If you go back and trace Donald Trump’s business career, one thing stands out: Trump is a man who cares deeply about farmers.
I’m just kidding. The idea that Donald Trump cares about the agricultural community or anybody else who’s ever done actual work for a living is absurd in the extreme. But voters took the the populist bait hook, line and sinker, and now here we are, nearly two years on from the election and Trump has passed a tax cut for corporations and the wealthy and “succeeded” in putting America’s farmers on actual welfare.
On Tuesday evening, at a rally in Tampa, Trump told a crowd of supporters that China and other countries have “targeted” America’s farmers, which is true, although he leaves out the part about how it was his decision to escalate the trade tensions that forced China’s hand. Trump also claimed that farmers are more than happy to suffer in the interest of perpetuating his quixotic quest to reclaim lost American “greatness”.
Not all farmers are saying “it’s ok, we can take it.” In fact, nonprofit group Farmers for Free Trade is now running an all-out media blitz aimed at raising awareness about just how bad these policies really are for U.S. agriculture, and the overarching message is that “no, we can’t take it, and we won’t take it.” The group is spending $2.5 million on the media push.
The $12 billion bailout designed to help U.S. agriculture weather the storm leans on Depression-era measures and the very idea of resorting to subsidies is insulting to some. Dave Kestel, who grows soybeans in Illinois, told CBS News the following last week:
I mean, I understand they’re trying to help us. I get that. But it’s not a long-term fix. It’s a pacifier, so to speak. I’d rather not have it.
As it turns out, people who are used to working from dawn to dusk with their bare hands would “rather not” have to be put on government welfare just because the President has inexplicably decided to rollback the clock on the kind of globalization that has allowed farmers to find new, global markets for their crops.
Of course just because they’d “rather not”, doesn’t mean they won’t, and indeed, CBS found that when they chatted with some of Dave’s fellow farmers, some in the agricultural community are willing to fight “to the death” for the “greater good of the country”. Here’s the full clip:
What Dave and his friends simply do not understand, is that Trump’s policies are not “for the greater good of the country.” These policies are in all likelihood going to lead the world into a global recession which, eventually, Trump will be unable to offset with fiscal stimulus when it comes to shielding the domestic economy. That’s not an attempt to malign Trump, it’s just the reality of protectionism run wild.
It’s not entirely clear the President knows that, but his recent efforts to pretend as though he’s ushered in a veritable economic renaissance seem to suggest Trump understands how important it is to perpetuate the myth that his policies are restoring America to some bygone period of prosperity.
Last Friday’s bizarre press conference held in front of the White House to celebrate the second quarter GDP data was a prime example of just how intent he is on distorting reality to ensure that people like the farmers in the video shown above don’t get the impression their sacrifice is for naught. Again, there was nothing at all anomalous about the second quarter GDP data. The number was good, but the idea that it warranted a literal celebration at the White House is laughable and the simple reality of the situation is that the quarterly print Trump described as “amazing” would qualify as only the fifth best quarter under the Obama presidency.
(Washington Post, from official BEA data)
This is what’s so frustrating to economists and, frankly, to a lot of liberal America. Trump is saying things that simply aren’t true and otherwise attempting to spin a narrative that has little to no basis in reality. Here’s another way to visualize that chart:
There’s no renaissance here. Whatever “great again” means, that surely isn’t it.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that whatever was “great” about the economy in the first half of the year has a lot to do with the effect of corporate tax cuts and not a lot to do with the restoration of the American middle class, who are laboring (figuratively and literally) under wage growth that on an inflation-adjusted basis is still basically zero.
Meanwhile, he (Trump) has released a new series of trucker-style MAGA hats on his official “shop.donaldtrump.com” website. The new caps are green with yellow stitching that reads “Make Our Farmers Great Again!”. The price: $45.
And guess what? They’re sold out.
As you can see, farmers wanting to sport one of these ridiculously overpriced lids will need to actually pay Trump ahead of time and wait for “the next shipment”.
Do try and appreciate the fact that he is selling $45 hats emblazoned with a slogan about making farmers prosperous “again” at a time when his policies are literally doing the exact opposite. He is bankrupting farmers and forcing the government (i.e., taxpayers, like, for instance, farmers) to spend $12 billion on subsidies for those same farmers.
Where does the money farmers are paying for those hats end up?, you might fairly ask. Well, it seems likely that it ends up in the pockets of the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee comprised of Trump for President, Inc. and the RNC. Chances are, at least some of that money ends up paying Trump’s legal bills associated with the Mueller probe. And with that, the farce is complete.
I’ll leave you with another clip from Trump’s Tuesday evening Tampa rally.