Donald Trump’s specialty is unintended self-parody and his recent statements on Fox News about how Republicans should engage in domestic economic terror by using a “nuclear weapon” against our economy prove that one can become wealthy and famous without having even the most tenuous grasp of patriotism, reality, logic, or ethics. Here is Newsmax’s story of Trump’s treasonous ode to nuking the nation. (Newsmax is an ultra-right site sympathetic to Trump, so their description was not slanted against him.)
“‘Look, the Republicans are sitting there with a nuclear weapon, so to speak,’ Trump said. ‘They have the debt ceiling coming up. They can use that as part of negotiations, and they should.’”
Trump completed the self-parody by using these words to describe the talks about the “fiscal cliff.”
“‘The whole thing, the whole charade going on in Washington is politically irresponsible, what’s going on is unbelievable,’ Trump said on Fox News’s ‘Fox and Friends.’”
So true, it is “irresponsible” for Congress to fail to prevent the “fiscal cliff’s” austerity from inflicting a recession on us. Logically, given Trump’s warning that austerity would cause such grave damage on the economy that it would be irresponsible to allow it to occur he must oppose austerity as a response to the Great Recession. Logical coherence is not part of Trump’s toolkit.
In a brief interview Trump twice managed to contradict his logic about the need not to inflict austerity on our economy.
“Trump called the cliff a ‘curb’ because a deal of some sort will ultimately be hammered out, he believes. What is crucial is to push for a ‘big deal’ because Republicans have leverage, in the form of the upcoming debt ceiling debate.”
Trump describes the “fiscal cliff” as more like a “curb” because he is confident that the parties will reach a deal to undo its economy-destroying austerity. He then pushes for a “big deal.” That phrase is code for supersized austerity – an austerity program in the $4 trillion range that would be inflicted for a decade. Inflicting severe austerity for a decade could cause multiple recessions.
Trump’s second internal contradiction was his enthusiasm for the prospect that the Republicans would blackmail us by threatening to nuke our economy. What does Trump want the Republicans to extort via their nuclear blackmail? Trump wants austerity through deep cuts to the safety net and social programs and he wants no increase in taxes for the wealthy. Trump claims it is “irresponsible” to go off what he describes as a “curb” (aka, the “fiscal cliff”) because the austerity it would impose would cause a recession. He wants to extort even deeper and longer austerity (and deeper and longer recessions) and force ever greater inequality on the nation. Logically, that should be hyper-irresponsible.
It would give a normal person pause to put these phrases in the same argument: (1) the Republicans “should” “use” the threat of the “nuclear weapon” (causing a default on our national debt) and (2) it is essential that we avoid “politically irresponsible” positions. Trump clearly has no internal alarm that goes off when he contradicts himself only seconds apart.
Causing a default on our national debt is stupid, immoral, and un-American
Many writers have explained that not raising the debt ceiling does not reduce our debt – it causes us to default on our debt. Trump thinks the Republicans “should” threaten to cause us to default on our debt. He calls that the Republican Party’s “nuclear weapon” because it would cause such catastrophic damage to the nation. The U.S., unlike nations using the euro, has a sovereign currency. We allow the value of the dollar to float freely and we borrow in our own currency. As a result, we can never be forced by external pressures to default. We are not exposed to the bond vigilantes. Even with large deficits and higher debt-to-GDP ratios we are able to borrow at exceptionally low interest rates because we can never be forced to default. We can, however, choose to default voluntarily. That is what Trump wants the Republicans to threaten to do, because he knows it could cause grave harm to our, and the world’s, economy. Trump advocates economic treason as a means of extorting political advantage for the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the American economy and most Americans.
A voluntary default would also be immoral and un-American. The U.S. has the ability to pay all its debts, as it has for centuries. There is no moral basis for us not to pay our debts to our creditors. Defaulting would require us to violate every principle that made the nation great.
Only an incompetent negotiator could be extorted by Trump’s nuclear weapon threat
There are three reasons why any competent negotiator would cause Trump’s strategy of threatening to ruin the U.S. economy to blow up in the Republican Party’s face. The primary problem with Trump’s strategy is that it is a nuclear strategy. A nuclear strategy cannot be used – it can only be threatened. If the Republicans pop a nuke and cause a national and global crisis they will destroy their Party. They know that will happen. No competent negotiator would give in to such a suicidal and treasonous threat.
Even if the Republican Party were so vile and treasonous as to be willing to nuke the U.S. and global economy President Obama could readily trump their effort at extortion. President Obama can, and should, defuse Trump’s “nuclear weapon.” He has three ready means to do so. He can invoke the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, create money without issuing debt, or coin trillion dollar platinum coins. These presidential options to defuse Trump’s nuke have been explained at length by other writers, so I will not do so here. (I’ll note only that it is a common misconception that a nation with a sovereign currency issues debt for the purpose of obtaining funds for the government. We routinely create money through keystrokes on Federal Reserve computers – and do so without creating inflation.)
No U.S. president who respected his or her oath of office would allow such a treasonous “nuclear” assault on our nation to succeed. As the New York Times article reported, President Clinton, a competent negotiator who faced down the Republican’s efforts at budgetary extortion, explained that he would honor his oath of office and invoke the 14th amendment “without hesitation” “and force the courts to stop me.”
The third reason why any competent president would call Trump’s bluff and defuse his nuclear weapon strategy is that any other negotiating strategy would destroy his presidency. If Obama were to give in to the extortion the Republicans could raise the debt limit only minimally and repeatedly use their nuclear weapon to extort Obama and force him to adopt every policy the Tea Party desired. Obama’s knowledge that allowing Trump’s extortion strategy to succeed would destroy Obama gives Obama the correct incentives to call Trump’s bluff or to trump his extortion strategy through the three methods noted here.
Trump’s hypocrisy on partisanship
Newsmax’s story does not include one key quotation from Trump about his nuclear weapon.
“Billionaire businessman Donald Trump said he thinks the debt ceiling is Republicans’ ‘nuclear weapon’ in the ongoing negotiations over the fiscal cliff.
‘The Republicans have a very strong negotiating position,’ Trump said on a call to “Fox and Friends” Monday morning. ‘The debt ceiling’s coming up in another month and a half, and the debt ceiling is going to be devastating to Democrats if the Republicans want to play that card.’”
The Newsmax story quotes Trump’s ode to non-partisan “cohesion.”
“‘You’re looking at what’s going on and you see the lack of cohesion in Washington, probably, maybe in history it’s never been anything like it.’”
Partisanship is the problem according to Trump, and the solution is for the Republicans to threaten to pop a nuke (force the U.S. to default on its debt) that would ruin the U.S. and global economies because such extortion “is going to be devastating to Democrats.” Trump’s nuclear weapon, unless defused by Obama, would be “devastating” to Americans, not just Democrats. Indeed, it would be devastating to people throughout the world.
The trio interviewing Trump on “Fox and Friends” did not point out any of these examples of self-parody or logical incoherence by Trump. The trio made no criticism of Trump’s treasonous proposal to hold the U.S. and global economies hostage in order to inflict austerity and extort ever greater inequality. Here’s a thought experiment: what would the trio’s reaction have been if any Democrat had gone on “Fox and Friends” and stated that the Democratic Party “should” use a “nuclear weapon” on the American and global economies unless congressional Republicans agreed to everything the Democrats desired?