By Jay Kuo and Thanos Dimadis
In a conversation with Second Nexus, Mark Weisbrot, the renowned American economist and director of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, discussed the state of world order in the age of Trump.
On economic policies, “He remains unpredictable,” Weisbrot said, adding, “This is an important caveat.” Weisbrot believes that any changes to policy likely would align with political realities. “I think the changes that are most likely are the ones where the Republican majority in Congress is in agreement. That will include tax cuts that disproportionately benefit upper-income groups, including a corporate tax cut. Some parts of his border adjustment tax plan would increase taxes paid by corporations on imports and effectively subsidize US exports.” Weisbrot described Trump’s fiscal policy as “expansionary” with an “expanding federal budget deficit, although it’s not yet clear how much of an infrastructure program there will be.” Weisbrot also anticipated cuts to Medicaid, which would disproportionately impact lower-income Americans, something “they may get away with because poor and lower-income people do not have much representation in the US political system.”
Commenting on U.S.-Mexico relations, Weisbrot downplayed the economic impact while ruminating on the political fallout. The current low point in U.S. relations will likely help the left, he opined, and in particular Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, to win the Presidency next year. In that case, Weisbrot believes there will be “a strong nationalist backlash.” Further, Weisbrot predicted “Mexico will have to move toward diversifying its exports as the U.S. is no longer a reliable trading partner.”
On Europe, Weisbrot noted the likely impact of right-wing sentiments within the new administration. “Trump does not care that much about the EU either way, but rather he–and in particular his chief advisor, Steve Bannon–are ideologically very sympathetic to the European right-wing political parties and movements. Bannon has a whole right-wing ‘internationalist’ ideology that sees the European right, whether populist, racist, or fascist, as a bulwark in defense of Judeo-Christian civilization against Islam and the left. He seems to see Putin the same way, although they also have very legitimate reasons to want better relations with Russia. Trump also doesn’t have the same commitment to empire the rest of the world and other U.S. politicians have had, so he doesn’t give much weight to keeping Europe unified so that it can be Washington’s main ally against the rest of the world.”
On relations with China, Weisbrot expected “the country to continue to increase its influence in Asia since its economy is now bigger than that of the U.S. on a purchasing power parity basis. It is growing more than three times as fast, and it has much stronger commercial ties with the region. Washington is trying to sweep back the tide with a broom, in its attempt to maintain military and political dominance in Asia.”
Asked what he believed comprises the greatest threat and source of unpredictability in Trump’s decision-making, Weisbrot was blunt. “I think the most dangerous unpredictability concerns war,” he responded. “Trump’s cavalier statements about the use of nuclear weapons and killing civilians, torture, etc. are very worrisome for anyone who cares about humanity. And Bannon has expressed a religious apocalyptic worldview and has at times talked about the inevitability of a large scale war. The neoconservatives that supported Hillary, and that she was sometimes close to, are also very dangerous and violent, but they are somewhat more predictable. And more importantly, Clinton was susceptible to pressure from the Democratic Party base, which is mostly against war. Trump does not have much of a base that would pressure him against war and terrible war crimes, and unlike Clinton, he would not give much weight to the opinions of the media or other politicians in making these decisions.”