For those who live outside the United States as citizens of countries who are in alliances and partnerships with the United States, very little of yesterday’s debate can have mattered as much as this exchange about mutual global defense:
TRUMP: “Nuclear is the single greatest threat. Just to go down the list, we defend Japan, we defend Germany, we defend South Korea, we defend Saudi Arabia, we defend countries. They do not pay us. But they should be paying us, because we are providing tremendous service and we’re losing a fortune. That’s why we’re losing – we’re losing – we lose on everything. I say, who makes these – we lose on everything. All I said, that it’s very possible that if they don’t pay a fair share, because this isn’t 40 years ago where we could do what we’re doing. We can’t defend Japan, a behemoth, selling us cars by the million…” […] “they may have to defend themselves or they have to help us out. We’re a country that owes $20 trillion. They have to help us out.”
That is so obviously outrageous, that Hillary Clinton had to clean up Trump’s mess right there, well knowing that the world is watching:
CLINTON: Well, let me - let me start by saying, words matter. Words matter when you run for president. And they really matter when you are president. And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them. It is essential that America’s word be good. And so I know that this campaign has caused some questioning and worries on the part of many leaders across the globe. I’ve talked with a number of them. But I want to - on behalf of myself, and I think on behalf of a majority of the American people, say that, you know, our word is good.
It is glaringly obvious that Donald Trump does not understand anything in the world that doesn’t look like an immediate financial transaction. He knows no loyalty and no security strategy; he knows no friendship. He knows numbers in accounts.
He believes he can “take the oil” from Iraq as if it were a commodities market transaction. He believes that a trade deficit means is a stream of money going one way, with nothing coming back for it in return. He appears to seriously imply that he can negotiate a “better deal”, somehow reversing that trade deficit into a trade surplus through nothing but tough talk.
He said he wants to impose significant, punitive tariffs on goods that American companies manufacture abroad and import back into the United States:
TRUMP: And what you do is you say, fine, you want to go to Mexico or some other country, good luck. We wish you a lot of luck. But if you think you’re going to make your air conditioners or your cars or your cookies or whatever you make and bring them into our country without a tax, you’re wrong.
Which only means that he will have to impose those punitive tariffs on everyone trying to sell the same goods in the United States. Which is going to make everyone else impose tariffs on U.S. made goods.
His total lack of understanding of how tax concepts like VAT work, and that they apply uniformly to all sales transactions and independent of the origin of goods, is also just plainly sad:
TRUMP: Let me give you the example of Mexico. They have a VAT tax. We’re on a different system. When we sell into Mexico, there’s a tax. When they sell in - automatic, 16 percent, approximately. When they sell into us, there’s no tax. It’s a defective agreement. It’s been defective for a long time, many years, but the politicians haven’t done anything about it.
What Trump proposes is running the United States like a company. He appears to be offering paid
defense services to Germany, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and other
He does seem to be proposing a central management of all international trade, and a central management of which U.S. company gets to produce what and where. He’s suggested he may selectively default on U.S. government debt by “negotiating it down”, making creditors accept partial settlements, just as he’s likely done with his own corporate bankruptcies.
He’s not running for president. He’s running for CEO. With his children as the board of directors, including, apparently, his 10 year old son as the CIO:
TRUMP: I have a son. He’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it’s hardly doable.
From a foreign perspective, that doesn’t look like a company many would like to do honest business with. But it’d surely be a company those would like to do business with who can outsmart the CEO - and some may have done that already.
“And what you do is you say, fine, you want to” vote for him, “good luck. We wish you a lot of luck.”