Editorial: Asian tour, climate denial, Roy Moore, tax cuts for wealthy define Trump’s vision of America

A year into his presidency, Trump made his first tour to Asian countries to test his macho and try to win leaders over with his old-boy charisma. He underwhelmed — was played for a fool in China and seen acting weakly subservient to Chinese President Xi Jinping, elevated the ruthless dictatorship of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, bailed on a meeting with the South Korean president at the DMZ and kowtowed to Russian president Vladimir Putin so obsequiously that cartoonists had a field day portraying Trump as Putin’s lap dog.
More importantly, having bailed on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that was carefully crafted by President Obama and his team for the past six years, Trump ceded economic and political control of the region to Japan and China — a move that will diminish America’s role there for decades to come. Fox News, of course, offers a different story, as does the President, who, of course, thinks his tour was “epic.” We agree it was epic, just epically bad for America. As one commentator said: “Trump is making China great again.”
Here’s an analysis by Kevin Rudd, Australia’s 26th prime minister, and current president of the Asia Society Policy Institute:
“President Donald Trump’s recent Asia trip casts further doubts about America’s long-term standing and commitment in the region. In particular, his ‘America first’ speech at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam cast a shadow on America’s willingness to cooperate with Asian allies… (In sum) the future of American economic engagement with the region is bleak… The TPP would have enhanced America’s trade and investment interests in an economic region that’s growing fast and increasingly dominant in the world. But the double tragedy is that there is nothing yet that will replace it. The administration’s vaguely worded “free and open Indo-Pacific” shows all the hallmarks of a slogan in search of substance, rapidly cobbled together on the eve of this visit. This is not a substitute for the TPP, which was the product of six long years of work between a dozen governments with vastly different trading, investment and economic systems… Instead, the U.S. has ceded regional economic leadership separately to China and Japan for the foreseeable future.”
This is not an idle political concern of establishment elites. Rather it directly impacts America’s potential economic growth and puts America in a lose-lose position — spending our military dollars in the region, but getting little economic benefit for it.
“We’re now beginning to see the implications for the region of America’s effective withdrawal from economic leadership,” continued Rudd. “China’s geo-economic footprint in Asia is already dominant, and the uncomfortable fact is that Southeast Asia has already begun to swing toward China’s strategic orbit. The outsized Chinese influence in the region means that Beijing will more often set the ‘rules of the road’ for regional economic integration. The result is that over time, we may well see America become an ‘unbalanced superpower’ with a powerful regional military presence in Asia, but with a minor role in the region’s burgeoning economic future.”
Surely that’s not what Republicans had in mind a year ago when Trump was touting his nostalgic notions of “America first.”
Meanwhile, in Bonn, Germany, Trump’s team further isolated America from the rest of the world by attempting to champion coal-burning power plants at an international climate change conference — a move that earned Trump’s administration loud boos and protests from nations around the world (broadcast live for all to see), and a walkout by hundreds of representatives. The visual was powerful, leaving the Trump-supported team preaching their hogwash to an empty room. (This just after Syria joined the Paris Climate Accord, leaving America as the lone nation not to endorse the pact.) To be deeply embarrassed is one thing, but to understand that our country has gone from a world leader addressing the ills of climate change to a laughing stock is to recognize how far we have fallen in the eyes of the world. Sad.
Trump returned home to Republicans at war with each other over the repugnant actions of Republican candidate Roy Moore and his bid for the senate seat in Alabama. Moore allegedly sexually molested teenage girls as young as 14 when he was a 32-year-old prosecutor, and was barred from a mall in his hometown for stalking and hitting on teenage girls (demonstrating that this was a known problem). His defense has been to hide behind biblical verse and his self-proclaimed Christianity. Trump’s campaign mastermind Steve Bannon has come to Moore’s defense as has much of the conservative right, while a few establishment Republicans have asked Moore to step aside. But most congressional Republicans have been too gutless to take what should be an obvious stand against a politician who is unfit to serve. Shame.
Much has been written about the GOP tax plan, even though it was just revealed last week. The gist is simple: it’s a huge tax cut for big business, corporations, and the ultra-rich. It’s a small tax cut for many within the low- and middle-class (and we’re talking small — as in a few dollars to a few hundred dollars, while millionaires will reap millions). Plus, it will increase the taxes of millions of middle-class Americans, while cutting health care to 13 million Americans and send health care premiums soaring 10 percent and more for everyone else.
While the short-term impact is bad enough, the long-term is worse. It could increase the deficit by $1.75 trillion over the next decade and it will make the corporate tax cuts permanent, while the individual rates will sunset in a decade and rise thereafter, erasing any gains to the middle class. More importantly, to pay for the tax cuts Americans will feel cuts to programs across the board that mostly benefit the poor and middle class — essentially a tax on the poor and middleclass.
That is just sick. But then, for now, Trump’s vision of America is taking shape, and it’s a sad state of affairs.
Angelo Lynn

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