Saturday, August 5, 2017

Trump Made them Believe He Felt Their Pain; Democrats Propose Governmental Solutions

An August 4, 2017 New York Times Op-Ed piece ("Why Trump Supporters Distrust Immigration and Diversity,"questions whether Trump supporters are racist, and states that “[Chuck] Schumer knows his party must quickly and candidly address the question of why the white working and middle classes — groups who were the foundation of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition — often support Mr. Trump.” The Op-Ed also praises Schumer’s new "'Better Deal’ populist blueprint" because it “emphasiz[es] strategies that would help all American workers.”

The “Better Deal” is a list of conventional proposals that might chip away at some of the problems with the American economy, but its most prominent failing is that it gives no recognition whatsoever to the sense of profound hopelessness that is gripping average Americans and, for that matter, average citizens of the world. This hopelessness is what Trump recognized and pandered to. Until Democrats start recognizing that hopeless and its root causes, all the talk about infrastructure projects and hikes to the minimum wage will get them nowhere.

That hopelessness is primarily caused by the structural unemployment that is being hastened by the relentless pace of automation. A recent study by PwC, Will robots steal our jobs? The potential impact of automation on the UK and other major economieswhile focusing on the U.K., was portentous about the U.S.: in less than 15 years, up to 38% of U.S. jobs will be at high risk of loss through automation, with higher rates for transportation, storage, and wholesale and retail. Professors Acemoglu and Restrepo, in Robots and Jobs: Evidence from U.S. Labor Markets, found large job losses from robots alone and predicted “sizable” loss of jobs in the future. 

It is not enough for Democrats to criticize Trump for being insincere, uninformed, and cynical. People are not as stupid or undecipherable as so many of us liberals may think. Many who supported Trump knew damned well that the companies and the jobs that have been wiped out in their small towns and cities aren’t coming back, but at least someone had the brains to recognize their plight. The fact that Trump exploited their anger and gave them false hope does not eliminate the source of their fear: what are they and their children going to do to earn a living?

I can just hear the Democratic Party’s consultants telling their candidates not to start talking about shrinking job markets—too negative, too depressing, not optimistic! But why listen to the same operatives who have “advised” Democratic Congressional and Senate candidates right off the cliff? When was the last time you heard a Democrat say that the only issue that really counts is the need for a strong economy, based on good jobs, and that every other societal need depends on the strength of the economy? That’s not what the "Better Deal” is talking about—its focus, instead, is on government programs: "Our plan for A Better Deal starts by creating millions of good-paying, full-time jobs by directly investing in our crumbling infrastructure and prioritizing small business and entrepreneurs, instead of giving tax breaks to special interests. We will aggressively crack down on unfair foreign trade and fight back against corporations that outsource American jobs.  We will fight to ensure a living wage for all Americans and keep our promise to millions of workers who earned a pension, Social Security and Medicare, so seniors can retire with dignity.” That’s a big difference from talking about the need for a strong economy, period. 

In the August 4 Times, a letter writer remarks: "Ever since the election I’ve been scratching my head over why Donald Trump got elected.” Look around. Take a drive through neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and Youngstown and Orange County, New York, and the thousands of small towns in every state that have been hollowed out. That’s why Donald Trump got elected. He made people believe he felt their pain.

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