Donald Trump’s Economic Plan: SOS!

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers an economic policy speech to the Detroit Economic Club, Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Charlatan at Work

Trump’s Message is same old Republican Shit

It is both accurate and charitable to say that Donald Trump’s new economic plan presented before the Detroit Economic Club last Monday is just old Republican wine in a new bottle.  He may try to change the label and brand himself a bold innovator – which is not the only illusion he confuses with reality – but it really is the same old Republican babble.   As has been noted by more than a few political wise guys, except for his anti-free trade protectionist rhetoric – which is heresy to the Republican establishment – Trump’s speech could have been given by any run-of-the-mill Republican politico!  This is because it was a script written by professional party propagandist and delivered by Trump.

The major distinction of Trump’s speech – aside from repudiating much of the dream that he has been selling the impassioned but woefully untutored mob that form the foundation of his support – is his tendency to tell blatant lies that can be easily disproved by a simple fact check, even when speaking in venues where the press is omnipresent. Although the Republican Party has thrived on lies and mass disinformation over the last 20 years, “The Donald” has taken it to new heights.  And since this arrogant churl constantly bullies the press, they will be sure to point it out every time he tells a whopper.

In the present speech fact checkers have pointed out at least 16 outright lies involving a range of issues such as Clinton’s tax proposals and her husband’s role in passing NAFTA, the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement.  PolitiFact, one of the more reliable sources, gave Trump a “Pants on Fire” rating – their most severe rating for liars – about his claim that Clinton promised to raise taxes on the middle class in a public statement.

A fact check quickly proved that she said the exact the opposite.   But this is characteristic of the veracity of Trump’s comments about Clinton’s tax policy – virtually everything the rascal said has been shown to be a lie by the fact checkers in the Washington Post. Then there is Trump’s constant wail about the evils of NAFTA and how the Clinton’s imposed this treaty on the nation, destroying the American industrial sector. He even claims that act accounts for the jobless rate among the working class whites who once flourished during the period of industrial prosperity when America was a manufacturing giant and huge factories littered the landscape.

However the truth is that Hillary had nothing to do with that, and while her husband introduced the Bill and shepherded it through Congress, it was George H. W. Bush that actually negotiated the agreement. Hence passing NAFTA was a bi-partisan effort.  Furthermore, when the Agreement came up for a vote in Congress the Republicans voted for it in greater numbers than the Democrats!  The leaders of the Democratic majority in the House – Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, and Majority Whip David Bonner – both opposed it!

When the vote was taken NAFTA passed by 34 votes 235 to 200, with 132 Republicans voting for it, as opposed to only 102 Democrats. It passed the Senate 61-38, 34 Republicans vs 27 Democrats.   NAFTA became law on January 1, 1994.  However to listen to Trump talk it was the evil Bill and Hillary Clinton that imposed this monstrous agreement on the US and it is responsible for the present employment crisis in the white working class.  This, like all of Trump’s arguments, is a shameless lie born of ignorance, nurtured on malice and presented with duplicity.

Reduced to its simplest terms Trump’s economic policy is based on the traditional pillars of Republican economic dogma: Sharply reduce corporate taxes, abolish the inheritance tax, and cut back government regulation of business. Since there is nothing in these policies that directly benefit the beleaguered workers who seek their salvation in Trump, as an afterthought he threw in a tax deduction for child care expenses which he claims was the brain child of his daughter Ivana, whom he claims is concerned about the plight of working mothers because she is one herself.

But since few poor working mothers file itemized tax returns this measure will be of no benefit to them alas. Ironically this deduction will benefit wealthy people like Ivana because there is no limit on the costs covered by this deduction. Trump’s economic plan is a rehash of the “Laffer Curve,” or “Supply Side Economics,” which postulates the hokum that if we give more money to the rich i.e. the “job creators,” they will in turn invest in the US economy and create more employment opportunities which will greatly reduce the unemployment rate.

However most jobs in the US today are created by small business, and when I interviewed business owners in New York, Atlanta and LA they all told me the same thing: Tax breaks alone will not prompt them to hire more workers.  That is determined by market conditions i.e. a demand for their goods or services.  Absent that demand they will simply save the tax cut or invest it elsewhere.

This type of  decision is adopted even more so  regarding the big multi-national corporations which are owned by investors all over the world and have no loyalty to nation states. Hence the decisions made by the executives, and corporate Boards of Directors that oversee their activities, are guided by the desire to constantly increase profits, not provide employment for unemployed American factory workers.  To suggest otherwise is a cold blooded deception and nobody knows this better than Donald Trump, who manufactures all of his products in foreign sweatshops lcated in places like China and Vietnam.

It is a transparent con by a megalomaniacal bunko artist and pathological liar who believes he can tell his fanatical blue collar supporters anything and they will believe it. In a moment of extreme hubris he declared: “I could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and get away with it!”   The truth is that Trump does not have a clue how to solve the problem of growing joblessness.  The guy is an amoral showman who will say whatever will get his act a laugh.  He even treats his wife like a prop.

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He has promised to bring the giant manufacturing companies back to the US if elected President, but he fails to explain how he will make autonomous corporations in a privately owned economy do his bidding. The US government does not have the power to tell businessmen where they must locate their plants.

Trump tells us that he can make these corporations do his bidding by slapping exorbitant tariffs on their goods when they try to sell them in the US market. But that will result in a dramatic rise in prices for these goods, which are in great demand by American consumers, unless he also institutes price controls.  He has also promised to “renegotiate” trade agreements like NAFTA.

Although he often talks like he thinks he is running for Benevolent Dictator rather than President, the fact is that no American president has the power to do such things.  In order to carry out these policies “The Donald” will have to gain the approval of Congress and since the Republican Party is committed to “free trade” theology his chances of pulling it off are about equal to a snowball’s chances of survival in hell.

Yet even if Trump could lure these corporations back to the US with extravagant tax holidays, the plants they build will be robotized.  This fact brings us face to face with the real problem confronting the working class; what the great British economist John Maynard Keynes, the architect of the “New Deal” that did much to halt the economic collapse of the 1930’s, called “technological unemployment” and the US autoworker /economic analyst James Boggs called “the cybernation of the economy” in his 1960 book “The American Revolution: Pages From a Negro Worker’s Notebook.

Ironically, Boggs was a resident of Detroit when he penned this text, and Detroit was one of the world’s leading industrial centers.  Viewed from historical perspective both of these writers have proven to be prescient thinkers because there predictions have come to pass. The workers rendered obsolete by the advance of technology have vastly increased just as Keynes warned, and Detroit has turned into an economic wasteland as industrial work disappeared.

It is worth noting however, that neither Keyes nor Boggs foresaw the creation of the internet, which has been the midwife to the expanding phenomenon of globalization that has exported those manufacturing jobs that still exist  to the underdeveloped countries where workers are so desperately poor they will work for a fraction of what unionized workers demand in the advanced economies of the US and Europe.

All of these factors help to explain why the US economy emerged from the devastating Bush Depression yet left seven million workers who were employed before the crash unemployed.  Far too many politicians and policy wonks treated the economic collapse under Bush as if it were the same class of event as the Great Depression of the 30’s. But the persistence of unacceptably high unemployment after the “recovery” is caused by different forces.

The present crisis of the working class is not due to the traditional “boom and bust” of the business cycle, but to permanent changes in the structure of the US economy.  While our government planners refuse to look this problem squarely in the face and respond to what they see, there are other thoughtful analyst who are pointing to the real problem in books like “The Rise of the Robots” and “People Get Ready,”

In a review/essay on the book for the New York Times, Barbara Ehrenreich, who has written so perceptively about the problems of finding employment at a living wage in the contemporary American economy, noted that the disappearance of work has not been given the attention it deserves because the educated classes considered it a problem that only affected unskilled workers.  Then she issues a note of caution.

But, as Martin Ford documents in “Rise of the Robots,” the job-eating maw of technology now threatens even the nimblest and most expensively educated. Lawyers, radiologists and software designers, among others, have seen their work evaporate to India or China. Tasks that would seem to require a distinctively human capacity for nuance are increasingly assigned to algorithms, like the ones currently being introduced to grade essays on college exams. Particularly terrifying to me, computer programs can now write clear, publishable articles, and, as Ford reports, Wired magazine quotes an expert’s prediction that within about a decade 90 percent of news articles will be computer-­generated.  It’s impossible to read “Rise of the Robots” — for review anyway — without thinking about how the business of book reviewing could itself be automated and possibly improved by computers.”

This is the reality that political leaders must address because the nature of the solution required cannot be left up to the investor class. It is not in their interest to solve this problem; they are only interested in maximizing their profits.  We know from in depth sociological studies of the dire consequence of widespread and prolonged joblessness such as “When Work Disappears,” by Harvard sociologist William J. Wilson, the absence of honest work at a living wage for large numbers of any community affects everything.  Homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse; crime and incarceration rates; suicide and marriage rates, and the number of out of wedlock births, are all affected by widespread structural unemployment.

This is what’s driving the alarming rates of all these pathologies among the white working class, which has the fastest rising death rate of any demographic in American society.  The high incidence of opiate and alcohol addiction is a sure sign of extreme stress among them.  Interestingly, black men have been suffering from these maladies for decades but most Americans – especially working a lower middle class whites – never connected this to the stresses resulting from the absence of employment opportunities.

It is no small irony that many of those who benefitted from the institutional  racism that kept black men – and women of all races – out of the good jobs in manufacturing and the trades are these same white male workers.  Having been born into a society where just being a straight white male gave them a built in advantage, they cannot cope with a transformed social order.  In today’s economy employment discrimination based on race and gender is a crime, and the educational demands of the economy take precedence over race or gender.

Hence unskilled white industrial workers are gradually discovering what non-white workers have been experiencing for a while: they are an anachronism…..DonTrump othe odd man out.  They are lost souls, insecure in the present and pessimistic about the future.  And that makes them easy pickings for a fast talking charlatan from queens, who honed his salesman skills as a real estate huckster in Manhattan and a TV reality show host.

What can be fairly predicted from the facts at hand alas, is that The Donald has sold them a dream that would quickly become a nightmare if he were elected President.  His plan for a massive tax giveaway to the rich; tacking tariffs on imported goods; loosening regulation of the business and financial sector; scrapping the Affordable Health Care Act, while introducing a large scale American military force back into the Middle East quagmire, is essentially the same formula that brought on the bad old days of the Bush collapse!

Hence we can safely predict that the angry white mob that revere Trump will find no salvation in his economic plans for America.   It’s the same old shit!

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Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
August 2016

 

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