Bill Gates is still walking into that bar by @BloggersRUs

Bill Gates is still walking into that bar

by Tom Sullivan

In a Rose Garden press event Monday, the sitting president called on ABC’s Cecilia Vega.

“She’s shocked that I picked her,” Trump told the crowd before Vega's question.

“I’m not. Thank you, Mr. President,” Vega began. Trump misheard that as, "I'm not thinking."

“That’s okay. I know you’re not thinking. You never do,” the misogynist-in-chief replied.

"I'm sorry?" Vega asked, taken aback.

A pained "Oh!" swept through the crowd.

Trump was there to boast about the glories of his new trade agreement with Mexico and Canada. He managed to rebrand NAFTA without plastering his name on it. It is now the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). TRUMCA would have sent the wrong signal to Wall Street.

Catherine Rampell thinks it could have been worse. There are some iffy protectionist measures for auto makers and sunset provisions to allow the parties (Trump) to periodically assess whether they are winning enough. Overall, Rampell writes in the Washington Post, despite the president's claims, NAFTA remains mostly intact. But the sitting president got a press conference and another chance to insult women out of it.

Some of the new language, she writes, appears cribbed from Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership. A TPP supporter herself, Rampell writes:

In fact, a bunch of NAFTA 2.0 language appears squarely aimed at returning to Obama’s alliance strategy for isolating China — which, to reiterate, only requires rebuilding because Trump destroyed it.

For instance, the NAFTA-replacement deal includes “protections against misappropriation of trade secrets, including by state-owned enterprises,” one of China’s major trade sins. Likewise, there’s also language designed to disincentivize NAFTA 2.0 signatories from making free-trade deals with “non-market” countries, widely understood to be targeting China. Some have speculated that Trump may press for similar language in negotiations with other countries, such as Japan.

In other words, Trump has wrought a lot of destruction in service of landing us in roughly the same position we would have been in had we simply stayed in TPP and pursued more amicable negotiations with Mexico and Canada on other outstanding issues.

What does it all mean though for workers?

Despite Trump's boasting about the lowest unemployment figures in nearly a half century, workers are not enthusiastic. Their adjusted-for-inflation earnings have actually declined during the two years of the Trump presidency, writes Robert J. Shapiro, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

The White House touts a boost in "average earnings" for all people employed in the economy. President Bill Clinton’s undersecretary of commerce for economic affairs, Shapiro argues rising inequality means high-income at the top of the scale gives the "illusion of progress." Examine the pay of the average or "median" income earner and the gains evaporate. Bill Gates is still walking into that bar. On top of that, the White House is using figures not adjusted for inflation.

"In real terms, the weekly earnings of a typical working American fell $16.80, or 1.9 percent, during Donald Trump's first 18 months as president," Shapiro explains:

Another blow to the White House's preferred economic narrative: The current earnings decline is a new development. Using the same measure, real median weekly earnings increased substantially during Barack Obama's final 18 months as president.
"Yes, low unemployment is something to applaud," Shapiro concludes, "but there might be a good reason that so many who have jobs aren't clapping."

To make things worse, Trump cannot even claim credit for the "glowing effect" supporters believe he has had on the economy. He is merely riding trend lines already set in the Obama administration, Rampell explains in a short video:

Rampell quips, "Donald Trump has turned around the economy in the same way Tim Cook turned around Apple."

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