In my junior year in high school, there was a candidate running against me for student council who promised truly amazing things. He wanted to give seniors a free period on Wednesdays so we could “catch up on work” (wink, wink). He wanted the last period of the day on Fridays eliminated. He promised to improve lunches by having fast food joints set up carts at the school.
None of it was achievable, but his message resonated. It’s the same thing that’s happening today in Presidential campaigning. Donald Trump will make Mexico pay for the wall. He’ll threaten tariffs on China so they’ll be forced to send jobs back to the United States. He’ll make nationalism a tenable proposition because Americans only want to deal with other Americans. He’ll renegotiate the foundation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
On the surface, these sugary tidbits of policy proposals sound enticing. We’ll do whatever we want because: ‘Murica. What candidate Trump believes compared to what President Trump can do presents such a wide divide that it’s a wonder why the media persists in allowing him to make these proposals virtually unchecked. We know that they want him to be the nominee so their darling on the Democratic side can win the general election, but surely they should be getting scared about the effect it’s having on the country, right? Well, no. Not really. Some are waking up to the monster they created, but most are simply allowing it and hoping for the best in the end.
The allure of Pleasure Island in Pinocchio was strong for those who didn’t want the status quo, who wanted to abolish the rules and play by their own. The boys followed their pitchman to the promised land that they knew deep down was impossible but that they were willing to attempt in hopes that it would all work out. They were skeptical of the promises at first, but they embraced them to the point that logic and common sense were abolished.
Donald Trump is doing the same thing. He’s making bold promises that he knows with absolute certainty he won’t be able to fulfill, but at this point in the game it’s all about getting voters. Soon, he’ll start walking back his proposals, especially when he feels like he has the nomination locked up. He’s already doing it with his proposed Mexican-funded wall by easing up his price tag. First, it was free because Mexico would foot the bill. Then, it was $4 billion. Then $8 billion. Then $10 billion. The last numbers he has quoted are $10-$12 billion.
Why is he easing up his numbers? Because he knows two things. First, the wall will likely cost close to $25 billion to build and several billion per year to maintain. Second, he knows that there is no way to make a country pay for something that they don’t want in the first place, particularly when they own some of our debt, not the other way around. He claims that the trade deficit is the reason they’ll pay for it, but the two concepts are completely unrelated.
The Mexican government has no accountability to the trade deficit. It’s Mexican and American businesses interacting that influences the trade deficit. Even if Trump uses tariffs to raise the cost of imports from Mexico (which would increase the prices of those goods for American citizens), he couldn’t raise it enough to force the Mexican government to fork over 1/10th of their entire GDP.
America has real problems. Those problems require real solutions. Most of what Ted Cruz is proposing to fix those problems is not sexy. They’re not the sweet sound bite candy that Trump proposes because unlike Trump, Cruz plans on fulfilling the campaign promises he’s made just as he did when he ran for Senate. Cruz is a unique politician because he keeps his promises which is arguably the biggest reason that his less-honorable cohorts in the Senate despise him. They used conservatism as a selling point to get elected, only to abandon most of it once in office. Cruz kept his promises. That makes him a threat to them.
We need the boring but responsible solutions that Cruz is proposing. We need a wall, but one that is realistic and not tainted by false expectations of stealing money from Mexico to built it. We need regulations lifted on free trade, not tariffs designed to isolate us and raise consumer costs dramatically. That combined with a flat tax will bring jobs back from China. Nationalism without the filter of conservatism and common sense is untenable. Lastly, we need to work with our allies, not continue to degrade the relationships as President Obama has done and as Trump has proposed.
If Trump is nominated, we will watch many in the Republican party suffer the same fate as the anti-establishment boys on Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island. It sounds great in principle, but in they end they’ll all be turned into donkeys.
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