The Election of Donald Trump and Its Aftermath, Part 2

During the campaign, Donald Trump promised to become the greatest jobs president God ever gave to America. He railed against unfair trade deals that, in his view, prompted a mass exodus of jobs to countries like Mexico and China and condemned governmental regulations that ruined industries such as coal. While his xenophobic populist speeches crossed rhetorical boundaries adhered to by major party candidates, they highlighted a theme familiar to Republican voters. Ever since Reagan, conservative politicians have characterized government as the sworn enemy of prosperity: its policies undermined economic growth and squeezed middle and working class incomes. Trump vowed to reverse this pernicious trend.

If the president elect negotiates tougher bilateral trade deals and cuts corporate taxes, will shuttered coal plants and steel mills flicker back to life, allowing him to restore these declining industries? The historical record suggests otherwise. The coal industry was decimated by cheaper and cleaner natural gas, while steel mills closed because their plant and equipment was old and inefficient and labor costs were high. As steel from China became cheaper to make, increased demand for its products resulted in greater market share. Accordingly, more favorable trade deals and/or lower taxes will not return lost jobs to American coal and steel workers.

Every player in the free enterprise economy engages in cutthroat competition that distributes winners and losers across the globe. Many refer to globalization as if it were a recent development. In fact it’s very old news. The capitalist economy has always been a worldwide phenomenon. An early 19th century example of globalization involved the destruction of the Indian textile industry by Britain’s East India Trade Company. Cheaper British textiles slashed demand for Indian products, just as Chinese producers succeeded at the expense of American manufacturers. How will private companies and government respond to the continuous evolution of the global marketplace? Will we seek to revive dying industries, as Trump promised, or identify emerging ones, like the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines, as Bill McKibben proposed, to employ American workers at good wages, revitalize hard hit areas of the country and renew macroeconomic growth?

One recent Oxford study found that nearly half of all American jobs could disappear over the coming decades due to automation. Better trade deals and lower taxes will not reverse this trend. Democrats must address this burgeoning economic problem by ensuring that workers who lose their jobs due to technological change and/or the migration of companies elsewhere, receive every opportunity to get retrained. Moreover, public education should provide curriculums for young people to find good jobs in rising, not declining, industries. Government must assist workers as they adapt to technological innovation and ruthless competition in the global marketplace. And this effort must be highlighted as an important example of how government is a friend to working and middle class families, not their enemy as Republicans contend. Levying tariffs and taxes to protect jobs, industries and markets against foreign competition, as Trump threatened, characterizes nations that cannot successfully compete globally. Protecting jobs from automation or more efficient production elsewhere, is surely a losing strategy for American workers.

A key part of the effort to strengthen America’s place in the global marketplace involves modernizing America’s rail lines, ports, bridges, tunnels and roads. Given Trump’s promise to rebuild the nation’s decaying infrastructure, Democrats should hold his feet to the fire and insist that he honor his campaign pledge. Perhaps the Keynesian prescription of putting more money in the hands of more people, as opposed to cutting taxes for the wealthy, as the key to generate renewed economic growth, will provide an opportunity for Trump and congressional Democrats to work together.

But what happens if Trump proposes massive infrastructure spending and runs into conservative opposition in Congress? How will he square his promise to rebuild with the Republican effort to reduce the federal debt and balance the budget? Will Republicans seek to cut money for other social programs to compensate for increased infrastructure spending? There is a potential for serious conflict between Trump and congressional Republicans. One can even imagine a scenario where Trump seeks Democratic support for increased outlays over the opposition of the Republican leadership. Much stranger things have happened recently.

Trump’s compelling promise to put America back to work and enhance levels of macroeconomic growth, underscores a critical failure of the first Obama administration. Obama’s stimulus package to revive the economy was far too small. While the economy rebounded, sluggish growth coupled with the loss of jobs over a long period of time, provided an opening for Trump’s angry populist appeal. He assailed Obama’s economic program as a failure, even as the economy crawled back from the edge of an abyss. But the sad fact is that Obama’s policies did not allow more working families to improve their economic condition. And this proved fatal to the Clinton campaign.

But what if Trump fails to deliver on his promise to be a “jobs” president? What will happen to Rust Belt voters who ultimately swung the election in his favor or to all those who harbored misgivings about his qualifications and temperament but voted for him anyway because he promised jobs? How will they react when the stock market rallies and his economic policies produce an even greater concentration of wealth at the top while factories in their communities remain closed? Will white working class voters become more cynical and apathetic? Or will their smoldering anger create a potential opening for more sinister demagogues to emerge?

Neal Aponte, Ph.D.
Editor of Delano

2 thoughts on “The Election of Donald Trump and Its Aftermath, Part 2”

  1. Reading comments from some good friends about the recent Netflex movie “Thirteenth, ” left me no other choice than to watch it. These good friends became angry.. hateful, fearful of our country. I couldn’t believe the waste I felt for them. …I disagreed with them and feel sorry for them. This experience left me wanting to add a comment to your blog regarding our president elect and now I see there’s a Part 2. . Perfect !! Please take a look at this movie if you haven’t already done so. I also just read your Part 2 … so here goes>>

    You seem a lot more fair and actually seem hopeful regarding the ability of the incoming president to negotiate trade deals. Where the logic gets too progressive for me is when you say that better trade deals will not revive inefficient businesses. I hope we haven’t reached the point of no return. (I don’t think we have). The majority of these failures, however, were caused by the over regulated and taxed industries forced to produce their products elsewhere. These businesses make a profit by production using man and machinery. . These are the same industries that now have become more efficient by eliminating redundancies with automation. …but not as much here in the USA although the intelligence and technologies were born here. …And because of that, I feel short changed as an American.

    According to things I’ve read recently (can’t remember where… possibly the Times?.. I dont think so!!.. but that’s another issue.. lol ) There is enough energy buried in the continental United States that we never have to rely on foreign oil ever again. With new, clean technologies (which is a few million jobs in itself) we can harvest this. I’m not sure how long that would take, but probably in our lifetime, we can accomplish this..maybe even within Trump’s presidential term. From what I read, this has been stopped by our government by over regulating these entrepreneurs. Between that and being overtaxed in order to pay for these regulations.. even, we have created that “rust belt” where our beloved politicians have competed for votes.

    I note a bit of left wing jargon in your piece, and you are entitled. But after viewing Thirteenth, I feel even more conservative and proud of it. This film shows the history of racial persecution to non-whites, but namely African Americans. It’s justifies Black Lives Matters. The group has it’s rightful voice, yes, but some people are just as far over the top with hate , sometimes, as a white supremacist movement. The problem I see here is that too many people in power (Democrat, Republican, Independent, Green, Communist, etc) use power and greed as their agenda. …. An agenda created so they remain in power. These folks will say anything and do anything. Their goal is simply abundance, money and power by exploiting their followers. …Exploiting them until these poor folks develop an “us against them” mentality. Now I watched this ugly movie and saw the white man hurting the black man. These actions were for “no” reason. Black men being thrown into prison just because they were black. … being targeted for prison because the white man is angered that slavery became illegal . I didn’t understand this reasoning. ..but that is what the movie was about. Whites owe blacks because they were stolen from their land and did not come here to escape persecution from failed governments like the white man did …”voluntarily”.. .. so that justifies their movement. That justifies feeling sorry and the need as Americans to be lenient to the people living in the ghetto because they have no way out. Their youth are not committing crimes that the bad police lock them up for.. They are just reaching out. Why have the persecuted Jewish people learned to stop hating? “People’s Lives Matter.” Weren’t they forced from their homes, tortured, killed, forced to be slaves? Weren’t they treated wrongly by US citizens as well… and still are is some cases? What about the Irish?. ..the Italians?. Watch this film. It also selects the worst mistakes and rhetoric said by Donald Trump and others from early American history and latches to it. .. We all know people can and have said very non-political things. -BUT- have you looked at what Trump is saying (and doing) now to help the less fortunate?. Why doesn’t this get publicity? Why doesn’t this count for anything?.. He wants to make up for the failures of the past. He wants to unite us. He wants to change the politics of the inner city, the economy, fix the way the US has lost respect around the world, combat terror, help the veterans and their families. He didn’t need to be president. Being in government is a step down for him as far as lifestyle.

    We all have been shocked by hearing what has come out of his mouth and many others . But it’s time to forgive and forget. Its time to settle down. It’s time to be hopeful and cease looking over your head for the world to come crashing down. The good will happen,… we will all be in a better place and the world will be better off.. unite!! …stay tuned !

    1. Lenny, thanks for responding once again. I won’t say anything here about the Black Lives Matter movement other than to say that a national conversation about racial justice or the history of racial injustice remains vital. Even Glenn Beck agrees with that. With respect too much taxation and regulation, these are, of course, the tired Republican refrains. But if you do some research, you will find that the steel industry, for instance, suffered from old and outdated plant and equipment. Simply put, American producers were not as efficient and productive as producers elsewhere. If that is true, surely no trade agreement or level of taxation will revive the steel industry. As I mention, we need to identify industries that are good candidates to renew economic growth and employ workers at good wages. And there should be, I would argue, a public-private partnership to identify these industries. Let’s not focus on firing up steel mills and coal plants that can no longer compete in the global marketplace, to say nothing about the adverse environmental effects of burning more coal.

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