Trump: International Man of Derp

We’re about to suffer more international embarassment as the Great Orange Moron lumbers off to Europe to visit the UK, attend a NATO summit and meet with his master, Vladimir Putin, for further instructions.

Regarding Putin, see Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?

He leaves for the NATO summit tomorrow, and already today he is badmouthing U.S. allies.

“The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable,” Trump tweeted a day before departing on a seven-day European trip to Belgium, the United Kingdom and Finland. “While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more.”

Trump singled out Germany, which spent an estimated 1.24 percent of its 2017 economic output on defense, according to the latest figures from NATO. Comparably, the United States spent an estimated 3.57 percent.

And he connected the issue to his protectionist trade policies, noting that the European Union has a trade surplus with the United States.

Josh Marshall:

Most people have a general sense that Trump doesn’t seem to grasp how an alliance works, that it’s not meant to function as a protection racket. But the actual details are both sillier and more significant than it may seem on the surface.

Let’s discuss first how NATO’s funding works.

The actual NATO budget is quite small – a $1.4 billion military budget and a $250 million civilian budget. The US pays a relatively modest part of that total, about 22%. The percentage is based on a formula which includes the size of each member state’s economy. This mainly goes to pay for the NATO headquarters in Belgium and the quite thin military infrastructure which coordinates and integrates the various member country militaries which make up the alliance. That’s it. The whole thing is budgeted at less than $2 billion. The percentage the US pays is reasonable, relative to the size of the US economy and no one is in arrears.

What seems to have stuck in The Moron’s tiny brain is that the U.S. spends a much bigger percentage of its GDP than any other country on military stuff. But that was our choice. Nobody forced us to do it. Josh Marshall points out that The Moron’s complaints might make sense if he were calling for a reduction of the U.S. military budget, and he wanted other NATO countries to step up and take over functions the U.S. military is doing now. But Trump isn’t doing that. In fact, he has bragged about increasing military spending. So what’s his issue?

All of this leads to a couple possible conclusions. One is that President Trump, at a very basic level, doesn’t understand how the US military or the US military budget works. The changes Trump is demanding in European military spending are ones that cannot have any impact on US military spending because he wants to spend well over the current rates that interlock with current NATO member state spending levels. They can make NATO work better, create militaries that are more useful for the dominant force, the US military, to work with. (Again, Bush and Obama both pressed for this.) But they can’t save money. The more obvious conclusion is that, for whatever reasons, President Trump is hostile to the very concept of our primary alliances in Europe and Northeast Asia, in which we do pay substantial sums to be the guarantor of security in those regions. He simply hasn’t reconciled that with his braggadocious clamoring for higher military spending which, whether he knows it or not, assume those continuing commitments.

Trump has made noises about withdrawing U.S. troops from Europe and Asia. There are reasonable arguments for doing that, but Trump isn’t making those arguments. His rhetoric suggests that he thinks these overseas deployments are purely for the benefit of other nations and have nothing to do with U.S. interests.

Meanwhile, the trade war heats up. Greg Sargent doesn’t think Trump is going to back down.

Given how often he preens about his “toughness” toward China before roaring, worshipful rally crowds, it’s hard to see how he’ll back down, no matter what the consequences. …

…This morning, Politico reports on the backstory leading up to Trump’s trade war. Trump has been ranting for decades about other countries “ripping off” the United States on trade. Now that hostilities are escalating, Politico notes that Trump has “no clear exit strategy and no explicit plans to negotiate new rules of the road with China, leaving the global trade community and financial markets wracked with uncertainty.” But Trump loyalists say he’s playing a long game and won’t buckle. As Stephen K. Bannon puts it, Trump “has preached a confrontation with China for 30 years,” making this a “huge moment” that pits “Trump against all of Wall Street.”

Greg Sargent reiterates that the Hurt is mostly going to fall on his voters, not on Wall Street. The Brookings Institution evaluated China’s tariffs and figured out how they would affect counties that voted for Trump versus counties that voted for Clinton.

Greg Sargent continues,

Nearly two-thirds of the jobs in industries targeted by China’s tariffs — a total of more than 1 million jobs — are in more than 2,100 counties that voted for Trump. By contrast, barely more than one-third of the jobs in China-targeted industries — just over half a million — are in the counties that voted for Clinton. (This is based on 2017 county/employment data.) This doesn’t mean those jobs will definitely be lost; it means that they are in industries that are getting caught up in Trump’s trade war, making them vulnerable, depending on what happens.

This is even more remarkable when you consider that Trump voters tend to live in places with lower population density and reduced economic opportunity to begin with, while Clinton voters are concentrated in cities. As the headline to Sargent’s post says, Trump’s delusions about about to blow up in his voters’ faces.

Meanwhile, as Trump prepares to visit the UK on Thursday, there are real questions whether Theresa May’s government will last that long. And last week it appeared North Korea already was backpedaling on its non-agreement and prepared to throw Trump and Mike Pompeo under the bus. This was expected, but not quite this soon.

I am determined to not watch Trump’s Supreme Court Pick Reveal show tonight. I’ll deal with whatever atrocity he has chosen tomorrow.

See also Paul Waldman, “The Liberal Backlash Is Coming.”