March 31, 2016
Trump’s campaign has supplied a windfall to cable “news” networks and peddlers
of jingoistic tchotchkes. But the billionaire’s run for the GOP presidential
nomination has benefited an unlikely group: left-wing economic populists.
21st century, liberalism has concentrated an inordinate amount of
its time and energy on cultural affairs, lifestyle choices, and consumer
products. Same-sex marriage as a civil right, feminist finger-wagging over an
allegedly inadequate number of females in the science-and-technology fields,
the evils of pesticides, an impending weather
cataclysm. Moonbat Nation’s agenda is largely set by the concerns of
affluent -- and frequently, quite silly -- professionals.
issues that excite women’s studies professors and Hollywood
nincompoops have limited appeal to lunch-pail leftists. Labor bosses and
the lobbyists, activists, and think tanks they fund recognize that, as the
union-backed Economic Policy Institute recently noted, “people without a
college degree (which includes those without a high school degree, with a high
school degree, some college education, and an associates’ degrees) make up the
majority of the labor force in every state.” It’s a cohort that has, sadly,
proven susceptible to Trump’s economic illiteracy.
the narrative: Decades ago, free-trade ideologues forged an unholy alliance
Arnold CEOs.” So manufacturing, the foundation of America’s middle class,
was shipped abroad, never to return. The growth of pay and benefits for average
workers flatlined. The American Dream hit the pause button. The
college-educated, ensconced in comfortable gigs, profited from globalization,
while the typical household got stuck in neutral. China and Mexico aren’t
trading partners. They’re enemies of Joe Sixpack and Jane Diet Coke.
morality play that stacks myth atop myth. Protectionists’ first error is to
blame “cheap foreign labor” for a declining number of manufacturing jobs. The
nation’s factory employment peaked at 19.6 million, in June 1979 -- long before
the passage of NAFTA and China’s entry into the World Trade Organization. As
Tufts University’s Daniel W. Drezner noted in a
2015 piece for The Washington Post,
“while a small fraction of American manufacturing jobs migrated overseas … a
far greater fraction of manufacturing jobs simply disappeared and are not
coming back. The far bigger driver of these job losses is the creative
destruction that comes from technological innovation and productivity
while Trump and his frenemies on the left don’t care to look, manufacturing
employment, for the first time since the 1990s, is rising. The turnaround came six years ago, even though the value of
imports from China rose by over a third
between 2010 and 2015. Low-cost hydrocarbons deserve credit for the jobs, but
foreign direct investment is another contributor. German, Canadian, Israeli,
French, Japanese, Swiss, Brazilian, and Italian firms are coming to America.
More and more, it’s Chinese and Indian enterprises that are setting up
operations. Many of the products being made are exported.
economist Donald J.
Boudreaux quipped, “are world champions at looking at only half the
argument.” In an editorial that’s sure to be ignored by Trump, the Chicago Tribune recently explained that
the “world constitutes an enormous, eager market for the best American products
and services -- from Boeing airplanes and Illinois soybeans to the skyscraper
designs of Chicago architects. In return … we buy stuff. All of which is less
expensive than it otherwise would be (toys from China, clothes from Bangladesh)
or highly specialized (BMWs from Germany, bananas from Ecuador). Each country
focuses on what it does best. The result is that everyone gains.”
manufacturing’s impact on compensation, the data are clear. An economy
dominated by factories isn’t the only path to wealth. Americans have gotten richer as assembly lines have provided a
declining share of total U.S. employment. A 2011 analysis by economists Richard
V. Burkhauser, Jeff Larrimore, and Kosali I. Simon found “substantial gains”
between 1979 and 2007, after adjusting for household size, welfare payments,
and taxes -- specifically, 36.7 percent growth in median income. The finance,
IT, logistics, entertainment, sales, education, and healthcare industries
aren’t destroying the middle class. And few workers in the sectors are eager to
transfer to the factory floor.
noxious wave of anti-globalization nonsense, the Donald is within striking
distance of the GOP’s presidential nod. But long after the malignancy that is Trump’s
candidacy fades from unpleasant memory, the left’s self-appointed sentinels of
“working families” will wail over planetary capitalism’s contribution to “wage
stagnation” and “the death of the middle class.”
propaganda never takes a holiday. Neither should a spirited, unapologetic
defense of free trade.
D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.
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