Trade, Trump, and Jobs

Can The Donald come up with a policy to bring back jobs?

The quiet desperation of working people today is heartbreaking to behold. Sit on the 1 train on a Monday morning during rush hour. Your mirror neurons will start to ache and beg you to leave. And these are people who have jobs.

Study the BLS and note the kinds of jobs that our economy is adding–retail, restaurant, healthcare. Even the healthcare stats are suspect, as Dave Stockman convincingly shows in his Contra Corner column, the increase has been the SAME percentage year after year (how is that possible?).

With these considerations in mind, I looked at one of Donald Trump’s policy pages. In it he says he will have the US Treasury Department declare China to be a currency manipulator. That, he says, will bring China to the negotiating table. How? It will allow us to impose “tough countervailing duties that level the playing field.” So, if China’s currency is artificially held at 15-30% below its “real” value, then we can impose 15-30% tariffs on goods coming from China. Right? Would that bring China back to the negotiating table?

The question that needs to be answered is whether in fact China is a currency manipulator. After a couple of days of headbanging research, the answer seems to be—-yes. BUT, you could say the same for every other country or a European Union that has a central bank, including the United States. Currency wars are ongoing. Singling out China and imposing tariffs could easily backfire, as history informs us.

But I understand The Donald’s intention: we need good jobs here, and enough of them for a growing population. Average wages, labor participation rate, all the measures of employment have been stagnant in the 21st century.

What do we do?

In Paul Craig Robert’s book The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism, he states a single, devastating fact, on page 100:

It is US corporations that move their factories abroad thus replacing domestic production with imports. Half of US imports from China consist of offshored production of US corporations.

As Mr. Trump says, have Apple make their damn computers in the United States. The suicide watch for Chinese workers at Foxconn is still busy. What, punish US corporations? Why, they might leave us and take way the rest of their jobs! Good riddance. Let Tesla take over General Motors’ market share. General Motors, who took US taxpayer bailout money and built a billion dollar factory in China.

Good riddance. Let a thousand small companies sprout.

Paideia for the 21st century: eudaimonia (look it up) requires a political economy that gives scope to our spirit and talents, and cognitive liberty (thank you Tragedy and Hope website for that phrase), having a mind that can cut through the fog.

 

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