2019 will be a year of political upheaval and economic uncertainty in America


Wednesday, January 09, 2019

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As we enter 2019 there are dark clouds that are gathering on the horizons that indicate political and economic storms with which the United States may have to contend in 2019. One makes this observation not with a view to be alarmist, or worse to be a prophet of doom. But there is a prophetic critique that is necessary, even if one is to be compared to those who preach gloom and doom at the beginning of a year.

As far as the economy is concerned there are already signs of turmoil in the stock market with the Standard & Poor's and the Dow Jones Industrial Average being the worst since the heady days of the Great Recession of 1931. The great Donald Trump tax heist, which some of us predicted would not bring the desired growth to the economy has now fizzled. The money has not trickled down into the economy as was boldly forecasted by Secretary of the Treasury Steve Minuchin. Neither has there been the robust growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) figures projected. If anything, the country is more indebted than it has ever been with the Trump Administration adding over two trillion dollars in his two years in office.

The growing deficits do not seem to alarm the Republicans, who once preached fiscal responsibility and believed the containment of deficit spending to be a cornerstone of their economic philosophy for decades. There is talk of full employment, but many Americans have not seen any robust growth in their wages and menial jobs have ensured that many will continue to live from pay cheque to pay cheque without having $500 in emergency savings to come to their assistance if needed.

The few who will rejoice the most are those who have benefited from the federal policy of quantitative easing and the monstrous tax heist that has swelled the bottom line of corporations, hedge funds and cronies hanging like leeches on the federal purse. Now that there is quantitative tightening and policy normalisation as the Fed cleans up its balance sheet and returns negative interest rates to some normalcy, the economy has been forced into a tailspin aided and abetted by the president's reckless approach to trade in his application of a sledgehammer approach to tariff reform.

There is no indication that for the first quarter of the year there will be any positive trends in the economy to make any quantitative difference to how 2018 has ended. Indeed, the indicators point to more uncertainty and upheaval. The Fed has already revised its GDP forecast from 2.5 per cent to 2.3 per cent. There will be no robust growth in the first quarter or the second as political uncertainty reverberates throughout the economy. The most that one can hope for is three per cent growth for the year and this in itself is a stretch of the imagination. When one considers that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in Texas, and couple the emerging health crisis with the economic needs of most Americans, one cannot help but see the real makings of an uncertain and perplexing year for many.

But it is in the area of politics that perhaps the greatest concern for an uncertain if not traumatic 2019 is to be seen. The Government has limped into 2019 with a partial shutdown which both sides of the political fence seem helpless to resolve. Having taken control of the gavel in the House of Representatives, the Democrats will ensure that the Trump Administration will begin to get the kind of oversight which was woefully lacking under the Republicans. Foremost on the agenda of the Democrats is the ending of the government shutdown. Then will follow the vigorous investigation of the Trump Administration. Chairpersons of key House committees such as the Oversight, Financial, Ways and Means and Judiciary have signalled that from day one they will begin the investigation of the Trump presidency. The result is that the Trump presidency will be hobbled more than it already is by its own self-inflicted wounds of incompetence.

An even more existential threat to the Trump presidency is the Mueller investigation. One expects this to conclude in the first quarter of 2019. Mueller seems to be at the end of his work, perhaps just now tidying up loose ends. From what has been revealed so far in the legal troubles that have bedevilled some of his closest associates, very few, except for the committed die-hards, will disavow a negative report against the president which may result in his indictment and or impeachment. If this should be the case expect Trump to lash out with his tail like a wounded dragon as the vice grip of accountability tightens around his neck and that of his Administration.

Trump will not take this lying down or playing golf at Mar-a-Lago. As a man who is bereft of accepting blame for anything he does, he will hunker down and continue to blame the obstructionist Democrats for their witch-hunt of him and for all that ails the country. There will be gyrations in the stock market as the president's troubles mount. Hardly anything will get done legislatively with the possible exception of the passing of a comprehensive infrastructure bill which is already favoured by both sides. If clear illegalities are revealed by the Mueller investigation against Trump, he will grow more erratic and irascible and will indulge diversionary and distraction tactics which may place the country in peril. At that point invoking the 25th Amendment — which deals with issues related to presidential succession and disability — may be a more desired course than impeachment.

If my prophetic critique of impending events in America is correct, the country would have reached a veritable tipping point. The existential threat of the Trump presidency to the democratic ideals on which the country is built will become more evident. America's standing in the world will be further negatively impacted as the dysfunctions in the American Government grow and as the wheels come off the cart of governance. I predict that 2019 will be the year when the inevitable consequences of putting someone of the intemperance, mendacity, and narcissism of Trump in the presidency will become most pronounced.

Bear in mind also that this will be the year when real campaigning for the 2020 presidential election will begin. By this time, the uncertainty and chaos in government would be fever-pitched, especially if the Mueller probe concludes the criminal liability of the president, and perhaps members of his family. One hopes that one's critique might be wrong and that we would go through the year without the predicted ferment. One thing is certain: You can count on the resilience of the American people to ride this out as they have done in the past. But there will be painful lessons to learn.

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest and social commentator. Send comments to the Observer or

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