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“He’ll Magically Make Us All Filthy Rich”: Donald Trump Is Selling American Workers A Scam

Some of our wisest political observers informed us that Brexit would be great news for Donald Trump, because it shows (somehow) that there may be more support here than expected for his nationalist message of restoring American greatness through restrictionist immigration policies and turning the clock back on globalization.

So it’s a bit surprising to see that a new Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll shows that Brexit will not influence the votes of a majority of Americans, and if anything, may benefit Hillary Clinton marginally more than Trump:

A majority of U.S. voters — 57 percent — say they don’t expect the U.K. verdict will influence their vote in the presidential election. For the roughly quarter who say it will, almost half say it will make them more likely to support Democrat Hillary Clinton, while 35 percent say Republican Donald Trump.

This is only one poll, so don’t place too much stock in it, but I wanted to highlight it to make a broader point: There is simply no reason to assume that the debate over globalization, which Trump joined with a big speech on trade yesterday, will automatically play in the Donald’s favor. Indeed, Trump is running a massive scam on American workers on many fronts, and the contrast between his positions and those of Hillary Clinton on trade and other economic matters may prove more important in the end than his blustery rhetoric.

Neil Irwin has a good piece this morning on Trump’s big trade speech, in which he pledged to rip up our trade deals with his large and powerful hands and to bring manufacturing roaring back. As Irwin notes, Trump is right to highlight the very real possibility that trade deals have badly harmed American workers, and that elites have in many respects let those workers down. (Bernie Sanders, too, is rightly calling on Democrats to fully reckon with this phenomenon.) But as Irwin also notes, Trump is selling American workers a highly simplistic, anachronistic tale that doesn’t level with them about the likelihood of reversing trends in globalization and automation that are partly responsible for workers’ current plight.

I would add an important point: Clinton is offering these workers substantially more than Trump is. Clinton has also pledged to renegotiate trade deals and to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Whether or not you see that as opportunistic, Clinton has also outlined detailed plans for programs that would try to use tax credits and federal spending to make American workers and businesses more competitive in the global economy. I am not aware of any detailed plans from Trump to do this. Trump’s message is that through his manly prowess, he will kick the asses of other countries and parasitic illegal immigrants and make us all insanely rich again, not that he sees a specific, programmatic role for the federal government in boosting wages, promoting domestic manufacturing, and helping displaced workers.

While it’s true that Trump has promised to spend on infrastructure at home, Trump’s tax plan — which confers an enormous windfall on the rich — would result in a nearly $10 trillion decline in revenues over the next decade. In practice this likely means that, unlike Clinton, he would not try to get Congress to spend substantially on helping American workers. While Clinton has vowed to invest money in helping displaced coal miners, and to invest in clean energy, Trump vaguely promises to put all those coal miners back to work again, which isn’t going to happen. Meanwhile, Clinton supports raising the federal minimum wage to at least $12 per hour. But while Trump has vaguely said workers need higher wages, he has come out for eliminating the federal minimum. Again, all he’s really saying is that he’ll magically make us all so filthy rich that we won’t have to worry ourselves with difficult policy choices. The vow that mass deportations will make the American workforce great again is also a straight-up scam.

The choice is not necessarily between Trumpian turn-back-the-clock proctectionism and throw-workers-to-the-wolves free trade. Clinton is offering up detailed plans for spending and tax credits and economic regulations that would help workers amid large economic trends she believes can’t be reversed. There is no reason to presume that Trump’s simplistic tale will carry the day politically.

 

By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, June 29, 2016

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Workers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sanders Is Exploiting The Trade Issue”: Mirroring The Republican Approach To Obamacare

Some people are suggesting that Bernie Sanders‘ win in Michigan was a result of his opposition to trade deals like NAFTA and TPP and that this will serve him well with white working class voters in the so-called “rust belt” states. Just prior to the debate in Flint, Michigan, Sanders tweeted this:

Both Danielle Krutzleben at NPR and Steve Chapman at the Chicago Tribune did some fact-checking on the role of trade deals in the challenges faced by cities like Detroit and Flint. Krutzleban begins with a chart showing that the migration out of Detroit started around 1950 and that since then, it has lost more than 60% of its residents. That started long before the trade deals Sanders suggested as the cause of all those abandoned buildings.

Chapman identifies several factors that are not accounted for if we simply look at things like NAFTA to blame. He points out that Michael Moore’s documentary “Roger & Me” about the shut-down of the General Motors plant in Flint came out four years before NAFTA took effect and that the challenge to the auto industry back then was coming from Japan (not China or Mexico), where they were producing more reliable and fuel-efficient cars.

The other issue that hurt Detroit was the migration of auto plants – not overseas – but to states (mostly in the South) who adopted so-called “right to work” laws that undermined unions. Another factor was automation – which reduced the number of workers required to produce cars by a third. Finally, Chapman makes this observation:

Breaking down trade barriers would actually help the American auto industry and those on the assembly lines. One major attraction of building cars in Mexico is that it has free trade agreements with 45 countries — while the U.S. has free trade deals with just 20. Exporting to most of the world is easier there than here.

Bernard Swiecki, an analyst at the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research, told Business Alabama why Audi recently decided to put a factory in Mexico instead of the U.S.: “If they export it, they save $4,500 per vehicle in tariffs they don’t have to pay.”

These are just some of the complicating factors that affected a state like Michigan. But they are paralleled by a look at history that informs us of what drove the manufacturing boom in the United States as well as what is challenging its survival today. To sum up: it is not as simple as blaming trade deals.

What I find troubling about Sanders’ approach to all of this is not simply his avoidance of even a cursory mention of these complex issues. It is more about the fact that he is obviously tapping into the anger and despair that is felt by those who are affected (much like Donald Trump is doing) and then locating a singular culprit on which to focus their blame.

But beyond even that, the one thing many of us have spent the last seven years criticizing about Republicans is their use of anger/fear mongering to foster obstruction. What is totally lacking from Sanders is any articulation of what his own approach to trade would be. In that way, he is mirroring the Republican approach to Obamacare: suggesting that trade deals need to be repealed without offering a replacement. For those of us who think that it is important to get beyond the anger/fear and talk about actual policy that works, that is not good enough.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 10, 2016

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, NAFTA, Trade Agreements | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nobody Wins A Trade War”: Donald Trump And Bernie Sanders Are Promoting Dangerous Protectionism

As different as Donald Trump and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are, they have one important policy goal in common. It’s a dangerous goal, one that elites in both parties must counter, before a new public consensus is formed and grave damage is done to the economy.

Both Trump and Sanders are, at their heart, protectionists. They both believe in tariffs and other obstacles to prevent foreign-made goods from competing with American-made goods, and keep foreign worker salaries from driving down Americans’ pay. Trump is the most direct and vocal about it, calling for tariffs as high as 45 percent against China. Sanders has yet to call for a specific tariff, but he’s called for repealing the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. Eliminating NAFTA would restore tariffs that ranged up to 25 percent and lead to other measures that hinder trade between countries.

At first glance, it seems like a great idea to raise tariffs to protect American workers from globalization. But nearly all economists say that protectionism is a beast that will gore us if set loose. Protectionist measures by the U.S. will lead to reprisals by other countries and the tit-for-tat escalation of tariffs in a trade war will likely lead to a global depression (as it did in the 1930s). And even when protectionism is successful in boosting wages, it boosts consumer prices even faster, so most workers are no better off.

All this is generally accepted by leaders and advisers in both the Democratic and Republican parties. But the downside of protectionism is complicated and not well understood by the public, whereas the call for tariffs and border-closings (Trump’s Mexican wall) is simple and emotionally resonant. Hence the problem: In political communications, it’s well known that if a falsehood is not promptly and effectively countered by respected senior public figures, it tends to become accepted as true by the public at large, regardless of the damage it may cause.

This time, the public will not accept that so-called free trade alone will restore rising standards of living and breathe new life into the American dream. Most working Americans, all except those at the top, have seen their standard of living erode over the past 30 years, and “trust me” is no longer an adequate response. That’s why insider candidates – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and others associated with the failed status quo – are doing poorly, and outsider candidates are drawing far more support than expected.

To prevent a protectionist insurgency from wrecking the economy, the candidates who represent mainstream economic thinking need to do better. They need to offer more than a reminder of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930. Unfortunately neither party is well positioned to do this. Clinton has the albatross of NAFTA hung firmly around her neck, since her husband championed it while president. And until very recently, she’s been a strong supporter of the latest proposed trade treaty, the Trans-Pacific Partnership – which is pushed by President Barack Obama and supported by a wide range of Democrat-aligned pundits.

At the same time, those in the Republican mainstream have either ignored stagnant wages, or they’ve blamed them on excessive taxes and red tape. That has convinced enough voters to date. But Americans have been tugging on their boot straps for several decades now without effect, and they are not inclined to believe that if they only tug a little longer or a little harder they will be themselves lifted up. Just as Clinton is not well positioned to be credible on this issue, neither is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has made much of his fortune by eliminating American jobs. The public senses this. That’s part of the reason Romney’s broadside against Trump had so little effect.

If Democrat and Republican elites intend to stave off a wave of protectionism, it’s time for some serious public discussion of alternatives that can meaningfully help ordinary working Americans and their families. The possibilities fall into three categories: The first involves investments that boost American productivity directly, like education and infrastructure. The second category requires steps that boost American incomes directly like radically expanding the earned income tax credit or strengthening unions. The third category involves measures that reduce what workers have to pay out-of-pocket in order to live, so that stagnant wages go further. These measures include tax-shifting (reducing the employee share of the payroll tax, for example), making higher education free (as it is in of the developed countries we compete against) and government-matching of employee contributions to retirement plans, so employees don’t need to save as much of their income.

Most of these ideas are anathema to conservatives, and many are considered outside the range of legitimate ideas that serious Democratic thought leaders can safely discuss in public. But a trade war and the jingoism that goes with it might be even more distasteful and is almost certainly more damaging. It’s time for elites of both parties to begin discussing the undiscussable, if for no other reason than to avoid worse.

 

By: David Brodwin, Cofounder and Board Member of American Sustainable Business Council; U. S. News and World Report, March 14, 2016

March 15, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Protectionism, Trade Agreements | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How Conservatives Lost 2015”: Talked A Big Game But Ended Up Losing Almost Every Big Legislative Battle

Establishment Republicans had a miserable year on the campaign trail. But on Capitol Hill—far from Make America Great Again hats—they cleaned up.

Conservatives on the Hill, emboldened by Republican gains in the midterm elections, followed the battle cry of the Heritage Foundation’s powerful lobbying arm against their Establishment overlords. But over the past year, they’ve faced defeat after biting defeat.

Most of these wins were on wonky, unsexy issues—like funding for infrastructure construction and rules about how the president can negotiate trade agreements. Not exactly the most scintillating stuff.

But while these individual debates may not have galvanized national attention, they were hugely important to Tea Party-friendly conservative groups. And the cumulative losses these groups face suggest that their clout may have flatlined or they overplayed their hands.

Heritage Action, the lobbying wing of the powerful Heritage Foundation think tank, got a major shellacking in March during the fight over “Doc Fix” legislation, which overhauled how doctors who treat Medicare patients get reimbursed. Heritage Action key-voted against the bill, citing concerns that it would grow the national debt by half a trillion dollars over twenty years. Despite the group’s protestations, though, the Doc Fix passed the House with just 37 no votes (only 4 of whom were Democrats). In the Senate, just 8 members voted against it.

It was a tough loss for Heritage Action. And many more followed. Trade legislation drew significant opposition from the group in June, as members fought over whether Congress would give the president extra authority to negotiate trade deals, allocate funds to support Americans who lose jobs due to said deals. While issues like Trade Adjustment Assistance and Trade Promotion Authority may not roll off the tongue of your average Tea Partier (or, well, your average human being), Heritage Action’s key-voting against trade provisions helped energize grassroots conservative opposition. That, combined with Breitbart News and the Drudge Report’s liberal (and frantic) use of the “Obamatrade” moniker stoked opposition on the right.

And all those guys lost.

Congress gave the president additional authority to negotiate trade deals and allocated more funds to help Americans who lose jobs to overseas competition, and the president announced he plans to have the U.S. sign on to the new Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal.

“Is Anyone Still Scared of Heritage Action?” wondered National Journal. It was a good question.

And it was a question that arose again in July, when legislation came up to change funding for the National Institutes of Health and the FDA. The bill was called the 21st Century Cures Act, and, well, was complicated. Heritage Action opposed it adamantly, for comparably complicated reasons. If NIH funding mechanisms get your juices flowing, check out Heritage Action’s release explaining its stance. If not, just rest assured that it was a big deal for the group, and the group lost. Seventy-seven House members voted against the bill, seventy of whom were Republicans.

And, of course, there’s perhaps the unsexiest issue of all: the highway bill! Next time you’re trying to get out of an unpleasant conversation, just bring up infrastructure funding and see what happens. The highway bill allowed more than $300 billion for transportation spending, and it reauthorized the Export-Import Bank—a program that gives loans to U.S. businesses that have overseas commerce, and that conservatives have long criticized as corporate welfare. Heritage Action’s denunciation of the bill said the highway projects were funded with “almost exclusively with embarrassing budget gimmicks.”

The Ex-Im bank’s funding expired this summer, and Congress couldn’t get it reauthorized—due in large part to conservative opposition—until the Highway Bill came up.

“Ending this bank was a major blow to the culture of crony capitalism festering in Washington,” said Heritage Action’s statement, “and reviving it now damages the conservative movement and the credibility of efforts to rid the federal government of favoritism for special interests.”

The president signed the bill early in December.

But there was one last loss to be felt: the year-end omnibus spending bill—a legislative package full of the kind of spending projects that make conservatives want to scratch their eyeballs out, including funding for Planned Parenthood. Heritage Action, naturally, key-voted against it. And the House, as was natural in 2015, passed it anyway.

It wasn’t always this way. During the 2013 government shutdown, Heritage Action exerted enormous influence to pressure members of Congress against supporting any funding for the Affordable Care Act. And members shivered at the prospect of facing primary challengers who would attack them over low marks on the group’s vote scorecard. But now, much of that fear seems to have abated.

“When Heritage key-votes against a bill now, it is almost guaranteed to get less conservative, and guaranteed to pass both chambers and become law,” said one former Republican House leadership staffer. “They have reverse Midas touch.”

Heritage Action didn’t respond to a request for comment on this story.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, January 2, 2016

January 4, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Establishment Republicans, Heritage Foundation | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Great Fracturing Of The Republican Party”: Appears To Believe In Anything, Which Is The Same As Believing In Nothing

It is no longer possible to think of “the Republican Party” as a coherent political force. It is nothing of the sort — and the Donald Trump insurgency should be seen as a symptom, not the cause, of the party’s disintegration.

I realize this may seem an odd assessment of a party that controls both houses of Congress, 32 governorships and two-thirds of state legislative chambers. The desire to win and hold power is one thing the party’s hopelessly disparate factions agree on; staunch and sometimes blind opposition to President Obama and the Democrats is another. After those, it’s hard to think of much else.

It makes no sense anymore to speak of “the GOP” without specifying which one. The party that celebrates immigration as central to the American experiment or the one that wants to round up 11 million people living here without papers and kick them out? The party that believes in U.S. military intervention and seeding the world with democratic values or the one that believes strife-torn nations should have to depose their own dictators and resolve their own civil wars? The party that represents the economic interests of business owners or the one that voices the anxieties of workers?

All of these conflicts were evident Tuesday night at the presidential candidates’ debate in Las Vegas. It was compelling theater — Trump mugging and shrugging for the cameras, Jeb Bush gamely steeling himself to go on the attack, Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) waging a one-on-one battle, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vowing to shoot down Russian jets over Syria, Ben Carson turning “boots on the ground” into a mantra without actually saying what he thinks about deploying them.

A Republican optimist might praise the candidates for airing “serious” and “important” policy debates. A realist would say this is a party that appears to believe in anything, which is the same as believing in nothing.

One of the more telling exchanges came when Trump was asked whether the United States was safer with dictators running the troubled nations of the Middle East. Trump replied, “In my opinion, we’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could have spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems; our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had, we would have been a lot better off, I can tell you that right now.”

Carly Fiorina was aghast. “That is exactly what President Obama said,” she declared. “I’m amazed to hear that from a Republican presidential candidate.”

Indeed, there once was broad consensus within the party about the advisability and legitimacy of forcing “regime change” in pursuit of U.S. interests. But toppling even such a monster as Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad is opposed by Trump, Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) — who combined have the support of 51 percent of Republican voters, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. So apparently there isn’t a “Republican view” about foreign intervention anymore.

Nor is the party able to agree on immigration policy. Even if you somehow manage to look past Trump’s outrageous call for mass deportation, there is no consensus for the course of action favored by what’s left of the party establishment, which would be to give undocumented migrants some kind of legal status. The only point of concord is the allegation that Obama has failed to “secure the border,” which is actually far more secure than it was under George W. Bush.

Once upon a time, the Republican Party’s position on a given issue usually dovetailed nicely with the views of business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But the chamber supports giving the undocumented a path to legal status. It also waxes rhapsodic about the benefits of free trade for U.S. firms and shareholders. Now, since Trump opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact (as does Mike Huckabee), other candidates have had to mumble about waiting to see the details before deciding pro or con.

The GOP electorate has changed; it’s whiter, older, less educated and more blue -collar than it used to be. Many of today’s Republicans don’t see globalization as an investment opportunity; they see it as a malevolent force that has dimmed their prospects. They don’t see the shrinking of the white majority as natural demographic evolution; they see it as a threat.

One of our two major political parties is factionalized and out of control. That should worry us all.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 17, 2015

December 21, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, GOP, GOP Establishment | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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