BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – The historic powwow at the G20 in Buenos Aires last weekend could turn out to produce some positive results.
At least the Chinese and the Americans are thrashing around. Maybe they’ll knock down a trade barrier or two by accident.
But the good news this week is that nothing much happened on the banks of the Río de la Plata… neither to make things worse… nor to make them better.
And that is almost a miracle. Because, looking at the American faces in the photo op at dinner, we see nothing but trouble – kooks, frauds, and egomaniacs with short attention spans. Bolton, Navarro, Mnuchin – that they managed to get up from the table without knocking over some water glasses is a gift from the gods.
Or from Donald J. Trump. Yes, we can thank our president. He is cunning enough to know that a fake trade war may be good politics… but a real one would be a disaster.
Had an escalation, rather than a truce, been announced on Sunday morning… the Dow would have opened 1,000 points down on Monday, rather than more than 100 points up.
But now, the trade war has been set aside… like an unexploded bomb in a children’s playground. So we turn to other grenades.
On Monday, France announced a six-month moratorium on proposed new gas taxes. After two weeks of demonstrations, the frog feds caved in.
Nobody took the protests very seriously at the beginning. People began putting on their yellow, fluorescent vests (obligatory equipment for truck drivers) and showing up in Paris.
They were upset because the government is set to impose an additional tax on fuel beginning January 1, 2019.
The French like to manifester from time to time. This was nothing new.
Besides, the demonstrators were from the middle classes… from outside the capital… with no political power or media cachet – easy to manipulate and easy to forget.
They were like the people of Flyover America, who see their cost of living going up and their quality of life going down… who aren’t fully on board with the liberal elites’ programs for the future, but who tend to go along anyway as if it were their civic duty to let themselves be ripped off.
The proposed new tax increase was hardly revolutionary. Though it would have taken the price of gasoline to $6.50 a gallon, it reflected a broad consensus of France’s right-thinking rulers – a visionary program set in motion by Macron’s predecessor, François Hollande, designed to make France a world leader in green-ness.
That is, France’s best and brightest were committed to making the country a paragon of environmental correctness – no matter what the cost. And the current president showed no inclination to back down.
“The demonstrations by the yellow vests,” writes our son Henry, who comments from Paris on politics and economics for our dear French readers, “culminated [last week] with the response of Mr. Macron… Here is, grosso modo, his message to the protestors: “We’re not going to change anything. The taxes on fuel will stay in place, and they will be raised in 2019. Taxes on polluting vehicles will go up, too.” Go jump into the Seine, in other words.
This was not the message the “yellow vests” wanted to hear. And it was a departure from the script.
Typically, a president will go limp and mealy-mouthed (as Mr. Trump cleverly did with the Chinese), claim to feel the demonstrators’ pain, and promise further talks and compromises.
“My responsibility is simple,” said the president of the Fifth Republic. “To guarantee our citizens access to energy that is cheap and clean.”
“What kind of comedy is this?” asks Henry.
“How can Mr. Macron guarantee anything… much less energy that is cheap and clean? Is he an engineer? Does he know something about electricity generation or nuclear power? How does he know what direction to go… whom to push… with whom to speak… or what inventions to focus on?”
“We must leave fossil fuel,” continued the Oracle of Paris. “In 30 years, we must go from a France where 75% of our energy is fossil-based to 2050 [he seemed to give himself a year of wiggle-room], when the production and consumption of energy will be completely de-carbonized.”
“Huh?” asks Henry, or words to that effect. “Is there some panel of experts that knows what technology will replace our current sources of energy and at what price? Who are these omniscient geniuses?”
The demonstrations have caused three deaths so far. Dozens of cars have been burned… thousands of police and demonstrators have been in motion. Parisians say they have not seen anything like it since the student uprising of 50 years ago.
Perhaps Mr. Macron got hit in the head with a rock. His visions continued:
“We want to construct new forms of transportation… By 2030, the number of windmills will triple… photovoltaic panels will quintuple… and we’ll put the windmills out on the sea…”
Do these things make sense? Not likely. How would a windy politician know where to find the best source of energy?
But if you want to understand what is going on in France, just imagine that Hillary Clinton had been elected instead of Mr. Trump.
Ms. Clinton, who has all the silly ideas of the Deep State Left – in contradistinction to Mr. Trump, who has all the silly ideas of the Deep State Right… plus a few of his own – might very well have come up with a loony plan to save the Earth, too.
And she might very well have resisted efforts by the “deplorables” to interfere with her grand vision. Then, there could be tear gas on Pennsylvania Avenue instead of the Champs-Élysées.
But the real story, Henry explains, is much the same in France as in the U.S.: Governments are running out of money.
In Europe, “the environment” is just a sacred pretext. Like “national security” in the U.S., the elite use it to get more cash and control for themselves.
But wait… Is the Earth really heating up? Should carbon emissions be limited?
“I don’t believe it,” says Mr. Trump.
What should he believe? Stay tuned…