• Don Brash


On several occasions I have acknowledged that Donald Trump did some things that I strongly approve of, such as cutting the ridiculously high US corporate tax rate and scrapping some of the mindless regulation and red-tape.

But Trump can certainly not claim most of the credit (as he is prone to do) for the strong growth of the US economy over the three pre-pandemic years: the US economy started growing as it emerged from the GFC in late 2009, and unemployment fell in an almost straight line from that point until it reached 3.5% before the pandemic.

And cutting taxes is easy if you have no concern about the fiscal deficit, as Trump did not. In 2019 the US federal deficit was close to $1 trillion, a grossly irresponsible situation given that the economy was growing strongly and unemployment was very low. He simply failed to reduce federal spending to match his tax cuts.

It’s not feasible in one short post to list all my disagreements with Trump, but here is a sample:

• He pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, despite the TPP being very much about constraining China, for no obvious reason except that Obama was taking credit for it;

• He was on the face of it much more sympathetic to totalitarian regimes, such as Russia and Turkey, than he was to traditional US allies;

• He had no understanding of what a balance of trade deficit implies, apparently assuming that any country with which the US had a bilateral trade deficit was exploiting the US;

• He didn’t think twice about putting political pressure on the nominally independent Federal Reserve Board;

• He single-handedly undermined the WTO, even though that organisation was very much a US creation;

• He undermined confidence in America’s word, pulling out of the Iran agreement, for example, even though all the other countries which were party to it (and his own senior Cabinet ministers) were convinced that Iran was complying with the deal; and abandoning the Kurds in Syria (which even Lindsay Graham thought was outrageous, and was one of the factors prompting Mattis to resign);

• And he seemed to regard lying as a normal part of life, even when there seemed no strong reason to lie, and of course his best known early lie was about Obama being born outside the US, something which he promoted endlessly for months.

Of course, Trump’s refusal to do what all previous US presidents have done, concede graciously when they lose, was vintage Trump. But perhaps he had good grounds for thinking he had really won – that the election had been “stolen” from him. Then why did Christopher Krebs, the man whose responsibility it was to ensure that the election was conducted according to the rules, declare the election the most secure in recent American history? And why did staunch Trump ally William Barr declare that there had been no fraud sufficient to overturn the election result? And why did almost every single court case which Trump’s allies took on his behalf to “prove” fraud fail ignominiously, including of course two cases at the Supreme Court?

I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that Trump will go down as the worst President in US history - at very least, the worst in my lifetime.


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