Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Cabinet Nominees and Pollution Tariffs

I thought it might be fun to do a run-down on Trump's cabinet nominees to date.  But before we get to that, I want to touch on an interesting and infrequently discussed topic: pollution tariffs.

A Trump-supporting friend of mine the other day floated an interesting policy idea: a steep tariff (he quoted 30%) on goods produced in countries with lower environmental standards than our own.  The result would be to shift manufacturing back to the USA while likely reducing carbon emissions and other environmental sins worldwide.

It's such a great idea, I had to see if anyone "serious" had thought of it first.  It seems that in fact this very idea was floated by none other than Nicolas "oh, NOW he thinks climate change is a hoax" Sarkozy of France way back in 2009

The question is: would the tariffs work?  Some economists have poo-pooed the idea (see the link above), saying in essence that demand for Chinese manufactured goods is too great and that a tariff would make no difference, but to my mind, the concept is certainly worth a shot.  If we're going to have a trade war with China, it might as well be over something worth fighting for, no?

It is also possible, of course - and again, here, Nicolas Sarkozy is the one doing the proposing - that other countries might place their own environmental tariffs on the Trump-led United States:

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is already thinking ahead. Earlier this week, Sarkozy said that Europe ought to consider placing carbon tariffs on U.S. imports if Trump refuses to put a domestic price on carbon pollution. Talk of tariffs is only going to increase as more regions and nations price carbon - while Trump calls for more protectionist trade policies and for tearing up trade deals like NAFTA.

I doubt this idea is likely to come into vogue in a big way globally, but I'd love it if it would, honestly.

And now! Let's take a look at Trump's cabinet nominees to date.  They're all distinguished in their various ways!  The WaPo has a good rundown, and here's my commentary:
  • Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State: well, it's an energy company CEO as head of state, so a pretty clear indication, one would think, that oil projects abroad are going to be a focus of the Trump administration, even though the world is currently drowning in oil.  But hey, if Trump really gets the economy going again, there might not be enough oil to go around!  ExxonMobil tends to produce CEOs with the mentality "I'll be around in 40 years, you might not be," which is great for a CEO, and we'll see how it works out for the nation's top diplomat.
  • James Mattis, Secretary of Defense: by all accounts a thoughtful and erudite man, with a big grudge with Iran.  The last time a country invaded Iran, they lost 250,000 fighting men and didn't win
  • John F. Kelly, Department of Homeland Security: not a bad choice, really. A bit of a hardliner on the topic of our border, but hey, it's the DHS.
  • Steve Mnuchin, Secretary of Treasury: former Goldman Sachs executive with no government experience.  Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp!
  • Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce: more swamp draining, anyone? A man who made his living in private equity - buying bankrupt companies and "flipping" them.  This is a great appointment for rust belt workers who are hoping to keep manufacturing jobs in America, or, rather, the complete opposite.
  • Jeff Sessions, Attorney General: this fellow once called a black attorney "boy" and alleged that the NAACP was essentially a communist organization, so, a great pick if you hate black people.
  • Andrew Pudzer, Secretary of Labor: a guy who loves automation and hates the minimum wage and unions to lead Labor. Uh...
  • Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services: a guy who thinks doctors, not patients, are getting screwed in our current medical system, and wants to change that. Um...
  • Scott Pruitt, EPA administrator: a dude who believes man-made climate change is a hoax to head the EPA. Er...
  • Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education: a woman who would like to erect God's Kingdom in the United States. Uh...?
  • Ben Caron, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: hey, throw a black guy in here, right? Housing and Urban Development, that's the ghetto, right?  Bonus points if you can find someone who sounds like he is going to fall asleep at all times.
  • Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy: hell, why not at this point?  Why not appoint a man who once said he would abolish the Department of Energy, that is, if he could remember its name.
Then there's Trump's advisors who will not need Senate confirmation:
  • Steve Bannon, Chief Strategist: buddy to neo-nazis.
  • Reince Preibus, Chief of Staff: your basic default political guy, nothing too provocative about him per se.
  • Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor: a fine general, but "unbelievably arrogant".
  • Donald McGahn, White House Counsel: a sharp-elbowed lawyer, you know the type.
It's going to be good fun to follow these people for the next few years!  Why, I can see the swamp being drained already!  And what's going to happen in the Middle East?  Who knows!

Stay tuned!

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