President Donald Trump rightly touted “America’s extraordinary prosperity” in his speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday. But his history of overlooking the global component of that success is wrongheaded, especially because transnational threats can reverse the uninterrupted U.S. economic growth that began during the Obama era.
Chief among these threats is climate change, which the president has previously called a hoax. He didn’t go that far in Davos, but he did decry the “perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse.”
No, conditions aren’t apocalyptic. (Unless you’re a kangaroo in Australia’s wildfires — or if not Down Under, down south in coastal U.S. states that are requesting billions in aid to mitigate the impact of climate change while never mentioning the term, according to a New York Times analysis of the requests).
A more adult reckoning came from 17-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who told the gathered elites in Davos that “the facts are clear, but they’re still too uncomfortable for you to address.” That alacrity was amplified by a more august source, 81-year-old WEF founder Klaus Schwab, who said that “the world is in a state of emergency and the window to act is closing fast.”
States of emergency are possible because of other transnational threats, too. Responding to them multilaterally is much more effective, especially in cases like pandemics (possibly including the coronavirus China is straining to contain), as well as the borderless scourge of terrorism. Trump will meet with Pakistani, Iraqi and Kurdish leaders in Davos, but his “America First” foreign policy that’s led to the abrogation of climate, nuclear and trade accords undermines U.S. security.
This includes the economic security that undergirds everything else. It’s welcome news that the administration reached a “phase one” trade deal with China, and that in the midst of Washington’s gridlock an accord between the U.S., Mexico and Canada was passed on a bipartisan basis.
The progress on trade — as well as fiscal stimulus from 49 central banks — was among factors cited Monday by the International Monetary Fund as it predicted global growth of 3.3% in 2020, up from last year’s 2.9%. But IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva also noted ominous echoes of a previous era. “The beginning of this decade [has been] eerily reminiscent of the 1920s — high inequality, rapid spread of technology and huge risks and rewards in finance,” Georgieva said. “For the analogy to stop right there and go no further, acting together in a coordinated way is absolutely critical.”
Trump’s triumphal tone at the Alpine resort came amid a mountain of evidence that he engaged in the wrong kind of internationalism — leveraging Ukraine’s government to interfere in the U.S. election. The impeachment trial that began Tuesday is not a “hoax,” as the president again mischaracterized it in Davos. For Congress, it’s a constitutional duty.
Indeed, good governance and the rule of law are the roots of the economic strength Trump talked about in Davos.