Proponents of the QAnon "conspiracy theory," which the NYT can't seem to stop writing about, are going to love seeing this.
A memo that has reportedly been circulating among policymakers on both sides of the aisle for weeks was finally released to the press on Tuesday when Dealbook editor and CNBC "Squawk Box" host Andrew Ross Sorkin got the scoop: a memo penned by a group of senior-level bureaucrats, including - who else? - Henry Kissinger and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has provided a kind of "blueprint" for the Biden Administration to undo all of President Trump's trade-war tactics and other policies that didn't exactly help promote free trade.
As Trump recounted in his farewell video published earlier Tuesday afternoon, his administration dramatically altered the American trade landscape, pulling the US out of the TPP, renegotiating Nafta into the USMCA, and - most consequentially, at things would turn out - the trade war with China, which inspired waves of hysterical lobbying by the Chamber of Commerce and special-interest groups from Big Tech to Wal-Mart and other major retailers, and others.
So, as Biden prepares his first 100-day blitz of policy directives, many of the architects of the globalist system created by groups like the Trilateral Commission are joining with a gaggle of former cabinet-level officials (both Dems and GOP) along with the CEO of one of America's largest banks, former British Labour Party Prime Minister Tony Blair and - who else? - Henry Kissinger, have essentially penned a manifesto that is being circulated among lawmakers, along with top-level officials in the cabinet and the West Wing, to help restore the globalist system that Trump helped to disrupt.
Who better to leak the story to than Andrew Sorkin, who first brought up the existence of the memo during an interview during Tuesday morning's episode of "Squawk Box" on CNBC during a conversation with Harvard economist Austan Goolsbee.
"The problem the critics of @JoeBiden's program have is that we tried the approach they're describing. What they want Joe Biden to do is what Donald Trump has been doing for 4 years and it's a failure. It's a failed presidency," says @Austan_Goolsbee on the Biden economic plan. pic.twitter.com/VQLw4GJwEP— Squawk Box (@SquawkCNBC) January 19, 2021
According to Sorkin's column, "the memo comes from an under-the-radar group of global boldfaced names that act as a private advisory committee to JPMorgan Chase. They include Tony Blair, the former British prime minister; Condoleezza Rice and Henry Kissinger, two former secretaries of state; Robert Gates, the former secretary of defense; Alex Gorsky, chief executive of Johnson & Johnson; Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH; and Joseph C. Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba, among others."
The group, which even Sorkin concedes is exclusively staffed with members of the "globalist part of the globalist establishment that fell out of favor during the Trump years, typically meets once a year in a far-flung location with JPMorgan’s chief, Jamie Dimon."
Dimon hasn't shied away from sharing his idealistic political prescriptions for saving American capitalism from itself. Most of these screeds, published in recent annual letters to the bank's shareholders, mostly focus on the need to raise taxes on the rich and make the American education system more meritocratic, among other proposed "reforms". Though whenever a rich person says they support raising taxes on the rich, one almost can't help but feel skeptical.
These discussions are usually kept quiet, filtering out through the shadowy nexus where corporate interest meets public policy meets Capitol Hill. But "given the precarious state of the world during a pandemic and change in leadership in Washington, the group put its views on paper in hopes of persuading policymakers to address what it sees as the most pressing priorities."
Though Sorkin didn't share the memo, he described it as "a manifesto or sorts". Without explicitly saying so, it advocates for a "reset" - a return to the pre-Trump days, essentially turning back the clock to a time before Trump dumped the TPP, retooled Nafta and started the aggressive trade war/economic confrontation of China.
Why? Because, as Tony Blair explains to Sorkin at one point, "enlightened self-interest" - ie working closely with other countries to build better products and more efficient supply chains etc - actually helps lift all boats. In other words, backing down from the trade confrontation with China and other Trump policy rollbacks would actually help put "America First".
Without saying it in so many words, the group argues that engaging in policy and commerce with other countries isn’t a sign of weakness or against the interests of the country. In many ways, it is actually “America First.” “The purpose of cooperation is not to put someone else’s interest before those of your own country,” Mr. Blair told me about the discussions among the group. “Enlightened self-interest is best satisfied by people working together.” On this point, Mr. Gates, who was the secretary of defense under President George W. Bush, added that the government has failed to “bring home to the American people why international cooperation and engagement on the international front and the relationships with our allies, why that all serves Americas self-interest.”
In an example of just how out-of-touch this memo's authors apparently are, it argues that the COVID-19 outbreak is an example of the shortcomings of those who are skeptical of the globalist system.
"The near-total absence of American leadership, coupled with the nationalist approach of too many countries, have come at the expense of a strategically coherent, international response to the pandemic," the paper contends. Mr. Blair said that, while everyone involved in the group didn’t agree on every point in the document, it reflected the broad consensus.
Even as Mike Pompeo labels China's treatment of the Uyghers a "genocide", the paper argues for greater cooperation on everything from saving the climate to "issues of global health".
The memo calls for a return to engaging with China, especially on climate issues and global health, while acknowledging the "significant challenge" the country poses. "The best outcome for US-China relations is likely managed competition — an accommodation that avoids military conflict while allowing for limited cooperation," it reads. "It is impractical to think that supply chains and manufacturing can be moved simply, affordably or comprehensively out of China."
Sorkin acknowledges that Trump-aligned voters, as well as many on the Democratic Party's left flank, might have serious problems with the memo, given the fact that it was written by the very architects of the free-trade system that hollowed out American factories.
The document also calls for placing renewed importance on the G7 and G20. It urges the creation of “trusted supply chains" and places responsibility on the business community to engage with policymakers "from the point-of-view of the public interest, not simply narrow business interests."
Some will fairly question the group’s intentions. After all, a message being delivered by the nation’s biggest bank - and a group of chief executives and former senior policymakers - may only encourage the idea that there is a supersecret cabal of puppeteers steering policy.
The idea that the Biden administration might take this group’s advice might be considered anathema to his supporters on the far left just as much as it is to his opponents on the far right.
Tony Blair says he understands why people are skeptical, or even furious at, the globalist elite. But they're not so bad, he says. In reality, the system they're advocating is simply "common sense". Dimon says that involving the business community and other stakeholders can help undo some of the mistakes of the past.
Mr. Blair said he understood the skepticism of the motives of the global elite. “Politically this is my view: You’ve had genuine grievances, which populism has exploited, but too much of those opposed to populism have simply stood for better management of the status quo,” he said. Mr. Dimon said that one of the few ways that the status quo, and the inequality it created, can be undone is if his peers start advocating for policies that may be against their own short-term business interests.
“I’d like to criticize business for a second,” he said in an interview, describing how he had witnessed some executives lobby for their business or themselves, knowingly at the expense of society. “I’ve been to a lot of meetings with presidents and prime ministers and senators and congressmen, and the selfishness and parochialism with the business folks is just absolutely outrageous.”
“The first thing businesses should do is separate their company’s interests from what’s in the interest of the country,” he added.
As an example, he took a shot at the private equity industry, which happens to provide some his bank’s biggest clients. "I mean, we still have carried interest in this country?” he said, questioning the special, lower tax rate that private equity executives enjoy. “When you look at those things, I feel like the American public says, 'It's a swamp.' And they’re saying 'I'm not getting my piece of it,' you know?"
Mr. Dimon said that, ultimately, many of the big challenges the country faces during and after the pandemic will require private-sector investment from around the world, and gaining the trust of the public is crucial.
"It’s unlikely to be fixed without business, particularly when you get around to things like work skills, property and building infrastructure," he said.
Sorkin's column ends with an analogy, reportedly sourced to Dimon, about FDR overcoming his hostilities with big business to build the War Production Board and staff it with captains of industry like Walter Chrysler.
If nothing else, the memo and the slick way it was leaked to the press after making the rounds in Washington, is a harbinger of how business will be done in the Biden area, as the same old foreign policy and economy wonks from the Clinton, Bush and Obama years reemerge like the living dead.