How’m I doing?

No, not Donald Trump. Ed Koch.  The mayor of New York in the eighties,  he was a jovial man beset by the woes of a big city on the edge of anarchy.  Still, his trademark crinkle of a smile and his cheeky question, How’m I doing? was buoyant, if not entirely on the up and up.

Donald Trump, as a native New Yorker, shares many of Ed Koch’s attributes.  So, we should ask, how’s Donald doing? Good question.  In one week the press has been run off its feet.  I would have thought this was intentional on the part of the Donald Administration, but somehow I don’t think things are that well orchestrated in the bare bones Oval Office.

We had the Inauguration numbers fight.  That turned out to be inconclusive, all sides deciding to just drop the subject.  We had the Obamacare fight.  Inconclusive but because Congress has to participate in this one, it has been put on the Congressional closed door burner to stew for a time.  We’ve had the Conway Alternative Facts debate which sparked, at least according to the Washington Post, renewed sales of that old high school reading list tome, 1984.  Perhaps we’ll see that on the NYT bestseller list soon.

We’ve seen a draconian immigration ban on populations from majority Muslim countries, or just plain Muslim countries.  I do note that Pakistan and Afghanistan, two countries with absolute intolerance levels for anything other than the Sunni form of Islam, were not included.  Many of the refugees turning up in Greece/Italy hail from Pakistan or Afghanistan, having chosen to leave for economic reasons.  The exception has been made for Christians, or what’s left of them.  This amounts, of course, to discrimination but heck it’s going to be hard to prove you are what you say you anyway, so I’d not count on a large influx of middle eastern Christians anytime soon.

So far the above affects very few US citizens, statistically speaking.  But then the Donald Administration veered back into campaign mode and started going on about building a Hunger Games type wall on the Mexican/US border.  Who pays for the wall?  Why, the Mexicans, of course.  They’ll pay for it by our 20% tariff on all imports into the US.  Lovely.  Sounds great.

The press, of course, followed the Donald Administration back into campaign mode and pointed out that the tariff doesn’t affect Mexico, except perhaps in the long run.  In the short run, a tariff acts as an extra tax for US consumers. So, say, those avocados you just bought at the grocery, on sale for 75 cents a piece, will now cost 90 cents. If, of course, the avocados are not on sale, $1.00 a piece, they will now cost a $1.20 a piece.  Can you live with that?

You can just cut back on your avocado intake but it’s not that simple.  The rise in prices affects the entire distribution chain: the truckers and freight train employees who no longer ship a lot of avocados, the warehouse distribution companies that cut back or switch to more remunerative foodstuffs. Grocery chains, subject to slim profit margins and cutthroat competition,  would put avocados in the high priced produce shelves, along with the organic lettuce and fancy mushrooms, thus selling far fewer. This does not count Mexican food chains that use avocados for their cuisine; one well known chain in fact already charges an extra fee for avocado; that drives the meal price from $10.00 to approximately $12.00.  Just enough to be a deal breaker for the average consumer.

Ah ha, you say.  We’ll just get our avocados from California; they will be home grown.  We’ll be supporting our own.  Okay, except:

1. California farmers will try to keep prices high; their profit margins, such as they are, will be much better especially if they have to resort to hiring Americans to pick their crops – most Americans will not work for under minimum wage and picking crops by hand is backbreaking work.  Migrant workers are a much better deal if you’re a farmer trying to break even.  In fact, the lack of migrant workers, legal and illegal, will make food much for more expensive across the board.  And, in case you haven’t noticed, food prices have been rising.

2. Barring the excessive weather that afflicts California these days, homegrown avocados will be available only in season.  Off season avocados will be unavailable or will be priced so high as to be impractical for the average consumer.  Thus, the year-round, relatively cheap avocado market we enjoy now would disappear. Some eateries may stop offering avocados at all, or may be forced to find substitutes.

By Friday afternoon, the Donald Administration had walked back the tariff thing. So, How’s Donald Doing?  He’d say great, yuge as one of the papers puts it. Lot’s of stuff going on, lot’s initiatives.   I’d say he’s perhaps a C-, at best.  He’s got leeway now; the democrats are in disarray (herbal tea party? Seriously?) and Congress is off balance, scrambling for power and place under the titular rule of a Barnum & Bailey showman.

And you thought the circus was dead.  Not for the elephants and the donkeys.




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