Houston Wade, Executive Director
While many are calling for the public to “give the Trump administration a chance” the Institute for Science and Policy has been working hard to foresee what will be the result of his presidency. Our outlook is very pessimistic for all the reasons which are outlined below.
As president-elect Trump has already begun to build his administration around the worst possible fears of his opponents. He is appointing white nationalists to key positions in his administration, he is seeking to register religious minorities, and roll back the finally realized rights and protections so many of our citizens have earned and deserve.
- A failed economy rife with fraud and the loss of publicly owned infrastructure
- Global war and the collapse of traditional allegiances
- Increased white nationalism, hate crimes, and paramilitary involvement in domestic matters
- Significant roll backs of civil rights and liberties
- Persecution of the free press and limited access to information
- Trump family enrichment through governmental power and influence
- Environmental collapse in the Mountain West
- A drift toward authoritarianism and fascism
- The chances of military coup inside the United States has never been greater
Jobs, Graft, Nepotism, Kleptocracy, and the Economy
What is readily apparent and troubling is the hurried pace at which Donald Trump is seeking to enrich himself via the power of the presidency. Trump is hardly the first wealthy man to hold the most powerful office in the land, but he is by far the wealthiest of them all, and the first to refuse to put his vast holdings into a blind trust. Trump is still the chair of his privately held conglomerate. His children will be running the day-to-day business operations, but at the same time he seeks to give his children top secret clearance and have them hold key positions in his administration as advisers.
It has already been reported that diplomats, dignitaries, and heads of state will be flocking to the Trump Hotel just blocks from the White House to pay $20,000 a night to stay in the most premium rooms. One Asian diplomat stated it as such, “Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’ ” Reports are already coming out that he is using his new position to enrich himself via graft from other heads of state.
This is the key: enrich. Trump cares about money. Money will be first and foremost in a Trump administration. Trump admires Russian President Vladimir Putin. He admires his authoritarian rule, he admires his business acumen. What is Putin’s business acumen, you ask? Amassing some $200 billion in wealth as the head of state. In America presidents are expected to forego their dreams of wealth and riches until after they have served their country. Donald Trump will not do this. The country will serve Donald Trump.
Trump will mire us financially. His tax policy will suck hundreds of billions out of the treasury every year as he slashes corporate taxes, and invites a loophole for the highest paid executives to become “consultants” and pay 15% tax on their wealth rather than 35% on their salaries. The wall he wants to build is estimated to cost $25 billion, but we think that is under estimating the costs by about $200 billion. Constructing a light rail line in Seattle costs $10 billion. The largest concrete project in human history is going to be a logistical nightmare as it eminent domains land, fights legal battles, claws for raw material, experiences delays, costs overruns, shoddy workmanship, protests, etc… Trump’s plan for deporting immigrants would cost up to $600 billion just to enforce and deport, and another $1.5 trillion in economic loss to our economy!
His base wants jobs. They voted for Trump believing that jobs will come to them. They won’t. The jobs these people had years and years ago, are not coming back. In 1973 the United States produced 137 million metric tons of steel and employed 605,000 people (226.4 tons per worker). In 2013 steel production was down to 87 million tons and 147,000 employees (591.8 tons per employee). It is thought that production has been growing since 2013 due to construction and manufacturing being on the rise, but even if we had the peak steel production of 1973 replicated today, there would still be 373,503 fewer workers producing said steel. Only inefficiency will bring back those jobs.
In coal country the prospects are even more grim. West Virginia overwhelmingly has put their faith into Donald Trump to bring back coal jobs. Overall yearly coal production in West Virginia is down about 60 million tons per year since the peak of 1997, yet the number of workers mining coal is higher than ever! In 1997 20,542 people worked in the coal industry in West Virginia and mined 181 million tons. By 2013 that total was 52,213 people mining 120 million tons. Why? It became harder to get permits to blow the tops off of mountains and open pit coal mines. Open pits require a fraction of the work force to obtain a higher yield, it is also incredibly destructive to the environment. Today, coal is harder to mine, more labor intensive, and employs more people now than it has for 30 years and is comparable to coal employment over peaks of the past century.
So, why is West Virginia hurting? For the same reason it has always been hurting: too many people, not enough industry. West Virginia has no sea ports, no interesting landmarks or tourist stops, not enough flat ground, and a poorly educated population. No corporations of worth want to be there, only corporations who have to be there. The majority of its employed population work in hospitals and pharmacies, and for Walmart or Krogers. It is almost entirely an economy built upon a dying population. Donald Trump is not going to make West Virginia more appealing, he is not going to get more people to work in coal. If West Virginia was worth the investment, Trump would have invested in it by now.
Coal production is just not efficient in West Virginia and will vanish entirely in the near future. Wyoming produces 255 million more tons of coal than WV and does so with only 6,646 employees. Even Wyoming coal is feeling the pinch as natural gas becomes a much cheaper, cleaner-burning alternative for traditional coal fire power plants. How would Trump bring coal jobs back? He would have to make natural gas expensive again, which would kill the natural gas market and put many of the 170,000 jobs tied to gas exploration and production at risk. Trump’s only option at this point is to capitulate and make one of these industries really angry, or artificially boost the coal market and create an unsustainable bubble.
With regards to Wall Street and big banks, Trump wants to see regulations be purged from the markets. History has shown that when Republicans control all three branches of government the economy collapses: 1929, 2008… 2017? Since 1981 there have been four recessions, all of which happened during a Republican administration. We are about to see a complete reversal in policy towards the markets and expect to see a housing bubble part II.
When markets get deregulated, and banks are allowed to invest savings into the markets at will one should expect fantastic, quick gains; but this is inevitably unsustainable. As long as traders are allowed to insure their investments with credit default swaps, there will be artificial inflation of securities and commodities, as many will no doubt bet against the market and stand to make fortunes. Trump plays with other people’s money and seldom has stake in the game. He has defaulted on billions of dollars in loans since the 1970s and now receives most of his investment from overseas. An undisclosed amount of loans possibly totaling $1 billion from the Bank of China, his debts also include over $350 million from Deutsche bank, and an unsettling amount of money from Russian oligarchs tied to Vladimir Putin’s inner circle for overseas Trump projects, which…
…Brings us back to Vladimir Putin and Trump’s ties to him. While Trump denies any connection with Putin, the money and personal trail is deep. Trump’s daughter Ivanka is good friends with Putin’s girlfriend, Wendi Deng, and went on vacation with her to Croatia this past summer (if this alone is not enough to warrant a rejection for security clearance, we don’t know what is). Putin’s M.O. for the past decade has been to install his surrogates and allies as the heads of states in the former Soviet Bloc via invasion or questionable elections. This tactic has become more global than regional as of late with the election of Duterte in the Philippines and, some would say, Trump.
During the campaign, Donald Trump made some very troubling comments about NATO, the allegiance that has kept the Russian Bear at bay for almost 70 years. The prime directive is that the attack of any one NATO member is an attack on all. While being a Cold War necessity, this doctrine is very recently relevant as Russia has begun overthrowing its former Soviet subjects making many former Iron Curtain nations nervous enough to jump at the opportunity of NATO membership. Just this week Estonia has a new Prime Minister in Juri Ratas who has deep ties to Vladimir Putin. Russia has been amassing military personnel and armament along the border with Estonia since last year. Lithuania is so fearful of Russian invasion that they have been running nation-wide drills with its citizenry and preparing its troops for an imminent war.
We expect that during Trump’s term that Russia will invade one, or all, of the Baltic states and challenge NATO’s allegiances and prime directive. We expect Russia to assume that the Trump administration will look the other way al la Chamberlain with regards to the Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland. This will plunge Europe into war without its largest, most important ally, the USA. In other words World War III.
In Asia Trump will ignore allegiances with traditional partners like Japan, South Korea, The Philippines, and Taiwan; and will let die recent ties with Vietnam. Trump has said that he wants these nations to have more of a role in their security and for the US to pull out. This plays directly into the hands of Chinese and Russian interests.
Japanese President Shinzo Abe is a hawk unlike any leader since the end of WWII. China will begin to exert more dominance in East Asia and make its neighbors nervous of invasion of their borders and infiltration of their governments. This action will lead to military buildups by previously weakly armed governments. North Korea will go largely ignored and will continue development of weapons systems and will become a belligerent threat to its immediate neighbors. The Korean Peninsula has never been closer to all out war since the cease fire. Result? World War III. Only worse than the European side as allegiances will have become much more muddled and the US will not have a strong policy for its position.
The Middle East, while at the moment is the most pressing concern, will largely fall by the wayside as Trump let’s Putin control policy and action in Syria and Turkey. As the rest of the planet falls into posturing and war, our Middle East policy will largely be forgotten anywhere that does not sell oil. We expect to see internal strife similar or worse than the Arab Spring arise in multiple nations as soon as the US government becomes preoccupied with skirmishes across the globe.
Our outlook with regards to international relations is not good. We have never been closer to nuclear annihilation than we are about to become in the period since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Law and Order
On Meanwhile on the domestic front, new Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions will see law and order unravel as the Justice Department’s attention does a 180 degree turn. Sessions’ ties to white nationalists, and his overt racism, cost him a federal judgeship. Expect to see any federal law enforcement operations following white nationalist groups like the KKK, Neo Nazis, Aryan Brotherhood, Odinists, the Alt Right, paramilitary militia organizations, and Sovereign Citizens to all but vanish. White Nationalist groups will use this period as an opportunity to become the defacto “Brown Shirts” of the Trump administration as they see Trump’s ascendancy a sign that their race war is near. Hate crimes against ethnic and religious minorities, immigrants, and LGBTQ peoples will continue to increase with impunity.
The Justice Department will double down on the War on Drugs. Expect the DEA to return focus on state-legal pot operations. Very few users and purveyors of legal marijuana voted for Trump; this will be an opportunity to clear out the opposition. It will also be a financial boon for the private prison industry and wreak havoc on the the economies of West Coast.
The EPA will become toothless. Should Myron Ebell take over as head of the Environmental Protection Agency he will gut it. He will make life for the bureaucrats and scientists who have worked at the EPA for decades so miserable that many will quit or retire. He will do one of two things: let the agency operate understaffed, or fill any openings with climate denial underlings who will keep the agency inept for generations. This means that violators of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act will likely go unpunished. Pipeline construction out of the Bakken oil fields will crisscross the continent and any spills or explosions will receive little to no attention from the federal agency. Expect air and water quality to continue to denigrate during the Trump administration as more lands are opened to fraking and energy exploration.
For years Republicans in Congress have been trying to unload federal lands. Now that Republicans control all three branches of government, there is a higher than likely chance there will be a push for such a liquidation. Federal lands generate trillions of dollars to the US economy and provide recreation for millions as well as much of our potable water. The ultimate goal is to unload the lands onto the individual states who are not financially equipped to maintain such large tracts. The states will subsequently be forced to sell to the highest bidder; generally mining, ranching, and logging operations. Once these lands are out of the control of the state and federal governments it will be a free-for-all. Combine this with the future impotence of the EPA and we will see environmental degradation the likes of which the North American continent has never seen.
With Trump’s appointee(s) to the Supreme Court the future of Roe v Wade and Marriage Equality are certainly doomed. Trump may say he has the backs of the LGBTQ community, but his selection of Mike Pence as his Vice President is proof that this is not the case. Lip service to the LGBTQ community will not matter to a man like Pence who believes in gay conversion therapy and the Orwellian named “religious freedom” legislation which allows the open discrimination of Americans by businesses based on religious grounds. We are in uncharted territory with never having had an Evangelical with as much power as Pence has.
Further degradation of voting rights will occur as individual states make it harder and harder for minorities to vote. This will lead to more consolidation of power for Republican legislatures and Congress. States like Alabama recently required identification to vote and then closed 31 of its 67 DMVs to make it nearly impossible for millions of its citizens to obtain a valid ID. There is a direct connection that voter disenfranchisement won Trump the presidency and Republicans Congress in 2016.
Donald Trump does not like native tribes. He blames Indian casinos for the collapse of his gambling interests in Atlantic City. He will seek revenge on them especially if tribes do not let him build his wall along the Mexico border, or readily construct pipelines through the nation’s heartland.
National infrastructure may finally get the upgrades and maintenance it so desperately needs but it will come at a cost: ownership of almost all vital infrastructure. Trump’s stated plan for upgrading the nation’s vast networks of roads, ports, bridges, and sanitation networks involves using private capital rather than public bonds and taxes.
Today when improvements are made, or new projects financed, the government sells low interest bonds to investors and pays back the loan via tax dollars. Trump wants to have private contractors use higher interest bank loans to rebuild infrastructure and in return the federal government will give the newly renovated infrastructure to the private company to run and profit from. This would turn hundreds of thousands of miles of roads into toll roads. Imagine paying a dollar a mile to cross the United States by highway. This will collapse the economy alone.
Couple this with the ineptitude with which private industry runs public infrastructure and we will have a double whammy of projects which cost several times more than usual, and are rife with violations of federal law, questionable financials, and poor management. Who will ultimately own all this infrastructure should private industry default on the loans? Banks, of course! If you thought the housing bubble was big, just wait for the securities derivatives market to crash with trillions of dollars of what was publicly owned projects. It will cost us twice; once when we give away public property, and again when we bail out the banks and do not receive ownership of the infrastructure in return. At least when the bond market collapses the government can buy back the bonds and forgive its own debt.
Information and the Media
The consolidation of media distribution and communications companies is a real threat to not only the access Americans have to information, but to the economy as a whole. Net Neutrality is one of the strongest drivers of the economy giving all people equal access to the Internet and its services. Large telecom companies want to throttle back this access and create a market for high speed broadband access for users as well as distributors of content. A Trump FCC and Supreme Court will allow for the death of Net Neutrality.
This will raise costs for consumers for substandard access to the Internet and media. It will bankrupt entire industries who cannot pay for their customers to access their content on the preferred networks of telecom giants like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T.
Trump has made no secret of his willingness to crush the free press. Should telecoms and ISPs be able to restrict access to the Internet for news sources and social media this could greatly impede the ability of the public to make informed decisions. Trump would like to see the press corps dissolve, and go about his administrative functions as the head of state for the most powerful nation on Earth unchecked. Outside of puff pieces, Trump does not want journalists reporting on him.
We do not want to mince words. Trump will ruin the economy in the long term for short term gains. An economy is defined by the movement of goods, capital, services, people, and information. His infrastructure plan will impede the movement of people, goods and services. His media and communications plane will impede the movement of information. With the collapse of four of the five tenets of an economy the newly unregulated capital will also vanish. Which brings us to a very important topic…
The Safety Net
The Republicans in Congress want to privatize everything. Absolutely everything. They want to invest Medicare and Social Security into the stock market. This would increase the amount brokers and hedge fund managers would make on trades and gains on the market, with no skin in the game themselves, as 250 million Americans are compelled to pay into the gambles and whims of Wall Street suits. Today, should the market collapse, the last bastion of financial sanctuary for Americans is Social Security and Medicare. If the Republicans have their way, and invest Social Security and Medicare into the precarious market of a Trump administration, then should the market crash, then the populace of the entire nation also collapses. The Great Depression will have nothing on the ruin this act will wrought. This is Murphy’s Law 101.
Trump, time and again, says that he wants to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. It has been two years and he has not stated what he would replace it with. Should Congress successfully repeal the ACA and 20 million Americans go back to being uninsured the political fallout for Trump would be very large.
The President-elect also has plans to abolish the Veterans Affairs and privatize the VA hospitals. As it stands today, the VA, Medicare, and Medicaid are the three most effective and efficient providers of healthcare in the United States. The VA also enjoys the highest patient satisfaction of any hospital system in the nation. What the federal government provides in healthcare for one to two cents on the dollar, private industry does for 30 cents on the dollar. Under a Trump administration costs will skyrocket and care will vanish. When the past 8 years of growth the nation has experienced comes crashing down there will be no safety net for the populace since all of the reinvested Social Security capital will have vanished as well.
We expect the military budget to explode. The continued privatization of military functions; the further closure of bases and consolidation leading to both lucrative construction contracts and pennies-on-the-dollar acquisitions of prime government real estate; and the rampant purchasing of non-effective military hardware will all contribute to the runaway military budget.
Trump’s backing among infantry is unquestioned. His backing by commanders who control the nuclear arsenal is unclear. Considering Trump’s blasé attitude toward the use of nuclear arms terrifies those who manage such weapons, there is a real possibility Trump could order a first strike nuclear launch and those orders would be refused. What happens after that is anyone’s guess.
What we will end up with in the near future is a bloated military budget, and a pentagon preoccupied with moving personnel from bases around the world and consolidating them here at home while international relations fall apart elsewhere on the planet. A tenuous situation to say the least. Trump’s impending incompetence, stripping of civil rights, and weakening of US military dominance around the globe, when combined with an impending economic collapse, means the overthrow of our government by a military faction to be a stronger than ever possibility.
Authoritarianism and Fascism
It is no small measure than many are concerned with Trump’s rhetoric with regards to his administration becoming authoritarian or even fascist. During the debates Trump said he would jail his opponent, he repeatedly quoted white nationalists and fascists on social media, and he wants even greater policing authority. Combine these attributes with his attitude toward a free press, satire and free expression, and his love affair with Hitler’s speeches, and we have a very real possibility that his narcissistic personality disorder could lead to an authoritarian crack down on dissent.
We have never elected someone as dangerous as Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. He becomes bored with the details of the job, he is an admitted sexual predator, a fraud, and is interested in his own financial gain. Trump has been contemplating a run for the presidency for decades; he has thought about exactly how he will do this.
The Institute for Science and Policy feels that a Trump Presidency has the very real possibility to seeing the end of Democracy, Liberty, and Rights in the United States. We do not want to mince words; he is a danger to us all. If even one of these outcomes were come true it would spell disaster for our nation and would be an historic failure of our system of government.
Our goal is to not just spout doom and gloom, but to find solutions to these dangers as soon as possible.
-Houston Wade, Executive Director, The Institute for Science and Policy