Power & Market

Coronavirus? The Chinese Central Bank Has a "Solution"

02/07/2020Frank Shostak

In response to the economic paralysis brought about by the coronavirus, the Chinese central bank has pumped $243 billion into financial markets. On Monday, February 3, 2020, China’s equity market shed $393 billion of its value.

Most experts are of the view that in order to counter the damage that the coronavirus has inflicted, loose monetary policy is of utmost importance to stabilize the economy. It is believed that the massive monetary pumping will lift overall demand in the economy and in turn will likely move the economy out of the stagnation hole.

According to this way of thinking, consumer confidence, which has weakened as a result of the coronavirus, could be lifted by massive monetary pumping.

Now, even if consumers were to become more confident about economic prospects, how is all this related to the damage that the virus continues to inflict? Would the increase in consumer confidence due to the monetary pumping cause individuals to go back to work?

Unless the causes of the virus are ascertained or unless some vaccine is produced to protect individuals against the virus, they are likely to continue to pursue a life of isolation. This means that most people are not going to risk their lives and start using the newly pumped money to boost their spending.

It seems that whenever a crisis emerges, central banks are of the view that first of all they must push plenty of money in to “cushion” the side effects of the crisis. The central bankers are following the idea that if in doubt “grease” the problem with a lot of money.

It did not occur to all the advocates of the aggressive loose monetary policy that this is going to transform a given economic crisis into a much larger one.

Most advocates would respond that it is the central bank’s duty to defend individuals against various bad side effects. The only way they can defend individuals is by not adding more damage.

If loose monetary policy could counter the bad side effects of the coronavirus, we could agree that money pumping is an effective remedy to eradicate side effects of viruses. In such a case, central bankers should be nominated for the Nobel Prize in medicine.

But most experts still don’t get it—money is just the medium of exchange. It produces nothing and it can only provide the services of a medium of exchange. If we begin to consider money as something magical that can fix everything, including eradicating the economic side effects of the coronavirus, it opens the door to nasty economic surprises.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Coronavirus: Is This the Black Swan Many Feared?

02/03/2020Daniel Lacalle

The slump in energy commodities and copper shows the fragility of the global economy and the risks to the consensus’s reflation trade. It is easy to blame the recent fall of commodity prices on the coronavirus outbreak, but the weakness was already evident before the outbreak.

We need to remember that the coronavirus epidemic is, first and foremost, a humanitarian crisis. At the close of this article, the number of affected rose to more than 14,700 and the death toll to 305 citizens. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.

This epidemic cannot be detached from an event that has not grabbed many headlines last year. The retail price of pork rose last year by more than 80 percent. Food price inflation—despite an official low headline consumer price index (CPI) of 3 percent—and a shortage in the supply of meat and pork generated a rapid increase in consumption of wild animals, including bats and snakes, which led to a rapid deterioration in health controls and a large exposure to diseases like the coronavirus. This is one of the reasons why the death toll and affected headcount are rising so fast. Not only is coronavirus more contagious than previous similar viruses, but the risk is extended to various provinces.

We all hope that the outbreak will be contained quickly, but we also need to make some estimates of economic risk. According to a study by Jong-Wha Lee and Warwick J. McKibbin, the impact on the global economy from the earlier SARS coronavirus epidemic was up to $45 billion. But once the WHO introduced decisive measures and the epidemic was contained, both the stock market and the global economy resumed an upward trend. However, in 2003 China only made up 4 percent of the global GDP, and now it is around 17 percent. The level of trade with China was also much smaller. Nomura expects a 2 percent slump in China’s annualized GDP growth in one quarter, which could cause ripple effects in Japan, with an impact of up to 0.4 percent, and Hong Kong, up to 1.7 percent. The coronavirus is more contagious but less lethal than SARS, hence the economic impact is estimated to be at least four times higher than what the experts estimated from the SARS outbreak, according to Bloomberg, and some studies elevate the economic impact to $500 billion if the epidemic lasts for an entire year.

China’s top trading partners are likely to suffer. The United States has a massive trade deficit, but remains, at 19 percent, China’s largest trading partner. Outside of the US, Hong Kong (12.1 percent), should be the most affected, followed by Japan (5.9 percent), South Korea (4.4 percent), Vietnam (3.4 percent), Germany (3.1 percent), India (3.1 percent) and the Netherlands (2.9 percent): $73.1 billion.

China has closed all commercial activities in at least twenty-one provinces, municipalities, and regions and authorities have told businesses not to resume work until Feb. 10 at the earliest. Last year, those parts of China accounted for more than 80 percent of national GDP, and 90 percent of exports, so the impact on the domestic and global economy cannot be underestimated.

Emerging markets face a double risk. On the one side, collapsing commodity prices and weaker trade growth are likely to have an important impact on exports and growth. However, the other important risk comes from weakening reserves as foreign currency revenues fall, precisely in a year when USD-denominated maturities exceed $1 trillion.

The eurozone is not immune. Its massive trade surplus also relies heavily on markets where China is either the main partner or a key driver of growth and trade.

So far, most of these risks are only assumptions and many come from speculation, because the extent of the outbreak has not been defined in detail. As such, it is logical that markets and economists see a wide range of impacts. One thing, however, is clear: the estimates of global GDP, inflation, and trade growth for 2020 that we saw at the end of last year are going to be slashed, and the likelihood of full normalization of trade and commercial activity in and with China in the short term is small. We all want a rapid resolution, effective containment of the epidemic, and no more deaths, but the economic ramifications cannot be ignored

Originally published at Dlacalle.com
When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Could Trump's Next Fed Chair Be A "Goldbug?"

01/17/2020Tho Bishop

This week, Donald Trump formally nominated Judy Shelton and Christopher Waller for vacant governorships on the Federal Reserve. Waller, the Vice President of the Richmond Fed, is widely viewed as a standard Fed nominee with the reputation of being a "dove" who has criticized recent interest rate hikes.

It is Judy Shelton who is particularly interesting.

A former campaign adviser for Trump, Shelton has been a vocal Fed critic who has praised the gold standard in the past. While she has recently advocated for lower interest rates, she has also been a critic of the Fed's policy of paying interest on excess reserves, which has become a key policy tool since 2008. Shelton's nomination is also interesting due to the stark contrast between her background and most of her colleagues'. 

As Joseph Salerno has noted:

The good news is that Ms. Shelton is not a technically trained academic economist, indoctrinated in the prevailing orthodoxy. She holds a doctorate in business administration from the University of Utah and has spent most of her career in the world of free-market policy think tanks, including stints at the Hoover Institute and the Atlas Network. She also writes refreshingly and articulately in favor of the gold standard, or some version of it.

The bad news is that she leans heavily toward supply-side economics, which is deeply flawed on monetary policy. Like most supply-siders, the position she advocates may be summed up in the motto, “I favor sound money—and plenty of it.”

Still, though by no means an Austrian, Shelton's voice on the Fed would create some much-needed ideological diversity in the central bank.

Reacting to an interview with Ms. Shelton last June, Jeff Deist wrote:

Her comments represent the most substantive attack on the Fed, and central banking generally, by any potential nominee to the Fed board in recent history. She not only challenges how Jerome Powell and Fed officials conduct monetary policy, but whether they can conduct it competently at all.…

So Shelton doesn't want to End the Fed. But in the parlance of woke America, she's an "ally." Recognizing the limits of central bank omniscience, and challenging its benevolence, are important first steps on the road to redeeming our money and our economy. 

In fact, it was precisely these unorthodox views that make her nomination a less-than-sure thing, even with a Republican-controlled Congress.  As Bob Murphy has noted, her competency in financial history has made her the target of criticism from establishment powers on both the Left and Right. Particularly of issue are comments made by Republican senators, often offering criticism with intellectual depth on par with their colleague Ms. Ocasio-Cortez. For example, when asked about Shelton's views on gold, Senator Richard Shelby, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, could only offer:

The gold standard would probably shatter a lot of people’s dreams around the world right now…There was a reason to get off of it.

The fact that the administration insisted on nominating Shelton in spite of the public concerns, demonstrates a certain level of confidence that her nomination will not be shot down. 

What's particularly interesting is that CNBC notes that there has been speculation that Shelton could be a potential replacement for Jerome Powell if Trump is still in office at the end of the Fed chair's term in 2022. If so, that would bring someone whom the Wall Street Journal described as a "goldbug" to the office of America's top central banker.

Of course, as Alan Greenspan's tenure showed, that may not actually mean much.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Catholics and Libertarians

11/27/2019David Gordon

Can a Roman Catholic be an Austro-Libertarian as well? Christopher Ferrara in a book called The Church and the Libertarian says that one cannot. In Ferrara’s view, Austrian  economists deny that the moral law applies to the economy. Instead, Austrians say, strictly scientific laws govern the economy and these limit what the State or the Church can do. Minimum wage laws, for example, tend to cause unemployment, like it or not.

Ferrara challenges this contention. Economic laws are not absolute but must be subordinated to the moral law. For example, a worker must be paid a “living wage” that enables him to raise a family. To deny this, he thinks, is to reject Catholic Social Thought, and to do that is to put oneself outside the Church.

Tony Flood, who is both a believing Catholic and sympathetic to the thought of Murray Rothbard, who was a friend of his, subjects Ferrara’s book to close examination and finds it lacking.  In his book, Christ, Capital and Liberty: A Polemic Flood argues thatAustro-libertarian thought is compatible with the key teaching of the Church,  In contending that it is, Flood draws attention to the writings of the great Jesuit Father James Sadowsky, S.J., a distinguished Catholic philosopher and theologian who was also a Rothbardian in his political philosophy.

Flood analyzes in detail the errors in Ferrara’s book. In one case, for example, Ferrara included in a quotation from Murray Rothbard words that were not Rothbard’s but in fact were from a polemical discussion by Kevin Carson, a writer of different views altogether

Flood has ably shown that Ferrara’s assault on Austro-libertarianism is baseless.

 

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Cantillon and Me

10/22/2019Mark Thornton

As many of you know, I have been researching and writing about the economics of Irish economist and banker Richard Cantillon for over 20 years. He was the first to write a book about economic theory, circa 1730, coined the modern term entrepreneur, and the first to provide a supply and demand analysis of prices, as well as the basics of Austrian Business Cycle theory, along with many of the fundamental aspects of economic theory and beyond. In 2010, Chantal Saucier and I published a translation of his Essai into modern English.

Portrait of a Gentleman

I had a DNA done by Ancestry.com last year and it came back exactly as expected with the vast majority being "Irish or Scottish" and tiny amounts of western Europe and the Iberian peninsula. Today I received an update from Ancestry.com with a more refined analysis and it turns out that the majority of my DNA comes from the same place where Cantillon was born in the County Kerry area! Ancestry.com describes the area as a "perfect place for rebels and outlaws who sought refuge from British authority"!

Very satisfied with this Ancestry.com thing!

 

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

California Has Tried Warrenomics. It's Been a Disaster.

California is suffering a slow but steady decline.

Bad economic policy has made the Golden State less attractive for entrepreneurs, investors, and business owners.

Punitive tax laws deserve much of the blame, particularly the 2012 decision to impose a top tax rate of 13.3 percent.

I’ve already shared some anecdotal evidence that this tax increase backfired.

But now we have some scholarly evidence from two Stanford Professors. Here’s what they investigated.

In this paper we study the question of the elasticity of the tax base with respect to taxation using microdata from the California Franchise Tax Board on the universe of California taxpayers around the implementation of Proposition 30 in 2012. This ballot initiative increased marginal income tax rates… These increases came on top of the 9.3% rate that applied to income over $48,942 for singles and $97,884 for married couples, and also in addition to the 1% mental health tax that since 2004 had applied to incomes of over $1 million. The reform therefore brought the top marginal tax rate in California to 13.3% for incomes of over $1 million.

For those not familiar with economic jargon, “elasticity” is simply a term to describe how sensitive taxpayers are when there are changes in tax policy.

A high measure of elasticity means a large “deadweight loss” since taxpayers are choosing to earn and/or report less income.

And that’s what the two scholars discovered.

Some high-income taxpayers responded to the big tax increase by moving.

We first study the extensive margin response to taxation, and document a substantial one-time outflow of high-earning taxpayers from California in response to Proposition 30. Defining a departure as a taxpayer who went from resident to non-resident filing status, the rate of departures in 2013 over 2012 spiked from 1.5% after the 2011 tax year to 2.125% for those primary taxpayers earning over $5 million in 2012, with a similar effect among taxpayers earning $2-5 million in 2012.

By the way, you won’t be surprised to learn that California taxpayers increasingly opted to move to states with no income tax, such as Florida, Nevada, and Texas.

Read More: People Love to Move to States Paul Krugman Hates Most

Oct-21-19-Destination.jpg

Other taxpayers stayed in California but they chose to earn and/or report less income.

We combine these results on the extensive margin behavioral response with conclusions of analysis of the intensive margin response to Proposition 30. …we use a differences-in-differences design in which we compare upper-income California resident taxpayers to a matched sample of non-resident California filers, for which there is relatively rich data… Our estimates show a substantial intensive margin response to Proposition 30, which appears in 2012 and persists… We find that California top-earners on average report $522,000 less in taxable income than their counterfactuals in 2012, $357,000 less in 2013, and $599,000 less in 2014; this is relative to a baseline mean income of $4.15 million amongst our defined group of California top-earners in 2011. …the estimates imply an elasticity of taxable income with respect to the marginal net of tax rate of 2.5-3.3.

In the world of public finance, that’s a very high measure of elasticity.

Wonky readers may be interested in these charts showing changes in income.

Oct-21-19-Income.jpg

By the way, guess what happens when taxpayers move, or when they decide to earn less income?

The obvious answer is that politicians don’t collect as much revenue. Which is exactly what the study discovered.

A back of the envelope calculation based on our econometric estimates finds that the intensive and extensive margin responses to taxation combined to undo 45.2% of the revenue gains from taxation that otherwise would have accrued to California in the absence of behavioral responses. The intensive margin accounts for the majority of this effect, but the extensive margin comprises a non-trivial 9.5% of this total response.

We can call this the revenge of the Laffer Curve.

By the way, it’s quite likely that there has been a resurgence of both the “extensive” and “intensive” responses to California’s punitive tax regime because the 2017 tax reform restricted the deductibility of state and local taxes. This means that the federal government – for all intents and purposes – is no longer subsidizing California’s backwards fiscal system.

P.S. Makes me wonder if California politicians will turn Walter Williams’ joke into reality.

Originally published at International Liberty
When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Calvin Coolidge on the Declaration of Independence

07/03/2019Gary Galles

On July 4th, Americans celebrate our Declaration of Independence. But we often give little thought to the uniqueness and importance of our country’s founding.

To revisit those issues, we might turn to Calvin Coolidge — the only president born on the 4th of July. He honored the Declaration’s commitment to life and the liberty to pursue one’s happiness, provided others’ equally inalienable rights are not violated, more than any of his successors. He also produced remarkable results without sacrificing our freedoms — substantially cutting tax rates, tax rolls and federal debt, while real economic growth averaged 7%, with 0.4% inflation and 3.3% unemployment, during his presidency.

In particular, Silent Cal’s speech commemorating Independence Day’s 150th anniversary merits reconsideration. Consider this condensed version:

We meet to celebrate the birthday of America … a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity … the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States … those two great charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken.

A new spirit had arisen on this side of the Atlantic more advanced and more developed in its regard for the rights of the individual.

The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of … independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them.

The Declaration of Independence was the result of the seasoned and deliberate thought of the dominant portion of the people of the Colonies … in no sense a radical movement but … resistance to illegal usurpations … to maintain their constitutional rights which from time immemorial had been guaranteed to them under the law of the land.

The Declaration of Independence … had a much broader and deeper significance than a mere secession of territory and the establishment of a new nation … because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles.

Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.

That our Declaration of Independence containing these immortal truths was the political action of a duly authorized and constituted representative public body in its sovereign capacity, supported by the force of general opinion … makes it the most important civil document in the world … a new nation was born which was to be founded upon those principles … an incomparable event in the history of government.

All men are created equal … they are endowed with inalienable rights … governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. … No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions.

America … has remained true to the principles which were declared 150 years ago. …The rights of the individual are held sacred and protected by constitutional guaranties, which even the Government itself is bound not to violate.

The fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution … to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few. … These are our guaranties of liberty.

Very little of just criticism can attach to the theories and principles of our institutions. There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes.

The Declaration of Independence … is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things…Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first … to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us. … We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed.

Calvin Coolidge articulated America’s founding principles, where they came from and the dangers of moving away from them. As we celebrate another Independence Day, that understanding deserves rediscovering, because it is a far cry from the spirit animating many in America today.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Christine Lagarde's Move from IMF to ECB is Bad for Europe

07/02/2019Tho Bishop

Earlier today, the internet was aflutter with rumors that we were on the verge of an international crisis following schedule changes involving Russian President Vladamir Putin and Vice President Mike Pence. While it appears there two events were unrelated, a different sort of tragedy struck the international stage hours later when it was announced that Christine Lagarde had been named the new head of the European Central Bank.

Joining the ECB after a lengthy stint as head of the IMF, Lagarde certainly has the resume to be the next "great" central banker. Unfortunately, she has a record of folly which we've come to expect from such a title.

In the words of our friend Mike Shedlock, "It's rare to find someone who is consistently wrong on everything. Christine Lagarde...comes close"

A conventional policymaker that fears deflation most of all, Lagarde has been a high profile defender of the negative interest rate policies we've seen doing damage in Europe and Japan. Her selection is being widely seen as an endorsement for continuing the policies of the outgoing Mario Draghi at a time when the ECB desperately needed a hawk to help defuse their trillion-Euro time bomb.

As Daniel Lacalle put it:

Read more: The ECB Continues to Incentivize Reckless Behavior by Daniel Lacalle

Earlier this year, Alasdair Macleod outlined the damage being done by the policies Lagarde is expected to continue. 

Pumping yet more credit into the Eurozone is as effective as giving adrenalin to a dead horse. Lack of credit is not the problem. Put simply, there is a global momentum of economic contraction evolving, which any business and lending banker would be foolish to ignore. There is a developing crisis, the consequence of earlier monetary inflation in the credit cycle. Economic actors may not understand the origins of the crisis, but we can be certain they are becoming acutely aware of its looming presence. And as the crisis rapidly develops, those that require additional loans will already be insolvent. 

The signal sent by the ECB to lending-bankers is likely to be misinterpreted when credit contraction is the looming threat: if TLRTO-III is the smoke, there must be a fire, possibly out of control. Better surely to call in existing loans to businesses rather than waiting to be repaid from profits unlikely to materialise. An encouragement to lend early in the credit cycle is more effective and less likely to be misunderstood than a similar encouragement later in the credit cycle. This is why a renewed TLTRO policy will almost certainly fail. 

The inability of bureaucrats, with their heads buried in spreadsheets, to appreciate the role of human psychology is not the ECB’s only failing. Its executives do not even understand what interest rates represent, thinking it is simply the price of money. This is why it believes in keeping interest rates suppressed as a means of increasing credit. Earlier in the credit cycle, rate suppression does generate some credit expansion, mainly in financial rather than non-financial activities, because lower interest rates lead to higher prices for financial assets. That is basically a spreadsheet, almost non-human function. Large industrial corporations are opportunist, borrowing to fund buy-backs and to take over weaker rivals. Smaller and medium-sized business borrowers are usually offered credit only later in the cycle, when it is a mistake to accept it.

Consequently, in a zombie economy, such as that of the Eurozone, the only borrowers are wealth-destroying, socialising, debt-entrapped governments, taking full advantage of the Basel accords, which rates them for lending banks’ purposes as riskless borrowers.

While Lagarde's appointment could be bad news for Europe's future, it will be certainly be welcomed by some.

As Fabrizio Ferrari noted last month, the big winner of a Dovish ECB appointment is the Italian government. Perhaps that's why the Italian mafia has gone back to using the lira.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Could an Austrian Win the Battle to Replace Theresa May?

05/31/2019Tho Bishop

Following the incredible success of Brexit in 2016, British politics has become a tragedy. Theresa May has been rightfully ridiculed for her remarkable incompetence in striking a Brexit deal, but her greatest sin was her ideological commitment to preserving and growing the very sort of government interventionism that has long hindered the UK.

As George Pickering noted earlier this year:

It would…be tempting for Brexiteers to place the blame entirely on policies inflicted by the EU bureaucracy, but the truth is that harmful post-Brexit policies are equally likely to be imposed by the UK’s own government. This is particularly true for the issue of ‘regulatory harmonization’. Although UK policymakers had initially been considering significant deregulation as a possibility in the case of a no-deal Brexit, this option was taken off the table due to Theresa May’s commitment to transpose the bulk of EU regulations into British law. This would mean that, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, UK consumers would miss out on the economic boost and quality of life improvements that could otherwise have resulted from abandoning burdensome and unnecessary EU regulations. Again however, the key point is that the true culprit is the policy of regulation itself, not Brexit, and Brexiteers should be no less quick to point this out simply because the source of the harmful policy is the UK government, rather than the EU.

While a Prime Minister with the will to follow through on Brexit would itself be an important blow against political centralism, the UK needs a bold change in ideology to truly take full advantage of the opportunity breaking away from the EU offers its people. Luckily it seems that the Conservative Party will have the option to do just that.

Former Brexit Under-Secretary Steve Baker, a favorite of our friends at Mises UK, has publicly announced he’s considering jumping in to the race to replace May. Baker’s appointment at the time was particularly noteworthy as he was perhaps the strongest EU-skeptic in parliament. His support of Leave, for example, was not simply grounded in the name of British national sovereignty, but correctly identified the EU itself as a dangerous project that should be destroyed entirely.

I think Ukip and the Better Off Out campaign lack ambition. I think the European Union needs to be wholly torn down….It was meant to defeat economic nationalism, it is therefore a failure in its own terms. If we wish to devolve power to the lowest possible level, make it accountable and move on into a free society, then it’s clearly incompatible. What I want is free trade and peace among all the nations of Europe as well as the world and in my view the European Union is an obstacle to that.

While he lacks the same degree of name recognition that is enjoyed by others like former-London Mayor Boris Johnson, Baker has created a strong following of his own among Brexiteers due to his principled stand on Brexit. He has also argued that his distance from May’s past failed deals – which were backed by not just Johnson, but other potential rivals such as Domick Raab – gives him greater credibility.

While Baker’s principled stance on Brexit is itself deserving of praise, what truly makes Baker fascinating is his familiarity with Austrian economics. As I noted when he was originally named Under-Secretary, as a Member of Parliament Baker often referenced economists such as Ludwig von Mises, Jesús Huerta de Soto and F.A. Hayek in the House of Commons. A co-founder of the Cobden Centre (named after the great Richard Cobden), he has long been a vocal opponent of the “monetary socialism” of central banks and the IMF.

As is always the case with any decent politician, Baker remains a longshot in the race to replace May. Still, the fact that his name has emerged in the conversation is a strong sign for his political future. We shall see what emerges in the coming weeks, but if there is one thing we should learn from recent Tory history – one should never rule out an underdog.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here

Congress Fiddles While Trump Lurches Toward War on Iran

05/28/2019Ron Paul

Congress, and particularly the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, seems determined to see the end of the Trump Administration before the 2020 vote. Although House Speaker Pelosi claims she is not seeking impeachment, she’s accusing the president of “covering up” something. However, she won’t say what until she can do more investigating.

But Trump’s opponents on both sides of the Congressional aisle don’t seem so enthusiastic about challenging the president when he actually does abuse his Constitutional authority to pursue a more aggressive policy overseas.

Late last week, for example, President Trump declared a national security “emergency” brought about by unspecified “Iranian malign activity” – a “loophole” allowing him to bypass Congressional review of some $8 billion in US weapons to be sold to Saudi Arabia.

Congress had been reluctant to approve yet more arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the President vetoed a bi-partisan House and Senate-approved bill requiring the US to end its military support for the Saudi war of aggression against Yemen.

What might this new Iran “emergency” be? As with the lead-up to the Iraq war, the Administration claims important secret intelligence — but of course we have to just trust them. From what we have heard from the Administration, it looks pretty flimsy. Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, has outright claimed that the so-called “sabotage” of four container ships at port in the UAE is the doing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. But even Abu Dhabi didn’t claim Iranian involvement in the mysterious incident.

Could it have been a false flag?

Admiral Gilday also claims, without providing proof, that the recent firing of a small rocket in the general vicinity of the US Embassy in Iraq is the work of the Iranians. “We believe with a high degree of confidence that this [recent attacks] stems back to the leadership in Iran at the highest levels,” he said.

What would Iran gain by shooting off an insignificant rocket, exposing itself to US massive retaliation with no gain whatsoever? They don’t say.

 The Trump Administration has been lacking any coherent foreign policy strategy for some time. It often seems the President is fighting more with his own appointees than with his opponents on Capitol Hill. As soon as he announces that ISIS is defeated and US troops must come home, his employees like National Security Advisor John Bolton “clarify” Trump’s statements to mean that troops are staying. Trump goes to Hanoi to cut a deal with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and Bolton shows up with a poison pill that blows up the deal.

Bolton announced plans for 120,000 US troops to the Middle East to help push the war on Iran he’s been hocking for 20 or so years. Then we heard it was 10,000. Then 1,500, of which 600 are already there.

Whether Trump is on board or not, his Administration is clearly dragging the US into conflict with Iran. While some Members remind the president that he does not have Constitutional authority to attack Iran without approval, that argument has not been very effective in deterring presidents thus far.

If Congress really wanted to rein in an out-of-control president, they have plenty of opportunity in his bogus “national emergency” declaration and his saber rattling toward Iran. But if asserting Constitutional authority means Congress acts to pull-back US militarism overseas, suddenly there is a great bipartisan silence. They’d rather impeach Trump over his rude Tweets than over his stomping on the Constitution.

Reprinted with permission.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here
Shield icon power-market-v2