Is Anybody Steering?
Gas Prices Surging, Trump Fuels Backlash
Image: Mark Bryan
By Ray Cunneff
May 25, 2018
re: The Ship of State
subject: Is Anybody Steering?
As predicted, we're seeing a sudden spike in U.S. gas prices as we go into the Memorial Day weekend. And the price is likely to go much higher through the summer as oil-producing nations continue to tighten supply in response to Trump's pullout of the Iran nuclear deal, oil from both Iran and Venezuela going elsewhere.
But what hasn't quite yet been felt by most Americans is that any "economic euphoria" the GOP was counting upon in the 2018 midterm elections resulting from the tax cuts and rate rollbacks is being more than wiped out by a sudden increase in the cost of goods and services across the board.
Quite apart from prices creeping up, particularly in industries involving aluminum or steel over "trade war" fears, America's dependency on the automobile seems especially at risk from several quarters, not the least of which is the president himself.
What is Trump's response to higher gas prices? He threatens to slap tariffs on imported cars, trucks and auto parts that could raise the price of family vehicles by 25 percent. Does he not understand the consequences for average Americans? Or is he simply indifferent?
In any case, on Trump's instructions, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross launched an inquiry* this week into whether automotive imports pose a national security threat, a move that could lead to penalties boosting the cost of a $20,000 car by $5,000. It seems an almost targeted attack on the middle class.
Many of Trump's political allies, particularly those facing the voters in November, are both outraged and panicked to see so many of their constituents about to take a financial hit. Business leaders are alarmed as well, their marriage of convenience suddenly very inconvenient.
This is where interests collide between Corporatism and Trumpism. The boardroom beehive does not intersect well with a despotic cult of personality, particularly when the despot is dangerously erratic and unstable.
The corporatists want to sail full speed ahead but with Trump at the helm, is anybody steering?
* Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who worked closely with Trump to pass last year’s tax reform bill, called the new investigation “deeply misguided.”
“Taxing cars, trucks and auto parts coming into the country would directly hit American families who need a dependable vehicle, whether they choose a domestic or a global brand,” Hatch said.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) criticized the Trump administration for launching the probe under the “false pretense” that car imports pose a threat to national security, which he said “invites retaliation and weakens our credibility on actual trade disputes.”