What Irony!



The economic policies of Donald Trump are, above all, a self-enrichment program for the old elite.

It now looks as if Americans will have to become accustomed to a new role under Donald Trump: victim. From the new president’s viewpoint, the rest of the world has conspired in order “to wrest” deserved prosperity from the American middle class, thereby enriching themselves beyond their wildest dreams at the cost of “millions of American workers.”

But that – to use Trump’s jargon – is fake news. In reality, things are going quite differently. Trump has turned a national issue of wealth distribution among Americans into a worldwide conspiracy, thereby distracting the public from the actual problems.

Even 70 years after the end of World War II, no other country has pursued its own interests on the international level so enthusiastically as the United States, which still defends its version of order in the furthest corner of the world. Globalization is an American invention, implemented by institutions like the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank, where Americans set the agenda. Indeed, not to do other countries a favor, but out of the conviction that an economically prosperous community of nations is good for American interests in the long run.

No One Forced Americans To Lower Taxes and Start Wars

It can be deeply debated whether or not the free market has unequivocally earned America’s blessing. The idea, however, that the U.S. has been overtaken by rampant globalization is deceptive. American production efficiency has more than doubled in the past 20 years. That is a sign of a healthy national economy. Many Americans have profited from the opening of the markets – and that certainly applies to the millionaire and billionaire members of Trump’s cabinet.

There’s no question that too many people have been left out of this prosperity. But are the Chinese to be blamed for George W. Bush’s almost $2 billion spending spree for the pointless war in Iraq, while – as Trump correctly noted – American infrastructure has for many years “rotted and deteriorated”? Are the German export surpluses responsible for the taxes on the highest earners in the U.S. being only about half as much today as they were in the ’70s? And should the Mexicans bear the blame for deregulation of Wall Street, which cost millions of Americans their jobs?

And most of all, what does it actually reveal about the self-anointed friend of the workers Trump when he proclaims he will further reduce taxes and says he intends to deregulate the banks once again? Or when as one of his first actions in the Oval Office, he signs an order to roll back the health care law formulated under Barack Obama? According to estimates by Congress, that alone could ultimately result in 32 million Americans losing their health insurance.

What is so fascinating about Trump is that a businessman, of all people, has come to embody the return of politicized society after years of economic primacy. One can read his inaugural address in such way that he sounds like someone who is no longer ready to accept globalization as inevitable destiny – and instead bravely treads in the name of national self-determination.

This fascination is not lessened by the outrage over his bad behavior; rather, it is lessened by the fact that his nihilist politics ultimately represent what is left after the retreat of equality rhetoric: no less than a self-enrichment program for the old elite. It will require more, not less, international cooperation to actually effect change in globalization – with taxation, climate, and immigration.

Teaching this to the most powerful man in the world will have to be the task for the German Chancellor – ideally with good arguments – but in times of urgency, it can be done through politics that emphasize the costs of Trump’s isolationism. For American companies such as Facebook and Google, Europe is an important market; Americans maintain military bases in many countries around the world; and they use cutting-edge technology from Germany.

Time will tell how durable these relationships are.

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