Archive for the 'Donald Trump' Category


PB Video Analysis: How Bad Is The US-China Trade Deficit?

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

The US runs a trade deficit with China of $375bn. It’s a staggering number, larger than the economies of Ireland or Israel. Little wonder than Donald Trump frets that the US is being taken advantage of.

But how meaningful are bilateral trade numbers anyway? Should governments aim to balance volumes of trade with other countries, or is it all a bit irrelevant? And if you impose tariffs on countries with whom you have deficits, will your overall balance of trade improve?

With the help of Tom, Dick and Ludovic, I’m answering that question.

Robert Smithson

Robert tweets as ‘@MarketWarbles’


The efforts to undermine Obamacare – the soft underbelly of Trump’s electoral position

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Taking away what’s become an entitlement is politically dangerous

On the first anniversary of the Senate defeat of Trump’s health care repeal,and just three months before the crucial midterm elections, a new Public Policy Polling survey finds a majority of voters want to support candidates for Congress who oppose repealing the Affordable Care Act. This was brought in under Obama in 2010 and has provided health provision for millions of Americans.

By 56% to 40% those sampled said they’d support a generic Democrat for Congress who supports the act and wants to improve it, over a generic Republican candidate for Congress who wants to repeal it. Amongst voters aged 65+ this lead expands to 19 points (56/37).

The survey, published overnight, finds that voters trust Democrats over Republicans and President Trump on health care by 13 points (55/42). With women the gap is 22 points and independents 57/35. Although Republicans appear to have remained solidly behind Trump it is those describing themselves as the latter who the White House should most worry about.

The problem here, of course, is that once something becomes available it takes on the status of an entitlement and you interfere with that at your peril. The original measure was probably the biggest thing that Trump’s predecessor achieved and the thing that the current incumbent wants to undermine.

Trump failed with getting legislation through but healthcare in the US is being undermined by a series of executive measures.

This is most highlighted in the poll’s findings on those with pre-existing conditions. The survey found 64% of voters oppose the Trump administration joining a lawsuit which would strike down ACA’s protections for such groups. Only 19% of voters support backed this.

When the NHS was being established in the UK 70 years ago the Conservatives were against. When Churchill was returned to power in 1951 his government was smart enough to leave it in place – a lesson perhaps for the President.

On Betfair punters currently make it a 53% chance that the Democrats will win back the House in November’s elections.

Mike Smithson


A week after Helsinki and Trump’s ratings remain solid

Monday, July 23rd, 2018


The more he’s attacked the more his bases backs him. Only cloud on the horizon – he’s losing independents


A week is a long time in politics

Friday, July 20th, 2018

Corporeal wonders just what we’ve done to deserve our current political situation.

History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. Then after that, and if we are being punished for some serious crimes committed in a previous life, it descends into whatever this is.

I’ve been trying to crowbar an article around a Groundhog day analogy, since every week recently has seemed so depressingly familiar. Theresa May has established herself (for lack of a worse word) as a career substitute teacher ruling with a cotton fist. The monkey house she ‘presides’ over remains in full swing while the collection of stereotypes stuffed into a ventriloquist dummy that is known as Jacob Rees-Mogg pokes his head out to further blur the line between reality and performance art.

Then this last week happened, and is still happening. Boris Johnson’s fittingly self-publicised departure has done nothing to shake the sense of watching Jeffrey Archer’s adaptation of a P.G. Wodehouse novel.

As a short recap. Donald Trump departed at the end of his eventful trip (even if he wasn’t always sure about what country he was in) having declared Britain as being in turmoil, a remark that depressingly doubled as being plausibly a line written for him by Putin and the most truthful moment of his presidency.

Thankfully he later moved back onto more familiar ground by declaring he didn’t say something there was published audio of him saying before accusing someone else of spreading fake news. The parting revelation of his suggestion to sue the EU triggered both a flurry of googling from Brexiteers and a horrifyingly comforting vision of how things could in fact be more embarrassing for the UK.

On Monday the Prime Minister announced a new and improved plan for Brexit. This prompted some well-practised EU eye-rolling, multiple cabinet resignations (Boris’ letter was slightly delayed by the photographer needing to get the lighting right for his thoughtful stare into nothingness), and a demonstration of her power by accepting all four of the ERG amendments.

Her triumphant transition from captain to figurehead has been accompanied by the backbench Brexiteers flexing muscle enough to show that while they didn’t have the power to steer the ship their ability to sink it was very effective (but not productive). Theresa May showed her steel and negotiating skills to gain the key agreement that they could have everything they wanted as long as they didn’t celebrate too loudly.

Tuesday evening this led to a dramatic showdown when a couple of hours before the crucial votes came up when Labour (or their leadership of shy Brexiteers) decided that they were tired of their firm and principled tactic of opposition by inaction and decided to see if voting against something was more effective than abstaining. Suddenly the game was on and the whips were dusting off their calculators and oiling up their thumbscrews for a good old-fashioned contest that was going to be a razor thin vote.

The Lib Dems were so shocked by the sudden possibility of being relevant again fell back on what they knew best by screwing up, apologising, and taking a lot of blame without having much general influence. Their two previous leaders (and probably next one) all failed to vote. Vince Cable couldn’t be reached in time for him to return from a confidential political meeting (it’s unconfirmed as to if the confidentiality was to protect the other party from admitting to still meeting with the Lib Dems).

Tim Farron somehow managed to provide parliamentary sketch writers, the sharp-tongued twitterati, and lovers of tortured metaphors with more fuel by giving a speech on faith in politics and “what happens when my truth is not yours” that placed him too far away from Parliament to be effective. (If anyone in attendance can confirm whether he addressed the official belief that Theresa May commands a majority in the Commons it would be appreciated).

Jo Swinson’s absence was discovered to be due to something between conspiracy and cock up. She was paired with the Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis who, in a very unfortunate mistake, managed to remember to abstain in the unimportant vote but completely forgot when it came to the crucial votes. Thankfully it was all cleared up as an innocent mistake, albeit one that the Chief Whip Julian Smith ordered five Tory MPs to make.

Still that series of innocent mistakes in the desperate times of keeping a government afloat is so far no reason for him to resign (and I’m sure the applications to replace him in such a desirable job would come flooding in). Theresa May reportedly still had confidence in him and didn’t need to speak to him when the story broke, presumably to avoid him accidentally telling her that what she’d told the Commons was utterly false (but not really misleading since no-one believed her anyway).

And so the May ministry staggered on

Labour followed up this tentative foray into fighting people outside the party by hastily retreating into the comfortable and familiar territory of internal warfare,. They flirted with the idea of adopting the internationally standard IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, then decided no-one would mind if they just tweaked a few parts of it. When this lead to Margaret Hodge calling Jeremy Corbyn an anti-semite and a racist it was a real sense of things returning to business as usual.

So Theresa May headed to Northern Ireland to spend some time enjoying a sense of unity and togetherness with the DUP (cheap at a paltry billion pounds) and so far her tactic of awkwardly clasping her hands together has kept her trouble at bay (it is less noticeable than the wide legged power stance we wrongly thought  was gone forever). There is at least still time for her to return to take part in the hilarious Benny Hill chase around the Houses of Parliament (presumably featuring John Bercow, Dennis Skinner, and a waved mace) that feels somehow inevitable.

Is it time to mourn for the bastardarchy of years gone by. The blandly teflon technocrats versed in all the dark arts and despicable practices of power. They may not have had much resembling integrity but at least they were good at it. Valence politics didn’t breed great principled divides (whereas now our two major parties are divided between an impossibly vague deal or a vaguely impossible one) but gave you the sense that in some ominously lit bunker a secret cabal at least knew what was going on.

And if you have to get a divorce (for some reason you can’t really remember but you’re not going back on it now) don’t you at least wish you had a really good snake for a lawyer. Or at least one you could trust to hold a briefcase the right way up.

Still there’s always next week to look forward to.


Corporeal is a long standing contributor to PB


Republican voters remain solidly behind Trump in the first post-Helsinki polls

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

Those polled responded along strong partisan lines

Anybody expecting that President Trump’s widely criticised approach at the Helsinki summit with Putin would hurt him amongst his base is going to be disappointed. The first polls are now out and they show the same picture – very solid support from Republican Party voters for the Presidents handling of Russian leader, Putin

Axios/SurveyMonkey has 79% of Republicans approved of Trump’s handling. This compares with 91% of Democrats and 62% of independents who disagreed. The overall splits was 58% disapprove to 40% approve.

A CBS News survey found 68% of Republicans saying Trump did a good job in Helsinki, with 83% of Democrats and 53% of independents said he did a bad job.

No doubt we’ll see a lot of other surveys in the next day or two and I’d be surprised if there is much deviation from this picture.

The big question will be how it impacts on the midterm elections at the start of November.

Mike Smithson


At a 70%+ chance the betting markets are surely over-rating Trump’s chances of being the WH2020 GOP nominee

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

The best post-Helsinki bets?

Judging by the reaction in the US overnight Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin has gone down like a like a bowl of cold sick most strikingly within his own party. He’s been damaged.

There’s no point in me repeating here the wide coverage that we’ve seen but question for punters, surely, is what are the best Trump bets.

There are, as we know, many markets.

Will he complete a full first term? (Betfair 74%)

What year will see him leave the White House? (Betfair after 2020 80% chance)

Will he win the presidency in 2020? (Betfair 40%)

The bet I like most because it covers more possibilities is whether he will be the Republican nominee for 2020. The Betfair Exchange currently has this at 70%+ chance which to my mind, giving everything we now know, overstates his chances.

So I have just laid (bet against) Trump being the Republican nominee at the Betfair exchange level of 1.42 – which equates to a 70% chance.

My guess is that that this will ease in the aftermath of his talks with Mr. Putin and possibly offer short term trading opportunities.

Mike Smithson


Trump appearing deferential to Putin isn’t going to help him win WH2020

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Given the initial US media reaction, even that from Fox News, the President isn’t getting good coverage for his historic meeting with Putin.

This was from former Republican cabdidate and current Senator, John McCain:

Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.

President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world….

No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.”

Petty damning stuff from a respected figure in the party.

Quite how this will play out in the leader ratings and November’s midterms we’ll have to wait and see but there’s no doubt that this has been a pivotal event.

Mike Smithson


The hold that Putin holds over Trump could be revealing that the Russians did try to fix WH2016

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Straight from Russia’s undoubted success in staging the World Cup the biggest news today will be the secret meeting in Helsinki between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.

Normally when leaders meet they have aides with them but not so this meeting and this has set up a whole series of rumours and speculation. There are all sorts of theories around about the hold that the Russian president has over the occupant of the White House and, of course, it has been noted widely that Mr Trump never ever publicly criticises Mr Putin unlike virtually every other world leader.

Could it be that the Russians have some hold over the President?

One of the theories I like was in a comment on the excellent US political site {$) PoliticalWire relates directly to the story that has never been totally stopped by Trump – the allegation that the Russians actively helped in his election two years ago.

“You know, maybe what Vladimir Putin has on Trump is simply, “I can make it look like you colluded.” Trump and his team were such bumblers that they repeatedly gave Putin opportunities to create evidence of collusion even if none actually occurred.

Maybe Putin can simply say, “Donald, I can provide proof that a) we swayed the election (so you’re illegitimate) and b) you and yours helped.”

Politcalwire notes:-

“Ordinarily, in preparation for such a meeting, diplomats would have established a list of “deliverables” before the high-profile summit. But in this case, as the New Yorker reported, the Russians told White House national security adviser John Bolton, “The meeting is the deliverable.”

For any other U.S. president, the political ramifications of keeping the meeting with Putin would be disastrous.

For Trump, however, the political ramifications of cancelling may be worse.”

His links with Putin are going to dog Trump for the rest of his time as President and no doubt there will be stories for years about what the two man say behind closed doors today.

Mike Smithson