Monday, January 2, 2017

What happens next?

2017 is here and the unpleasant political realities continue to sink in. Rearguard actions with the Louisiana Senate race, state recounts, and hope of an electoral college swing have all met their expected outcomes. Trump will be the 45th president of the United States, and Republicans will have the House, the Senate 52-48, and the majority of state legislatures and governors.

Congrats, America. We got the corrupt, lying, narcissist for president, and and have cemented control of the Republican Party.

Certainly the Democrats need to do better in the next elections. I would imagine a combination of better economic policy for those on the bottom two-thirds of the wealth spectrum, and somehow breaking through to change or appeal to the conservative white rural culture. Cannot say I have anything close to an easy answer for that given the gulf in media, social contact, and cultural assumptions. There is the possibility that economic mismanagement from the Republicans will do the immediate work for us, though that only bought the Democrats 2008 and had some effect on 2006. Sure came back to bite us in the ass in 2010 and a better plan is needed.

So, yes. What to expect in the next few years while the left attempts to rebuild its electoral strategy?

It's going to be hell.

Given Trump's lack of policy details and his erratic personality, it is difficult to predict what kind of hell, but with the Republican Congress and the advisers Trump is promoting, we can get some general outlines. Those outlines would be increased inequality, barriers to trade, more damage to the environment, increased militarization, and increased risk of war. All while stumbling towards fascism.

For overall government plans with taxes and expenditures, I expect the Tea Party/Norquist dreams to be put into force. Paul Ryan's plans may mostly go through, cutting taxes for the wealthy and reducing government finances. I expect to see the shredding the Affordable Care Act and Medicare. Permanent removal of the ACA may be out of reach, but vastly weakened, with millions losing health insurance. Social Security spending my slashed. I certainly expect to see financial regulation reduced. Dodd-Frank did not go far enough, but what little it did will be pared back.

Perhaps the one area that might see increased government expenditure, outside the military and police, will be the infrastructure improvement that the Republicans blocked throughout Obama's administration. Yay hypocrisy! While I do support a significant boost in infrastructure spending in this country, Trump's plan looks extremely unpleasant by funding the infrastructure through tax credits for toll roads and bridges.

Trade is a big unknown. Trump makes a lot of noise about protecting American workers from unfair trade deals, and wants to boost tariffs. Trade restrictions may benefit some parts of the economy, but at the cost of inflation. If a full scale trade war breaks out, well, that alone could blow up the world economy.

With the tax reduction and potentially increased infrastructure spending, we will potentially see some boost in growth and inflation. We'll also see a significant boost in government debt that the Republicans fought so hard against when it was Obama in charge. Who knows where things will go with trade, but the uncertainty will be unstabilizing. Paring back financial regulations will also leave us much more open to bubbles. America has been in one of the longest periods of economic expansion in history. It has been slow and unequal, but it is going to end at some point. I would take good odds that it'll happen in the next four years. Question is how bad it will be.

Outside of economics and healthcare policy, there's the horror show facing civil liberties, the environment, birth control and abortion. Education and science research will be cut.

Then the big one for a lot of Trump's base, immigration. He's made enough noise about this that I am more certain of action on this than on most of his other half-baked policy proposals. Given that the number of illegal immigrants in the US has been declining since 2009, and Obama has already deported more people than any other president, we're already in that direction, but the degree sounds frightening. If Trump does manage to deport, say 3 million people in the next year or two I can only imagine the results. Hell for the immigrants themselves of course, and the second order effects will be unpleasant. America is already at its lowest population growth in 80 years, and if we expel that many immigrants, I wonder if we could tip towards negative.

Ah, and I almost forgot, foreign policy. Another frightening unknown. Given the hawks it looks like Trump is appointing, I wouldn't be surprised if we end up in a new shooting war with Iran. Or if we trade the Ukraine to Russia in exchange for ownership of Venezuela. Or how dangerous things will get with China. Who knows? I'm speculating. Unfortunately Trump is erratic, inexperienced, and what will happen is a damn mystery that could easily leave a lot of people dead.

Outside of politics, economic and technological trends are going to continue to not be kind to the rural areas that voted for Trump. Manufacturing automation will continue. Online delivery services will continue to rip out local retail. Soon as we cross the Rubicon of automated trucks and delivery drones, that's another few million jobs gone, though that may take another ten years. All the voters in coal country that enthusiastically supported Trump are still going to see demand for coal fall as natural gas remains cheap and solar prices thankfully continues to fall. Unfortunately, the Republicans won't provide support for those left behind. Resentment will build.

A big question I have is whether there will be any increase in communication between the left and right in this country, or if the opposing sides will keep living in their own bubbles, hating the other. Unsure how to get around that problem. Possibly work by tech and media companies to force people out of their filter bubbles. Possibly a significant push in cities for more housing construction in order to lower the cost of living and allow more to move to urban areas.

Sigh. See what happens in 2017. In America, I expect hell for the poor and minorities, possible boon for the wealthy. Increased risk of another economic meltdown. Increased global instability. Brace yourselves.

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