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Trump is driving us toward a big recession with a big trad war

Americans suffer from frustratingly short attention spans and even shorter memories. Case in point: Following the dark ride of the George W. Bush years, during which there were two wars, apocalyptic terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, torture as national security policy, warrantless eavesdropping and the most catastrophic economic crash since the Great Depression, I was foolish enough to believe Americans would banish the Republican Party to the hinterlands of our politics for a good long while.
I was horribly wrong. Eight years later, 62 million voters recklessly ignored the lessons of 2001 to 2009 by installing an even more incompetent, dangerous and unstable Republican administration in the White House. Donald Trump’s ascendancy isn’t so much a win for him as much as it’s a win for the propaganda efforts of Fox News, talk radio and Russian internet memes, collectively suckering “conservative” voters by bathing them in enough counterfactual nonsense to “neuralyze” all memories of what happened last time around.
That bottomless slagheap of propaganda convinced Trump’s base that the steadily improving economy of the Barack Obama administration was “American carnage,” requiring a return to the stewardship of Republicans who had been responsible for a $1.4 trillion deficit, the collapse of the stock market, more than 800,000 jobs lost in a single month and the near disintegration of both the housing market and America’s auto industry, to name two sectors.
Sure, why not? Let’s do all that over again — you know, to own the libs.
Per the aggrieved insistence of these forgetful voters, Trump came along and deregulated everything, weakening the post-Great Recession laws meant to curb Wall Street abuses, and punctuated his Bush-era linkage by also authorizing a massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans without paying for a goddamn cent of it.
Worst of all, Trump has clumsily staggered beyond the ludicrous economic policies of the Bush years to further destabilize financial markets, including your 401k accounts and the future security of your employment. Specifically, the president’s trade war of choice against China has turned a steadily rising Dow Jones average, through 2017, into an unstable sawtooth pattern with massive single-day declines that are now tempting a full-on 2008-style collapse.
If you don’t believe me, check out the markets from January to March of 2018, during the months immediately following Trump’s tax cut. Normally, a tax cut would drive the financial markets upward. But in March of 2018, just a few months after the bill was signed, Trump stupidly launched his trade war by announcing 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum, applied to all of our trading partners. From those months onward — including today, as I write this article — the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq have been unstable messes.
At risk of burying the lede, I have a theory that Trump and his cronies may be manipulating and shorting the markets, reaping vast profits off the declines. Every time Trump tweets or blurts new tariff threats or economic bellicosity aimed at China, the market takes a dump. As we all know, Trump hasn’t divested from his business interests. We also know that Trump has manipulated the markets before, based on a massive investigation in the New York Times indicating that Trump engaged in a scheme with his dad, Fred Trump, known as “greenmailing.”
During the 1980s, Donald Trump became notorious for leaking word that he was taking positions in stocks, hinting of a possible takeover, and then either selling on the run-up or trying to extract lucrative concessions from the target company to make him go away. It was a form of stock manipulation with an unsavory label: “greenmailing.” The Times unearthed evidence that Mr. Trump enlisted his father as his greenmailing wingman.
Seriously, ask around. Even some of his supporters have to concede that Trump is entirely capable of exploiting the bully pulpit to enrich his family fortune, not to mention the fortunes of his buddies. If he wasn’t interested in all that, he would have divested from his business. He didn’t. Now his tweets move the entire market up or down on a predictable and routine basis, making Wall Street ripe for exploitation.
For example: Just before he tweets something incendiary about China, it’s entirely possible he gives his boys a subtle heads up, triggering brokers to swing into action, betting against the market with short positions on whatever could take the most damage from his trade-war posturing. Not only does it drive down those stock prices, but the entire market, including your retirement savings, takes a colossal hit.
Trump’s financial disclosures don’t provide enough detail to know what’s really going on, obviously. The documents show that he owns a long list of mutual funds and ETFs, many of which happen to include short positions. While Trump always makes things worse for Trump, it’s unlikely he’d reveal any breadcrumbs in those disclosure forms, and it’s possible that his manipulations and short sales are made through trusted third parties. A serious investigation by the FTC or the House of Representatives might be in order, especially given that Trump could be betting against the American economy. Why else would he so gratuitously destabilize the markets with his trade war?