The election of Donald John Trump as 45th president of the United States seems to have caused pretty much equal parts celebration and consternation, and that split shows up on both sides of the political divide, too. There are conservative types who find him insufficiently doctrinaire; most Progressives think he’s the devil incarnate, out to wreck all the social engineering projects they’ve worked so tirelessly to impose on the rest of us (if only!). You may be among these folks , and you may have good personal reasons to hold that view of the president-elect. But I will tell you this: Even if you instinctively mistrust him; even if his policy ideas will negatively affect your investment portfolio; even if you just don’t like the man’s Queens (NY) accent and the abrasive manner that comes with it like a packaged set, his election is a good thing for you. Why?
It isn’t just because Trump has promised to rein in the Federal Reserve, force them to unwind the mess their Quantitative easing (QE) program has created over the last eight years, and eventually return to a Gold Standard, or something that has much the same effect. These would all be very good things for most businesses, large and small, and for most individual working people as well, as it would bring stability to the value of both entrepreneurial endeavors and to labor itself – there is no general inflation (currency devaluation) with a Gold Standard, after all. If the US goes down this route, countries such as Canada will have no choice but to follow suit, and so we would enjoy the benefits of a strong, non-depreciating currency as well. But that isn’t the reason Trump’s election is such a good thing.
Is it because he has promised to tear up trade agreements like NAFTA, and use a combination of carrot-and-stick incentives and a plain old big wooden stick to repatriate factory production facilities of US – based companies? Certainly this will be a benefit to the American middle class, as there is no doubt that the “outsourcing” craze of the past two decades has seen a very great number of good paying blue-collar jobs transferred to countries like China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mexico etc. These were supposed to be replaced by service jobs of various kinds — you may remember the ’90s Clintonomics mantra that we were all “transforming into a ‘service economy’ “, whatever that was supposed to have meant – but let’s face it: not everyone can be a lawyer or an investment banker or a taxi driver or even a bartender, and in any case none of these (with the obvious exception of the first two listed!) pay nearly as well as a job in an auto plant or in other areas of manufacturing. And again, as the US goes, so Canada must surely follow, and so we should. We too have been hurt by things like NAFTA (the once-great Canadian garment industry, for example, now practically extinct. And the low-quality clothes being imported from China, Mexico et al in their place last you one-tenth as long before they begin to fall apart, which makes you ask how cheap they really are), and it is high time we realized too that free trade with countries that purposely devalue their currencies relative to ours is counterproductive to general economic prosperity. And also rather dumb. But this is not the reason either.
His promise to green-light the Keystone pipeline, and to take his foot off the brake as far as the development of oil, natural gas and coal resources in US territory will be a boon to almost all of us if fulfilled, particularly if he leans on refiners to cut their prices as the cost of the raw material drops (as must happen with increased drilling and mining). Cheap, abundant energy is like intravenous Red Bull for the economy; the lower the cost of gasoline, diesel, gas, coal, jet fuel, etc is, the more profitable business becomes, particularly manufacturing, but also retail, as the cost of having goods shipped for inventory decreases. And for individuals, naturally, the less it costs to fill our cars or heat our homes or fly to Hawaii for Christmas, the more we have to spend on other things, to save, to invest, to pay down our debts, to pass on to our children. All to the good, to be sure. But not the main reason why a President Trump is a good thing for you.
It’s because you may not like him. That’s why his election is such a good thing. Because, you see, you’ll be allowed to say so. Encouraged, even.
The mainstream media, in the US, in Canada, and pretty much every place else, loathes Donald J Trump, and they are not afraid to tell us so. At every possible opportunity. The political class hates him, including many who are putatively on the same side as him, like Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Right-of-center blogs and think tanks like National Review and the Cato Institute regard him with contempt. The Koch brothers don’t have much nice to say. And of course the vast majority on the Progressive-left side of the political aisle , as stated above, hate him with a rare passion.
This is all to the good. Because it will – it already has – given back to us all something that we had lost. The most important check on the power of an elected official is the willingness and ability of his constituents to criticize him, in terms respectful or otherwise. It reminds him or her that they serve at the will of the people, and that there is a line beyond which he should think twice about stepping. It keeps presidents and prime ministers and cabinet ministers and even plain old backbench MPs in line — because they know they will have to face the voters again in a few short years.
But over the past eight years, this great gift — the right of the man in the street to proclaim out loud exactly what he thought of the most powerful man in his country — has been taken from Americans, and from Canadians and other as well, at least where the American president was concerned. Criticism of President Barack Obama was rendered taboo early on, even before he was elected in 2008. People both publicly and privately were afraid to voice any concerns or negative opinions, for fear of being labelled racists or bigots. And so a man with no real accomplishments, an astoundingly undistinguished legal career, and policy views completely at odds with the vast majority of his countrymen, got away with imposing a great deal of harmful legislation and regulation (the Affordable Care Act, the nixing of the Keystone pipeline, numerous regulatory increases at the EPA) on his country, much of which had direct effects on us here in Canada as well.
Got away with having his central bank increase the nation’s money supply almost threefold, leading to massive inflation in real estate, autos, and now even consumer prices. Got away with creating a situation where bonds with NEGATIVE INTEREST RATES are a reality, for the moment at least. Got away with creating havoc in the Middle East (exactly what that region needed – more chaos). Got away with using institutions of government, such as the dreaded IRS, to go after political opponents. Not good.
Think back, if you will, to US presidents over the last fifty years or so. Everybody made fun of Dick Nixon (“I am not a crook!” while showing that V for victory sign), of clumsy Gerry Ford, of Jimmy Carter with his big toothy grin. Johnny Carson used to pull off a superb imitation of Ronald Reagan, getting the voice pitch perfect, and the hair too. Both Bushes provided a steady income to comedians who could imitate their respective tics and idiosyncracies. Even Bill Clinton, though a darling of the media and Hollywood, was regularly lampooned by anyone who could put on a Southern drawl and leer at younger women.
When was the last time you saw an Obama impersonator?
There will be legions of Trump impersonators. Actually, there already are. The media will watch his every move, and criticize whatever they can. Much of his own political party will do likewise. No one will feel the need to hold back their opinion of what he does, for fear of being ostracized by their peers. The greatest check on government power will be back.
And it will spread to Canada, after which people will begin to criticize Trudeau Jr. , not just for unwisely chosen words about a deceased homicidal dictator, but for the disastrously bad policies that his government intends to pursue or is already pursuing. That will be Trump’s gift to Canada.