Donald Trump decided Monday might be a good day to take some time away from tweeting and feuding to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.
And by “some time” I actually mean two minutes. Literally.
That’s how long Trump spent at Dr. King’s Memorial, where he and that mannequin we all call “Mike Pence” laid a wreath at the base of the sculpture, but not because Trump wanted to – rather because he was facing criticism for releasing a schedule that didn’t appear to indicate he even knew it was a holiday.
Naturally, Trump had someone commemorate the visit with a video that was almost as long as the visit itself. Dr. King doesn’t look particularly amused as he towers over President “Very Fine People On Both Sides”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 21, 2019
On Sunday, Pence came under heavy media fire for suggesting that Trump’s wall is somehow consistent with Dr. King’s message about democracy.
Unable to make it through the entire day of remembrance without lashing out at someone, Trump hopped back on Twitter about five hours later to lampoon China for reporting the slowest pace of annual economic growth in 28 years.
“China posts slowest economic numbers since 1990 due to U.S. trade tensions and new policies”, the President gleefully informed his followers, most of whom are like him in the sense that they probably don’t even know the meaning of “gee dee pee“.
Trump then took the opportunity to use the numbers as leverage to implore Beijing to strike a quick deal on trade. “Makes so much sense for China to finally do a Real Deal”, Trump said, on the way to advising Xi to “stop playing around!”
Of course it occurred to China a long time ago that Trump’s trade war was likely to weigh on an economy that was already decelerating and Beijing has taken a variety of steps to ameliorate the situation. It’s worth noting, for those not steeped in this debate, that China has a lot more in the way of flexibility when it comes to cushioning the blow from a protracted trade dispute than Trump does, especially now that the US has exhausted its capacity to deploy expansionary fiscal policy.
There’s an argument to be made that Q4 was the “bottom” for China in terms of data that suggests the economy is still decelerating. There were signs of stabilization in the numbers and if December’s credit growth data are any indication, monetary easing may finally be working its way through to the real economy (although if you’ve read our coverage of this, you know we’re the furthest thing from “sanguine” about the situation).
Meanwhile, the US economy is almost sure to decelerate from here and as we (and every economist in the country) have been keen to note, the shutdown risks exacerbating that deceleration. Kevin Hassett was forced to admit as much last week, even as Larry Kudlow (with his “sterling” track record for forecasting recessions) insists things will be fine just as soon as the government reopens.
Speaking of the government reopening, Trump skipped straight from China’s economy to Nancy Pelosi on Monday evening, tweeting the following:
If Nancy Pelosi thinks that Walls are “immoral,” why isn’t she requesting that we take down all of the existing Walls between the U.S. and Mexico, even the new ones just built in San Diego at their very strong urging. Let millions of unchecked “strangers” just flow into the U.S.
That’s obviously absurd. For one thing, “walls” isn’t a proper noun, no matter how many times he capitalizes it, and beyond that, I’m reasonably sure Democrats would be just fine with it if we tore down existing walls because as any cartel boss will tell you, they are pointless.
The whole premise here is patently ridiculous and seems to rest almost entirely on Trump’s childlike conception of what it would actually mean to build his wall. It’s probably true that if we built a 50-story-high solid barrier along the entire border complete with watchtowers, archers, sharpshooters and patriotic Pterosaurs, we could cut cross-border drug smuggling to basically zero. But while Trump will profess to understand that such a medieval edifice isn’t realistic, the words that come out of his mouth continue to suggest that the wall which exists in his “very large brain” is a lot more “50-story-high solid barrier with border agents riding Pterodactyls” than it is “aesthetically pleasing steel slat fence.”
It got worse. Trump went on to claim that “two large Caravans from Honduras broke into Mexico and are headed our way.” How’s that for fearmongering?
In any event, everyone (with the possible exception of Trump himself) knows how this is going to end from an economic/market perspective if he doesn’t get the government reopened and/or come to some kind of agreement with Beijing prior to the self-imposed March deadline beyond which tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods will more than double. He will find himself having to explain, on Twitter probably, why the US suddenly careened into a downturn despite his purportedly “legendary” business prowess and book-worthy dealmaking skills.