Dealing with the United States—Europe’s Crazy Neighbor


The Realm of Logic

The 29 ambassadors’ open letter—presumably addressed to Americans in general, not to Trump, because he doesn’t read—makes may good points. I’ll let its good points speak for themselves. But it skirts around one issue.

Trump has claimed that there is a $151 billion annual trade deficit with the European Union—and implied that this circumstance is something we ought to regard as troublesome or unfair or abnormal.

Trump critics have noted that Trump’s assertion is misleadingly incomplete, because the $151 billion relates only to material goods and omits trade in services. When we look at goods and services combined, the deficit goes down to $101 billion, they say.

So far, so good. But $101 billion still sounds like a lot of money. The ambassadors need to amplify their argument by directly addressing the implication that a $101 billion U.S. deficit with the European Union is a grave problem that merits some drastic fix.

The Real of Illogic

Trump supporters—whose numbers are ticking up slightly—fall into two groups. First, there is a segment of our population, probably 25 to 30 percent of Americans, who resonate deeply to Trump’s appeal to racial, cultural, intellectual, and economic resentment. They are, moreover, breathtakingly gullible. An additional—and largely distinct, I think—group of Trump supporters are deeply impressed by Trump’s ability to bamboozle the backward 25 to 30 percent, and to make them support or tolerate a plutocratic agenda of low taxes and highly relaxed regulation.

There is, of course, no reasoning with either group. You have to get their attention some other way.

Those of us who grew up in a certain time and place will remember hearing some variation of this story:

There is a story about a farmer who wanted to sell his mule so he put the add in the local paper. One day a man from another community came to the farm. The two farmers got to talking and eventually they got around to talking about the mule.

The farmer who wanted to buy the mule asked if the mule was a good worker. The reply was that the mule did a day’s work. The next question that was asked is did the mule obey every command. The owner said yes. The farmer asked if they could hitch the mule up to see how he worked. The owner said no problem.

They got the mule into his harness and the farmer took the reigns and told the mule giddy-up. The mule just stood there. The farmer tried a couple of more times and still the mule didn’t move. He looked at the owner and said, “I thought you told me this mule obeys.”

“He does,” says the owner, who then picked up a 2×4 and walked to the front where he was facing the mule. He then hit the mule as hard as he could with the 2×4. He then walked back and said to the farmer, “Try again.” The farmer did and the mule obeyed.

The owner said, “This mule always obeys, but you have got to get his attention first.”

European ambassadors, please tell your leaders that, to get our attention, you are going to have to hit us with a two-by-four.