to this benign narrative and, for a while, Islamist terrorism seemed to be steering the course of history. But terrorism has proved too weak and limited a force to be the big global story.

So what is it now? I would argue that the largest trend today is the decline of American influence. Not the decline of American power — the country remains economically and militarily in a league of its own — but a decline of its desire and capacity to use that power to shape the world. The current administration seems intent on dismantling the United States’ great achievements — as it is doing with the World Trade Organization — or to simply be uninterested in setting the global agenda. Donald Trump will be the first president in nearly a century to end his first year in office without having held a state dinner for a foreign head of state.

And this erosion of U.S. global leadership is already causing other countries to adjust.

This month, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel declared that, “The most important changes affecting our Western world and, indeed, the world as a whole” stem from “the United States’ current withdrawal under Trump from its role as a reliable guarantor of Western-influenced multilateralism.” That shift, he noted, “is accelerating the transformation of the global order . . . and the risk of trade wars, arms races and armed conflicts is increasing.”

For Europe, Gabriel argued, the situation is almost existential. Since the end of World War II, he said, “Europe had been an American project in the United States’ clearly understood interests. However, the current US administration now perceives Europe in a very distanced way, regarding previous partners as competitors and sometimes even as at the very least economic opponents.” He urged Europe to take its fate into its own hands and decouple itself from US foreign policy.

Consider also the speech in June by Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, in which she thanked the United States for its seven-decade-long stewardship of the international system and strongly implied that, under the Trump administration, American leadership of that system had reached its end.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a speech to the 19th Communist Party Congress in October that reflected his recognition of these new realities. “China’s international standing has risen as never before,” he noted, and the nation is “blazing a new trail for other developing countries to achieve modernization.” Xi announced “a new era . . . that sees China moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind.” In previous speeches, he suggested boldly that China would become the new guarantor of the global trading order.

This, then, is the global story of our times. The creator, upholder and enforcer of the existing international system is withdrawing into self-centered isolation. The other great supporter and advocate of the open, rule-based world, Europe, has not been able to act assertively on the world stage with any clear vision or purpose and remains obsessed with the fate of its own continental project. Filling the power vacuum, a host of smaller, illiberal powers — Turkey, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia — are surging forward in their respective regions. But only China truly has the wherewithal and strategic prowess to potentially shape the next chapter of the story of our age.

A decade ago, I described a “post-American world,” brought on not by the decline of the United States, but by the “rise of the rest.” That world is indeed coming to fruition because other countries are prospering, but the changes are being dramatically accelerated by the Trump administration’s foolish and self-defeating decision to abdicate the United States’ global influence — something that has taken more than 70 years to build. As the president might tweet, “Sad!”



GOP TAX BILL WOULD USHER IN A BLEAK FUTURE

Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 - If the Republican tax plan passes Congress, it will mark a watershed for the United States. The medium- and long-term effects of the plan will be a massive drop in public investment, which will come on the heels of decades of declining spending (as a percentage of gross domestic product) on infrastructure, scientific research, skills training and core government agencies. The United States can’t coast on past investments forever, and with this legislation, we are ushering in a bleak future.

The tax bill is expected to add at least $1 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years, and some experts think the real loss to federal revenue will be much higher. If Congress doesn’t slash spending, automatic cuts will kick in unless Democrats and Republicans can agree to waive them. Either way, the prospects for discretionary spending look dire, with potential cuts to spending on roads and airports, training and apprenticeship programs, health-care research and public-health initiatives, among hundreds of other programs. And these cuts would happen on top of an already difficult situation. As Gary Burtless of the Brookings Institution points out, combined public investment by federal, state and local governments is at its lowest point in six decades, relative to GDP.

The United States is at a breaking point. In August, the World Bank looked at 50 countries and found that the United States will have the largest unmet infrastructure needs over the next two decades. Look in any direction. According to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the United States has almost 56,000 bridges with structural problems (about 1,900 of which are on interstate highways), and these are crossed 185 million times a day. Another industry report says that in 1977 the federal government provided 63 percent of the country’s total investment in water infrastructure, but only 9 percent by 2014. There’s so much congestion in America’s largest rail hub, Chicago, that it takes longer for a freight train to pass through the city than it takes to get from there to Los Angeles, according to Building America’s Future, a public interest group.

There is no better indication of the U.S. government’s myopia than the decline in funding for research. A recent report in Science notes that for the first time since World War II, private funding for basic research now exceeds federal funding. Research and development topped 10 percent of the national budget in the mid-1960s; it is now less than 4 percent. And the Senate’s version of the tax bill removed a crucial tax credit that has encouraged corporate spending on research, though the House-Senate compromise version will probably keep it. All this is happening in an environment in which other countries, from South Korea to Germany to China, are ramping up their investments in these areas. A recent study found that China is on track to surpass the United States as the world leader in biomedical research spending.

When I came to America in the 1980s, I was struck by how well the government functioned. When I would hear complaints about the IRS or the Federal Aviation Administration, I would often reply, “Have you ever seen how badly these bureaucracies work in other countries?” Certainly compared with India, where I grew up, but even compared with countries such as France and Italy, many of the federal government’s key offices were professional and competent. But decades of criticism, congressional micromanagement and underfunding have taken their toll. Agencies such as the IRS are now threadbare. The Census Bureau is preparing to go digital and undertake a new national tally, but it is hamstrung by an insufficient budget and has had to cancel several much-needed tests. The FAA lags behind equivalent agencies in countries such as Canada and has been delayed in upgrading its technology because of funding lapses and uncertainties. The list goes on and on.

There are genuine problems beyond underfunding. The costs of building American infrastructure are astronomical. But during the Depression, World War II and much of the Cold War, a sense of crisis and competition focused America’s attention and created a bipartisan urgency to get things done. Ironically, at a time when competition is far more fierce, when other countries have surpassed the United States in many of these areas, America has fallen into extreme partisanship and embraced a know-nothing libertarianism that is starving the country of the essential investments it needs for growth. Those who vote for this tax bill — possibly the worst piece of major legislation in a generation — will live in infamy, as the country slowly breaks down.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group


Trump’s Jerusalem decision isn’t diplomacy. It’s pandering.

Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 - With his decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, President Trump did something puzzling for a person who claims to be a great dealmaker. He made a massive, preemptive concession to one side in a complicated negotiation without getting anything for it in return. If that’s how he operates, it’s no wonder so many of his former colleagues think he isn’t a very successful businessman after all.

Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and will remain so. I don’t dispute the facts or its merits. But the reason that all 86 countries that have embassies in Israel have so far located them in Tel Aviv is that Jerusalem is an integral part of the final settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinians claim the city as their capital as well. It contains sites sacred to all three of the world’s Abrahamic faiths. It has within it a large Arab population that, even after decades of new Israeli settlements, comprises more than a third of the city’s total. So, the formal status of Jerusalem has always been seen — by Republicans and Democrats, Europeans and Asians — as a matter to be codified in the context of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

If this move were part of a larger strategic plan, that would be one thing. In that case, Trump’s announcement would have been carefully plotted out, coupled with serious policy changes from Israel, or it would have been part of a series of measures to reassure both sides. Instead, it appears to be a one-off decision, designed largely to delight core elements of Trump’s base at home — evangelical Christians and pro-Israel donors. The only strategic aspect appears to be that it will help shore up the GOP base on the eve of Roy Moore’s senatorial contest in Alabama. That’s not diplomacy; that’s pandering.

There are ways to solve the Jerusalem problem, such as by carving out some neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city and allowing the Palestinians to claim those as their capital. Trump’s announcement did not specifically foreclose this possibility, which makes the choice even more puzzling.  It actually achieves little on the ground, all while offending millions of Palestinians, hundreds of millions of Arabs and public opinion almost everywhere. When China, European allies, the pope, and the kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan all voice strong opposition, it is surely worth questioning the wisdom of the policy.

The potential relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem has always been a symbolic gesture, designed more to appeal to Americans than to advance peace and stability in the Middle East. The Israeli scholar Yoav Fromer points out that in 1995, as Bob Dole was planning his campaign to challenge Bill Clinton for the presidency, he wanted to present himself as ardently pro-Israel. His voting record did not demonstrate this, so he decided to latch on to a symbolic issue instead. Thus was born the law that requires the United States to move its embassy, though it provided for a six-month waiver that every president has continually renewed, not wanting to give away a chip that could be crucial in the negotiations for a peace settlement.

While many people have predicted violence in the Middle East, it’s likely that this will be contained. Israel is now the regional superpower, and its neighbors know it. It also has tight control over the Palestinian territories, with a network of barriers, checkpoints and intelligence operations. Terrorism, for most Israelis, is a problem that has gone away.

The danger is really that this decision only adds to the mounting despair of Palestinians, who are already weak, divided and dysfunctional. They have never had good leadership, but they barely have any leadership right now. They live in an unusual, almost unique condition in the modern world: citizens of no state, without a country of their own.

Meanwhile, Israel will continue to prosper economically and maintain its genuinely democratic character, but with one large caveat: It will rule over lands with millions of people who lack full political rights. That cancer at the heart of Israel’s democratic system and culture will remain and might intensify as Israeli Arabs grow in numbers. There will be an Israel that looks like Switzerland, surrounded by a Palestine that looks like Bangladesh. It’s possible that at some point this inequality of income, status and political rights will lead to some kind of explosion. It will certainly lead to greater polarization and discord. And America’s action this week will have deepened these fissures and exacerbated the tensions.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group


Maybe Trump knows his base better than we do

Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017 - Watching the Republican tax plan race through Congress, one is reminded of a big apparent difference between President Trump’s program and other populist movements in the Western world. In the United States, Trump is leading something that is best described as plutocratic populism, a mixture of traditional populist causes with extreme libertarian ones.

Congress’s own think tanks — the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office — calculate that in 10 years, people making between $50,000 and $75,000 (around the median income in the United States) would effectively pay a whopping $4 billion more in taxes, while people making $1 million or more would pay $5.8 billion less under the Senate bill. And that doesn’t take into account the massive cuts in services, health care and other benefits that would likely result. 

Martin Wolf, the sober and fact-based chief economics commentator for the Financial Times, concludes, “This is a determined effort to shift resources from the bottom, middle and even upper middle of the US income distribution toward the very top, combined with big increases in economic insecurity for the great majority.”

The puzzle, Wolf says, is why this is a politically successful strategy. The Republican Party is pursuing an economic agenda for the 0.1 percent, but it needs to win the votes of the majority. This is the issue that University of California at Berkeley political scientist Paul Pierson discusses in a recently published essay. Writing in the British Journal of Sociology, Pierson notes that Trump’s program does have strong populist aspects, especially on trade and immigration. 

But, he points out, “On the big economic issues of taxes, spending and regulation — ones that have animated conservative elites for a generation — he has pursued, or supported, an agenda that is extremely friendly to large corporations, wealthy families, and well-positioned rent-seekers. His budgetary policies (and those pursued by his Republican allies in Congress) will, if enacted, be devastating to the same rural and moderate-income communities that helped him win office.”

Pierson argues that Trump entered the White House with a set of inchoate ideas and no real organization. Thus, his administration was ripe for takeover by the most ardent, organized and well-funded elements of the Republican Party — its libertarian wing. Nurtured and built up over the years, this group of conservatives decided to ally with the Trump administration to enact its long-standing agenda. Pierson quotes Grover Norquist, the fiercely anti-statist GOP operative, explaining in 2012 his views on the selection of a Republican presidential nominee. “We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go... We just need a president to sign this stuff.”

Is it that the Republican Party is cleverly and successfully hoodwinking its supporters, promising them populism and enacting plutocratic capitalism instead? This view has been a staple of liberal analysis for years, most prominently in Thomas Frank’s book “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Frank argued that Republicans have been able to work this magic trick by dangling social issues in front of working-class voters, who fall for the bait and lose sight of the fact that they are voting against their own interests. Both Wolf and Pierson believe that this trickery will prove dangerous for Republicans. “The plutocrats are riding on a hungry tiger,” writes Wolf.

But what if people are not being fooled at all? What if people are actually motivated far more deeply by issues surrounding religion, race and culture than they are by economics? There is increasing evidence that Trump’s base supports him because they feel a deep emotional, cultural and class affinity withfor him. And while the tax bill is analyzed by economists, Trump picks fights with black athletes, retweets misleading anti-Muslim videos and promises not to yield on immigration. Perhaps he knows his base better than we do. In fact, Trump’s populism might not be as unique as it’s made out to be. Polling from Europe suggests that the core issues motivating people to support Brexit or the far-right parties in France and Germany, and even the populist parties of Eastern Europe, are cultural and social.

The most important revolution in economics in the past generation has been the rise of the behavioral scientists, trained in psychology, who are finding that people systematically make decisions that are against their own “interests.” This might be the tip of the iceberg in understanding human motivation. The real story might be that people see their own interests in much more emotional and tribal ways than scholars understand. What if, in the eyes of a large group of Americans, these other issues are the ones for which they will stand up, protest, support politicians and even pay an economic price? What if, for many people, in America and around the world, these are their true interests?

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group


Trump is in deep with Saudi Arabia. That’s dangerous
Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 -  President Trump gave a speech this week grading his Asia trip. Not surprisingly, he thought it was a “tremendous success.” “Our great country is respected again in Asia,” he tweeted. All recent polling data from the region suggests the opposite. A core focus of Trump’s trip was Japan and South Korea, but only 17 percent of South Koreans and 24 percent of Japanese express confidence in him, down from 88 percent and 78 percent who expressed confidence in President Barack Obama during his second term. Trump’s rhetoric of self-interest and “America first” was seen by Asians as a sign of retreat, in contrast to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s more open, outward-looking and ambitious agenda.

However, Trump’s foreign policy faces a new challenge that could further disrupt the Middle East, already the most unstable part of the world. Trump has given the green light to an extraordinary series of moves in Saudi Arabia that can only be described as a revolution from above. Some of them suggest real and long-needed reforms. But all appear to have the risk of destabilizing Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has moved to consolidate power in all directions, jailing conservative clerics on the one hand and advocates of political reform on the other. His most recent targets have been some of the kingdom’s most powerful princes, including the head of the National Guard as well as the billionaire investor Alwaleed bin Talal, on allegations of corruption. A senior Arab statesman and businessman told me the reasons given seem suspect. He said, “Every prince in Saudi Arabia has partaken in the institutionalized corruption that is embedded into the system. If this was really about corruption, Alwaleed is the last Saudi prince you would go after.”

If fighting terrorism were a paramount concern, you would not humiliate Mohammed bin Nayef, who was crown prince until he was replaced by Mohammed bin Salman in June, and whose bank accounts have now been frozen. For the past decade, Mohammed bin Nayef worked closely with Washington in prosecuting the war against al-Qaeda and similar terrorist groups and was routinely and lavishly praised by American officials. But far from speaking out for this longtime ally, Trump actually tweeted his support for the purge, which has so far been carried out without specific charges or due process.

Saudi Arabia has historically rested on three pillars of stability. There’s the royal family, a large loose group with 15,000 to 30,000 members, which has intermarried with a second pillar of Saudi society, the tribes. These two ally with the final pillar, the country’s ultra-orthodox religious establishment, whose power has grown over the past four decades. Mohammed bin Salman has been saying the right things about religious moderation and has taken on all three pillars. In doing so, he is altering the very structure of the Saudi regime, from a patronage state based on consensus to a police state based on centralized control.

Time will tell whether it will work.

But the greater puzzle and danger is that while following this bold and risky domestic agenda, the crown prince has made a series of aggressive moves abroad. He has escalated Saudi intervention in Yemen, with bombing strikes and air, land and sea blockades. He has tried to quarantine Qatar, hoping to turn it into a submissive satellite state. He has apparently forced the Lebanese prime minister to resign, hoping to destabilize the Shiite-dominated government. All these are part of an effort to fight back against Iran’s growing regional influence.

These are blunt tools for the complex challenge that is the Middle East. The Saudis are attempting to dislodge the Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah from its position of power in Lebanon and punish Qatar for its alleged ties to the group. But for several years, the Saudis and Americans have been in an unspoken alliance with Hezbollah against the Islamic State, which is being defeated largely by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces and Iran-backed Shiite militias. Iran’s influence has been nefarious in some areas and helpful in others.

In any event, the Saudi strategy does not seem to be working. The war in Yemen has turned into a disaster, creating a failed state on Saudi Arabia’s border that is seething with anger against Riyadh. Qatar has not surrendered and doesn’t seem likely to anytime soon. So far, the Shiites in Lebanon have acted responsibly, refusing to take the bait and plunge the country into civil war. But everywhere in the Middle East, tensions are rising, sectarianism is gaining ground and, with a couple of miscalculations or accidents, things could spiral out of control. With Trump so firmly supporting the Saudi strategy, the United States could find itself dragged further into the deepening Middle East morass.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group


The cancer of Islamist extremism spreads around the world

Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 - This week’s tragic terrorist attack in New York was the kind of isolated incident by one troubled man that should not lead to generalizations. In the 16 years since 9/11, the city has proved astonishingly safe from jihadist groups and individuals. And yet, speaking about it to officials in this major global hub 10,000 miles away, the conclusions they reach are worrying. “The New York attack might be a way to remind us all that while ISIS is being defeated militarily, the ideological threat from radical Islam is spreading,” says Singaporean Home Minister K. Shanmugam. “The trend line is moving in the wrong direction.”

The military battle against Islamist extremist groups in places such as Syria and Afghanistan is a tough struggle, but it has always been one that favored the United States and its allies. After all, the combined military forces of some of the world’s most powerful governments are up against a tiny band of guerrillas. On the other hand, the ideological challenge from the Islamic State has proved far more intractable. The terrorist group and ones like it have been able to spread their ideas, recruit disaffected young men and women, and infiltrate countries across the globe. Western countries remain susceptible to the occasional lone wolf, but the new breeding grounds of radicalism are once-moderate Muslim societies in Central, South and Southeast Asia.

Consider Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, long seen as a moderate bulwark. This year, the governor of Jakarta, the country’s capital and largest city, lost his bid for reelection after he was painted by Muslim hard-liners as unfit for office because he is Christian. Worse, he was then jailed after being convicted on a dubious and unfair blasphemy charge. Amid a rising tide of Islamist politics, Indonesia’s “moderate” president and its mainstream “moderate” Islamic organizations have failed to stand up for the country’s traditions of tolerance and multiculturalism.

Or look at Bangladesh, another country with a staunchly secular past, where nearly 150 million Muslims live. Founded as a breakaway from Pakistan on explicitly nonreligious grounds, Bangladesh’s culture and politics have become increasingly extreme over the past decade. Atheists, secularists and intellectuals have been targeted and even killed, blasphemy laws have been enforced, and a spate of terrorist attacks have left hundreds dead.

Why is this happening? There are many explanations. Poverty, economic hardship and change produce anxieties. “People are disgusted by the corruption and incompetence of politicians. They are easily seduced by the idea that Islam is the answer, even though they don’t know what that means,” a Singaporean politician explained to me. And then, the local leaders make alliances with the clerics and give platforms to the extremists, all in search of easy votes. That political pandering has helped nurture a cancer of Islamist extremism.

In Southeast Asia, almost all observers whom I have spoken with believe that there is another crucial cause — exported money and ideology from the Middle East, chiefly Saudi Arabia. A Singaporean official told me, “Travel around Asia and you will see so many new mosques and madrassas built in the last 30 years that have had funding from the Gulf. They are modern, clean, air-conditioned, well-equipped — and Wahhabi [Saudi Arabia’s puritanical version of Islam].” Recently, it was reported that Saudi Arabia plans to contribute almost $1 billion to build 560 mosques in Bangladesh. The Saudi government has denied this, but sources in Bangladesh tell me there’s some truth to the report.

How to turn this trend around? Singapore’s Shanmugam says that the city-state’s population (15 percent of which is Muslim) has stayed relatively moderate because state and society work very hard at integration. “We have zero tolerance for any kind of militancy, but we also try to make sure Muslims don’t feel marginalized,” he explained. Singapore routinely gets high marks in global rankings for its transparency, low levels of corruption and the rule of law. Its economy provides opportunities for most.

Asia continues to rise, but so does Islamist radicalism there. This trend can be reversed only by better governance and better politics — by leaders who are less corrupt, more competent and, crucially, more willing to stand up to the clerics and extremists. Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince spoke last week of turning his kingdom to “moderate Islam.” 

Many have mocked this as a public-relations strategy, pointing to the continued dominance of the kingdom’s ultra-orthodox religious establishment. A better approach would be to encourage the crown prince, hold him to his words and urge him to follow up with concrete actions. This is the prize. Were Saudi Arabia to begin religious reform at home, it would be a far larger victory against radical Islam than all the advances on the battlefield so far.

JC Rambo Approach
Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017  -  The confrontation between the United States and North Korea is in a more dangerous zone than at any point in decades. Each side has announced tough positions, issued threats and underscored that its positions are nonnegotiable. Each side is now boxed in, with little room to maneuver. How to get off this perilous path?

The Trump administration has made a huge mistake in ramping up its rhetoric without any solid strategy to back it up. It remains unclear as to why it has done this. Partly, it seems this White House wants to reverse every Obama-era policy. Partly, it is the undisciplined approach that characterizes so many of this administration’s policies, with top people freelancing and showboating. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, for example, appears to take a hard line in order to outflank Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, effectively auditioning for his job.

But perhaps most fundamental is that President Trump likes to be the tough guy. Previous presidents reacted with sobriety to the bellicose statements of leaders such as Nikita Khrushchev and Mao Zedong. The United States was always disciplined and cautious; it was the other guys who did the crazy talk. But Trump seems determined to have the last insult.

We need to tone down the rhetoric and formulate a strategy. North Korea has one — indeed, it has had one for decades. It has determined that given how isolated and threatened it is, it needs a nuclear deterrent. And Pyongyang has made astonishing strides in getting there. Nuclear weapons are all that is keeping Kim Jong Un from suffering the fate of Saddam Hussein or Moammar Gaddafi. The regime will not give up this insurance policy. If you were in Kim’s position, would you?

The denuclearization of North Korea right now is a fantasy. It will not happen unless the United States is willing to wage a war on the Korean Peninsula. Everyone knows this, but no official in Washington is willing to publicly admit it. So the United States has adopted a zombie policy, one that has no chance of success but staggers along nonetheless. It means that we cannot make any progress on what is in fact an achievable and desirable goal — to freeze the North Korean arsenal, end further tests, and place the weapons under inspection.

A way out of this paralysis would be to reframe the issue and broaden its scope. Joshua Cooper Ramo, co-chief executive of Henry Kissinger’s consulting firm, has devised and shared with me a plan — one that has been circulating among officials in Washington — to convene an international conference on nuclear proliferation. 

All existing nuclear weapons states would agree not to test or expand their arsenals for some period of time — say, 36 months. Inspectors would verify that these limits are adhered to. All other nations would affirm that they do not intend to acquire nuclear weapons. Crucially, North Korea would be invited to sign onto this agreement as a nuclear weapons state, with the idea of freezing progress for now and aiming to later denuclearize the country.

Ramo says that the advantages of this approach are that it lodges the North Korean problem in the broader context of global proliferation, giving everyone an exit ramp so previous nonnegotiable statements don’t apply. It creates a global coalition that could be marshaled to sanction North Korea if it were to renege or cheat on its commitments, giving cover to China to truly clamp down on its ally. The plan also deals with Beijing’s core security concerns: preventing the collapse of North Korea and keeping South Korea and Japan from acquiring nuclear weapons. (Ramo, who has a deep knowledge of China, believes that this broader approach would allow the Chinese government to change its position.)

The specifics of such a plan could be adjusted. Perhaps the conference could be an effort to update and expand the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty itself, which is somewhat dated. (The treaty, crafted in 1968, assumed a clear line between peaceful nuclear energy and weapons, but that distinction is much harder to detect these days.) Perhaps it could be done as a regional forum, emphasizing the participation of Japan and South Korea, so that their commitment not to acquire nuclear weapons is seen as key — as is the implicit threat that if there were to be no agreement, they would in fact be free to move in that direction.

There is no good — let alone perfect — policy for the North Korean problem. But the Trump administration needs to stop the insults, get serious and try to find some way to stabilize the situation. Otherwise, we are on a road that will force Washington to either go to war or tacitly admit defeat to the Little Rocket Man.


The United Nations Speech

President Trump’s speech to the United Nations was well delivered. But it was a strange mishmash of topics and tones, in parts celebrating realpolitik but then also asserting the importance of freedom and democracy. There was, however, one overriding theme — the embrace of nationalism. And in striking that chord, Trump did something unusual, perhaps unique for a US president: He encouraged, even embraced the rise of a post-American world.

First, the mishmash. Early in his speech, Trump asserted, “In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone.” But then, a few minutes later, Trump proceeded to castigate North Korea, Iran, Venezuela and Cuba for their undemocratic political systems, virtually demanding that they all become Western-style liberal democracies.

The danger of this kind of lofty rhetoric is that it has been selectively applied, so it is seen cynically by the rest of the world as a way to dress up American self-interest. Trump took this hypocrisy to a new level. He denounced Iran for its lack of freedoms and, almost in the same breath, made favorable mention of Saudi Arabia. By any yardstick — political rights, religious tolerance, free speech — Iran is a much more open society than Saudi Arabia, which is an absolute monarchy allied to the world’s most fanatical religious establishment, where churches and synagogues are prohibited.

The main thrust of Trump’s speech was about nationalism. He celebrated sovereignty and nationalism, choosing an odd example. Latching onto a few words by President Harry S. Truman in support of the Marshall Plan, Trump described that approach to international relations as “beautiful” and “noble.” But can anyone imagine Trump actually supporting the Marshall Plan? It was a massive foreign aid program, administered by government bureaucrats to help foreigners revive their industries — which became competitors to U.S. firms. Washington spent, as a percentage of gross domestic product, roughly five times what it spent during the combat phase of the war in Afghanistan, according to one estimate. To make the Marshall Plan work, Washington encouraged European nations to cede economic sovereignty and create the European Coal and Steel Community, which was the genesis of the European Union.

The most significant line in Trump’s speech was this one, delivered dramatically: “As president of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.”

But this is what countries such as Russia and China have been saying for the past few decades. For the past 70 years, the great debate among nations has been between those who argued for narrow national interests and those who believed that lasting peace and prosperity depended on promoting broader common interests. The latter stance, conceived by FDR and supported by every U.S. president since, is what produced the United Nations and all the organizations that monitor and assist with trade, travel, disease, crime and weather issues, among a host of others, that spill over borders and can only be handled at a regional or global level.

But Trump is tired of being the world’s leader. He whined in his speech that other countries are unfair in their dealings with the United States, and that somehow the most powerful nation in the world, which dominates almost every international forum, is being had. His solution, a return to nationalism, would be warmly welcomed by most of the world’s major players — Russia and China, but also countries such as India and Turkey — which tend to act on the basis of their narrow self-interest. Of course, that will mean a dramatic acceleration of the post-American world, one in which these countries will shape policies and institutions, unashamedly to their own benefit rather than any broader one.

Trump grumbled about the fact that the United States pays 22 percent of the U.N.’s budget, which is actually appropriate because it’s roughly equivalent to America’s share of global GDP. Were he to scale back U.S. support, he might be surprised how fast a country like China will leap in to fill the gap. And once it does, China will dominate and shape the United Nations — and the global agenda — just as the United States has done for seven decades. Perhaps the Chinese will suggest that the organization’s headquarters be moved to Beijing. Come to think of it, it would free up acres of land on the East River where Trump could build a few more condominiums.


KIM JUNG UN HE’S NOT CRAZY

Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017 -I am sometimes asked what world figure I most want to interview. For me, the answer is obvious: Kim Jong Un. The general impression around the globe continues to be that the North Korean leader is crazy, provocative and unpredictable, but I think that he might well be strategic, smart and utterly rational. Because I am unlikely to get that interview, I have decided to imagine it instead.

Q: Marshal Kim, why do you keep building and testing nuclear weapons and missiles, even though they result in massive, crippling economic sanctions?

A: My nation faces a fundamental challenge — survival. The regime is more threatened than ever before. My forefathers had it easy. The Great Leader, my grandfather, ruled with the support of the world’s other superpower at the time, the Soviet Union, as well as our gigantic neighbor, China. The Dear Leader, my father, still had Beijing’s help for the most part. But today, the Soviet Union is history and China has become more integrated with the Western system. And the sole superpower, the United States, has made it clear that it seeks regime change in my country. And yet, we have survived with our ideology and system intact. How? Because we have built a protection for ourselves in the form of nuclear weapons.

Q: But China still provides you with crucial supplies of food and fuel. Don’t you see it as an ally?

A: China is ruthlessly pragmatic. It supports us for its own selfish interests. It doesn’t want millions of refugees — or a unified Korea on its border that is a larger version of what South Korea is now, with U.S. troops and a treaty alliance. But I believe that China no longer considers us an ally. It has voted to sanction us in the U.N. Security Council. The current president, Xi Jinping, cultivates close relations with South Korea. He has never met with me, the leader of North Korea, something that the leader of China has always done. Meanwhile, he has had about 10 meetings with the last two presidents of South Korea. At the grand celebrations in Beijing two years ago commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, he placed the president of Russia and the president of South Korea at his side. In North Korea, we pay a lot of attention to ceremonies and what they signal.

Q: Is that why you seem to go out of your way to embarrass China and Xi specifically?

A: We will not be pushed around. We heard that senior officials in China and the United States were discussing whether to encourage a coup in North Korea to get a more pliable ruler. So I’ve taken steps to ensure that this can’t happen. The man in our government closest to the Chinese, who could have arranged such a coup attempt, was my uncle. The man who would have been my natural replacement was my half brother. Both have been liquidated, as have more than 100 disloyal high-level officials.

Q: So will you come to the negotiating table? Will you agree to denuclearization in return for the lifting of sanctions?

A: Yes and no. We will readily come to the table. But we will never give up our arsenal. We’re not stupid. It’s all that is keeping us alive. Look at Saddam Hussein — and we never forget that North Korea was named as part of the “axis of evil” a year before the United States invaded Iraq. Look what happened to Moammar Gaddafi in Libya after he agreed to give up his nuclear weapons program. Look at what’s happening to Iran right now. After Washington signed a deal and the Iranians have been certified to be adhering to it, President Trump now says he’s going to tear it up anyway. Do you think we would be stupid enough to believe American promises after all this? We are a nuclear power. That is not negotiable. We are willing to talk about limits, test bans, freezes — but we would need to be given something in return, and not just money. We need security, in the form of diplomatic recognition by Washington and guarantees of nonaggression from China, Japan and the United States.

Q: Many Americans worry that you will soon have the capacity and the intention to launch missiles at the United States.

A: We will have the capacity. And it serves my purposes to keep you off guard. But why would I strike America and invite a retaliatory counterstrike that would put an end to my regime? Keep in mind, the whole point of this — my entire strategy, all our efforts and the hardships we have borne — is to ensure that my regime and I survive. Why would I risk that? I believe in assassination, not suicide.


FAREED ZAKARIA WASHINGTON POST EXCERPTS

Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017
Much of the United States has reacted swiftly and strongly to President Trump’s grotesque suggestion that there is a moral equivalence between the white supremacists who converged last weekend on Charlottesville and those who protested against them. But the delayed, qualified and mealy-mouthed reactions of many in America’s leadership class tell a disturbing story about the country’s elites — and the reason we are living in an age of populist rebellion.

The least respected of today’s leaders are, of course, politicians. The public largely views them as craven and cowardly, pandering to polls and focus groups. And that is how too many Republican officials have behaved in the face of Trump’s words and actions. With some honorable exceptions, men and women who usually cannot stop pontificating on every topic on live TV have suddenly gone mute on the biggest political subject of the day.

I know. They worry about the base, about primaries, about right-wing donors. But shouldn’t they also worry about their country and their conscience? Shouldn’t they ask themselves why they went into public service in the first place? And if they see someone at the highest level trampling on the values of the country, shouldn’t they speak up — directly, forcefully and without qualification?

Where are evangelical Christian leaders on a matter of basic morality? While some have made their voices heard, it is striking how many have not, or have even endorsed Trump’s comments. Do they have a burning moral duty to speak out against transgender bathroom access but not neo-Nazi violence?

Today we have a more merit-based elite, what is often called a meritocracy. It has allowed people from all walks of life to rise up into positions of power and influence. But these new elites are more insecure, anxious and self-centered. Politicians are likely to be solo entrepreneurs, worried about the next primary or fundraiser. 

CEOs live with the constant fear that they might lose their jobs or that their company might lose its customers in an instant. Religious leaders worry that they will lose congregants. These groups may not think they have the luxury to be high-minded, but they do. They are vastly more  secure than most people in America, or in human history. If they cannot act out of broader interest, who can?

ED NOTE:  I simply call them Scumbags.


Trump - coal is back, China tells us clean energy

Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017 - This week, the front page of the New York Times described the Trump administration’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s attempt to slash carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. “The war on coal is over,” declared Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Right under that article was an article from halfway around the world detailing China’s massive new investment in electric vehicles, part of Beijing’s determination to dominate the era of clean-energy technology. It is a tale of two strategies.

The Trump administration has decided to move into a new century: the 19th century. Coal has been in decline for at least seven decades. In 1950, it accounted for half of all U.S. electricity generation. It is now down to a third. Additionally, massive automation of mining has meant that the jobs in the industry are disappearing, down from 176,000 in 1985 to 50,000 in 2017. Machines and software are replacing coal miners just as surely as in other industries. Demand for coal is weak because of alternatives, chiefly natural gas. In the past couple of years, many of the top American coal companies have been forced to declare bankruptcy, including the largest, Peabody Energy.

Despite President Trump’s policy shift, these trends are unlikely to change. Reuters found that, of 32 utilities in the 26 states that filed lawsuits over the Clean Power Plan, “the bulk of them have no plans to alter their multi-billion dollar, years-long shift away from coal.” The reason utilities are shedding coal is economics — the price of natural gas has plummeted in recent years, and its share of U.S. electricity generation has nearly tripled since 1990. In addition, costs are falling dramatically for wind and solar energy.

And, of course, coal is the dirtiest form of energy in use. Coal-fired power plants are one of the nation’s leading sources of carbon-dioxide emissions, and most scientists agree those emissions lead to global warming. They also cause terrible air pollution, with all its attendant health problems and costs.

That’s one of the reasons China, which suffers more than a million deaths a year because of poor air quality, is making huge investments in clean energy. The country has become one of the world’s leading producers of wind turbines and solar panels, with government subsidies enabling its companies to become cost-efficient and global in their aspirations. In 2015, China was home to the world’s top wind-turbine maker and the top two solar-panel manufacturers. According to a recent report from the United Nations, China invested $78.3 billion in renewable energy last year — almost twice as much as the United States.

Now Beijing is making a push into electric cars, hoping to dominate what it believes will be the transport industry of the future. Already China has taken a large lead in electric cars. In 2016, more than twice as many were sold in China as in the United States, an astonishing catch-up for a country that had almost no such technologies 10 years ago. China’s leaders have let it be known that by 2025 they want 20 percent of all new cars sold in China to be powered by alternative fuels. All of this has already translated into jobs, “big league” as President Trump might say: 3.6 million people are already working in the renewable-energy sector in China, compared with 777,000 in the United States.

China is still heavily reliant on coal, which it has in plentiful supply, and it has tried to find steady sources of other fossil fuels. It went on a shopping spree over the past two decades, making deals for natural resources and energy around the world, often paying at the peak of the commodities bubble in the mid-2000s. But over time, it recognized that this mercantilism was a bad strategy, tying Beijing up with expensive projects in unstable countries in Africa. Instead, it watched and learned from the United States as technological revolutions dramatically increased the supply and lowered the cost of natural gas and solar energy. China has now decided to put a much larger emphasis on this route to energy security, one that also ensures it will be the world’s leading producer of clean energy.

Trump has often talked about how China is “killing us ” and that he’s tired of hearing about China’s huge growth numbers. He should notice that Beijing is getting its growth by focusing on the future, the next areas of growth in economics and technology. The United States under Trump will be engaged in a futile and quixotic quest to revive the industries of the past. Who do you think will win?

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

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