St.Cyr: "We're Not Starting A 'Trade War' - We're Revoking Prior Agreements Of Preordained Surrender"

Authored by Mark St.Cyr,

When it comes to business there’s one group that believes they, above all else, know how business should be conducted at all levels. The problem is most, if not all, have never run a business in their careers. If they have, it’s quite common that it never rose beyond the equivalent of a lemonade stand.

And yet, it is this very same group that will/have imposed regulations so egregious, that even that simple lemonade stand, that fixture of years past, enabling many a kid their first brush with business – to be nearly regulated out of existence. You know – for the safety of the children and public at large.

Lord knows how many unsuspecting patrons consumed lemonade over the years and fell dead, or were hospitalized needing to undergo tests as to find out what contaminants may have been present, because there were no warning labels, or listed ingredients affixed to the plastic cups. And to top it off: No license!

What other possible offense could these business malcontents be involved in that would demand political intervention? Brace yourselves: They actually dealt in an all-cash business model. Obviously those 6 year-olds were just posing as neighborhood children, raising money for a local cause or charity.

No, what was obvious (via the political eye) was they must be underworld kingpins, extorting unsuspecting passer-byes of their hard-earned money to funnel back into their ill-gotten coffers. Need I say it again? They. Only. Accepted. Cash. (or pocket change) Obviously they must be criminals. So, therefore, they must be stopped! And sadly, for many, they have.

And who gets the credit for all this “brilliance?” Hint: Politicians, of all stripes.

The reason for the above is this: That’s about the level of business understanding that many, if not most, of today’s politicians have that negotiated the multi-national, multi-$Trillions of trade deals we are now, supposedly, bound by.

I know it’s seems over-the-top, however, let me assure you – it is not. For if you think I’m off base? Need I remind you of the most egregious statement made directly to business people which demonstrated today’s political leaders understanding of business; its fundamental relevance to a nation, its economy, as well as its working public. e.g, “You didn’t build that.”

Sorry, that’s not a capitalist infused statement of argument. That’s a defensive communist infused statement. Period. If you take offense to my statement? I’ll assume you are not, nor have ever, built a business. And you should probably stop reading here. Consider that your, “trigger alert.”

Over the last few decades politicians of all stripes (e.g., Left, Right, and everyone in-between) have entered the U.S. and its business sovereignty into trade deals that have done more damage to the U.S. and its middle class than anything before it.

“Free-Trade,” as it is bandied about, is great in theory. However, most “Free-Trade” agreements prior were nothing more than simple documents with general outlines that set a framework that was easily understandable, as well as administered. (i.e., Trade agreements used to be some 20 or 50 pages long. Now, their 2000 to near infinitum. And that’s just for, “Lemonade!”)

If you look at the results of all the trade agreements over the last few years, one thing is glaringly obvious: The U.S. rarely breaks even.

In most cases (Hint: See China for one) the counter-party to all U.S. trade agreements usually not only gets the oversized proportions of the deal, but are seemingly inoculated from any violations they commit. i.e., Dumping products into U.S. markets? Complain all you want. Just don’t “rock the boat.” Or should I say, “shipping container ship?”

Again, one (as in the U.S.) can complain all they want. Does anything ever come of it?

No. All you’ll hear is some form of “Well, we brought this up to the ___________(insert political body of you choice) and the needed recommendations are a process and will take time, and blah, blah, blah. But we’ll keep up the good fight to get those jobs back, just remember to donate to __________” (fill in part affiliation here.)

Remember – To a politician: “Talking business, is doing business.” To a business person: “Talking is one thing – bona fide sales, are quite another.”

Regardless how one feels politically about the current stance being initiated by the administration, what is abundantly clear is the following:

This is what business looks like when you’re trying to turn around, or right past mistakes, in the midst of a “turn around operation.”

For those unfamiliar with the term, “turn around operation.” This is what is used to describe the process that a failing business adopts when there’s only two options: (1) Go out-of-business, now. (2) Try to save it.

Being a former successful “turnaround specialist.” This is precisely (i.e., what everyone is currently mislabeled a “trade-war”) what you do (and need to do) when you’re engaged in the latter. (I’ve expressed a similar point before in an article titled “The media is perplexed because this is what business looks like and they don’t get it.”)

All prior negotiations are simply either curtailed, rewritten, or thrown into the scrap-heap. Nothing is sacred. Repeat: Nothing.

Again, we are currently engaged in the latter. And the ones that have benefited in prior agreements, at the expense of the U.S. and its industrial backbone, are naturally going to wail like spoiled children.

“Free Trade” agreements were meant to be reciprocal, honest, sharing of markets. Otherwise, there is no “Free” anything.

What’s been taking place for decades is nothing more than a business bloodletting, being forced via a legion of leeches that have done nothing more than negotiate away a nations most fundamental asset. i.e., Its business and industrial might. It’s been a deplorable, disgusting display of nothing more than the equivalent of a bastion of rentier’s greed. This has not been about capitalism, business principles, or ideals at all.

It’s been nothing more than pure “Wall Street” incentivized greed. The greatest bastion for capital formation is now, nothing more, than a shell game. Literally.

Most, if not all, of the past agreements have been nothing more than structures of one form or another to fuel the insatiable thirst of what “Wall Street” has now become. i.e., It’s no longer the greatest capital formation vehicle the world has ever known. No, now it’s nothing more than a front running, parasitical infested, algorithmic, headline reading, High-Frequency-Trading, casino. My apologies to casinos everywhere.

Do not get me wrong, I’m not making any argument in favor of any administration, or politician. That is not what I’m discussing here.

What I am making clear is this: There’s a difference between opening up a “Trade War” and – just ending prior egregious trade agreements.

That’s not “War.” That’s called defending oneself. And just as in life at the schoolyard level – The bully doesn’t like when they suddenly find their “bullying” not only unheeded, but rather, they now find the once “bullied” has decided to fight back.

Again, all we are now engaging is – defending ourselves. That’s a distinction with a mighty big difference. And most of the mainstream business/financial media hasn’t the slightest clue of the differences.

Wall Street objectives (i.e., wringing every last cent, regardless of the human toll or national cost to its business sovereignty) have done nothing more than incentivize businesses to move operations offshore using the “wage gap,” “regulation gap,” and “environmental gap,” as an incentive to jettison any and all morals of capitalistic fundamentals, and replaced it with some form of grotesque hodgepodge of business maxims which are entirely specious when used improperly.

All hyperbole? Fair point. So, let’s use another example for comparisons, shall we?

This time let’s use the media’s go-to patriarch of U.S. business: “Ole Uncle Warren.” Far too many hold this man up as “The Face of what U.S. Business should look like.” Here’s a hint: Here’s what you get with that “face” and a trade deal such as NAFTA.

I made this point originally back in May of 2014 in the article, “Moving The US Economy Forward By Reversing Its Tax Policies”  when it originally took place. To wit:

“We hear many on the taxation issue regurgitate so-called “wisdom” or arguments for higher levels of taxes using opinions from academia such as the Krugman-ites, or axioms by none other than Uncle Warren (aka Warren Buffett) as to buttress their claims or stance why they’re unquestionably correct.

Remember when we were told ad nauseam Mr. Buffett believed in higher taxes? We heard: “Oh his secretary pays more in taxes than he does, blah, blah, blah.” And if Uncle Warren says it, well it must be so. After all, he throws great shareholder parties and plays the ukulele. He’s for the little guy. Yeah, right. Until you actually try to touch his money. For no matter what they say, one needs to watch what they do.

A little event took place last month that for all intents and purposes resembled a tree falling in the forest for today’s financial media. Fruit Of The Loom™ is closing its plant which employs some 600 U.S. workers in Kentucky and moving the operation to (wait for it….) Honduras. I guess those 600 U.S. workers were doing jobs that people paying lower wages, taxes, and more won’t do. Oh wait, they will. And now Honduras can claim family ties to Uncle Warren. I wonder if Mr. Buffett broke out into a rendition of Cinco de Mayo when he played his annual ukulele solo surrounded by the Fruit Of The Loom quartet?”

Sure, Mr. Buffet bought FOTL in the early 2000’s when it was in bankruptcy. Nothing wrong there. What’s wrong is his implied song and dance across the media in a willing to pay up, or call for higher taxes in some “good steward of business ” tone. i.e., “I don’t pay enough in taxes, blah, blah, blah.” or some other such drivel.

The fact of the matter is: If there’s a tax break or incentive that he or his businesses can take advantage of? They’re going to take it, regardless of the economical costs to the people he employed, or the community that was built around it.

Welcome to, “Uncle Wall Street” priorities, first, via the cover provided by prior trade deals negotiated by “lemonade stand” politicians. Great for them – not so good for the U.S.

Here’s a question: Do you think those 600 jobs would be gone today (and the devastation to the community that was built around it for years) had the prior “trade agreements” to incentivize such were not implemented? Imagine if “Ole Uncle Warren” didn’t have NAFTA as a useful argument to jettison all those U.S. jobs. Truly contemplate it, for this is just one example that demonstrates what has been taking place across the entire U.S.

Also contemplate: This was prior (e.g. 2014) to all the tax reversals, incentives, and more coming out today. Think KY would still lose to Honduras in 2018 vs 2014 tax policies, or recent NAFTA calls for renegotiating? Maybe, but then again, they’re already gone so why bother, right?

Is trying to make those once “Free Trade” incentives or conditions less favorable now entering some part of a “Trade War?” And if it is, why so? Is a country dumping products (Steel is just one) on a market subsidized by its government, flooding its trading “partner” and businesses with unsustainable pricing parameters, with no toleration (actually more like laughing in the face) for trying to protect oneself from such practices “Free Trade?”

As far as the Ivory-towered academia cabal is concerned that answer is: Yes, yes it is.

But if you’re an American citizen or business owner? I would garner to assume your view is a little bit different, is it not? (not to mention if you are one of those 600 that were jettisoned.)

So now – it’s China’s turn, along with a growing list of others. (E.U. springs to mind)

Will there be fallout? Economic upheavals? Financial chaos? Wall Street bedlam?

The answer is more than likely, Yes, too all, and then some.

But what’s the alternative? Here’s one:

Further bloodletting of U.S. industrial and business might – and a further – if not complete – obliteration of its workforce. All at the expense of remaining in prior “trade agreements” made by politicians that don’t possess even a “lemonade stand” understanding of business. Agreements that did nothing more than gut the U.S. of its once ingrained competitive advantages, enabling a cabal of international pols and business leaders to become rich beyond compare.

That’s not capitalism – that’s oligarchy. Pure and simple.

But there is an alternative, which is this:

Simply rip up all prior agreements – and start anew the best we can. Even if it means, yes, I’ll dare say it: Tariffs. Then, suffer through the healing process best we can as we rebuild.

That’s the two decisions at the core of any turn around plan. Hint:

Only the latter has a chance of working. It’s not easy, and at times feels utterly frightening, but that’s the cost. You either pay it now, or slowly bleed away into oblivion. And if that means we’re going to enter a trade war as most Ph.D’s argue? Then I say…

“Let’s Roll!”