Dalio’s Questions (3/3)

Surya,

When I posted Ray Dalio’s three questions, I was hoping to have a substantive discussion in the open and honest truth-seeking style to which Dalio has introduced us. However, I am reading your response as mostly partisan name-calling and political cynicism. Am I wrong?

Here’s my take on the back-and-forth:

  1. Dalio asked what President Trump is trying to optimize for and at whose expense. I suggested this is easy to figure out because President Trump is very clear about it in his tweets and speeches. He wants “to optimize for American capitalism and employment at the expense of government and foreigners.” You counter that he optimizes “for attention not substance” and cite three examples, two of which actually have substance behind them. On November 29, 2016 Carrier tweeted: “We are pleased to have reached a deal with President-elect Trump & VP-elect Pence to keep close to 1,000 jobs in Indy.” Meanwhile, coal miners and senators from coal states, such as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, are hailing Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord as beneficial to the industry they rely upon. “Thank you @realDonaldTrump for keeping your promise on Paris Agreement & protecting KY jobs from a bad deal,” Sen. Paul tweeted on June 1, tagging “@FriendsofCoalKY,” a coal advocacy group. Even your NAFTA criticism is premature given that just last month, the Trump administration “notified Congress of its intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement,” according to WaPo. It may be true that President Trump seeks attention, but he also delivers substance. The rising stock market and employment numbers are just two other examples.
  2. Dalio said we should ask ourselves if we are more aligned with those whom President Trump is trying to protect (American workers) or those who will lose out (immigrants and those who lose out from government cuts). I answered his question by saying I am a Libertarian (i.e. in favor of small government) and a patriot (i.e. pro American citizens). I even joked: “Sorry, immigrants.” You replied that I didn’t answer the question or take a position (?). I had hoped you would answer the question and pick a side yourself. I had also hoped you would tackle my additional question: “Are tech companies — the pillars of American capitalism these days — so dependent on immigrants that citizens can’t fill their demand?” That would have been an interesting conversation given your experiences working in Silicon Valley. Instead, you went off on President Trump for being a fraud again. (I’ll tackle that screed in a moment.) I think somewhere in there you did try to answer Dalio’s question — by taking both sides. You seem to be saying you are pro American worker and pro big government, at least when it comes to social security and government-provided healthcare. Now, it’s OK to call Dalio’s setup a false dilemma, but I wish you’d have been clearer about that.
  3. Lastly, Dalio wondered if this “path of conflict rather than cooperation” will be effective or harmful. I admitted that I can’t answer the question and then asked a series of thought-provoking questions with which I had hoped you would engage. “Is cooperation possible (i.e. would the Opposition ever allow it)? Is cooperation what the people who elected Trump want? (Or, for that matter, what Clinton or Bernie supporters would have wanted?) Is cooperation even possible in the political climate of the last few decades?” Rather than answer any of these questions, you agreed with my implication that theoretically conflict could work, and then proceeded to use the opportunity to bash President Trump yet again by suggesting that conflict ‘working’ would be meaningless in this context because he’s not trying to accomplish anything of substance. Sigh.

That brings me to the screed. You wrote:

Maybe my biggest frustration with Trump is that I see him as shamelessly intellectually dishonest. Given his clear populist roots and campaign rhetoric — I should be one of Trump’s biggest supporters. Fighting for American jobs, not cutting the safety net (social security, medicare, medicaid), health care for all — these are Trump’s greatest hits from the campaign (and even after) … he paid these things lip service, put publicity stunts next to them, and has basically done nothing to help them — or in fact done the opposite (like his proposed budget cuts impacting these people) …
If Trump wanted to help workers and put America First, he’d propose a VAT and delink healthcare from employment and partially fund it directly from VAT proceeds. As I’ve written in my books, and is obvious based on arithmetic, that would fix a meaningful cost disadvantage the American worker suffers from. Instead: Tax cuts that the vast majority of would flow back to the top 1% of earners (and tax payers, to be fair). I am not aligned with this in any way.

The main problem with this is you are conflating your preferred policy positions with Trump’s. He did not run on “health care for all.” That is not a populist position, it’s a socialist one, and it was not one of his “greatest hits from the campaign.” He actually ran on repealing “health care for all,” which is also known as “Obamacare.”

Perhaps you are trying to say he promised a better health care system for all. OK, in that case you simply have a policy disagreement with Trump and his party. The Republicans obviously think their ideas will deliver better healthcare for all Americans. Trump has not “in fact done the opposite” of what he promised. He and his party have simply delivered differently than you would have liked. You think it won’t work and will hurt more than help. Smart people on the other side disagree with you.

I also noted the hubris in your subsequent statements, which suggests it’s “obvious based on arithmetic” how to fix healthcare. Uh-huh. And Trump is intentionally ignoring these obviously great ideas because he doesn’t want to help the American workers who elected him? He wants to give tax cuts to the rich instead? I was hoping for a new discussion, not old Democratic talking points.

Jordan

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