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Free Trade vs. Balanced Trade By Raymond Richman, Howard Richman and Jesse Richman

During the 2016 presidential campaign, trade has become a major economic and voting issue. For decades both political parties, in general, and Hillary Clinton in particular, have supported expansion of free trade through trade agreements that reduce tariff rates. In contrast, Donald Trump has upended that politics, seizing the Republican nomination with the promise to renegotiate trade agreements so that they balance trade.

As a result, the two alternatives in this year’s election are free trade vs. balanced trade. These are not necessary mutually exclusive. Indeed, there have been periods of world history in which trade has grown more free without getting out of balance. Especially notable were the 1840-1870 and the 1950-1997 periods. Those were the two golden ages of globalization in which tariff reductions around the world greatly benefited and integrated the world economy.

But the 1840-1870 period was followed by a period, much like the present, in which world trade became more and more unbalanced. The European countries were experiencing worsening trade deficits and eventually had to choose between free trade and balanced trade. Those that chose to balance their trade through tariffs resumed their economic growth, while those that stuck with free trade continued to stagnate. The United States faces a similar choice today.

The U.S. economic growth rate has followed the U.S. trade balance downward, as shown in the following graph:

The slow U.S. economic growth rate of the last 17 years is unprecedented. From 1999 through 2015, the average U.S. growth rate was just 2.1% per year, as compared with over 3% for almost every ten-year period during the previous five decades. And the first two quarters of 2016 (not shown on the chart) have been even lower — just 0.8% and 1.1% growth. There are six primary reasons why trade deficits slow economic growth:

Stiffening the American Spine Denmark’s former prime minister exhorts Americans to resist retreat. ‘Leading from behind’ may work with grazing sheep. It doesn’t in wolf country. By Josef Joffe

When you chance on a book by a former NATO chief, your eyes glaze over. Please, not another “Whither NATO?” or a compendium of boilerplate, stitched together by a ghostwriter. Yet crack open “The Will to Lead” by Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who also served as Denmark’s prime minister for eight years, and the glaze will vanish.

This book reads like a letter to an American friend, written by a “European classical liberal who has always counted on American leadership.” On the cusp of a new administration, this European doesn’t pine for yet another pledge of American allegiance. Instead he exhorts the U.S. “not to abandon its vital role as champion of freedom and guarantor of the global order.”

He sees the “global village” burning while its inhabitants bicker. So “we need a policeman to restore order; we need a fireman to put out the fire; we need a mayor, smart and sensible, to lead the rebuilding.” That sums up the role the U.S. ditched after World War I—and brilliantly reclaimed after World War II.

Why the alarm? Because, as Mr. Rasmussen writes, neo-isolationism, economic as well as strategic, is on a roll on both sides of the ocean. TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, is on the way to the morgue, as may be TPP, the Pacific version. Under Barack Obama, the U.S. has pulled out of Iraq while downscaling in Afghanistan. He has turned away from old allies in the Middle East, working hard to secure a nuclear deal with the theocrats of Iran. He has given the Russians an all but free ride in Ukraine and in Syria.

When Mr. Obama trumpeted the “audacity of hope,” he forsook the first rule of statecraft: It is better (and cheaper) to man the lines than to return. Being there deters; pulling out suggests indifference, if not an invitation to rivals. “Leading from behind” may work with grazing sheep. It does not in wolf country.CONTINUE AT SITE

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Defends U.S. Syria Policy No ‘Plan B,’ U.S. still considers the cease-fire deal to be ‘the best way forward,’ administration says By Felicia Schwartz

Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday faulted the Russian government for continued violence in Syria and for the accompanying collapse of a diplomatic process aimed at eventually solving the more than five-year-long civil war.

“The cause of what is happening is Assad and Russia wanting to simply try to pursue a military victory,” Mr. Kerry told reporters during a trip to Cartagena, Colombia, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian regime, supported by Russia, on Monday pressed ahead in eastern Aleppo with an offensive that has killed hundreds and come under fierce criticism from the U.S. and other world powers.

Mr. Kerry, despite growing frustration, said he would continue to try to repair a cease-fire deal with Russia that took effect Sept. 12 and collapsed about a week later.

“It would be diplomatic malpractice” not to pursue talks, Mr. Kerry said.

The chief U.S. diplomat said Russia and Mr. Assad “seem intent on taking Aleppo and destroying it in the process,” which he said doesn’t create good faith toward a negotiation process.

“We will have to see whether or not anything can develop in the next days that indicates a different approach from the Russians and from the regime,” Mr. Kerry said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that Russia is concerned that “terrorists” are using the truce to regroup, replenish their arsenals and prepare for more attacks. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said the cease-fire “is not dead yet.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon made note of an uptick in violence in and around Aleppo, as well as in Hama and east of Damascus.

“We have unfortunately seen only an increase in hostilities in recent days,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. CONTINUE AT SITE

WHO IS DONALD TRUMP? DON FREDERICK

http://www.thepostemail.com/2015/12/11/who-is-donald-trump/ by Don Fredrick, ©2015, blogging at The Complete Obama Timeline Donald Trump’s campaign slogan is “Make America great again!” (Dec. 11, 2015) — The better question may be, “What is Donald Trump?” The answer: A giant middle finger from average Americans to the political and media establishment. Some Trump supporters are like the 60s […]

‘Designated Survivor’ Review Kiefer Sutherland stars as a lowly cabinet member elevated to the presidency after a terror attack: Dorothy Rabinowitz

It was hard to resist the captivating premise of “Designated Survivor,” in which Kiefer Sutherland plays Tom Kirkman, a cabinet member of relatively modest status who finds himself head of the nation after a bomb attack on the Capitol during the State of the Union that kills the president and virtually every other significant member of the government. Among those still alive, there is powerful resistance to a colorless and inexperienced nobody like Kirkman in the role of president. But it’s clear that this Clark Kent will soon be soaring aloft, defiant in his own mild way—he’s determined to lead the country.

Designated Survivor

Wednesdays, 10 p.m., ABC

The problem comes in the second episode, along with a suddenly increased capacity to resist everything about “Designated Survivor.” Here we come up against the show’s message, or more precisely its gross political tendentiousness: its vision of a vicious American nation, in the aftermath of the attack, hunting down its Muslim citizens; its pictures of police racing around Dearborn, Mich., dragging Muslims out of their homes, beating a teenager to death, all at the behest of the Michigan governor.

Not surprisingly, President Kirkman stands firmly against this brown-shirt brutality, a product of fevered writerly imaginations particularly loathsome to behold given the facts of history—in particular the actual terror attacks of 9/11, after which, through all their fear and rage, Americans comported themselves with the utmost dignity.

It’s now probably irrelevant to note that for all his splendid talents, Mr. Sutherland may not have been the best choice for the role of a virtuous milquetoast concealing a heart of steel—the milquetoast part dominates even when the steel is flashed. Something inside may be alerting him to the nature of this enterprise—possibly the Jack Bauer in him.

Omri Ceren: Let’ Make a Bad Deal aReview of ‘The Iran Wars,’ by Jay Solomon

In the summer of 2013, Iran was sliding into geopolitical, diplomatic, and economic chaos. The Iranian economy was within a few months of a downward spiral that Tehran had no good options for halting. A binding United Nations Security Council resolution had ordered Iran to halt all uranium, plutonium, and ballistic-missile work, and to disclose the full scope of its previous nuclear cheating, or face increasing isolation.https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/lets-make-a-bad-deal/

The Iran Wars

By Jay Solomon view book

Then the Obama administration led the P5+ 1 powers in launching negotiations with Iran. In exchange for sitting down and talking, the Iranians would get hundreds of millions of dollars monthly, stabilizing their economy. Eventually U.S. diplomats offered Iran a deal that legalized full-blown uranium, plutonium, and ballistic-missile work on a timeline—with international sponsorship for Iranian work in the meantime—and did not force the country to disclose its previous nuclear cheating.

The deal also immediately released roughly a hundred billion dollars to Iran, shredded the international sanctions regime, would have American officials traveling to drum up business for Iran, removed restrictions on a range of Iranian terrorists, and allowed Iran to keep spinning thousands of centrifuges throughout the deal—and then, to sell all of that, the president and his allies said that American diplomats did the best anyone could have.

In his essential new book, The Iran Wars, Wall Street Journal chief foreign-policy correspondent Jay Solomon chronicles the changing nature of the American approach to Iran following 9/11. As he makes clear, beginning in 2006, officials from the Treasury Department had been traveling around the world systematically building pressure on Iran because of its nuclear program. American officials occasionally cajoled, but just as often they unapologetically deployed American economic power against reluctant foreign entities: businesses, banks, and countries were told they had to choose between having access to the U.S. financial system or doing business with Iran.

Top American officials devoted careers to traveling the globe personally delivering warnings, and then having to back them up. Banks who tested American resolve found themselves facing billions of dollars of fines. So did nations: India faced financial chaos when the U.S. made good on threats to cut off sanctions-busting institutions. There were outcries in almost every case, but U.S. officials used American power and Iran’s toxic reputation—this was the era of Iran’s Holocaust-envying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—to systematically isolate Iran.

Solomon matter-of-factly describes Barack Obama as obsessed with changing the U.S. position toward Iran, and willing to subordinate much of American foreign policy in service of that goal. Obama started his administration sending secret letters to the head of state, the Ayatollah Khamenei, which recognized the prerogatives of the “Islamic republic” and foreswore regime change. He broadly cut funding to anti-regime groups and specifically abandoned Iranian moderates during the early days of the Green Revolution in 2009, after the regime fixed an election. When nuclear talks seemed to be stumbling, he sent another letter to Khamenei effectively offering Syria as within Iran’s sphere of influence.

Romain Rolland: Beacon of Light, or Apologist for Evil? Though he’s now largely unknown, for many Europeans of my generation he was the most important writer of our time. Were we right about him?Walter Laqueur

Walter Ze’ev Laqueur is an American historian and political commentator. He was born in Poland in 1929. He is author of may outstanding and prescient books…rsk

For many Europeans of my generation—those who came of age before World War II—Romain Rolland (1866-1944) was not only the most important writer of our time but a beacon of light in a very dark world. Novelist, essayist, dramatist, art historian, humanist, pacifist, idealist without compare, he was our great guide in the battle against philistine obscurantism on the one hand, creeping barbarity on the other.http://mosaicmagazine.com/observation/2016/09/romain-rolland-beacon-of-light-or-apologist-for-evil/

Were we right about him? Since his name is now all but unknown, it would be helpful to start with the bare facts.

Born in a small town in Burgundy, France, Rolland was early on recognized as a budding young intellectual star. After attending the elite Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, he became a teacher and lecturer in the history of art and music. In those days, he seems not to have had much interest in politics; throughout the furor over the Dreyfus affair, the great political battleground of his thirties, he appeared to favor neither side.

The same irenic (or perhaps non-committal) temperament informs Jean-Christophe, the huge ten-volume novel that made him famous. Appearing in installments from 1904 to 1912, it tells the cradle-to-grave story of a young German composer who makes his way to Paris, what he experienced there—especially his burgeoning friendship with a young Frenchman—and how these experiences influenced him and shaped his life and ideas. For that novel, and for his writings at the outbreak of World War I urging Germany and France to resolve their differences through a shared devotion to the lofty goals of truth and humanity, he was awarded the 1915 Nobel Prize in Literature. Fittingly, he passed along the prize money to the Red Cross in Geneva. Later on he wrote a series of what would become known as “heroic biographies”; among the passionately admired figures profiled in these books were Beethoven, Michelangelo, Tolstoy, and Gandhi.

It was Rolland’s stand in the Great War, and specifically his stirring denunciations of the senseless mass murder that sustained it, that made him so influential at the time, and even more so in later years when that conflict came to be seen as the root from which sprang the subsequent scourges of fascism, Communism, and World War II. In the 1930s, he became the leading intellectual supporter of the anti-fascist cause in Europe.

And here things began to become more complicated. An incurable romantic, Rolland was a fervent admirer of German culture, and the most eminent interpreter of Germany in France. After 1933, although saddened by the rise of Hitler in Germany, he still regarded Italian fascism and Mussolini as a greater danger than Nazism. (The fact that his earlier books were still being published in Germany may have affected that judgment.) At the same time, however, he also came to adore Josef Stalin, going so far as to justify almost all of the Soviet tyrant’s crimes. No Marxist, not even a socialist, he defended the Soviet Union as a leading force in the battle against fascism, and that conviction, together with his impulsive political romanticism, enabled him to suppress any misgivings he might have had about the Moscow show trials of 1936-1938 and the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939.

U.S. Gives Boeing, Airbus Go-Ahead to Send Airliners to Iran The U.S. government has given Boeing and Airbus Group the all-clear to deliver jetliners to Iran Air in one of the highest-profile trade breakthroughs since nuclear sanctions were lifted on the Islamic Republic.By Robert Wall and Doug Cameron see note please

Fly the frindly skies of Jihadair…..rsk
Some deliveries may occur as early as this year

The U.S. government has given plane makers Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE the all-clear to deliver jetliners to Iran Air in one of the highest-profile trade breakthroughs since nuclear sanctions were lifted on the Islamic Republic in January.

Western powers removed sanctions on Iran in return for the country agreeing to constrain its nuclear program. Business has been slow to materialize, though, amid concern among western businesses of running afoul of continued U.S. restrictions on doing business with Iran.

Iran Air announced in January it planned to buy Airbus planes, but the transaction stalled amid a lack of approvals from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control rules. OFAC had to approve the license because a portion of Airbus planes are made in the U.S.

Airbus, which was first to secure a plane deal with Iran, was first to receive the green light to transfer 17 planes to Iran Air, signaling the tide may be turning for doing business with Iran. Hours later Boeing, the world’s largest plane maker by deliveries, said it too had received its corresponding license.

Airbus on Wednesday said some of those deliveries may occur as early as this year, a spokesman said.

Boeing aims to sell 80 jets directly to Iran Air as part of a proposed deal valued at up to $17.6 billion. It would be among the largest by a U.S. firm since the sanctions were loosened. Boeing said Wednesday it remained in talks with Iran Air about an existing tentative deal on plane purchases.

Boeing’s sales team has visited Iran several times this year, though no senior executives have been in attendance.

Snowden Is a Traitor and a Fraud, Period A bipartisan House Intelligence Committee report drives a stake through his disgraceful pardon bid. By Fred Fleitz

At a time of extreme partisanship in our country and in the midst of what may be the most contentious presidential election in U.S. history, a congressional committee did something extraordinary: It issued a bipartisan and unanimous report on an extremely divisive issue. This issue is whether former National Security Agency technician Edward Snowden, who stole 1.5 million classified documents and leaked thousands to the news media, is a true whistleblower or a traitor.

The report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (where I worked for five years) found what many of us have long argued: Snowden is not a whistleblower; he is a disgruntled former intelligence employee who did enormous damage to U.S. national security. Click here to read the unclassified summary of this report.

The House Intelligence Committee report could not be better timed, having come out the day before the opening of Oliver Stone’s hagiographic film Snowden and a new campaign by liberal groups and the news media to persuade President Obama to pardon Snowden for the contribution he supposedly made to the cause of protecting civil liberties.

The five findings in the committee report’s unclassified summary are stunning.

Snowden Caused Tremendous Damage to National Security.

The vast majority of the documents he stole have nothing to do with programs impacting individual privacy interests — they instead pertain to military, defense, and intelligence programs of great interest to America’s adversaries. Although many experts had already concluded this, the report added that the U.S. government has spent at least hundreds of millions of dollars and will eventually spend billions to counter the damage done by the Snowden leaks.

The most well-known Snowden disclosure concerned the NSA metadata program, which collects phone records but not the contents of phone calls. Although this program has long been overseen by the congressional intelligence committees and helped halt several terrorist attacks against the United States, Snowden’s leaks about it led to a hysterical and uninformed reaction by the press and some members of Congress that led Congress and President Obama to implement major restrictions, which have made this program much more difficult for intelligence officers to use to identify and track terrorist suspects.

Snowden’s defenders claim that since the metadata program violated the Constitution and the privacy rights of Americans, Snowden was justified in leaking information to the press about it and therefore should receive a presidential pardon. Putting aside that Snowden didn’t bother trying to raise his supposed concern about this program through legal channels, the facts are that the vast majority of court decisions on this program upheld it as legal, Congress and the Justice Department have monitored it, and only very minor abuses were discovered. To read more on this issue, see my May 2015 NRO article “NSA Data Collection: Necessary or Unconstitutional.”

While the unclassified report summary does not give specifics of how Snowden’s leaks benefited U.S. enemies and terrorists (that is probably detailed in the classified version available to all House members), U.S. intelligence officials have publicly stated that Snowden’s leaks have allowed ISIS and al-Qaeda to evade detection by Western intelligence services. Former CIA director James Woolsey has called for Snowden to receive the death penalty because his leaks of NSA monitoring techniques helped the ISIS-inspired terrorists who committed the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks conceal their electronic communications.

Obama’s Cash-for-Jihad Program Let’s give Iran, a certified state sponsor of terrorism, billions in cash. What could go wrong? By Andrew C. McCarthy —

The Obama State Department is convinced that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and his regime’s cronies are financing terrorism. How come? Well, because they conduct business in cash.

In fact, in its most recent annual report on state sponsors of terrorism, State frets “that 60 percent of all business transactions [in Syria] are conducted in cash and that nearly 80 percent of all Syrians do not use formal banking services.” This has created a “vast black market,” the components of which are exploited by “some members of the Syrian government and the business elite . . . in terrorism finance schemes.”

Interesting thing about that: There are only three countries on the list of state sponsors of terrorism — Syria, Sudan, and Iran. That last one is worth highlighting. Iran, after all, is not just the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism; it is also the world’s leading state sponsor of . . . Syria — providing it with lots of that cash the State Department is so concerned about.

Oh, I nearly forgot: Iran also happens to be the jihadist regime that President Obama just gave $1.7 billion to . . . in cash.

Or should I say, at least $1.7 billion.

It is hard to decide what is the most appalling thing about Obama’s $1.7 billion payoff to the mullahs: the ransom for the release of American hostages, which has predictably induced Tehran to take more hostages; the pallets of untraceable currency loaded on multiple planes of the national airline regularly used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to arm Assad and facilitate terror; the withdrawals from a shadowy Treasury Department fund structured in a manner designed to conceal that money was being transferred to Iran. The transaction is so shocking, one can easily forget that it is just the latest in a long series of payoffs.