“Trump’s incessant barrage of outrageous pronouncements is reminiscent of the Gish Gallop strategy of argumentation: keeping your opponent on their heels and unable to debate effectively by throwing out so many false and misleading statements that it becomes too difficult to address any single one of them or make your own case. It’s a common creationist tactic, and a common tool of hucksters and swindlers everywhere.” [Washington Monthly, November 22, 2015
Three ways to spot a swindle:
Number One: High pressure sales pitch. Those who would have you part with the contents of your wallet will tell you that “time is short!” “Act now.” “This is a limited time offer!” Hogwash. In order for me to pull off a swindle on you it is necessary for you to feel the “urgency” of my pitch. If I were trying to pitch an investment swindle, I’d tell you that the economy is in terrible shape (it isn’t) and if you don’t act now to protect your retirement fund (which is probably fairly safe where it is) you’ll be in Dire, I say DIRE straits down the line. Notice I didn’t tell you where that line was drawn.
Trump’s pitch, and it’s more Pitch than a stump speech, is that voting for him is necessary to Save The Country; Yes, Save It Immediately – from what? The leading economic indicators forecast a modest growth rate in the early part of 2016. [MarketWatch]
What part of this chart indicates to any sentient person that there’s a horrible unemployment rate problem in this country?
“But he largely defended his record and sought to tell voters about the stakes in this November’s election.
Improved economic numbers don’t mean “folks aren’t struggling in some circumstances, and one of the things I’ve emphasized is that there’s some long-term trends in the economy we have to tackle,” Obama said in the PBS town hall. “So we’re going to have to make sure we make some good decisions going forward.”
“The notion that somehow America is in decline is just not borne out by the facts,” Obama said. “But it resonates. It resonate with aggrieved people who are voting in big numbers for Donald Trump.” [NBC]
No, we’re not “in decline,” and NO we don’t need to make America great again, it’s already the strongest nation on this planet. But that isn’t going to impress the devotees of the Gish Galloping Trump; they are listening for the second element of the perfect swindle pitch.
Number Two: It’s too good to be true. Again, if I were to launch a swindle in your direction I’d promise outcomes like a 25% increase in your investment, in some ridiculously short amount of time. And, should you hesitate I’d shower you with misinformation, disinformation, and pure south bound product of a north bound bull, all the time pointing to the Bright Blue Sky (to which MY bank account is headed if I can only get you to play along).
If, IF, you will invest with me all your troubles will be long ago and far away. I’ll “build a wall,” I’ll “get a better deal,” I’ll “get you a better job,” I’ll “fight the Chinese currency manipulators,” I’ll “turn the water on.”…..
This will work, if you don’t do two things: Check my facts, and do some Critical Thinking. If I can get you to avoid these two activities, then I can effectively initiate the third element of a good swindle pitch.
Number Three: Downplay the risks. Galloping right along… Here’s Mr. Trump with a classic example: “We have been too afraid to protect and advance American interests and to challenge China to live up to its obligations. We need smart negotiators who will serve the interests of American workers – not Wall Street insiders that want to move U.S. manufacturing and investment offshore.”
Unfortunately, for those who know how to use the Google, downplaying the risk of getting into a trade kerfuffle with the Chinese is a matter of taking on the wrong target for the wrong reasons.
The Chinese “currency manipulation” charge is a set piece of conservative attacks on our trade policy. First, let’s agree that setting nominal interest rates is something that central banks DO. The U.S. Federal Reserve sets its sites on the federal funds rate; the European Central Bank focuses on the marginal lending facility, and the Chinese central bank fixed the yuan-US dollar rate along with a “basket” of other currencies. [Wall St Journal] Message to Mr. Trump: “Currency devaluation of revaluation is a common exercise of sovereign monetary policy.”
With this understood we can get down into the weeds, and again look closely at what the Wall Street Journal had to say about focusing on the “currency manipulating:”
“Movements in the nominal yuan exchange rate have almost no long-term impact on global flows of exports and imports or on broader considerations such as average wages. The exchange rate that matters for trade flows is the real exchange rate, i.e., the nominal exchange rate adjusted for local-currency prices in both countries.
The real exchange rate, in turn, reflects the deep forces of comparative advantage such as technology and endowments of labor and capital. These forces drive trade regardless of monetary policy.”
[…] Today more companies operate in global supply networks—in which trade and investment link different stages of production across different countries. Because these networked companies incur both revenues and costs in many currencies, their trade competitiveness tends to vary little with the movement of any one currency.” [emphasis added]
Thus, NO, Mr. Trump, waving the “Currency Manipulation” banner like some kind of red flag obscuring the more complex nature of international trade forces and trends, doesn’t come anywhere near explaining the issues involved in international trade and the related currency valuations thereof. What Mr. Trump is saying is a rather vapid “I’ll get a better deal.” Without, obviously, introducing any of the real factors associated with international trade policy. However, in Trump’s campaign, waving this banner is just one more piece of the continuing Gish Gallop.
Before the third element of the perfect swindle pitch is successful, it’s time to remind ourselves of H.L. Mencken’s famous line:”
“There is always an easy solution to every problem – neat, plausible, and wrong.”
It isn’t like the Trump Gish Gallop hasn’t been spotted already – Blue Virginia caught it back in March 2016, the Democratic Underground wrote of it in January 2016 – proposing to call it the “Trump Trot,” and the media was warned, as noted previously, by the Washington Monthly in November 2015.
Those still confused by the combination of Gish Gallop and Word Salad emanating from the Trump Campaign may note with some trepidation that Mr. Trump can lie faster than the fact-checkers can keep up. Prevaricate he will, as he pours forth his high pressure sales pitch, promising that which is too good to be true, and downplaying the risks of his preposterous proposals.