Dobbs and Trump talk trade, terrify opponents

In his iconic farewell address to the nation in January, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower presaged the battle President Trump is now waging against the Deep State and multinational corporations.  Eisenhower, having presided over the Cold-War imperative of a rapid military and technological-industrial escalation, warned the nation about the corrupting danger that powerful government insiders and their wealthy corporate allies pose to our representative democracy. Here is his timeless quote from that speech.

We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties and democratic processes.

Fifty-six years later, the movement that propelled our current president to the White House was fueled by very real and similar fears of misplaced power – many would say stolen power – by multinational corporations, global behemoths that see the United States as a crucial wealth-generator to be manipulated in the global economy to move goods and labor from country to country, like players on a game board, to maximize profits.

This past Wednesday, our populist, nationalist, pro-American, anti-establishment president sat down with Lou Dobbs of Fox Business Network, in a friendly discussion between two men who share a similar vision of the proper relationship between the government and its people.

Dobbs addressed the corruption in Washington moving the country closer to the realization of President Eisenhower's fears for the sovereignty of a free people in a democratic republic.  As Dobbs put it to President Trump:

The role of business in this country [is] critical, fundamental to the country's well-being and its future, to the creation of jobs. But business has taken such a voice in this town, in this swamp, that you are the only countervailing influence to that dominance of U.S. multinationals in this country.

Eisenhower, in his farewell address, reiterated his great concerns of threats from powerful business, technological, and military interests to the democratization of power.

We want democracy to succeed for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Yet in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become captive to a scientific, technological elite. It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system, ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

Today, that balance has been lost.  President Trump discussed with Dobbs the status of various initiatives he has undertaken to rebalance the relationship between government and business.

After a positive interchange regarding tax reform legislation, the issue of trade arose, in which the president reiterated his determination to amend the existing iteration of NAFTA, with its provisions that are crippling our manufacturing base, with terms more favorable to the U.S., or he will exit it entirely.  He raised his concerns regarding the World Trade Organization (WTO), a governmental agency created in 1994, replacing GATT and designed to regulate international trade.  The president claimed that the WTO was "set up to benefit everyone but us."  He further lamented the fact that in the WTO trade dispute courts, "we lose almost all the lawsuits within the WTO because we have fewer judges than other countries.  You can't win."  The system is "set up ... to take advantage of the United States."

President Trump derides free trade as an illusion.  He reframes the discussion in terms of balanced or fair trade.  Differences in economic, political, and philosophical systems; a lack of reciprocal trade treatment (one-sided tariffs and other barriers to market entry); and currency manipulations combine to make free trade between most countries a mirage.  Trump's response is to carefully craft individual bilateral trade agreements rather than cumbersome multi-nation agreements like the Obama TPP he so readily canceled, so that aberrant trade behavior can be effectively monitored and violations dealt with swiftly.

As Mr. Dobbs pointed out, for simply demanding that trade agreements be negotiated that protect US interests, President Trump is labeled by his many adversaries "protectionist" and "isolationist."  Dobbs noted, "Of all our trading partners, we're the only ones who say, 'Please take what you want.  We don't have to have a mature relationship with you.  We don't have to have balanced trade.'"

The heads of U.S. multinational leviathans as well as politicians, both current and prospective, would do well to ponder President Eisenhower's wise parting words that are as relevant today, and will be as relevant in the future, as when he spoke them:

As we peer into society's future, we, you and I, and our government, must  avoid the impulse to live only for today.  Plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow, we cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren, risking the loss of their political and spiritual heritage.

This admonition from Dwight Eisenhower, who, like Donald Trump, never served a day in political office prior to assuming the presidency, surely resonates with Mr. Trump as he forges ahead to drain the swamp and resist "the weight of this combination [that] endanger[s] our liberties and democratic processes."

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