The Price of False Promises and Angry Threats

My father used a lot of old sayings in an attempt to teach me at opportune moments. Those moments were almost always just before or just after I made a big mistake he knew I would regret.

One of the sayings my father was fond of was: “Son, don’t let the wind of anger blow out the lamp of wisdom.”

In just the last week or so we have heard the President of the United States say, in anger and with a great deal of bravado, that he had ordered his Justice Department to support a lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general attacking the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but that we needn’t worry because the Republicans had a much better plan and that they (Republicans) would “own” health care. The only problem with that is that he knew Republicans don’t have a plan, have never had a plan, and don’t intend to have a plan.

On April 3, 2019, it was reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a private meeting with Trump to get their signals straight on healthcare. McConnell then said: “I made it clear to him that we were not going to be doing that in the Senate.” According to McConnell, he and Trump agreed Republicans “would be developing a plan that they would take to the American people during the 2020 campaign.” Translation: Yes, I know the President said that, but he didn’t mean it, so quit asking about our plan.

In the meantime, the health insurance coverage of over 20 million Americans has been further jeopardized and cast into doubt with no Republican “plan” in sight. Texas already has the highest number of uninsured people and the highest number of uninsured children in the nation. Losing the ACA would make the situation much worse in Texas.

Then, in another fit of anger, Trump threatened to close the southern border with Mexico this week if Mexico didn’t stop the flow of migrants. Furthermore, he threatened to cut foreign aid to Central America. The immediate repercussions of these threats was to raise an enormous howl of protest from business interests that  depend on cross-border trade. According to experts, the cost of closing the border would be 1.7 billion every singly day, not to mention the fact that small businesses along the border would probably be fatally injured and the lives of legal crossers, including our own citizens, would be totally disrupted. Indeed, the direct and indirect consequences of closing the border are so far reaching that they are hard to comprehend. Trump didn’t close the border, but he did shift border personnel to other duties, which is now causing huge delays for trucks and people legally crossing the border. It didn’t take long before Trump’s advisers and spokesmen and Mitch McConnell started walking back Trump’s threat, but Trump seemed to double-down by saying, “security is more important than trade.” Then, Trump backtracked and said he wouldn’t close the border now, but would instead impose 25% tariffs on automobiles coming into the U.S. from Mexico. Trump either doesn’t know or doesn’t care or perhaps thinks we don’t realize that it is Americans who pay his tariffs, not Mexico or China. Threatening Mexico with a 25% tariff on cars is like threatening that you will shoot yourself in the foot if someone doesn’t do what you want. Yes, a tariff will eventually hurt Mexico, but it will first and foremost harm American consumers, American car companies and all the businesses that depend upon American car companies.

In the meantime, businesses and people are thrown into sheer panic and trying to devise contingency plans to cope with Trump’s threats.

A coarse old saying I learned much later from my friends is: “Be careful not to let your mouth overload your a_ _.” This also applies here. If he closes the border for any appreciable length of time, or imposes 25% tariffs, the economies of the U.S. and Mexico will be thrown into chaos and recession. Just as in the recent government shutdown, which Trump said he was happy to “own”, he will also have to own this.

Words mean something and words have consequences, particularly when the words are spoken by the President of the United States. The problem, so far, is that the price is being paid by everyone but the speaker.