Anyone unlucky enough to be tuned into CNBC on Thursday morning was treated to a fate worse than death: Joe Kernen and Steve Bannon debating geopolitics and US foreign policy.
It’s hard to believe Becky Quick and Andrew Ross Sorkin (both of whom are sane and at least one of whom is some semblance of respectable) agreed to participate in such a disgraceful display. But not everyone has the intestinal fortitude to tell the people signing the paychecks that you refuse to countenance the dissemination of poison to the masses.
“What would you urge the president to do?”, Kernen wondered, soliciting advice from Bannon on live television at a crucial juncture in the trade negotiations, knowing that the famously mercurial Trump is prone to listening when Bannon speaks. “If they could be trusted… every step of the way, [China] not only moves the goal posts, they lie to your face”, Bannon began.
“I think politically – and he signaled this the other day when he talked about ‘past the 2020 elections’ which will even be stronger when he wins – I just think right now that the tariffs have been a winner, he does not need a deal, he has all the cards”, Steve continued, adding that if you ask him (which Kernen did), “the tariffs should go ahead on Sunday”.
First of all, the tariffs have not “been a winner”. Many farmers have lost it all. Bannon’s policy prescriptions have bankrupted (or nearly bankrupted) hard-working Americans, and have not ushered in any manufacturing “renaissance”. The economy is doing well. It’s not going gangbusters. Just look at a chart:
Do you see a “miracle” anywhere in there? If not – if you just see solid growth (the blue line) and a manufacturing sector (the yellow line) that stumbled hard this year amid escalating trade tensions – that’s because reality is something totally different than Bannon and Trump would have you believe it is.
Second, it’s funny Kernen should solicit that kind of “advice” from Bannon. After all, that is broadly the same thing Jim Cramer said last week after the November jobs report blew away estimates. Cramer didn’t use precisely the same language, but he did suggest that the relatively strong US economy means Trump is free to walk away from the deal.
To be absolutely clear, if those tariffs go into effect on Sunday, risk assets will recoil. Stocks will fall, the yuan will slide, the dollar will probably rise, Treasury yields will fall, the yen will surge, gold will surge and the stage will be set for a steep selloff.
If that happens, you can thank Joe Kernen and the “stable geniuses” at CNBC who decided it would be a good idea to let Steve Bannon go on live television and regale the public with some of his trademark “economic nationalism”.
“Bannon‘s position is the most hawkish, though it’s unclear whether his views have any influence on the occupant of the Oval Office”, Bloomberg’s Andrew Cinko remarked. Forgive us, but it’s crystal clear: Donald Trump is absolutely prone to being influenced by Bannon. Steve was, in many ways, the architect of Trump’s campaign message. Yes, the two had a falling out, but not over policy – rather, over Bannon suggesting that the royal sons weren’t very bright.
Perhaps most importantly, CNBC is hosting a man who, during an October 2018 rally for France’s Marine Le Pen, said this:
Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor.
That’s who CNBC is dignifying on their network.
If so, you can refer them to Jim Cramer, because apparently, he and Bannon are on the same page when it comes to the proper course of US trade policy.