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Trade, Trump, and the Debate

[ 440 ] September 27, 2016 |

512045-ford-closure

Overall, Hillary Clinton embarrassed Donald Trump last night. But let’s not kid ourselves, Trump absolutely crushed her on trade in the early part of the debate. I found it highly disturbing to realize that if I didn’t know that Trump didn’t actually care about this issue and certainly doesn’t care about the workers of the world, I would find myself agreeing with him. NAFTA is indeed the worst trade deal in history. It was a complete disaster for the working class of the United States and it was a complete disaster for the working class of Mexico.

Trump also did a great job of connecting recent issues of capital mobility to his statements. The Carrier closure became a national issue because the announcement was filmed. And then the recent announcement of Ford that it was closing its unionized American factories that make its small cars like the Focus (guess I will be buying a different car next time I am on the market) and moving them to Mexico is basically Ford giving Trump the biggest possible assist it could. If all the jobs are moving overseas, why wouldn’t the white working class vote for Trump? What good reason do they have for not doing so? I know why the black and Latino working class won’t–because of the racism of the Trump campaign. But if you have no hope except for being white, why not vote for your racial dominance? That’s what Trump offers.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know very well that Donald Trump does not care about this issue. He will do nothing to solve this problem. If he has an allegiance, it’s to his business interests and to the business interests of other capitalists. He will do nothing to hurt them. And of course I know all the other ways that Hillary Clinton is actually better for the working class than Trump. But you can’t expect the average low-information voter to know that. And certainly Hillary Clinton can’t expect them to know that.

But Trump’s lies are not really the point. The point is that he has one great issue upon which he may well be elected. Hillary Clinton has no good answer because she ultimately is a supporter of free trade and has not really thought through the real hardships that the working-class faces when they lose their jobs because of capital mobility. The other point is that American policymakers have failed and continue to completely fail to take capital mobility and working-class unemployment seriously. From the beginning of the modern era of capital mobility in 1965, both Republican and Democratic policymakers have largely supported widescale corporate flight overseas in the name of profits. But they have never had good ideas for what those workers are going to do. They might give cheap bromides about education. They might vote to fund retraining programs for jobs that if they exist at all will pay far lower than the union jobs the workers lost. They talk dreamily about the creative economy and disruption creating new jobs. But new jobs for who? At what price? With what power for workers?

We are seeing this all over again in the mania for driverless vehicles. Let’s be very clear–the driverless vehicle fad may have some safety benefits. But it exists for precisely one reason: so that companies can profit on not employing truck drivers or taxi drivers. If driverless vehicles really become a real thing, 3.5 million truck drivers are going to lose their jobs. Overall, there is 8.7 million people employed by the trucking industry. The Obama administration is already creating a regulatory framework to ease these driverless vehicles on the road. But it, like all the administrations before it, have absolutely no answer or even any real beginnings of a vague plan on what those 3.5 million workers (if not closer to 8.7 million) are going to do.

That’s a gigantic policy failure on the part of every president from Johnson to Obama. It won’t get any better under either Clinton or Trump. Those who claim that ultimately this capital mobility and automation and disruption is a good thing have to live in the country this creates. That country may well vote Donald Trump into the Oval Office. Not taking unemployment and working-class despair in the face of millions and millions of lost union or otherwise high-paying jobs is part of the reason why. And if we don’t figure out how to fix it, with very real, concrete plans for these workers, no matter their color or political leanings, the political instability we are seeing in 2016 will continue and deepen, no matter who wins in November.

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    • Erik Loomis says:

      I will believe this when I see it. Somehow trusting the word of a CEO is not something I do too often.

      • rea says:

        You would rather trust Trump?
        (& isn’t he a CEO?)

        • Erik Loomis says:

          Oh come on. If you think I am trusting Trump, you need to read the post.

          • cpinva says:

            and yet, you said this, right in the first paragraph of your post:

            “NAFTA is indeed the worst trade deal in history.”

            which may or may not be true (there’s been no actual analysis of its effects). however, what is incontrovertibly true is that HRC had zippo to do with it, because she was not in elected office at the time. in fact, since she gave up her seat in the Senate, she’s had no input into any trade treaty, in other than perhaps an advisory capacity, at State.

            • DocAmazing says:

              She went to some pains at the time and since to point out that she had influence in her husband’s administration–that the voters were getting two wise heads for the price of one. You can’t have it both ways: she was either an integral part of the first Clinton administration, and shares some blame for its many missteps, or she was not part of it, and can stop trying to add it to her resume.

              • Brien Jackson says:

                Well she also, rightly, pointed out that employment and real wages went up in the 1990’s.

                • sonamib says:

                  The effects of NAFTA aren’t confined to the 1990s. The argument is that there are long-term job losses in unionized industries. Similarly, even if the UK doesn’t go into recession this year (looks like it won’t), it doesn’t mean that Brexit doesn’t have a long-term downward pressure on the UK’s GDP.

                • Brien Jackson says:

                  Well…maybe. But a) another way of looking at it is that Democratic administrations since it’s passage have produced good economic outcomes, at least relative to their baseline and factoring in Republican opposition, while the one Republican administration was a total disaster, and b) the literature essentially agrees that the overall impact of NAFTA was modest either way.

              • ThrottleJockey says:

                Hill was an integral part of the Clinton Administration but only insofar as it’s successes are concerned. She was only First Lady back then and so was not responsible for its losses.

              • bernard says:

                I’ll take the package.

            • aidian says:

              VIa Politifact:
              “I think everybody is in favor of free and fair trade. I think NAFTA is proving its worth”
              Hillary Clinton, 1996

      • Peterr says:

        In this case, however, I’d be inclined to believe the CEO. He’s calling the Republican presidential nominee a liar, in public. This is not something that corporate CEOs are inclined to do, for fear of alienating potential customers. [ETA . . . as well as going against their natural GOP inclinations]

        In this case, I think Fields thought “we’re screwed either way” — If Trump’s lies go unchallenged, then Ford antagonizes labor-friendly customers. If he does challenge them, he risks anger with Trump’s supporters. Finally, he’s got his board to think about, and Trump is (by their eyes) lying about their company and hurting their reputation. It’s possible the board may have been pushing him to somehow, ever so politely, correct the public record for the company.

        This might be highly disturbing to find yourself in agreement with a Ford CEO, but that’s the kind of election year this is.

      • Bloix says:

        You can’t write about “the recent announcement of Ford that it was closing its unionized American factories” and then, when people show you that there was no such announcement, defend yourself by saying that Ford is lying. There was no announcement, so what you wrote is not correct.

        PS- the Geelong Engine Plant in the picture will close on Oct 7. It is in Australia.

      • thequeso says:

        If NAFTA wasn’t in place, and the IRR worked out on the investment, then there would be approximately 2,000 more American, unionized jobs in Michigan (or Indiana, or Wisconsin, or Ohio or wherever) that previously didn’t exist.

        • cpinva says:

          which is something that was raised when NAFTA was on the table, back in the Bill Clinton administration, along with the lack of any requirements that involved countries have similar labor & environmental laws. this, of course, is what made NAFTA so attractive in the first place, no level playing field was mandated. HRC stated later that, while she couldn’t do anything to stop it, she was against it because of those glaring holes.

          • socraticsilence says:

            Right, but the problem is that that’s an amazingly self serving claim that runs contrary to her public comments at the time. Hell, Hillary basically went Trump all bluster and bullshit to distract from the fact that she did in fact call TPP “the gold standard of trade agreements” — I mean I hate Trump and I’m actually on the ground working in a swing state to help Hillary but she’s at best opportunistic and more likely duplicitous on trade.

            • Thom says:

              Another way to look at it is that she has been influenced by the base of her party to change her position, at least as to TPP.

              • Linnaeus says:

                Possibly. The proof of the pudding, however, is in the eating, i.e., what Clinton does when she’s in the White House. Given her prior history on this issue, there is room for some skepticism about her TPP stance.

        • jehrler says:

          Or, more likely and as occurred prior to Nafta, the small cars would be produced in Korea/Thailand/China/Brazil/Malaysia, etc. and shipped to the US.

          Whether the wide open US auto market is a good thing may be an open question, but the reality is that with or without Nafta small cars were likely to end up being imported.

          • Brett says:

            Trade with Mexico would have gone up anyways because of WTO rules – that’s what happened with China, for example, and Mexico is both a member of the WTO and was of its predecessor organization.

            The difference is that Mexican agriculture would be more heavily subsidized and protected, but still dumping a ton of people into the cities and across the border. The political trend in Mexico in the 1990s was for privatizing the ejidos.

  1. DanaHoule says:

    Ford isn’t closing any US factories. The Mexico thing is an expansion; move small car assembly to Mexico, convert the plant in Michigan to mid-sized assembly (on which Ford makes higher profits). Nobody in Michigan–I think it’s the Wayne Assembly Plant–is losing their job.

  2. Dilan Esper says:

    We are seeing this all over again in the mania for driverless vehicles. Let’s be very clear–the driverless vehicle fad may have some safety benefits. But it exists for precisely one reason: so that companies can profit on not employing truck drivers or taxi drivers. If driverless vehicles really become a real thing, 3.5 million truck drivers are going to lose their jobs.

    Let’s deconstruct this. What you blandly call “safety benefits” refers to actual human beings who don’t get injured or killed. How many people is it OK to kill to save one American’s obsolete job? What’s the ratio here?

    And second, the idea that the push for driverless cars exists for that “one reason” (eliminating truck drivers’ jobs) is absolutely crazy. You really think nobody wants an easier to drive car? You really think there aren’t people who would love to be able to get more work done on their commutes? You think there really aren’t people who want safety features that reduce their risk of accidents?

    Was the automobile invented for the “one reason” of eliminating the jobs of livery stable muckers, buggy whip manufacturers, porters, and carriage drivers?

    Look, there’s a real issue as to whether an automated society will create a jobs crisis. That’s been written about, and it’s an issue worthy of serious discussion. But your discussion of this is pure Luddism of the worst sort.

    • MPAVictoria says:

      “How many people is it OK to kill to save one American’s obsolete job? What’s the ratio here?”

      And how many suicides, mental health problems and incidents of domestic abuse will happen because of mass unemployment?

      • Dilan Esper says:

        I don’t know. But it’s worth noting that (1) I specifically indicated that the job loss associated with automation is a real issue worthy of discussion, and (2) there’s a big difference between accidents and personal conduct. For instance, we ban DUI’s but don’t have full alcohol Prohibition, based very much on that distinction.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Once again, you don’t know what Luddism means. And the reason companies are investing in driverless cars is for profit. The rest of what you say is typical word salad.

      • Dilan Esper says:

        Once again, words don’t mean what Erik wants them to mean.

        If you want to stay in your room and masturbate, “Luddism” can mean whatever you want. But in the real world outside your bedroom, English speakers use it the way I used it and we outvote you on that.

        And the reason for the “fad” in driverless cars has a lot to do with the fact that there would be healthy consumer demand for them, which would, indeed, produce profit. But that profit isn’t only a product of the elimination of jobs. It’s also because consumers would buy them.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          Enjoy your technofuturist fantasies under President Trump.

          • Dilan Esper says:

            Hillary Clinton, our next President, is very much a free trader, for good or bad, and though she MIGHT block the Trans-Pacific Partnership due to her specific campaign promises, I doubt she’s going to take on the tech industry and giants like Google over driverless cars.

            • Erik Loomis says:

              Indeed she will not. And working-class despair will increase. Not that you care.

              • Dilan Esper says:

                I care, but (1) the safety gains are potentially huge, as auto accidents are one of the biggest killers of Americans, and (2) in my experience techological changes are very hard to stop.

                I will give you an example of two. When I was in law school I was extremely concerned with personal privacy. (I still do a fair amount of privacy litigation, so it’s not something that has gone away.) In my law review note, I specifically advocated broadening the state action doctrine to give Americans more protection against corporations which used their personal information.

                In the ensuing 21 years, technology has run roughshod over my arguments. There’s just no way to stop people from wanting iPhones, and iPhones basically can’t exist without gigantic amounts of corporate access to private information. Same with the modern consumer finance industry. Also Obamacare (and I’m NOT rehashing my criticisms of Obamacare; indeed, the NHS-style health reforms I would favor would have their own serious privacy issues).

                The point is, people love technology. And technology has a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. I happen to think self-driving cars are a lot better idea than you do. But even if I agreed with you, I don’t see any likelihood of stopping them.

                • Peterr says:

                  People may love technology, but they also have a generally decent appreciation for the fact that the latest high tech gadget is not glitch-free. See Samsung’s latest phone, for instance.

                  A glance at the NHTSA Recall database indicates that for 2017 models produced by the larger automakers, you already have 1 Ford recall, 1 Chrysler recalls, 2 Hyundai recalls, 3 Subaru recalls, 4 Nissan recalls, 4 Volvo recalls, 5 GMC recalls, and 9 Chevy recalls. Again, these are 2017 vehicles, right off the assembly line.

                  If a driverless car crashes as often as a Windows desktop computer . . . let’s just say that would stop their sales.

                • The analogy to Windows is a cheap and uninformed shot. If you wanted to comment from a position of actual knowledge, you might offer a critique of the press release from ARM about its latest R-series embedded processor, designed with self – driving cars in mind. Unlike the A-series processors that go into smartphones and tablets and laptops, they run in closed and well-defined environments – you can’t introduce malware to your car by adding a dodgy app. The chips will use something called “deterministic processing”, which as far as I can make out trades performance for security. For the most critical functions, they can run in tandem, offering instant error-checking. It is possible of course that negligence or malevolence will make the car computer control systems of the future dangerous in some circumstances. This is a risk we accept every time we board a plane or train. But humans are such terrible drivers that the bar is pretty low.

                • ThrottleJockey says:

                  A networked device is a networked device my friend. There’s never been one invented for which a backdoor hasn’t been found. Soooo if these Jetsons cars of yours are going to interact with your smart phone then there’s a backdoor some now 8yo Russian kid is salivating over exploiting.

                  Ask the Iranians what they think about “closed systems” and Stuxnet.

                • tsam says:

                  If a driverless car crashes as often as a Windows desktop computer . . . let’s just say that would stop their sales.

                  90% of the problems with Windows all along was BTKAC. Similar to cars, actually.

                • Colin Day says:

                  Responding to James Wimberley

                  It isn’t the processor that’s the problem, it’s the software. Unless you take your car to a dealer for a hard-wired update, how do you prevent malicious “updates”?

                • ajay says:

                  If a driverless car crashes as often as a Windows desktop computer . . . let’s just say that would stop their sales.

                  That joke has recently been defrosted from a box marked “LEFTOVERS 1995-2000”.

                  I’m typing this on a Windows box that has never crashed, ever. I wish I could say the same about the vehicles I’ve been in over the same period.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  There’s just no way to stop people from wanting iPhones, and iPhones basically can’t exist without gigantic amounts of corporate access to private information.

                  This is probably the worst example you could have picked. Of course iPhones can exist without gigantic amounts of corporate access to private information. First, they *do* (at least in the sense that Apple does not monazite private information in any serious way; iPhones sell because of aesthetics and base functionality (apps and internet)). Second they obviously could. It’s a bit of a path dependency that the app store went so cheap and ad focused.)

                  The fact that Apple is not good at that is one reason they push do not track and add blocking (as well as end to end encryption of messages). Now Siri and Maps need/want feedback data, but they are hardly the big drivers of phone (maps a bit).

                  Almsot no phone manufacturer is selling customer gathered data…I don’t think. Examples welcome. The Facebook phone debacle comes to mind.

                  (Phone revenue is driven by mobile subsidies. If you count cell phone tracking..then, I guess ok? But that’s not what people usually mean.)

          • Gregor Sansa says:

            Uncalled-for.

            I think driverless cars have been overhyped and that the capitalist push to cut labor is a part of that. But I hate driving and I’d love to get rid of my car and just use a driverless one whenever I needed one. And sure I’d also pay fewer taxi drivers but mostly it would displace my own car.

            • twbb says:

              So you’re saying you hate truck drivers?

            • Dilan Esper says:

              I’m sorry, but I really can’t stand people who tell me that established uses of the English language are “wrong” because of some archaic historical usage that isn’t consistent with the real world. Decimate doesn’t mean killing one out of every ten anymore, less can mean fewer, and Luddism can properly refer to reflexive, generic opposition to technological advances without consideration of their benefits.

              So yeah, I think that people who make these sorts of prescriptivist claims are engaging in a sort of onanism.

          • njorl says:

            Is it argue like Loomis day? Erik wants to murder 40,000 random people a year!

            • Dilan Esper says:

              That’s not my position. I’m not accusing him of murder; I’m arguing that before one takes a reflexive pro-jobs position on the issue of self-driving car, you need to take into account the fact that the technology may save a lot of lives and that’s a big trade-off to decide to save those jobs and let those people die.

          • atharp04 says:

            The problem with Loomis’ argument is that you need to show more than just possible job losses to come out against technological advancement – probably some negative externality. You can litigate literally any piece of technology on a case by case basis and say it will cause job losses that outweigh the particular benefits. Of course basically every human advancement will fall into this category and everyone can just go back to being a hunter-gatherer. This is not a straw man – it is the logical conclusion of what Erik is saying.

            • camhair says:

              If you think Loomis is saying technological advancement is bad you haven’t read the article closely enough.

              His argument is that this country needs to have plans for the workers who will lose jobs as globalization and technological advancement disrupt the labor force:

              “But it, like all the administrations before it, have absolutely no answer or even any real beginnings of a vague plan on what those 3.5 million workers (if not closer to 8.7 million) are going to do.

              That’s a gigantic policy failure on the part of every president from Johnson to Obama. It won’t get any better under either Clinton or Trump.”

        • scarcelight says:

          Unless you have evidence that Mr. Loomis has displayed anti-technology attitudes in general, then no, “Luddism” doesn’t seem to apply here.

          • Dilan Esper says:

            He’s making a generic anti-technology argument, based on a straw man, against driverless cars. So yes, it’s Luddism.

            • Erik Loomis says:

              I realize you are not a bright individual. But I am making an argument against these cars because of at least 3.5 million unemployed people. That is a) not a strawman and b) not an argument against these cars if that unemployment problem is taken care of.

              But then you are the arbiter of the definition of Luddism so LOL.

              • Dilan Esper says:

                I realize you are not a bright individual.

                1. Second time this week I’ve been called an idiot here. You really can do better. I’m obviously not an idiot. :)

                2. The strawman is the arugment that the only reason for the fad of driverless cars is to eliminate jobs. And yes, that’s a strawman.

                3. I’m not the arbiter of the definition of Luddism. The populace of American English speakers speaking and writing in reasonably formal registers are. I just use the words the way most people use them.

                • MilitantlyAardvark says:

                  I’m obviously not an idiot.

                  Clearly some hacker inserted that not into Dilan’s statement.

                • were-witch says:

                  Second time this week I’ve been called an idiot here.

                  You assert Hillary Clinton owes her political success to Monika Lewinsky. You’re a foul and disgusting person. It reflects badly on Erik that he’s engaging with you at all, and that he’s only willing to be as harsh as ‘idiot’ when adddressing you.

                  Eat shit and die. I hope people in your life find it in their hearts to spit in your food. Fuck off.

          • Warren Terra says:

            To the extent Erik is dallying in Luddism, he’s doing so in the true spirit of Ned Ludd: the problem isn’t technology, the problem is when technology creates efficiency gains whose benefits only go to the already powerful, and are not used to ameliorate the situation of the workers displaced to create those efficiencies.

            I doubt Erik wants people stuck in soul-deadening truck-driving jobs far from their families – but if the options are (1) truck drivers versus (2) abject poverty for former truck drivers, who wouldn’t pick option (1)? All too often that’s the sort of choice presented to us.

            • Dilan Esper says:

              In a vacuum, sure.

              But if the actual choice is (1) truck drivers plus thousands of dead and maimed people or (2) abject poverty for former truck drivers (which we would hopefully attempt to alleviate through government action) plus all those dead and maimed people not being dead or maimed, what choice would we make?

              And that’s just the safety trade-off. Obviously there a ton of other potential benefits to the technology.

              • Warren Terra says:

                30-odd thousand people die in vehicle-involved incidents every year, 1 per 100 million vehicle-miles. It’s an incredible safety record, and I think you’d be surprised how little replacing professional drivers would help.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  1. How about replacing amateur drivers?

                  2. When you are talking about saving lives, “vehicle-miles” is irrelevant and strikes me as a deliberate, dishonest dodge.

                  As Thomas Schelling said, the life you save may be your own.

                • Manny Kant says:

                  What are the numbers for accidents involving commercial drivers?

                • Warren Terra says:

                  As I recall, commercial driver is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country (which might include a lot of hazards that aren’t driving – lifting packages, for example, and walking into and out of the cab). But, they rack up a lot of miles; per mile it’s obviously the drunk driver that’s most risky, and I don’t know how much of vehicular injury consists of commercial drivers .

              • ColBatGuano says:

                Your faith in the infallibility of these so far unmade trucks is touching.

                which we would hopefully attempt to alleviate through government action

                Hahahahahaha, good one.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  I have no such faith. It may turn out driverless cars aren’t sufficiently safe. And if that’s the case, you know what? We shouldn’t implement the technology.

                  The entire argument about these cars is premised on there being significant safety advantages. So then we are in the trade-off I described.

                • Manny Kant says:

                  I mean, if we’re giving up on alleviating through government action, I don’t see where that leaves us.

                  What’s the history of success for “preventing productivity increasing technological developments from being implemented?” Are there any cases of this? I’m hard pressed to think of any.

                  What’s the history of success for “providing a generous social welfare state to provide a safety net for people who might be left behind by the economic changes brought about by technological change?” Lots!

                  The idea that preventing technological changes from being implemented is the more hard-headed, realistic option, while expanding the safety net is the dreaming pie in the sky option is absurd. The latter might be difficult to achieve under current conditions of American politics, but it at least is something is actually done in many countries.

              • Colin Day says:

                Will driverless cars be as safe? And if someone gets into the manufacturer’s servers, what could the damage be?

              • ribber says:

                Dilan, I see two problems with your argument:
                1) You seem to dispute Erik’s conjecture that the profit motive is to replace drivers, by citing that the profit motive may be for consumer demand. Yes, Tesla is charging a giant premium for its not-really-driverless models, but Honda is putting it in a $20K Civic. The labor expense of millions of full-time workers is a much greater profit incentive than the small premium (it’s a $1K option) charged on a once-every-five-year purchase of $20K.
                2) This is just, like, my opinion, man; but as some have already brought up, the safety benefit are eggs that haven’t hatched. Sure, things are smarter all the time, but the shear amount of random unexpected things that end up on the umpteen million different ways a road looks makes me think that unless the road system becomes a closed uniform system, we’re never going to have this great safety nirvana.

              • sonamib says:

                I’m gonna have to side with Dilan here. If* the technology is significantly safer than human driving, then it’s a powerful argument for its adoption. Saving tens of thousands of lives, not to mention preventing tens of thousands more from getting permanent disabilities is a big deal**.

                Of course, all the people who will lose their jobs due to this new technology should be helped, just like all people who lose their jobs due to higher worker productivity in other industries. A generous safety net is absolutely necessary. And we should be making this argument loud and clear, so that we’ll never be in the position of trading some people’s livelihoods for everyone’s safety.

                I think fighting for a better safety net is a lot more productive than fighting a doomed-to-fail rearguard action against new technologies.

                *Arguing that the technology would be unsafe is beside the point. If the technology is unsafe it obviously should not be adopted.

                **I mean, people are losing their livelihoods right now because of a car crash. Shouldn’t we worry about them too?

                • Ronan says:

                  Precisely

                • Manny Kant says:

                  I think fighting for a better safety net is a lot more productive than fighting a doomed-to-fail rearguard action against new technologies.

                  This is the key point. I remain skeptical of driverless cars on a practical level. But the idea that there’s anything anyone can do to stop them if they do turn out to work is absurd.

                • Rob in CT says:

                  +1.

                • Yep, agreed with all of this. Dilan often engages in knee-jerk contrarianism and can sometimes be a flat-out arsehole, but he’s completely right about this particular issue. Assuming that as many lives can be saved with self-driving cars as seems likely to happen, I’m willing to take that over the loss of jobs.

                  It’s not just transportation, either; 3D printing looks exceedingly likely to make traditional manufacturing almost obsolete within fifteen years and agriculture within probably twenty-five, so the focus should be on mitigating the negative societal effects of job losses, not on fighting technological advances in the first place. We’ve already passed the point where it is possible to 3D print functional organs; a mouse was already successfully given a functional 3D printed organ as a transplant by Wake Forest researchers earlier this year. That is a huge deal, and it is pretty much the Rubicon of 3D printing; there’s no going back at this point.

                  Basically, the solution to the inevitable problems the collapse of traditional jobs will cause is to implement basic income at a level that will allow everyone to sustain themselves. Doing anything less indicates a severe denial of what is actually going to happen. It’s not a matter of whether traditional manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation go the way of the dodo; it’s a matter of when. We need to be prepared for it.

          • You would be hard-pressed to find a technological development that Loomis doesn’t consider a cudgel with which the working class shall be beaten. Seriously, “deeply tech-skeptical” is probably one of the first five things I’d list if someone asked me to describe him.

      • SIS1 says:

        Yes, because companies invest in things to profit.

        That doesn’t remotely change anything Dana said regarding the widespread societal benefits that we would see from a successful automation of vehicles.

        Automation of a LOT of things is coming soon (I think sooner than a lot of people expect) and instead of hanging on to trying to save jobs that will become unnecessary or unprofitable, we need to fight for a new, better system to distribute the benefits of our society.

        • JustRuss says:

          This. Self-driving cars will bring many benefits, and yes, truck driving as a profession will suffer. But who wants to spend all day driving a truck? The elimination of crappy jobs due to automation isn’t something we should lament.

          The resulting unemployment is a huge concern, that capitalism as we know it refuses to address. Fixing that is where our efforts should go. I’d start with a 4-day work week and mandated vacations. I’ll take a pony too.

          • Richard Gadsden says:

            But who wants to spend all day driving a truck?

            Given the sales of truck driving simulators, clearly some people do.

            I have a colleague who will literally play one for eight hours straight.

        • djw says:

          But what if it just turns out to be a non-ideal but stubborn fact about our political/social/economic environment that clinging to unnecessary jobs is a more feasible project than a radical change to the distributional structure?

          And I really think people vastly underestimate the extent to which a variety of widespread, inventive strategies for perpetuating less than entirely necessary jobs has been absolutely crucial to the creation of an environment where the spoils of technological innovation and economic growth are distributed in a manner consistent with a broad middle class and relatively low poverty.

          • Brett says:

            I thought featherbedding was a myth, despite companies throwing it around as a charge forever.

            • djw says:

              That’s but one avenue by which this social process takes place.

              As an alternative example, I know someone who works for a very large, very famous company, whose job requires him to work 1-2 hours a day. No one really has a good understanding of what he does–insofar as he has fellow workers who understand the nature of his work, their professional and career incentive is to not rock the boat. Since the work he does do is an important part of a process that’s central to a highly profitable product, it’s very probable he shows up as a highly productive employee on a balance sheet.

              I strongly suspect there are situations like this in pretty much every large organization, and a good number of small ones, too. And that doesn’t even cover “creating needlessly complex bureaucratic rules and processes that only I can do” and the various other ways people prioritize make themselves important/irreplaceable at the expense of efficiency and transparency–there are tremendous incentives to do so, and they develop a kind of local knowledge about the particular contours of institutional complexity that allow for it.

              From an economist’s perspective, insofar as my hunch is right, it’s just more innefficiences to root out. But as long as a) jobs are the primary mechanism to the broad social distribution of wealth, and b) the imperative for capital to keep labor costs low isn’t going anywhere, this particular inefficiency may be a crucial and highly valuable social practice.

              • xq says:

                I buy the claim that there are lots of people who do fairly low-value work and get paid for it due to various inefficiencies, etc. But it’s not obvious to me how this contributes to broad distribution of wealth.

                You would be right if it were the case that, if we eliminated all the inefficiencies, the jobs lost would be mostly towards the lower end. But this seems unlikely. Low-end service jobs, for example, mostly generate real value. People stocking shelves at grocery stores, or cleaning toilets, aren’t slacking off on the internet all day.

                If anything, I suspect it would go in the opposite direction. It’s true that many well-compensated people do work that provides high social value; e.g. surgeons, engineers. But a lot of finance is probably negative social value. Lots of evidence that CEO compensation is poorly linked to competence. How much value do corporate lawyers generate?

                To use the example in this thread–truckers aren’t actually going to be able to stop the development of self-driving cars. Their jobs won’t be protected. But they will pay, both as taxpayers and consumers, for all the inefficiencies in industries that employ much better-compensated workers.

                • djw says:

                  The greater the share of total wealth generated that goes to income (outside of perhaps the very tippy-top 1% of earners) rather than capital keeps the r>g down. The difference between wealth inequality and income inequality is big enough that almost anything that transfers some share of the wealth from investors to earners is good for inequality.

                  Obviously, some parts of the economy are better at passing the cost of inefficiencies along to consumers and/or society at large (which complicates the impact on inequality), and there are others where it more likely comes out of capital’s share. (I have reason to believe my friend’s employer is in the latter category.)

                • SamChevre says:

                  Here’s an example of the sort-of-make-work that I see.
                  Think about building a house, 20 years ago in rural Tennessee (which I did). You bought a piece of land, built a lane, dug a well and put in septic, and built a house. The inspection covered structural soundness and wiring. Getting all the permits took one trip to the courthouse.

                  Now compare building a house in Connecticut (which I have a friend currently planning to do). You need permits–many, many permits–enough permits that you pretty much need to hire a lawyer for a couple days just to make sure that you’ve complied with everything before applying. Then you need plans for what you are going to build that have all the official approvals–that will require paying an architect and an engineer for a few hours each. Then you have to apply for a permit, and wait for the zoning board to approve it.

                  The second structure provides work to several white-collar professionals; the first didn’t. I’m not sure what the impact on the construction workers is, but I don’t think they are much better off. It might be possible that the lawyers, zoning experts, engineers, and so on are all paid out of money that would otherwise go to the landowners (capital) but I don’t see a lot of evidence for that.

                  I see much of the problematic inequality dynamic in the growing gap between the 80th percentile and the 50th, which inclines me to different approaches than seeing it in the growing gap between the 90th and 99.9th percentile.

                • xq says:

                  Obviously, some parts of the economy are better at passing the cost of inefficiencies along to consumers and/or society at large (which complicates the impact on inequality)

                  I think this is a really key point, though. The lower half of the income distribution consumes the products of skilled labor. To the extent that no-value skilled jobs compete for this labor, it raises the price or reduces the quality of services like medical care, education, and some consumer goods. That reduces real incomes. It’s good for skilled labor in its battle against capital–lower supply means higher wages–but it also comes at the expense of unskilled labor, and it’s far from clear to me that that’s a good trade-off, even if it reduces some formal measures of inequality.

                  It’s also very unclear how truck drivers who lose their jobs to automation are supposed to get in on this nice deal that some in the middle class have managed. To keep those jobs requires an explicit policy, not just natural inefficiency in the system.

                • xq says:

                  @SamChevre:
                  Yes, I wish I read your post before posting mine. The professional class uses its political power to act in its class interests. If all you care about is labor vs. capital maybe this is a good thing. But 1) it has genuine costs for the rest of society, not just capital and 2) it is not actually a path that the lower class can follow because the lower class lacks the political power of the professional class.

          • Manny Kant says:

            When has clinging to unnecessary jobs ever worked? (Parenthetical added after reading djw’s most recent post: In response to technological change, that is)

          • witlesschum says:

            But what if it just turns out to be a non-ideal but stubborn fact about our political/social/economic environment that clinging to unnecessary jobs is a more feasible project than a radical change to the distributional structure?

            And I really think people vastly underestimate the extent to which a variety of widespread, inventive strategies for perpetuating less than entirely necessary jobs has been absolutely crucial to the creation of an environment where the spoils of technological innovation and economic growth are distributed in a manner consistent with a broad middle class and relatively low poverty.

            This. It tells me that a fair and representative government should demand we solve the problem of where are truck drivers going to work after they are replaced by iPhones before we allow said driverless trucks on the road.

      • Ithaqua says:

        I notice how you shift from “precisely one reason: so that companies can profit on not employing truck drivers or taxi drivers” to “the reason companies are investing in driverless cars is for profit”, which of course completely fails to address Dilan’s point. Google is not investing in creating driverless cars so some trucking company can save some money on drivers. They will make far more money off of the home market than off of trucking.

      • gkclarkson says:

        I’m not sure what you’re suggesting exactly, but it sure seems like you’re in favor of some sort of federal legislative or administrative action to hinder or stop research into driverless vehicles.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          I’m in favor of guaranteed work or income for unemployed workers.

          • efgoldman says:

            I’m in favor of guaranteed work or income for unemployed workers.

            You might have said simply that in the first place and saved us a mega-Dilan.

            • MilitantlyAardvark says:

              Is a mega-Dilan like one of those annoying pickles that clutter up the side of an otherwise perfectly good dish of food while adding nothing but a certain sourness to proceedings?

          • gkclarkson says:

            Hey, I’m all in favor of a massively redistributionist tax overhaul combined with a universal basic income pegged to the poverty line.

            At this point though, It’s just very, very difficult to care anymore when people won’t even vote in their own rational self-interest. I’ve resigned myself to waiting for all the white identity voters to die.

            • Jackov says:

              Absolutely. Screw the 25% of African-Americans
              and Hispanics currently living in poverty and
              the 15M kids.

              Take that whitey!

            • djw says:

              Those two paragraphs are curious ones to combine as a single thought:

              1. People at or near the poverty line vote Democratic, by a considerable margin.

              2. A ” a massively redistributionist tax overhaul combined with a universal basic income pegged to the poverty line” or anything remotely comparable to it has never been on the ballot.

        • Lee Rudolph says:

          I’m not sure what you’re suggesting exactly, but it sure seems like you’re in favor of some sort of federal legislative or administrative action to hinder or stop research into driverless vehicles.

          Try this: Research into driverless vehicles should be matched, in terms of effectiveness (which is not necessarily the same as “dollar for dollar” in either direction) by research into ameliorating the economic and social impact of driverless vehicles on workers and all the other parts of society other than the capitalists who will (absent such effective research on impact) be by far the hugest beneficiaries of driverless vehicles.

          How’s that hit ya? Eric, could you get behind such a minifesto?

          • Ahenobarbus says:

            You mean *public funds* research, or something that applies to private investment as well?

            • Bijan Parsia says:

              Private as well. They should eat the cost of their externalities.

              • SIS1 says:

                And how you you plan to credit them for the positive externalities of their work, which would be vast?

                • xq says:

                  Given the inherent uncertainty in research, estimating externalities in either direction seems like an incredibly difficult problem.

                • MyNameIsZweig says:

                  How about through the excess (in the econ-specific meaning of the word) profits they’re all but certain to get, assuming the technology actually ends up working?

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  I don’t? Why should I?

                  ETA: Plus, I forgot that this is about research funding. It’s pretty much a form of adverse event analysis a la what we do with drugs. Requiring the people who stand to benefit and want to change to fund research about that change seems reasonable.

                  You have to put it in a pot that dilutes their influence, natch.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  Given the inherent uncertainty in research, estimating externalities in either direction seems like an incredibly difficult problem.

                  I agree, but some costs are immediate.

                  They need regulatory changes at a pretty significant scale. That gives some leverage. You can guess a charge and see if they bite.

                • xq says:

                  But if the net externalities are positive, the tax discourages valuable research, and you don’t want to do that.

                  We don’t tax drug research based on possible negative externalities of the drug. We require drugs to pass safety standards, which we should, and will, also require of self-driving cars.

                  In general, taxing externalities of research seems unworkable to me–sure, some costs are obvious, but what you care about is the net value of the research, not just the immediate costs. Anyways, who exactly would be targeted? Do you tax people working on general problems that would be useful for self-driving cars? Just people working on the far applied end of the spectrum? I don’t know much about self-driving cars, but in my field, problems that are perhaps socially undesirable to solve are very similar to problems that would have big benefits. Like, we want doctors to know some things we don’t want insurance companies or employers to know. Why would you target the research rather than the applications you don’t want?

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  But if the net externalities are positive, the tax discourages valuable research, and you don’t want to do that.

                  I would prefer to know, hence the need for the research to investigate that.

                  We don’t tax drug research based on possible negative externalities of the drug.

                  Sure. But we could.

                  We require drugs to pass safety standards, which we should, and will, also require of self-driving cars.

                  Sure. I’m just saying we can ask for more if we want. Regulators need to me mindful of all sorts of externalities anyway.

                  In general, taxing externalities of research seems unworkable to me–sure, some costs are obvious, but what you care about is the net value of the research, not just the immediate costs.

                  Not necessarily. You can care about various aspects of the cost (e.g., distribution).

                  Anyways, who exactly would be targeted? Do you tax people working on general problems that would be useful for self-driving cars? Just people working on the far applied end of the spectrum? I don’t know much about self-driving cars, but in my field, problems that are perhaps socially undesirable to solve are very similar to problems that would have big benefits. Like, we want doctors to know some things we don’t want insurance companies or employers to know. Why would you target the research rather than the applications you don’t want?

                  Well, I didn’t really mean it as a specific policy, just as a throw away. And really, my thought was that the existence of externalities at least gives room to internalising them. My point is that if you buy Lee’s proposal, private as well as public can be fair game.

                  You’re arguing that Lee’s proposal probably doesn’t work out. Which, perhaps.

          • xq says:

            Why? The main problem isn’t that we lack technical solutions for “ameliorating the economic and social impact of driverless vehicles”. The problem is that the solutions are politically nonviable in the US due to the political power of the right. But in the world where you could actually pass your proposed policy that wouldn’t be the case and you could just go ahead and adopt job guarantee instead.

      • randy khan says:

        Of course companies are investing in driverless cars for profit. That’s not an interesting observation on any level.

        But they’re going to come (assuming they do) because buyers will see significant benefits to using them. Some of those buyers will be trucking companies; some of them will be consumers; some will be the Ubers, Lyfts, Hertzes and Car2Gos of the world (and, as an aside, even though Uber is investing in self-driving cars, it may discover that it has a lot of competition from car rental companies of various types). The potential safety benefits, in particular, are quite significant. Even if you think the Google stats on accidents are under-reporting, the likelihood of any accident apparently caused by the Google car is something like an order of magnitude lower than if humans are driving. Cutting traffic fatalities, injuries, and property damage by 90% would have huge social welfare benefits. Heck, if you mandated that all commercial vehicles had to have drivers just in case, the social welfare benefits would still far exceed the costs.

        That does not change the impact of self-driving cars on the people who work in industries like trucking and car services, of course, and they generally fall into categories of people who may have trouble finding other jobs. That’s a big deal. It’s not, though, something that’s going to happen overnight (and I will predict right now that trucking and delivery will be the last segments that are affected).

        The thing is that self-driving cars also will create new jobs and new businesses, just like the advent of the car did. Planning for that is the best way to deal with the dislocations.

        • Phil Perspective says:

          Even if you think the Google stats on accidents are under-reporting, the likelihood of any accident apparently caused by the Google car is something like an order of magnitude lower than if humans are driving.

          Have these driver-less cars been driven in the rain or snow? I have a lot more questions but I’ll let you answer that for starters. People like Atrios are very skeptical we’ll ever get driver-less cars.

          • sharonT says:

            Forget bad weather, can a driverless car navigate a rutted and unlined road like the one that I drove on last Friday to my morning train? Driverless cars seem to need decent roads to work, and outside of office parks adjacent to Google’s headquarters, I don’t see municipalities making those types of infrastructure investments anytime soon.

            • randy khan says:

              Google’s objective is pretty clearly limited to city and suburban streets, but if you get that far it’s a big advance and a pretty big market. Rutted roads wouldn’t seem likely to be an issue; unlined roads are harder, though, for the obvious reasons.

              • Richard Gadsden says:

                If they could replace taxis, and (by not paying the driver) be sufficiently cheaper than a taxi to compete with owning your own car, then they could also replace commuter-use of cars and other routine intraurban driving (shopping, visiting friends, etc)

                … at which point, people who live up-country would still own cars, and urban people who want to go up-country on occasion would rent one, which would increase demand for car rental.

                Yes, this would put most taxi drivers out of work (there would still be some people who’d prefer a human driver, and there’s likely to be some residual need e.g. from disabled people for assistance in boarding and alighting).

                As long as this doesn’t impoverish those people, the question is what else will they do. If they can do something else, then we’re all better off by the value of what else they do, as we get the taxis driven and we get the value of the other thing the ex-taxi drivers do. But we need to ensure that people don’t get impoverished in the process, and fetishing work is what leads to Luddism – trying to preserve jobs rather than taxing and investing in enabling people to do something else, and ensuring their income in the meantime.

                • This comment reminds me that, if self-driving cars were required to have human oversight, and the humans in charge of them were required to maintain a specific level of sobriety, that wouldn’t completely eliminate the need for taxis. It would certainly lessen it though.

                  The reduced need for parking lots is certainly a good point.

            • so-in-so says:

              The military has trial vehicles that navigate cross country, using combined GPS and sensors to avoid nearby things like rocks and trees, so the answer is potentially ‘yes’, although how much of that technology is in the commercial vehicles I have no idea.

              I suspect early vehicles will require an actual driver for certain functions. Parking in the unpaved lot at the county fair or concert is just one example.

          • randy khan says:

            I don’t know for sure, but they’ve driven an awful lot of miles, and I would be surprised if they haven’t driven in rain. (Not so much snow in Mountain View and environs, but they have gone elsewhere, including Kirkland, Washington.)

            In practice, though, I’d expect a driverless car to be better in rain, snow, fog, etc. than one with a human driver. For instance, their sensors don’t depend on visible light, which means they can “see” further in bad conditions, and there already are systems to detect changes in traction that come from slippery roads, allowing adjustments in speed and braking distance.

            As for Atrios, I’ve noticed his skepticism on this topic. I actually agree to a point, in that it’s a hard problem and it likely will take longer than the enthusiasts think. By the same token, if you look at the rate of progress in AI and the like – just consider Siri and its equivalents, and how far they’ve come in a few years – his belief that driverless cars aren’t coming ever strikes me as representing an insufficient understanding of what’s going on in the broader field.

        • pseudalicious says:

          I thought I read that driverless cars could potentially cut down CO2 emissions, which is pretty vital.

          • Warren Terra says:

            I don’t think this is strongly linked to the question of truck driver employment, it’s more about reducing the number of cars on the road and reducing traffic.

      • Murc says:

        Once again, you don’t know what Luddism means.

        I hate to agree with Dilan, but in this narrow instance I agree with Dilan. He’s using the word in the commonly accepted modern meaning. This philological battle is as lost as the one against the modern usage of “begging the question.”

        This doesn’t make him right re: what you are doing, but he’s not using the word improperly.

        • Linnaeus says:

          The problem for me is when use of the terms “Luddism” or “Luddite”, even in their commonly understood sense, becomes so broad as to water down what constitutes “Luddism”. Not every critique of technology and its effects is Luddism.

          • Murc says:

            With this argument I am sympathetic. See: the regular dustups over what “socialism” means.

          • Patick Spens says:

            Okay, but Dilan’s calling Erik a Luddite because Erik’s complaining about technological innovation that costs jobs. Which is exactly the complaint of the original Luddites. Is it unfair because Erik’s not actually smashing the cars with a hammer? Because they aren’t talking about weaving? Help me out here.

            • Linnaeus says:

              I wasn’t referring to Dilan’s comment specifically. To elaborate further, “Luddism”/”Luddite” has acquired a very negative connotation, which makes it useful as a rhetorical tool – tag someone as a Luddite, and you make him or her out to be an unenlightened boor who opposes progress.

              Since you asked about Dilan’s comment, though, let me give it a go.

              Dilan’s charge of Luddism on the part of Erik relies mainly on this statement by Erik:

              We are seeing this all over again in the mania for driverless vehicles. Let’s be very clear–the driverless vehicle fad may have some safety benefits. But it exists for precisely one reason: so that companies can profit on not employing truck drivers or taxi drivers. If driverless vehicles really become a real thing, 3.5 million truck drivers are going to lose their jobs.

              Dilan’s counter to this is that the benefit of greater safety outweighs the loss of jobs by human drivers. Note, though, that Dilan doesn’t actually dispute that jobs will be lost. Indeed, he implictly accepts this in the very same comment.

              Dilan then defends his use of the term “Luddism” on the ground that the word has shifted in meaning and that meaning is now the commonly understood one. But if that meaning is construed to be a general opposition to technology or technological change, then reading Erik’s argument in its full context doesn’t demonstrate that at all. Erik is pointing out a negative consequence of technological change, one that Dilan doesn’t dispute. At most, one can charge that Erik’s “precisely one reason” phrase is an overstatement.

              One might find Dilan’s argument about the relative benefit of self-driving cars to be more convincing than Erik’s. But Dilan’s charge of Luddism fails even on the terms of use of the word that Dilan himself accepts. In that light, it’s rhetoric dressing up his comment.

              • MilitantlyAardvark says:

                I don’t particularly care about Luddism, but I feel very strongly that people who confuse reign and rein should be executed sine die.

              • daves09 says:

                The original luddites were very narrowly focused. They were not against technology per se, but against technology that adversely affected themselves, the weavers. They didn’t smash spinning jennies, they smashed Arkwright frames.
                So a narrow opposition to a specific tech is more fairly described as luddism than a general opposition.

                .

    • manual says:

      Yeah, Im working on this issue from the labor side and generally agree with this. Stopping helpful automation is not a smart jobs program. Every era has automated job loss. The question is how you continue to provide good jobs in other and new industries. That is a complicated question, but the real one worth grappling with.

      • daves09 says:

        A classic example is of course the Great Depression.
        Even when the economy had recovered to it’s pre crash size employment remained about 20% lower-the twenties and thirties were the great age of automation and productivity gains.

      • Brett says:

        There’s the Longshoreman approach, which is to accept the technology (eventually) in exchange for guarantees of job security, retraining, and income. Most industries don’t have those kinds of profit margins (although who knows with the increasingly oligopolistic nature of US corporations), but a government program along those lines would certainly be something worth looking for.

        I’m thinking something like 100% unemployment insurance and retraining/job placement in the first six months, wage insurance at different percentages based on age and family status after that for a longer period of time. You could also offer jobs directly for various projects, but you’d really have to avoid the “workfare” stigma in doing so.

    • a_paul_in_mtl says:

      Well, it is true that eliminating the jobs where workplace accidents occur would reduce the number of workplace accidents, but perhaps there are other ways of doing reducing accidents that aren’t going to throw a whole lot of people out of work?

    • Brett says:

      For that matter, can we deconstruct the idea that millions of truck and vehicle drivers are going to suddenly find themselves out of jobs in the near future? These things still require human back-up drivers, and most of the liability releases they’ve gotten for them require it. It’s going to take a while that to change outside of closed-track and regular route driving at slow speeds.

      3.7 million jobs gone in five years would be devastating. 3.7 million jobs gone in 30 years is small enough that it would barely affect the employment statistics on average. And that’s assuming they don’t generate employment – after all, if it’s cheap enough to rig up a truck for self-driving that independent truckers can do it, then their work just got much easier.

      • Richard Gadsden says:

        For a lot of goods-moving, it’s going to be more sensible to have someone on the vehicle to load and unload at the destinations than to have people at each location – if it’s a dray wagon, you still need someone who can hump a beer barrel; far easier to have them ride-along than to have someone at every bar, for instance.

        We’re going to see the same story for the big delivery companies: even if FedEx can get their trucks driven automatically, they still need someone to handle the parcels at the destination.

        It’s the big long-distance trucks (the container-movers) and taxis (which have self-loading cargo) that are threatened in the immediate term.

        • Manny Kant says:

          Even the containers it seems like it would be useful to have a driver, just as security for what must be very valuable cargo.

          • so-in-so says:

            It might be easier to point a gun at the driver than to rob a camera equipped truck which can sound alarms and contact police (as well as drive off) without fear of being assaulted. Also, the autonomous truck doesn’t need rest breaks, so the times it is stopped and vulnerable are much more limited. I can see a ride-along “guard-loader” as being a security weak point, not an aid.

            • Brett says:

              Since you brought up the rest break issue, you could redesign a self-driving long distance truck to have a chemical toilet, a small bunk, and a tiny kitchenette. The idea being that it could then drive as long as necessary between fuel stops.

  3. Peterr says:

    The other place where “capital mobility” came into the debate was when Trump brought up the rightwing dream of lowering taxes on corporate cash stashed overseas. Trump would have the public believe that companies would love to have this money back here, but it’s only high taxes that is keeping them from doing so.

    Sorry, but that’s marlarky.

    Corporations made the choice to put those profits into a kind of international escrow in lieu of using them within the US (including using them for dividends for stockholders). Better to not be able to use it for a while and hope that the GOP can push through a “bring it back tax free!” holiday than to accept that part of being in the US is paying for the things that make the US somewhere that people want to do business.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Oh yeah, he’s full of shit. But it really doesn’t matter for the purposes of getting elected.

      • Harkov311 says:

        I guess I still wonder why, having been disappointed (supposedly) by Democrats, the working class (the white ones anyhow, can’t imagine Trump is pulling many non-white people of any class) would somehow decide to throw their lot in with a rich dilettante from the party who has consistently been anti-union, against wage increases, and favors horrifically regressive tax plans. This feels like the Fark Both Sides Fallacy: both parties suck, so vote Republican.

        And that’s not even getting into the fact that most of Trump’s support is from middle class whites without college degrees who don’t even rate trade as their number one issue. A discussion for another time maybe.

        • MilitantlyAardvark says:

          I think the fallacy involved is more like the Both Parties Suck So Vote For A Fraudster Who Is Too Lazy To Be A Politician.

        • joel hanes says:

          I still wonder … why [people] would somehow decide

          These voters know their enemies. Resentment rules.

          And their enemies despise Trump.

          Ergo, Trump is their man.

          it’s customary to cite Cleek

        • witlesschum says:

          Voting Trump is the middle class white person’s version of rioting.

          They’re angry, so they’re gonna burn something down. Whether the anger is justified in some way doesn’t matter when it reaches that point. So, down burns half the block if it’s a bunch of poor, non-white people who are mad or down burns half the country if it’s middle class people with disproportionate social power who’ve been provided with the means in the form of the Republican Party by very rich people and their servants and hangers one. They thought they could keep packing in more dry sticks soaked in gasoline and it would be safe because they wouldn’t let anyone else hold the matches. Well, Trump stole the matches.

          Middle class white people and their adjacents been told for years that the government is infinitely mutable combinations of malign, ineffective and in the hands of their intractable enemies. Lots of money has been spent on those messages and they’ve worked on some.

          Grant those premises and it makes sense to vote Trump if you’re dumb enough to believe that he’s the smart rich guy he’s been playing on TV for 25 years or so and he’ll use the presidency to fuck up your enemies. If you’re smart enough to see he’s a lazy incompetent that will just blunder around smashing things and accomplishing nothing, that’s better than the current state of affairs that’s pissing you off so much.

  4. MPAVictoria says:

    “But they have never had good ideas for what those workers are going to do.”

    Exactly right. I have had this conversation with Neoliberal economists on twitter a 100 times. It usually goes like this:

    NeoLiberal “You see free trade makes everyone better off overall and you can just compensate any losers with the gains from improved market efficiency”

    Me “But they haven’t and they won’t”

    NeoLiberal “Well perhaps but technically they could so game/set/match you stupid socialist”

    If the Democrats don’t start to come to grips with these problems the future looks very grim indeed

    • Uneekness says:

      Yeah – that’s it right there. The sci-fi utopia of “When the machines do all the work for us, we will all be free” is always dreamily postulated. And yet ever increase in efficiency and productivity always accrues to the 1%.

      • xq says:

        That is neither historically true nor globally true. It’s a recent phenomenon in wealthy countries. Nor is it uniform even among wealthy countries; the US is an outlier in the degree to which the gains have been exclusive to the very wealthy.

        • daves09 says:

          I remember reading a few years ago a financial article about Japan, that one of the reasons for its strength was low income inequality. Followed almost immediately by congratulations that Japan was joining the modern world and inequality was rapidly increasing. Which apparently is now one of the indicators of being truly advanced.

      • Gabriel Ratchet says:

        To quote William Gibson: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

    • Quaino says:

      Most liberals are full of shit on this issue. You have people who believe way too much in the benefits of free trade and then you have people who just assume every Trump supporter is a racist idiot who, if only their eyes could be opened, would turn to the power of liberalism and usher in the next revolution. There’s a giant gaping hole on our side in terms of policy prescriptions (with significant institutional backing — I have no doubt Loomis isn’t the only pro-labor leftist) to empower workers.

      • Murc says:

        Every Trump supporter is a racist.

        • CrunchyFrog says:

          To one degree or another, yes. He has the people who tatoo 88 to honor “Heil Hitler” of course, at one extreme, but at the other extreme are the people who are very nice to middle-class black people they meet in person but who nevertheless believe was Fox says and things every black man shot to death by police deserved it. And Trumps support runs the gamut – but if you are not racist you don’t support Trump. You might support Johnson or even Stein, but not Trump.

        • Quaino says:

          Whether or not that is true, the real issue is the second part and people acting like it’s a policy prescription. Capitalism is bad and we’re going to solve it by YOU STOP BEING A RACIST FUCK. (Totally pro-stop being a racist fuck, but we can develop a plan to drive towards too!)

          Simple solution to unemployment: elect Bernie, he’ll ramrod his agenda through Congress and we’ll never have a problem again.

    • LWA says:

      What the defenders of the current structure of global trade don’t like to talk about is how “free trade” is actually thousands of pages of regulations apportioning the spoils of global wealth to very specific interest groups.

      Why does this corporate entity own the royalties to a song?
      Because governments say they do.
      Why does that corporate entity own a tract of land, yet pay no taxes on the wealth of it?
      Because the various governments agree to this.

      And so on.

      There is no naturally occurring nexus between the way wealth is created, and to whom that wealth is apportioned; its all artificially created by law and agreement.

    • Manny Kant says:

      I mean, you’re right. But what’s the alternative? We’re not going to shut down free trade and prevent technological advancements that take away jobs.

      “compensating losers with the gains from improved market efficiency” is far more likely to actually happen than any other tolerable outcome, even if less likely to happen than increased inequality.

  5. BobOso says:

    Trump does have a club with NAFTA but only if Clinton let’s him use it without any pushback. GOP fought the auto-bailout; fought stimulus spending; fights infrastructure spending. Trump will be no different. Capital mobility? Trump is going to cut corporate taxes even more!

    • Joseph Slater says:

      GOP fights unions, fights minimum wage increases, fights health and safety regs at work, wants to (and in some states has succeeded) slash workers’ comp and unemployment insurance, etc., etc.

    • efgoldman says:

      Trump does have a club with NAFTA

      I think “trade” is pretty far down the political (as opposed to economic) list for what’s important to most voters.
      If Orange Shitweasel didn’t pound on it, I doubt there would even be questions about it.

      • Brien Jackson says:

        I don’t think economics is even all that central to the Trumpian critique of “trade.” You got it written out in big bold letters last night: to Trump and his fellow travelers, workers in China, Mexico, and other places mostly inhabited by non-white people “steal our jobs.” It is, fundamentally, a view that Americans, mostly white Americans in particular, are entitled to that production and the developing world should just learn to get by with whatever they can scrounge up filling the holes. Frankly, a lot of Erik’s polemics get pretty damn close to this basic framing of the problem as well.

        • Linnaeus says:

          I disagree with your last sentence. Sure, there are critiques of international trade arrangements that are rooted in jingoism, ethnocentrism, racism, etc. I have a hard time, however, seeing Erik’s arguments come close to that, especially in light of the fact that he’s written an entire book that describes in some detail the problems that workers in other countries face when capital moves around.

          • sibusisodan says:

            I think polemic is the key word for Brien Jackson. Posts like that are not closely reasoned arguments. They are predominantly rhetoric intended to be emotive.

            It takes me a while to click into the appropriate reading mode for them.

      • xq says:

        Yeah, it’s pretty clear from polling data that Americans in general don’t have strong views on trade. Obama becoming the public face of TPP made liberals more pro-trade and conservatives more against, and Trump becoming the Republican nominee further reinforced this trend. Political allegiances drive views on trade much more than the reverse.

  6. nemdam says:

    I’ve also heard elsewhere this idea that the Trump came across well when they talked about trade. Setting aside his insincerity on the issue, his answer was completely word salad. He just ranted and raved about how horrible outsourcing and free trade are, but his only solution to this is that he is a business man who will make better deals. Is this an answer that actually appeals to people worried about this issue? Saying that something is bad, but I’ll do it better isn’t very persuasive. And on top of this, Trump, being a rich businessman who inherited his wealth, is practically a stereotype of someone who would support outsourcing. I’m just skeptical that anyone genuinely worried about free trade finds Trump a credible messenger on this issue which is why I think Clinton didn’t really push back against this.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Sure, but the one thing we should learn from this election is that no one pays attention to the actual details of policy. It doesn’t matter that Trump is spewing garbage about trade. What matters is that he is tapping into people’s emotional upheaval about trade and unemployment, which exists because nobody takes these issues seriously as a problem. As soon as we realize that emotions matter more than facts, the better we will be equipped to do something about it.

      • sibusisodan says:

        nobody takes these issues seriously as a problem

        I’m wondering if there’s a broader issue with governance here. It’s not just that people in positions of power aren’t treating the problems seriously.

        It’s also that, like you say, people voting don’t care about policy, broadly speaking. There’s not very much support for spending the money required to have halfway decent solutions to these problems.

        I’m not sure how that gets resolved.

      • nemdam says:

        I could be wrong on all of this, but my argument is based on an emotional reaction to Trump which is why I didn’t bring up any facts or policy. Voters don’t just want to hear a politician rant about an issue, they want some idea what you’re going to do about it. The idea can be very simple, such as I will rip up NAFTA and impose tariffs, or I will renegotiate NAFTA so that companies that outsource will pay very heavy fines, but there’s gotta be something beyond “I’m great!”

        It’s just my belief that Trump supporters against free trade do so because they’ve adopted Trump policies after the fact instead of being attracted to Trump because of his free trade policy.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          The idea can be very simple, such as I will rip up NAFTA and impose tariffs, or I will renegotiate NAFTA so that companies that outsource will pay very heavy fines, but there’s gotta be something beyond “I’m great!”

          I don’t know. We’ll see if Trump wins.

      • tsam says:

        Sure, but the one thing we should learn from this election is that no one pays attention to the actual details of policy.

        If people ever do, Republicans are in big trouble. Being mad about stuff isn’t policy, but lots of conservatives will settle for it.

      • Murc says:

        Sure, but the one thing we should learn from this election is that no one pays attention to the actual details of policy.

        As soon as we realize that emotions matter more than facts, the better we will be equipped to do something about it.

        I refuse to accept both these premises, because if they’re actually true, it means democracy is an inappropriate form of government and we need to explore forms of effective authoritarianism.

        I’m unprepared to cross that Rubicon.

        • efgoldman says:

          I’m unprepared to cross that Rubicon.

          You’d better look behind you, then. The Rubicon was crossed decades ago, when the Republiklowns turned into RWNJ TeaHadis (the name is more recent).
          “Keep the government out of my Medicare.”

        • djw says:

          if they’re actually true, it means democracy is an inappropriate form of government and we need to explore forms of effective authoritarianism

          This is would make sense if the deliberative account of democracy’s value were the only imaginable one, but of course it isn’t. There are plenty of other plausible -to-compelling reasons to prefer democracy.

          (This is reminding me I really should blog about this book.)

          • Ronan says:

            You should. I’ve been waiting for it to come down in price but it looks good.
            Have you read ?

            http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10843.html

            (Apparently a libertarian take on the same topic)

            • djw says:

              No but I’m fairly familiar with the general thrust of Brennan’s argument, which has the teensy-weensy problem of conflating “competence” with agreeing Jason Brennan on political issues. I have some disagreements with Achen and Bartels but it’s there’s no silliness like that.

          • Murc says:

            The thesis of that book is awful and nihilistic if its anything like what the blurb describes it as.

            If the thesis is actually true it makes democracy a straight-up pointless sham. If the voters aren’t going to uphold their part of the social contract undergirding democracy, and in fact are going to fuck things up constantly, why shouldn’t they be dispensed with?

            Thankfully, I don’t actually believe the argument on offer.

            • djw says:

              If the voters aren’t going to uphold their part of the social contract undergirding democracy, and in fact are going to fuck things up constantly, why shouldn’t they be dispensed with?

              They’re empirical scholars, not theorists, and it’s primarily a deep dive into the search for evidence for what they call the folk theory of democracy. Unlike many intellectual critics of democracy (Brennan, below, for example) it’s not ideologically motivated, as they’re committed democrats in spite of the evidence, and they spend the last few chapters exploring some alternative justifications for democracy. (They stumble onto a pretty good one, I think, but leave a few other good ones on the table.)

              You don’t seem like the kind of person who’d typically cling to an empirical believe in the face of evidence, simply because you didn’t want to face certain uncomfortable implications of those findings.

              The simplest answer to this question:

              If the voters aren’t going to uphold their part of the social contract undergirding democracy, and in fact are going to fuck things up constantly, why shouldn’t they be dispensed with?

              Is that the people in charge have all the same flaws and failings as the voters we’ve just disempowered, but their power is more concentrated, and concentrated power also exacerbates some of the more unfortunate aspects of human behavior.

              Another answer I find fairly compelling is another set of empirical facts–the track record of democracies over existing alternatives. Democratic societies respect some of the basic human rights a lot better than non-democratic ones, on average, and seem to have slightly more economic growth and slightly less economic inequality than non-democracies. And also famines are bad.

              If it turns out that democracies aren’t good at transforming the will of the people into public policy (but neither is any alternative to democracy), but they do seem a bit OK at protecting the interests and/or basic rights of the people, relative to than the alternatives, shouldn’t that count as a case for their value? Are interests and basic rights irrelevant?

              • Murc says:

                Unlike many intellectual critics of democracy (Brennan, below, for example) it’s not ideologically motivated

                Scholarship is an ideological activity, period. Even “I believe in the pursuit of empirical truth for empirical truth’s sake” is a statement of ideological intent.

                (I do take your point, tho.)

                You don’t seem like the kind of person who’d typically cling to an empirical believe in the face of evidence, simply because you didn’t want to face certain uncomfortable implications of those findings.

                I’d like to think not, no.

                If it turns out that democracies aren’t good at transforming the will of the people into public policy

                Democracies actually do seem like they’re quite good at transforming the will of the people into public policy, tho. That’s why I look with a leery eye at “voters don’t matter because they don’t vote with their heads” theories. It seems to me most voters do in fact vote with their heads most of the time, for a value of “voting with their heads” equating to “they know what they’re buying,” it’s just they’re bad people who want bad things.

                but they do seem a bit OK at protecting the interests and/or basic rights of the people, relative to than the alternatives, shouldn’t that count as a case for their value? Are interests and basic rights irrelevant?

                Hrm. I’ve rolled this around in my head a bit.

                Supposing we grant the argument that most voters aren’t actually voting with their heads but are just making near-Pavlovian signals of tribal identity, where they aren’t simply completely ignorant rubes voting on the basis of who winked at them through the teevee set. Suppose that’s true.

                If true, my position is that this is completely unacceptable and necessitates a massive investment of resources to building a better electorate, on the same level as the truly monumental resources invested in ameliorating or eliminating other social ills. It should be treated precisely like that; as a social ill.

                What it shouldn’t be is accepted. Like, right now we have what I’m sure Achen and Bartels would describe as a “myth” of folk democracy. If that myth is shattered because it is indeed a myth, it becomes our responsibility to actually make it true. Not to build a society on the assumption it can never be true.

                Right now that “myth” at least enforces a modicum of a norm of having policy expertise among political figures, at least on the left. If we simply accept that policy expertise is 100% irrelevant and then stop there… that seems horrifying to me. We might as well elect President Camacho and be done with it.

                • Swordsmith says:

                  Which is pretty much the purpose of the liberal arts. Or on a more basic level, the purpose of Schoolhouse Rock and Cold War-era civics classes. Leaving aside the many ways that the melting pot approach was problematic (and much too friendly to racism), pushing hard from pre-school on up that voting and paying taxes and doing your civic duty and not complaining about it had a lot of value as cultural mythology. People were honestly shocked that Nixon was a crook – even people who had been routinely calling him a crook for years. And its the system that gave us all the political “norms” that Republicans have been tearing down for the last couple of generations.

              • djw says:

                Scholarship is an ideological activity, period. Even “I believe in the pursuit of empirical truth for empirical truth’s sake” is a statement of ideological intent.

                Sure of course. What I mean is “they claim to not be ideologically motivated by a disdain for democracy, and based on what I know about them from their work I see no good reason not to take them at word”

                Democracies actually do seem like they’re quite good at transforming the will of the people into public policy, tho.

                Hmm. I think the evidence against this view is a lot more compelling than you seem to think it’s going to be (although slightly less open-and-shut than Achen and Bartels think). I’m surprised you see the prima facie case as strong as you do. I’ll save making that case for a post.

                f true, my position is that this is completely unacceptable and necessitates a massive investment of resources to building a better electorate, on the same level as the truly monumental resources invested in ameliorating or eliminating other social ills.

                I’m considerably more sympathetic to this argument than an ill-conceived search for effective authoritarianism, and while I have some nagging doubts, I probably agree. “Democracy’s doing some important things for us now, so that’s good and important, but let’s shoot for more” is more or less where I’m at, and where I probably differ from Bartels and Achen, although I think the version we should plausibly hope and aim for is a bit more modest of a goal than “the general will, discerned through rational deliberation by citizens and legislators alike.”

                At any rate, this exchange is convincing me I should write it up. Hopefully next week.

                • Murc says:

                  Hmm. I think the evidence against this view is a lot more compelling than you seem to think it’s going to be (although slightly less open-and-shut than Achen and Bartels think). I’m surprised you see the prima facie case as strong as you do.

                  Well, of course this is a hugely nuanced subject. “Pretty good” doesn’t necessarily mean “perfect,” and there can be genuine differences of opinion between whether a situation is “democracy failed” or “democracy succeeded; it just turns out people are awful and want awful things.”

                  I’m considerably more sympathetic to this argument than an ill-conceived search for effective authoritarianism, and while I have some nagging doubts, I probably agree.

                  Well, I… no, you know what? I didn’t just state my argument badly, I fucked up in my OP in this particular subthread and was operating under erroneous principles.

                  Basically, I was under the impression what I was taking a stance against was “voters don’t determine anything, they act from emotion and tribalism and inanities, and there’s nothing to be done to change this.”

                  It’s only if that later clause is true, I think, that you should start looking at non-democratic alternatives.

                  But that wasn’t what I was actually arguing against, so that’s on me.

                  At any rate, this exchange is convincing me I should write it up. Hopefully next week.

                  That’s me, proudly instigating shit on LGM since 2006.

                • djw says:

                  It’s only if that later clause is true, I think, that you should start looking at non-democratic alternatives.

                  But why? Democracies, even if the ‘folk theory’ and related theories fail, are reliably better at protecting the basic rights of the citizenry (among other apparent benefits). We’ve got a long historical record of this. If we conclude democracy isn’t reformable in this particular respect, why on earth would be conclude authoritarianism is reformable in the relevant ways?

                • Murc says:

                  If we conclude democracy isn’t reformable in this particular respect, why on earth would be conclude authoritarianism is reformable in the relevant ways?

                  “Look at” =/ “instantly conclude they’re automatically superior and start adopting them.”

                  It just means “no longer completely out of bounds period.”

                  Basically, if the voters are both irrelevant and unreformable, then suddenly the massive legal, organizational, and cultural edifices (and the resources that maintain them) become open to question. Because, in my view, at that point they’ve lost their moral legitimacy and their self-proclaimed raison d’etre; their only remaining argument for existence is efficiency and performance. Which means there’s nothing stopping you from taking a look at other options.

                  As opposed to right now, where you first have to make a moral case for those options before you can even begin looking at their performance and efficiency, and that’s really, really hard because the moral arguments in favor of democracy are super strong.

                • djw says:

                  OK, fair enough. I think that search is a) very likely to be fruitless, and b) that taking seriously alternative accounts of democracy’s value will help us better understand why it’s likely to be fruitless.

                • Murc says:

                  OK, fair enough. I think that search is a) very likely to be fruitless, and b) that taking seriously alternative accounts of democracy’s value will help us better understand why it’s likely to be fruitless.

                  Both those statements seem well-supported, I think.

                  If I’m being 100% honest here, part of my discomfort in this area comes down to… I guess aesthetics would be the word?

                  Like, I super don’t want to live in a world where we either have to deliberate sell a lie about a folk democracy that doesn’t exist in order to make the social order underpinning our political system work, and I also super don’t want to live in a world where everyone agrees that substance is wholly irrelevant to the democratic process, and there’s nothing to be done about that because people are unreformable, so let’s just embrace it.

                  Both those options horrify me on multiple levels. They seem like a terrible way to live.

            • CP says:

              If the voters aren’t going to uphold their part of the social contract undergirding democracy, and in fact are going to fuck things up constantly, why shouldn’t they be dispensed with?

              Well, this assumes that whoever you replace “the voters” with in the decisionmaking process will be any less prone to fucking things up than they were.

              This is probably one of the big reasons I wouldn’t want to ditch democracy, actually. It’s not that I don’t believe a shocking number of voters are utterly uninformed, clueless, and unqualified to pick their representatives; I do. I just also believe that ruling classes are no less prone to all of these problems than ordinary voters. History’s full of rulers, dynasties or elites running their governments into the ground through sheer stupidity.

              (That plus the fact that even if you could, somehow, create a ruling class that was definitely smarter than the electorate, there’s no guarantee that they’ll use that smartness for the benefit of the whole country. As likely as not, they’ll simply use their superior understanding of policy to skew society in their favor, leaving all the people who no longer have a voice in the system screwed).

            • Democracy is useful because it tends to redirect power struggles into a civil framework, rather than assassinations, wars, genocide, etc. Importantly, it allows elite and popular factions to trade power back and forth without threatening the legitimacy of the state (which is a key problem with monarchy, for instance).

              Whether democratic governments represent the desires of the people as a whole is really beside the point, because there isn’t really such a thing as a popular will. Democracy is successful because it does a fairly good job at accomplishing the primary goal of all forms of governance — not being rejected by its constituents amidst rivers of blood and buckets of severed heads.

              It may also do a better job of serving the public good than other forms of government, but that’s when you get into the weak democracy vs. enlightened despotism debate.

              • Rob in CT says:

                This is the post I toyed with making for a while, but better. Democracy is better largely because it (tends to) avoids bloody power struggles. Even if that’s the ONLY reason it’s better, that’s huge.

        • I think both of you are overstating things a bit.

      • Brien Jackson says:

        This is mostly bullshit, and it’s really dangerous bullshit for the left to even flirt with. It’s true enough that people inclined to vote for Trump don’t care about this, because they’re racist know nothings who don’t really care about outcomes so long as white supremacy is strengthened. Liberalism/leftism, though, involves using government to make positive improvements, and that means your programs have to actually work. So people might not care about details in real time, but they care about them to the extent that they matter in actually delivering the promised outcomes.

    • PJ says:

      Apparently the commenters of LGM and assorted Twitterers are to blame that right wing voters don’t understand basic history, or what is meant by “free” and “trade” and “regulation” and “union”.

      As always, the sainted White Working Classes are never to blame. Never, never.

  7. Gregor Sansa says:

    He called several different things the “worst deal in history” during the debate, so it’s clear he doesn’t really think that about NAFTA.

    And NAFTA was a horrible idea. But in terms of all the things that have happened from, say, 1980 until now, I wouldn’t put it on the worst 10 for either US or Mexican workers. Just because it was a high-profile contributing factor in a lot of bad consequences, doesn’t mean that it was a necessary factor for all or even most of that.

    (Obviously, Loomis knows more about this stuff than I do. But Loomis is also prone to hyperbole, so I don’t feel too out of my depth pushing back a little.)

    • Erik Loomis says:

      There’s no question that in political debates, NAFTA stands in for a lot of other issues surrounding what NAFTA covered. But there’s also no question that NAFTA was a disaster for both American and Mexican workers.

      • Warren Terra says:

        My understanding is that there’s very little evidence NAFTA was particularly bad for Americans, that economists say it caused minor job losses or minor job gains (terrible for Mexicans, I’ll grant you).

      • The Lorax says:

        It was a disaster for some American workers. A boon for many of the rest of us in terms of cheaper goods. And a boon for Mexican workers.

        • tsam says:

          https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/01/03/years-nafta-didn-close-mexico-wage-gap/98fzn74R3JKhA5YpYaWZIJ/story.html

          According to what seems like a fairly well sourced article, “boon” might be overstating it a bit. There seems to have been improvements in some areas, stagnation and backsliding in others. It’s a bit more complicated than a single word can describe, but it’s certainly not a new golden age that was promised.

          • The Lorax says:

            That seems right. It has been a moderate-strong net positive overall for Mexican workers. Not what was hoped for, for sure.

            • DocAmazing says:

              NAFTA has done terrible things to the Mexican agricultural sector, and that has prompted an exodus to Mexico’s cities. Maquiladoras and “free-trade zones” aren’t, on balance, good things, either.

          • CD says:

            Exactly. You have winners and losers and it takes a lot of work to sort it all out. Who promised a new golden age? If we’re choosing between “disaster” and “golden age” we’re in the yelling business and not the figuring-shit-out business.

            Additionally, the *trade* parts of NAFTA were mostly in place before NAFTA went into effect dating more or less to Mexico joining GATT in 1985. E.g. Mexican car parts exports were already growing robustly when I was there in the early 1990s. The “disaster” crowd tends to attribute everything since 1994 to “NAFTA” without bothering to sort out causes and effects.

      • Srsly Dad Y says:

        This is a fun discussion of all that by Jeff Faux.

      • CD says:

        But there’s also no question that NAFTA was a disaster for both American and Mexican workers.

        I’m not cheerleading or anything, but this is very much in question, and “disaster” is Trumpian hyperbole. What’s your evidence? What exactly happened to which groups of people?

  8. Brautigan says:

    Hillary did, in fact, lay out very well the program to address this issue: infrastructure investments (thus jobs) in rust-belt states, funded by higher taxes on the wealthy.

    She just didn’t do a very good job of connecting the solution to the problem.

    At the end of the day, this is really the ONLY answer to these issues – employing people producing public goods by taxing the rents on “disruptive” technology.

  9. Joe_JP says:

    And of course I know all the other ways that Hillary Clinton is actually better for the working class than Trump. But you can’t expect the average low-information voter to know that.

    I actually do expect the average low-information voter to have some sense that Trump is a rich elite business person who on average is likely not to care about workers and get a sense he’s an idiot who if you trusted him with power would be horrible. More so if you were a woman or minority.

    I don’t expect them to know the details of NAFTA or something. The details including the ability to abrogate confuses many. But, not really necessary. Hillary Clinton didn’t pass NAFTA either though as with attacks on Bill Clinton’s treatment of women, apparently it is also supposed to be her fault in the eyes of some people (to forestall confusion, no one here). Trump’s ability like the usual grifter to find what people are concerned about to some extent shouldn’t be denied, is true. Know the danger.

    ====

    Dilan Esper’s comment about the car putting people out of work and that safety, convenience etc. (not just “precisely one reason: so that companies can profit on not employing truck drivers or taxi drivers”) being part of the reason for the self-driving car wasn’t really answered by saying he didn’t know what “Luddite” means and calling his comment “word salad.” Likewise, various technologies causes unemployment and he specifically noted “there’s a real issue as to whether an automated society will create a jobs crisis. That’s been written about, and it’s an issue worthy of serious discussion.”

  10. I don’t see what’s going to happen on globalization. I don’t see a path where there’s any criticism of it that affects the center (which I think is needed if it’s going to affect politicians like Clinton or Congressional leaders) except from Trump-like populists who are too out of control to be brought back by the Kochies, and possibly a populist left that borrows rightwing rhetoric. Too many of the arguments in its favor appeal to people on or towards the left, and there seems to be little out there to support limits on it in a principled way.

    I hope I’ll quickly be proved to have spoken too soon, as usually happens.

  11. King Goat says:

    Yup. And we all should have known this glaring potential weakness was one of several that came with the SUPERGENIUS choice of HRC.

    • tsam says:

      Which one of us didn’t know that? I missed the part where Clinton’s kinda crappy position on trade was some new revelation.

    • a_paul_in_mtl says:

      Sure, that’s a weakness. However, Bernie Sanders also had weaknesses. Both candidates had their combinations of strengths and weaknesses, and the Democratic primary voters decided.

      It wasn’t the decision I wanted, but let’s not imagine for a moment that Bernie would be coasting to victory at this point. Sure, he wouldn’t be hobbled by support for free trade ideology, but he would be by his self-description as a “democratic socialist”.

      I am a socialist myself, but I am under no illusion that more than a minority of Americans are going to be immediately keen on anything labelled as “socialist”.

      So, in a fight between two opponents of free trade, one of whom proposes a “socialist” alternative to free trade, the other who simply proposes to stick it to the foreign cheaters with his brilliant leadership, awesome business acumen and splendiforous deal-making, which do you think is likely to go over better with the “low information voters” to whom Erik refers? Especially when you consider that the mainstream media would paint both as at least equally dangerous and red-bait like mad. Would Sanders actually be less vulnerable at this point? We’ll never know, but the answer is far from being as blindingly obvious as you suggest.

      • King Goat says:

        Sanders would have been worse, agreed. The question is, what was wrong with our nominating process that yielded two candidates one of which is struggling with and another which would have done even worse against a GOP nominee aptly described as an ‘objectively terrible candidate?’

        • sibusisodan says:

          The answer is: nothing much. A nomination process can’t deliver candidates who don’t exist.

          • King Goat says:

            So we should be happy with our system that gave us what looks increasingly like a loss to…Donald Fucking Trump? I mean, we’ve won five of the last six popular votes, but yeah, there really was nothing our process could have done better in the face of the objectively terrible candidate the other side chose. We were just destined to lose despite having the SUPERGENIUS choice we made! No self reflection warranted here, only a Bernie Bro or right wing troll would say such a thing!

            • sibusisodan says:

              Who said anything about being happy with it?

              I’m just reminding you that the candidates you claim to want don’t exist. Their non-existence is not due to the nomination process.

              • King Goat says:

                We can work to change two things:

                1. Structural features of our nomination nominating process
                2. The political astuteness of our fellow party members
                As to the first, superdelegates and DNC leadership worked to disincent challenges to HRC. As to second, we were arrogant, spoiled after two terms of Obama into thinking we could get away with a candidate we personally like for years of service but who had major known liabilities.

                • Breadbaker says:

                  Of course, at this point, Hillary is to the left of Obama on trade. TPP is his baby.

                • djw says:

                  I agree that it would be better if the superdelegates went away, for a variety of reasons, but the notion that a bunch of other strong candidates were likely to have run if not for the superdelegates is patently absurd. They demonstrated eight years ago they weren’t going to overturn the will of the voters on behalf of Clinton. Anyone considering a run would have known enough about the party to know that superdelegate support couldn’t be counted on if you couldn’t win the elections, because the party insiders aren’t so stupid as to actually tear the party apart by overturning the will of the voters. After 2008, how could this be any clearer?

            • tsam says:

              As soon as you figure out how to make magic candidates appear and get elected, you let us know.

            • witlesschum says:

              The specific fixes to the Democrats’ nominating processes that give us better candidates than Clinton or Sanders are what though?

              I have a number of things I’d like to change, starting with screw Iowa and double screw New Hampshire, but I’m not sure how a rotating national primary of groups of 10 demographically-balanced states on five weekends in May and June stops someone like Clinton who’s popular inside the party, but less so outside (leaving aside how much bullshit the second part is) from winning a nomination decided by bunches of Democrats.

              The Republicans have been more openly tinkering with their presidential nominating processes with the intent of getting better nominees for the last three election cycles and the result of those reforms was apparently a victory by an incoherent, openly dim celebrity who seems likely to lose to what we’re told is a terrible Democratic nominee.

            • Manny Kant says:

              Increasingly?

        • ColBatGuano says:

          Hate to break it to you, but it’s not the nominating process that’s the problem. When 40% of the country can find an openly racist candidate acceptable, you just have to accept that there are a lot of uninformed people out there.

        • JustRuss says:

          Nobody with a (D) is going to coast to victory. Hell, if Obama were running it would probably be stupidly close, because the right wing noise machine would be ginning up phony scandals about him which the MSM would dutifully replicate in the interest of “balance”.

          Now Obama has the advantage of having actually run the country for 8 years without destroying it or taking everyone’s guns away. Aside from Bill Clinton, who else could we run who can say that?

      • a_paul_in_mtl says:

        Ah, yes, now I remember King Goat from previous threads: as I recall, he thought Sanders was awful too. All his posting as far as I can recall has consisted of demands that the Democratic Party conjure up some Platonic Ideal of a candidate who, I suppose given his comment here, would have to be opposed to free trade ideology- a specification I don’t recall seeing from his anywhere else but which he has now conveniently jumped on. Well, perhaps I am being uncharitable and I just missed that. Perhaps King Goat simply forgot to mention it for some reason. Or possibly King Goat is, in fact, a troll.

    • brewmn says:

      It’s especially funny that you stroll in here to tell us how bad our candidate is the day after she proved herself the far superior alternative in the opinion of almost every observer of last night’s debate. All 100 million of them.

      And, no, I don’t think Sanders would have been half as good last night either.

      • tsam says:

        Just you wait for the next debate. Trump will begin the New Socialist Revolution because Hilary Suuuuuuckkkkss..

      • JustRuss says:

        And, no, I don’t think Sanders would have been half as good last night either.

        I don’t know, I really enjoyed Grumpy Old Men.

      • nemdam says:

        At the mistake of relitigating the primary, is there any doubt that Clinton was way better than Sanders would have been in the debate? I try very hard to not talk about the difference in how Sanders would be running against Trump since it’s ultimately pointless, my opinion is I don’t think it would be pretty, and it just causes flame wars. But last night sealed any doubts I had that Clinton is at the very worst even but more likely superior to Sanders as a general election candidate.

    • veleda_k says:

      Unlike the sparkly unicorn from sunshine land who should have been the Democratic nominee.

    • Manny Kant says:

      Dude, give it a rest.

  12. Nobdy says:

    More and more I think the answer to “what should we do with these workers?” should be “hire them to massively improve American infrastructure.” We need it. We can borrow money for free. It would help generate other jobs as well and have all kinds of social benefits.

    If basic income is culturally impossible, fine, let’s put people to useful work instead of creating artificial jobs through restraint on trade and tech.

    I realize that the Republicans will block all of this, but it is hard to come up with policy solutions that are acceptable to people who hate government and are dedicated to its failure.

    • N__B says:

      You know what’s a good fit for the existing skills auto workers have? Making steel windmills. If only we could find a use for windmills…

    • Basic income is the #1 thing that needs to be done to deal with job losses that will inevitably be caused by advances in automation, yes (and to be fair, you pretty much implied this, but noted that isn’t likely to happen with the current Congress), but I agree that infrastructure should be the #2 thing. In particular, if we put about ten years into at the scale of the WPA, we could probably create the infrastructure necessary to run the entire country on renewable energy. There was that proposal a couple years ago for making all existing roads into solar panels, which seems like a great idea (and, as supporters of the idea have noted, will eventually pay for itself if it works as hoped). The steel windmills N__B mentions are also a good idea.

  13. solidcitizen says:

    Trump only kills on trade if people who are not already his supporters think “Make them bring the jobs back” is some sort of policy proposal. Tax the fuck out of imports may sound good, but then Trump is literally calling for increased taxes, which should be a problem for him.

    One of the reasons that Hillary does not have a good response on this is because Democrats have been trained that as soon as they say “increase taxes” the GOP and the media go nuts. If the Democrats talk dreamily about job retraining, education, and disruption it’s because those are the only possible solutions to the problem. “Make them relocate to the US” is not a realistic solution to the problem or has not been in our political discourse until this year. Not that I have seen any actual tariff proposals from the GOP leadership.

    The other problem that Dems have is that the plight of Americans manufacturing began long before NAFTA or trade deals. You say it began in 1965 with increased support for capital mobility. I will point to decades of profit taking instead of investment in new technologies. Youngstown collapsed long before NAFTA. At this point though, everyone seems to agree that the trade deals killed American manufacturing. So how does Hillary offer solutions to a problem when the cause has been misidentified?

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I don’t know, but I feel that if Hillary had a real plan to create millions of good working-class jobs that was believable (not that such a plan would be easy to figure out of course) that the trade part of the debate would go away.

      • nemdam says:

        I actually think it wouldn’t. On the right, I have this suspicion that just like how economic concerns about immigration are secondary to cultural concerns, with trade, I think the animating factor is “We don’t want to trade with foreigners!” instead of how it effects jobs.

        Note that I am not saying free trade isn’t an issue. I’m just stating what I think animates anti-free traders on the right.

      • nemdam says:

        Also, doesn’t Hillary have a reasonably credible plan to create good working-class jobs? Doesn’t she have a big infrastructure and clean energy investment plan that would indeed create millions of good jobs? I’m not disputing your claim, I’m just genuinely curious.

      • The Lorax says:

        She does have a plan to do this.

      • ColBatGuano says:

        She does have a plan, as others refer to above. The problem is that it doesn’t reduce to a monosyllabic, three word slogan.

      • gkclarkson says:

        Do we have to contemplate that maybe, in terms of wealth distribution and human nature, the time in the USA between 1945 to about 1995 is the anomaly, and that all other societies during all other times may be the norm?

      • Nobody has a plan to create millions of good working-class jobs, if by that you mean well – paid assembly jobs in factories. Anywhere. Modi wants to create 24 million manufacturing jobs in India. It’s not going to work. Manufacturing is starting to decline globally, in weight of output and in number of workers. Coal is down, steel is down, paper is down. You can bring manufacturing back to the US from China – but not the jobs that used to go with it.

        • Brett says:

          That’s the joke, isn’t it? Brad DeLong hit on this a few weeks back when he pointed out that sans trade with China manufacturing employment in the US would be . . . 12% of workers, instead of 9% of them. And there were major reductions in manufacturing jobs during the Postwar Period that we’ve mostly forgotten about – the high point of manufacturing employment was in the 1930s or 1940s.

          Manufacturing is not the future of jobs for the working class. It’s got to be Service Sector/Office jobs, so focusing on improving them and improving worker incomes would be the best idea.

          • so-in-so says:

            So, a looming or ongoing world wide conflict is the key.

            Maintaining the U.S. homeland unscathed while the rest of the major manufacturing centers get bombed or overrun is also helpful.

            Neither seems like a good option in the future.

      • Brien Jackson says:

        With all due respect….this continuing line of commentary is pushing you into borderline Firebagger territory at this point.

      • kped says:

        Christ this is some hacky analysis. You think “the trade part of the debate would go away”? Really? What election are you watching? Honest question. Because the election I’m watching has an unrepentant racist who is lying about everything, and that’s why he is getting the majority of his support (the racism mostly, but his fans like the lying).

        Seriously Erik, you are trying to fit this election into your specialty (trade, workers rights), and it’s just completely missing what is actually happening on the ground.

        Now, the stuff you talk about are important issues, but it’s not why Trump is doing well. His supporters are the same supporters Romney and Bush and Reagan had. Tell me why trade is their big deal breaker today, but didn’t matter all the other elections? I’ll wait…

        • Seriously. Trump would just holler “NAFTA, it was a terrible deal, and you did it” no matter what Clinton did or said. This is a guy who said Clinton has been fighting ISIS her entire adult life. This is a guy who blamed her for the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. His attack pattern is completely fact-immune.

    • The Lorax says:

      That’s really interesting. Someone should run the numbers: That flatscreen TV that costs $800? Under Trump’s plan it would cost $1200.

  14. Sebastian_h says:

    This resonates for me the same way the recent crooked timber thread did:
    Trump is just so clearly out of the bounds of even remotely a good president that it is ridiculous. Clinton is within the bounds, but she represents all that I don’t like about what an in-bounds politician does. It is frustrating that we can’t usefully talk about how the Clintons stretch in-bounds corruption because the only alternative is at least 3 times further. It is frustrating that attempts at discussion about a Democratic nominee having hyper-hawkish tendencies have to be informed by contrast to a person whose foreign policy instincts are idiotic and may have been captured by Putin. Clinton looks exactly like the kind of candidate I would like to say that I just can’t vote for, but the state of the country is such that it is too dangerous to even risk the alternative.

    Its frustrating after Obama, one of the first Presidents I felt like I could vote for instead of just against the opponent, that we are immediately thrust into such a horrible lesser-of-evils situation.

    The Democratic Party is the best we have, but it is sad because Clinton isn’t nearly the best we could have in the Democratic Party. It speaks poorly of something about the early process of controlling the levers of power (I mean well before Sanders entered the race) that we ended up with Clinton.

    • Gregor Sansa says:

      OK, we’re listening. How do “the Clintons” stretch in-bounds corruption? From where I’m sitting, Hillary looks to be cleaner than any president in the past 50 years except Obama, and the fact that Bill is included in that set is a good thing about her, not a bad one.

    • Warren Terra says:

      Who else was quite certain before this comment that Sebastian_h was a Republican? Who else still has lingering doubts?

    • Murc says:

      It is frustrating that we can’t usefully talk about how the Clintons stretch in-bounds corruption because the only alternative is at least 3 times further.

      No, we can’t talk usefully about how the Clintons stretch in-bounds corruption because the Clintons aren’t corrupt.

      God. I seriously don’t like Hillary Clinton for a whole host of reasons but they’re because I disagree with policy positions she’s strongly held and advanced over three years in public life. I don’t dislike her because I think she’s got her hand out, because she doesn’t.

      Its frustrating after Obama, one of the first Presidents I felt like I could vote for instead of just against the opponent

      … Obama and Clinton, policy-wise, are basically the same person. Obama is not as hawkish. That’s it. That’s the only difference. If you could not just vote for Obama, but vote for Obama happily, and think Clinton would normally be a bridge too far, the problem is with you, not with Clinton.

      • nemdam says:

        And I’d like to add, Obama and Clinton have very similar foreign policy worldviews. They both believe in American exceptionalism, a strong military, being tough on terror, etc. The only main difference I see is that Clinton views military force as a somewhat more useful tool for advancing American interests than Obama. I really don’t see any difference between the two except for this at most moderate divergence.

        • Murc says:

          I really don’t see any difference between the two except for this at most moderate divergence.

          Clinton would probably have us way more engaged in the unending quagmire that is Syria than Obama does. That’s not the biggest difference in the world but it is a meaningful one.

          • nemdam says:

            I’ve heard this before, but specifically how? I know she wants to do a no fly zone in Syria with the Russians to protect civilians. But she has repeatedly stated she isn’t sending ground troops, and I believe her because her base would revolt if she did this. But other than that, how is she different than Obama? And I do understand that when the civil war broke out that she supported arming the rebels (which was problematic), but I’m almost positive she doesn’t want to do that anymore.

            • Murc says:

              And I do understand that when the civil war broke out that she supported arming the rebels (which was problematic), but I’m almost positive she doesn’t want to do that anymore.

              Yeah, but if she’d been in charge at the time she would have done it, and then when that didn’t work she probably wouldn’t have withdrawn, she’d have doubled down. She has always been very big on projecting “resolve” and “credibility” whereas Obama cares a lot less about both those things.

              • Brien Jackson says:

                What is the definition of “didn’t work,” here? I think it’s quite a stretch to assert that the rebels wouldn’t have been able to drive Assad out of the country with overt U.S. backing around the beginning of the conflict (or especially if it was a strong reaction to reported use of chemical weapons), and while that wouldn’t have made the country a flourishing utopia by any stretch, it would have erased the Assad/Putin terror bombing campaign and almost certainly have saved lives in the six figure territory.

                • Murc says:

                  Right up to the point where the “rebels” all turned on each other after ousting Assad, because many of the various anti-Assad factions hate each other and also hate us. Hell, ISIS are part of the “rebels” in the sense that they’re fighting against Assad.

                  We could, of course, have picked one faction and made them our special guys and backed them against all the others. Oop! Now we’re responsible for ANOTHER simmering cauldron of fucked-upness in the Middle East.

                  There is not now nor has there ever been a winning move in Syria. Provide humanitarian aid where capable and take in all the refugees who want taking in, but aside from that the only winning move is not to play.

                • Brien Jackson says:

                  I don’t see how this contradicts anything I said. Yes, you’d have likely ended up with fighting segments of rebels post Assad, but it seems unlikely that this fighting would have produced anywhere near the casualty levels that the Assad/Putin strategy of using their air forces to cause as many casualties as possible has. There’s an argument to be made that the counterfactual possibilities wouldn’t be worth the resource expenditures they’d require for likely outcomes, but at this point there’s no really believable argument to be made that more direct American involvement in the early stages would have created a WORSE set of circumstances than we have now.

                • Manny Kant says:

                  I rather think Brien has the better of this. The obvious counterexample here is Libya, where we did support the rebels against Gaddafi, they won pretty easily, and then the country collapsed into a kind of shambling chaos.

                  That’s a shitty situation, but it does seem better than the situation in Syria. A lot of people seem to believe that because the US can’t fix things magically, and because US interventions can leave messy aftermaths, that means they’re usually or always counterproductive. I’m not sure that’s the case.

                  I don’t blame Obama for not getting more involved, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable to think that getting more involved would have had better outcomes than our actual policies.

                • Murc says:

                  The obvious counterexample here is Libya, where we did support the rebels against Gaddafi, they won pretty easily, and then the country collapsed into a kind of shambling chaos.

                  How the heck is that a counter-example? We invested a bunch of time, effort, and money into Libya and the country collapsed into a shambling chaos, the superiority of which to Gaddafi is unclear to me.

                  Leaving aside the obvious illegality of our intervention there, if that was our best-case scenario we shouldn’t have gotten involved there either.

                • Manny Kant says:

                  I think the shambling chaos of Libya is probably marginally better than then continuing civil war in Syria. The basic thing is that there’s no good outcomes in these kinds of situations, and Clinton’s preferred action on Syria doesn’t look like it would have obviously been worse than what we actually did.

                • Brien Jackson says:

                  “How the heck is that a counter-example? We invested a bunch of time, effort, and money into Libya and the country collapsed into a shambling chaos, the superiority of which to Gaddafi is unclear to me. ”

                  It continues to amaze me that legitimately smart people on the left can think in terms like this. No, I suppose it’s not clear that leaving Gaddafi would have been any worse….assuming we ignore the hundreds of thousands of people he would have killed in putting down the rebellion and retaliating for it. Ya know….just like Assad has done! So yes, Libya is messy and Syria is messy, but the latter seems quite likely to produce half a million civilian deaths OR MORE! before the conflict ends, not only destabalized the country and region letting ISIS flourished but nearly produced conflict between Russia and Turkey, a NATO member, and created a refugee crisis that’s not only a humanitarian disaster of historical scale but has also fueld the rise of right-wing groups in European politics.

                  If you can’t see how Syria is much worse than Libya right now even if the latter is certainly a clusterfuck, then I’m not even sure there’s room here for a productive discussion. We’re either not dealing from the same reality or the argument is that we’re supposed to look at intervention from a Trumpian return on investment standpoint, I guess.

                • Murc says:

                  It continues to amaze me that legitimately smart people on the left can think in terms like this.

                  Yeah, how dare I demand that our interventions actually be effective. I’m a monster!

                  No, I suppose it’s not clear that leaving Gaddafi would have been any worse….assuming we ignore the hundreds of thousands of people he would have killed in putting down the rebellion and retaliating for it.

                  As opposed to the thousands of people who will die before Libya finally shakes itself out, most likely under a new strongman who is little better than Gaddafi.

                  I again fail to see how that’s a superior outcome to having done nothing.

                  So yes, Libya is messy and Syria is messy, but the latter seems quite likely to produce half a million civilian deaths OR MORE! before the conflict ends, not only destabalized the country and region letting ISIS flourished but nearly produced conflict between Russia and Turkey, a NATO member, and created a refugee crisis that’s not only a humanitarian disaster of historical scale but has also fueld the rise of right-wing groups in European politics.

                  I don’t see how we either could have or can prevent any of that from happening anyway. If we’d intervened strongly to take down Assad, there’s a better-than-even chance ISIS ends up running the show in Damascus. Then we have to intervene to overthrow them. Then we have to continually intervene to keep whatever faction we’ve decided to prop up in charge.

                  There’s not an outcome in Syria that’s both superior to what’s happening now and which we have the competence as a nation-state to make happen. This makes the smart move to not engage.

                  the argument is that we’re supposed to look at intervention from a Trumpian return on investment standpoint, I guess.

                  Are we not supposed to look at intervention from a standpoint of “if we invest time, money, and other resources into this, what will the return be?” Because I’m pretty sure that’s the only sensible way to look at it.

              • so-in-so says:

                I guess the question would be if Syria was always going to be more of a mess because of it’s size and location, and Libya less so for the same considerations?

                I’m also not sure if the destruction of Benghazi by government troops and artillery would have caused more or less casualties than the months/years of fighting that followed our intervention. It’s hard to say, because we don’t know how long it would have taken the Libyan army to suppress rebels, and if that would have ended to situation or if the rebellion would have grown in other ways.

      • witlesschum says:

        The Clintons aren’t corrupt at all in the sense of Duke Cunningham political corruption. They’re not exceptional in getting of huge campaign donations with the presumed access and favoritism to the donors and their opinions.

        But if you accept that anyone who’s got as much money as they do (apparently it’s somewhere between $11 and $50 million? Big range, just don’t believe what Skeletor PAC has to say on the subject) is an enthusiastic part of a system that functions as morally indistinguishable from corruption and is, in fact, much worse because it’s all entirely legal and above-board. They obtained political power and then got extremely rich. They didn’t invent the system and they didn’t break any of its rules in doing so and they seem like they even play by those more scrupulously and honestly than most of their peers. But their fortune is like the tell tale heart that shows they’ve got more than their fair share.

        It’s a subtle point to litigate while Donald Trump is trying to lead Republicans in lighting everything on fire, but this a political blog comment section.

  15. SIS1 says:

    What ever happened to realizing that Labor is Toil, and that the alienation of people from their labor is not a good thing?

    What we need to figure out as a society is a better way to distribute the fruits of our production in a way that is not basically reliant on people renting themselves out, because sooner rather than later that will no longer be profitable.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      This is meaningless theory except for the issue that with automation there aren’t going to be any jobs left.

      • SIS1 says:

        What is meaningless theory? That automation is coming one way or the other or that we need to figure out what to do when human labor inherently becomes the more expensive, less productive, less efficient alternative?

        • a_paul_in_mtl says:

          Automation is coming, but who controls it? Who wields it as a weapon? Who benefits from it, and who pays for it?

          • SIS1 says:

            Jacobin had an interesting set of articles several years ago about what they saw as the four possible outcomes for the future, from one in which ownership of the means of production were widely shared and actually led to widespread prosperity, to the one where ownership was narrowly held, and this led to great misery if not worse for the majority.

            https://www.jacobinmag.com/2011/12/four-futures/

            My issue with Loomis is that he seems wedded to the present, as if we can actually stand in the way of process. Unless we suffer some great tragedy in the near future, which is quite possible just randomly or due to climate change and what its bringing, the whole rationale of capitalism will make most human labor pointless. We can either start brainstorming now, or wait for the eventual tragedy. But acting as if we can stop it is absurd.

            • McAllen says:

              I honestly see it as more likely that we can stop automation, or at least delay it, than that we can restructure society such that widespread permanent unemployment isn’t a disaster.

              • a_paul_in_mtl says:

                But how would we stop automation? I can see a decent rationale for putting off the process of getting driverless vehicles on the road, but what of automation in factories?

                • McAllen says:

                  I don’t have any great ideas here, frankly. it just seems like stopping automation requires a shift in our policy, whereas changing society to accommodate permanent unemployment requires a shift in our societal ideas about work and human value.

                • ARM license computer processors. 15 billion of them a year now. There are already well over ten times as many computers as people. Ten years from now there will be a hundred times as many. Your toaster may not have as many capabilities as you, but in its narrow way it will be cleverer.

                • Manny Kant says:

                  When has purposefully stopping technological change ever happened?

                  Never

                  When has shifting our societal ideas about work and human value? Several times. In eighteenth century Europe, for instance, it was considered vulgar to have to do work.

              • SIS1 says:

                What would be the legal basis for preventing automation? Seems to me that would be as significant a challenge to private ownership rights as any actions we might need to take to spread the benefits of production would be.

        • McAllen says:

          Are we as a society capable of figuring out what to do right now? I have my doubts.

          • SIS1 says:

            As a person who is not inherently an optimist, I do not question that perhaps we will fail to adjust and that tragedy is coming.

            The issue I have with Loomis is his failure of imagination, as it were.

      • Bloix says:

        “with automation there aren’t going to be any jobs left.”

        A hundred and twenty years ago almost all children worked. They cleaned houses, washed and ironed clothes, picked cotton, mucked out stables, fed, curried, and watered horses, swept streets and cleaned chimneys, carried packages and messages, worked in textile mills, coal mines, glass factories, canneries.

        Then we got the telephone, the internal combustion engine, electrification, central heating – and gradually we realized that we didn’t need child labor.

        Did we say, Oh, no! The children will all be unemployed and their families will starve! We must outlaw automobiles and washing machines so stable boys and laundry maids will keep their jobs!

        No, we said, this is great! With so much more productivity, society doesn’t need the labor of people under 16 anymore, so we’ll outlaw child labor and the little ones can go to school! And today most people in the US under 18 don’t work, and many don’t enter the labor force until their early 20s.

        I am bewildered by people who say, we cannot solve the political problem of reduced demand for labor, so the only solution is to stop the technological advances that cause that reduction. It would be much easier to solve the political problem than to stop the technological advances.

        • Linnaeus says:

          No, we said, this is great!

          We also threw a lot of people onto the industrial scrap heap and didn’t get serious about doing anything to deal with that for several decades.

        • LWA says:

          The political solution to the societal disruption of the Gilded Age was indeed solved, but there was a fair amount of blood shed.

          I am hoping the solution to this Gilded Age doesn’t follow the same path, but we should at least grasp that those who have accumulated vast fortunes aren’t going to part with it easily.

  16. King Goat says:

    Dont be silly, after their free college these people will all be employed making solar panels to be installed everywhere via tax credits.

    • PJ says:

      Wow, you really are a right-wing troll.

    • D.N. Nation says:

      Ooh, now do an arugula joke! You are most certainly not a ratfucking wingnut!

      • King Goat says:

        I like arugula. And solar panels actually. But I also am not so weak in my liberalism or devoid of a bit of sense of humor that I fear a little of the latter is somehow going to magically curse the political prospects of the former. Especially when the caricature is actually dangerously close to reality. I’m old enough to remember when Bill Clinton pushed trade deals but optimistically assured us all that the working class would just get degrees and become the knowledge class. The knowledge class was the feel good thing for us liberals then (note: I like the knowledge class!) like today it’s ‘invest in solar energy jobs’ (note: I like solar energy jobs), but in both cases there are not enough potential jobs/it’s not something every displaced working class person can or will do, so it’s a terrible, callous answer to a really painful problem, but dressed up with something nice and fashionable sounding on the left. Like a turd sandwich but topped with organic arugula.

    • solidcitizen says:

      Sounds good. And, for Hillary, it’s debt-free college, not “free” college. Being employed making solar panels is a good manufacturing job. Assuming that it pays a living wage, sounds like a great career choice. Makes sense to give people an incentive to get off fossil-fuel driven energy. If we use the subsidies we currently give to oil companies for solar panels, sounds like we could be off the grid soon.

  17. FDChief says:

    The reason I have a problem buying the “Trump wins on free trade hands-down” argument is the it’s so obvious that HE has no good ideas either. His “answer” last night was “tax cuts” which might con a wingnut already predisposed to believe in magical ponies but was clearly bullshit on its’ face when you consider the cost v savings to the corporation in workers’ pay.

    Not saying that Clinton isn’t vulnerable on the issue. But the GOP love of plutocracy, which Trump shares, means their “solutions” are arrant nonsense. This is an issue that helps Trump only with his orc legions…

  18. a_paul_in_mtl says:

    From the beginning of the modern era of capital mobility in 1965, both Republican and Democratic policymakers have largely supported widescale corporate flight overseas in the name of profits.

    Yes. However, it is not so easy to put the genie back in the bottle so to speak. NAFTA has been an awful “trade” deal. Worst of all was its effect on Mexican farmers and farm workers, many of whom became the very migrants Trump now rails against.

    However, I am not convinced that even repealing NAFTA (which I don’t think Trump would actually do anyway) would, on its own, result in the return of the well-paid unionized jobs of yore. After all, the other issue Erik points to here is automation. Even if U.S. manufacturing came back, companies would save on labor costs through automation. In fact, those manufacturers that remain are doing precisely that. How do we address that? As long as the corporate bottom line is put ahead of the interests of working people in this country, that will continue.

    So my question is: what should be on offer for the working people who are being displaced by corporate greed?

    • Erik Loomis says:

      Agreed. These are very difficult issues. That’s what I am trying to work out in Out of Sight and my other writings.

      • a_paul_in_mtl says:

        Yes, that reminds me: I must put that book on my Christmas list. I look forward to reading it.

      • glasnost says:

        If you reduce the complexity to certain bottom-line empirical questions, it becomes very simple.

        First, as a truth, increasingly large fractions of the American population are becoming less employable and more disaffected, because of both price competition with developing countries and because of automation.

        Second, even if price competition with developing countries went away, automation would get to the same place.

        Third, the only two solutions we can come up with are: first, redistributive compensation from the state, or second, stop and if neccessary reverse automation. Ban technology. Ban the use of it. Put people who attempt to use it in jail. The end.

        It’s depressing and frustrating just how few people – even liberals/progressives, will go anywhere near the second idea. It’s the ultimate taboo. Most people are blinded by the myopia of their interpretation that this is impossible.

        Of course it’s not impossible. Intellectual property laws, ironically, show just how easy it is to strangle the use of technology. Imagine a patent, held by only one company. Now subtract one company.

        We, the people, own civilization. We decide what tools shall be used to build and maintain it. Yes, we can make a deliberate choice to refuse efficiency in the name of keeping human work valuable. I have absolutely no faith in the ability – and I mean ability – of democracy or society to bring basic income to large fractions of the populace. If you’re not useful, you get shit on in the end, every time.

        To preserve the utility of the electorate, technological progress must be evaluated on its labor replacement basis. If it replaces a lot of labor, get rid of it. Stop the motor of technological advancement.

        Ultimately this will require global coordination to avoid getting out-competed with by other nations. That’s in reach in this era.

        • so-in-so says:

          Jailing people for using technology is probably not possible in a democratic society, nor in a global economy where the automation would simply be placed off-shore.

          Name ONE historical case where a technology that would increase productivity at the cost of jobs was significantly delayed to preserve society.

          • Manny Kant says:

            glasnost’s post is fascinating, because he’s clear-sighted enough to pose the alternatives correctly, I think, but then goes off into a wild fantasy about how we can actually stop or prevent technological change.

            Given that presumably other countries might not follow our lead, what he’s proposing is not only that we stop technological progress through criminalizing use of technology, but also that we completely wall ourselves off from the rest of the world into an autarkic system.

            This is both literally insane on a practical level, and largely undesirable even if achievable (as Bloix implies above, the same logic could have been applied to virtually every major period of technological advance in world history, at least since the industrial revolution, if not before)

            More pragmatically, it’s hard for me to imagine a society that has a political will to utterly stop technological change in order to preserve jobs, but does not have the political will for redistribution. Even if both were achievable, how is redistribution not clearly the more desirable of the two options? Is the argument that banning technological progress (something which has never been done) is more achievable than redistribution (which has been done)?

            • sonamib says:

              Exactly. I mean, I get that wealth redistribution might feel hard, especially in the USA, but… some countries do it quite well. Denmark isn’t perfect, but the social safety net there is very good. If the USA gets there it will help a lot more people than opposition to automation would.

              And as you point out, banning technological progress has no precedent. And better social safety nets already exist, right now, in some Nordic countries!

            • Linnaeus says:

              At risk of sounding banal, yes, I agree that stopping technological development is neither feasible nor desireable. That said, I do think that the broader discourse about technological development in our culture is rather one-sided: technological progress has no ill effects. Even when there is some admission that there are problems created by progress, we usually get some form of 1) well, it’s the fault of those affected for not “adapting” or being “efficient” or 2) hey, shit happens, whaddyagonnado? Why are you against progress?

              So even if I don’t agree with everything Erik (for example) posts on technology, I do think that his pointing out some of the social costs of technological development is worth consideration. It’s a useful corrective to some degree.

              ETA: To boil this down a bit more, better redistribution would be a good direction to take, but we’re not going to get there if we aren’t willing to identify the problem.

              • Manny Kant says:

                I certainly don’t disagree. We need to be much more clear-eyed about this stuff. But the second half of Glasnost’s post seems virtually insane to me.

                • so-in-so says:

                  I suppose you could go all in for a Global Dictatorship of the Proletariat, but the earlier attempts failed pretty miserably and if you can’t imagine the U.S. getting to a GMI level of redistribution than a “benign” global authoritarian jailing people (for the WORKER’S benefit) who invent robots is a really heavy lift.

            • glasnost says:

              I’m well aware of how virtually insane it seems to you, but you’re wrong. I don’t have detailed case studies handy, but the implementation of technological breakthroughs occurs at different speeds all the time because of resistance. Prior civilizations banned devices and technologies. Today, you’re not allowed to own a bulletproof vest. In contintental Europe, you’re not allowed to own a firearm.

              The fact that you literally can’t imagine this is a product of the myths that your generation has come to accept, although it’s ironic because a great liberal cause of this era, gun control, is about BANNING A DEVICE.

              The challenge, and the undoing of prior attempts, is that first, the struggle is never over, and second, other civilizations outpacing you. But the possibility for global coordination is vastly higher now at any point in history. Shit needs to be banned globally, not just in America. Before you scoff, every major policy problem of this era, from global warming to drug abuse to financial regulation, needs global implementation.

              We can fix it.

              Yes, it’s more achieveable than redistribution for a simple reason. Redistribution on a serious, actually equitable level requires taking things away from people. Banning technology prevents gains, but doesn’t impose losses. Banning self-driving cars today would be vastly fucking easier than passing a comprehensive suite of estate, capital gains, asset and income taxes, preventing evasion, and implementing capital controls.

              • so-in-so says:

                Last I checked, the police own and use “bullet proof vests”. The military and police own firearms in Europe, and so do civilians under more restrictive circumstances. Neither of those is an example of banning a device simply to preserve employment by restricting the efficiency of production.

                • glasnost says:

                  You’re totally goal-shifting. The next thing I’m going to mention is banning the use of lead in gasoline. And you’ll say,


                  those is an example of banning a device simply to preserve employment by restricting the efficiency of production.

                  Yes, because we don’t ban devices to preserve employment. Why? Because it’s an ideationally unknown, unheard of, “crazy” idea. But we can ban devices and technologies for all kinds of *other* reasons. It’s NOT impossible. It is absolutely not. We’re just utterly defeated at the psychological level. We refuse to imagine it. And that includes you.

                • Manny Kant says:

                  Can you give an example of anything like this? Your examples are all nonsense.

                  At any rate, in order for your point to work, you have to demonstrate at least one, and perhaps both of

                  a) that banning technology is more desirable than income redistribution; and/or

                  b) that banning technology is more feasible than income redistribution.

                  I don’t believe that either of those things is true.

    • Linnaeus says:

      What should be on offer? Let’s start with some money.

    • TroubleMaker13 says:

      ETA: removed this since it somehow ended up in the wrong place.

    • Brett says:

      I don’t think it would have saved the unionized manufacturing jobs even if NAFTA never came to be. Trade under WTO rules would have been enough, and manufacturing jobs were mostly lost in the era before the 1990s liberalizations/neoliberalism.

      As for Mexican farmers, the political trend in Mexico in the 1990s IIRC was for more privatization, the elimination of the ejidos, etc. There would have been a massive shaking out of Mexican agriculture even without NAFTA, sending millions to the cities and the US.

  19. CJColucci says:

    Does anyone have any idea WTF Trump was talking about when he ranted about Mexico’s Value Added Tax (VAT)? VAT is internal tax policy, not trade policy. VAT is, very roughly, a complicated sales tax. Of course you don’t pay a VAT on sales you make in a jurisdiction that doesn’t have one, any more than you pay the sales tax in your home jurisdiction when you sell something elsewhere. We could have a VAT anytime we felt like it, without changing a damn thing in our trade policy. Some wag once remarked that we would have a VAT when conservatives figured out that it was regressive and liberals figured out that it’s a money machine. I suspect, though, that we don’t have one because liberals have figured out that it’s regressive and conservatives have figured out that it’s a money machine.

    • Warren Terra says:

      My best bet is that he thinks it’s like American state sales taxes, and you should be able to export to Mexico without VAT being paid just like a shop in Oregon can mail-order you a package in California without you paying CA sales tax on it (so long the Oregon shop lacks a presence in California).

      • Wapiti says:

        And in time, as the government gathers more and more data on private citizens, California may be able to access those purchase records and ensure that its citizens pay the Use tax they are currently obligated to pay on out of state purchases.

      • Seitz says:

        This is a complete misunderstanding of how state sales and use taxes work, in multiple ways.

        1) The Oregon seller, if shipping to California, absolutely has to collect CA sales tax if the seller has nexus with California. If he doesn’t, it doesn’t even matter that he’s in Oregon. The nexus is what matters. He could be in Arizona, Nevada, Texas, New York, as long as he doesn’t have nexus with CA, he isn’t required to collect CA tax, regardless of the tax law in his own state.

        2) Even if he doesn’t have nexus with California, or better yet, if you go to Oregon and buy it from him directly, you still owe California use tax on the purchase if you’re taking it back to California. If you don’t pay tax to CA on that purchase, you’re filing an fraudulent tax return.

        Now, the state isn’t coming after Joe Q. Public for the $10 in tax he didn’t pay on the bong that he bought in Oregon. It’s not worth their time. But they will come after the manufacturing company, or the dry cleaner, or the law firm, etc., who buys from an out of state supplier that doesn’t charge CA tax (legally, if they don’t have nexus.) Think of it this way, unless you live in Oregon, Alaska, Montana, New Hampshire, or Delaware, you owe tax on just about every single purchase of tangible personal property (and a lot of services in some states). Just because the vendor didn’t charge it, that doesn’t mean you don’t owe it.

        That said, a VAT is almost exactly like U.S. state sales taxes. If you ship into Mexico, you don’t have to collect sales tax, but you may have to collect VAT. And that Mexican company won’t collect VAT on things they ship to the states, but they may have to collect sales tax (and even if they don’t, you’re going to owe use tax on it).

        • Warren Terra says:

          You do realize that as a practical matter of lived experience nothing you wrote is inconsistent with what I wrote?

          In point of fact, I was aware of your clarifications – but, whatever the legal obligation, for the most part the only items on which people pay state sales tax on out-of-state purchases are cars, boats, and mobile homes – hugely expensive items they have to register at their home.

          And: a VAT is unlike state sales taxes, as I understand it, because it’s on all goods entering or made in the jurisdiction, not just on sales transacted within the jurisdiction. There’s no similar out-of-area practical exception.

          • Swordsmith says:

            Also on liquor, at least in New England, where there are huge tax differences and enterprising liquor stores just on the other side of borders. And enterprising state troopers waiting in the parking lots of, for instance, Yankee Spirits just over the MA border, looking for buyers with Connecticut plates.

          • Richard Gadsden says:

            There is absolutely an ability to buy VAT-free if you’re mail-ordering to another country; US customers on amazon.co.uk can do so (except that if you do that, you’ll find that 90% of the stuff on the site can’t be sold to you because you’re in the US).

            The confusion might be a result of the EU VAT treaty. If I’m in the UK, buying from Germany, then the supplier has the choice of either charging German VAT, or registering in the UK and charging me UK VAT. If I’m in Mexico, buying from Germany, then the supplier can exempt me (as a foreigner) from German VAT and the responsibility to pay Mexican VAT falls to me as an individual instead.

            The other thing is that VAT is national, so goods shipped by mail order to private individuals are normally stopped by customs at the border and the VAT is added. If I buy from the US to here in the UK, then I get a note through the mail saying I have VAT and a handling fee to pay before my parcel will be delivered. This doesn’t apply to intra-EU mail order, which is why the EU VAT treaty exists.

            It would be like if the US states agreed an interstate compact that any mail-order supplier had to pay the sales tax of the state where they dispatch from, or register for the destination state and pay the sales tax there.

            The big difference between VAT and sales tax isn’t for the end-customer. It’s that if you’re registered for sales tax, you can buy things tax-free; if you’re registered for VAT you have to pay VAT on things you buy, but you can claim it back against what you charge on things you sell. It nets out to the same thing, but VAT works much more efficiently in practice (it’s *much* easier to administer because you, as a seller, don’t have to care who is exempt or not; you just charge everyone and they claim it back if they’re entitled to).

    • Murc says:

      K-Drum had a rundown on how ridiculous Trump’s ramblings on this were.

  20. LWA says:

    Whenever I comment about how the combination of automation and global outsourcing are destroying jobs I get a lecture on Luddism and Lump of Labor Fallacy.

    Yet…I just don’t see any jobs replacing what has been lost, I don’t see wages rising anywhere, I don’t see the position of labor being strengthened against the position of capital.
    The Lump of Labor theory as best I can tell, is that consumption always rises to produce new demand sufficient to create new jobs replacing what was lost.

    But is that always true, forever and always?
    From my perspective, robotics and computer automation have dropped the floor on production to where machines can outstrip our ability to consume it all.

    It is literally true, that Americans are already obese, and ye can’t eat enough to keep the world’s farms and slaughterhouses busy; its cheaper to throw food away than save it. We deluge the world with barely-used clothing, and so on and so forth.

    These are all statistics that champions of the global market recite with pride; yet the current structure of global trade doesn’t appear to be bringing us greater happiness or societal satisfaction or even peace.

    • a_paul_in_mtl says:

      Well, there are jobs “replacing” those that have been lost, they just are lower paying and less secure. Overall, incomes are going up most years, but these gains are concentrated among the wealthiest- most folks have gained very little financially in the last few decades, and those who are doing OK financially are often in a much more precarious situation than they would have been a generation ago.

      • LWA says:

        Right.
        And the dislocation of the “disruption” economy is ripping apart the societal cohesion that offers a convincing rationale for the distribution of wealth.

        • ColBatGuano says:

          At some point, the distribution of wealth becomes too extreme and there is a political backlash. We’ve avoided it so far, but it seems like the acceleration of income inequality may make it hard to avoid a violent reordering.

          • LWA says:

            The tilted distribution has people like me starting to question the foundations of its justification.
            For instance, look at how digital technology has become like a casino with payoffs that are so absurdly out of proportion to the labor expended.

            Uber comes to mind; the founder wrote some software, and outsources the rest of the operation.

            Why do we accept the idea that he is the rightful owner of the wealth that is created?

            What work did he do that is deserving of the fruits?
            Why does any of it even belong to him as property, before we even talk about taxing it?

  21. King Goat says:

    He was also clever enough to, whenever he talked about how awful these deals were, he gave examples of and references to key battleground states where this resonates (Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania). It really was the best part for Trump.

    In every other part he performed as one would expect-a know nothing, unprofessional authoritarian narcissist. But Erik’s right about that first part on trade. He handled that wedge issue as well as someone of his capability could.

    For her part Hillary didn’t do terrible in response, it’s just that she’s got too many ties to these deals to do much about it.

  22. Anna in PDX says:

    That part of the debate also really bothered me. I need someone to come up with solutions about our lack of good jobs. This is not a white people problem, this problem affects my mixed race sons. One of them is a loader for UPS. His way up in the hierarchy would be to become a driver. Driverless cars would take that path away. He has sort of washed out of college and will probably not go back for a while. What is this person and millions like him supposed to do even just to barely survive and pay his rent (and the student loans from his several years of college that have not yet resulted in a degree)?

    I am reading Vonnegut’s Player Piano with my partner right now and although it is awfully dated in many ways, the way the people whose jobs were made redundant feel and behave seems like it’s painfully real to me and makes me really ache for the future. I am not cutting white racists a break for following Trump, they should not do that and they should not be dumb and racist. But they are not the only people suffering here. Heck if accounting software got a little bit smarter, my job would also be at risk.

    I think our culture makes a move towards a sane solution like UBI into a sort of a pipe dream. What should we be advocating given reality?

    • Morse Code for J says:

      Read about late Republican Rome. It was a broadly similar situation in many ways. The middle class had been badly eroded by centuries of expansionary war conducted at the elites’ behest. A system of vast disparity between the rich and the poor was ameliorated by a system of patronage, public games and subsidized grain. Poor Roman citizens were in competition with a constant influx of slaves from the wars. Wealth was largely in the hands of a few families.

      Eventually this led to a situation wherein the primary means of social mobility for the working Roman poor was to enlist in the legions. And once that happened, the working Roman poor turned to their generals as a source of wealth and dignity, amidst an older order that obviously saw them only as a burden. It was only a matter of time until one of those generals took advantage of the situation to protect himself from his political enemies.

      Many of the people who are most likely to be rendered superfluous in our economy by automation are also the people who are most likely to own guns in our society. Cheerful thought, huh?

      • so-in-so says:

        It isn’t, in part, because it’s clear they have no idea who they should be pointing those guns at.

        • Morse Code for J says:

          It’s not like Caesar led a popular revolt. He led a civil insurrection, in which some number of those same poor Romans backed his opposition. I doubt very many of the soldiers on either side were any more politically sophisticated than Americans are today, but they were willing to fight based on their feeling that they were backing a winner and someday they would get paid.

  23. YosemiteSemite says:

    “But let’s not kid ourselves, Trump absolutely crushed Hillary on trade in the early part of the debate.” Really, Erik? Seriously? Let’s turn to an expert, a Dr. P. Krugman, winner of the Nobel Prize for his work on what? Oh, right, Trade:

    Even so, it seems to be conventional wisdom that Trump did well in the first 15 minutes. And I guess he did if you are impressed by someone talking loudly and confidently about a subject he really doesn’t understand. But really: Trump on trade was ignorance all the way.

    So don’t score Trump as somehow winning on trade. Yes, he blustered more confidently on that subject than on anything else. But he was talking absolute garbage even there.

    I’d say you’re the sucker, Erik.

    • Anna in PDX says:

      But the issue is not whether T had solutions. It was whether he connected with the voters by stating that jobs are going away, Bill Clinton’s trade policies have contributed to that, and giving concrete examples like Ford etc. made it into the most compelling part of what he said (which is also sort of a low bar for people like us, granted, and of course Krugman, who is really not the audience he was speaking to anyhow). I despise Trump, I really like Hillary, and that part of the conversation made me sad and fearful, which was what he was going for.

  24. Linnaeus says:

    I’m probably being redundant at this point in the thread, but I’ll add my voice to those who don’t think Trump really was all that effective on the trade issue. All he did was incoherently rant with his trademark mix of superlatives with no real solution – “bring the jobs back” without saying how he’d do it, even when asked repeatedly, isn’t even an argument. Clinton may be vulnerable on this issue, but Trump didn’t help himself much here.

  25. Loomis’ problem may be that effective working-class solidarity and long-term political organisation, in unions and political parties, depended on the physical concentration of many workers in old-style factories or similar workplaces like mines and docks. Automate these concentrations of labour away, which is clearly happening, and what is the optimistic socialist left with?

    Peasants and slaves rebelled regularly throughout the 10,000 years of stratified farming, but generally found it impossible to sustain their movements. When your proletarian crowds are found mainly in call centres and insurance company back offices, social consciousness is a very hard sell.

    • Anna in PDX says:

      This dovetails really well with Erik’s central thesis in “Out of Sight.” The fact is that the farther away from the general public the abuses are, and the more atomized the general public gets, the less people can organize to force change through a plutocratic system.

    • Phil Perspective says:

      When your proletarian crowds are found mainly in call centres and insurance company back offices, social consciousness is a very hard sell.

      It’s almost like the suburb-ization of American was a deliberate strategy.

    • witlesschum says:

      Social media is a really powerful force for people to connect across distance around common interests. It seems like unions could make use of it, given a more conducive legal environment for them.

  26. Bloix says:

    The WaPo reports some interesting poll results – people in regions that have lost jobs due to trade do not support Trump in higher numbers than others. The impact of trade does not predict support for Trump.

    So who are the people who are attracted to Trump’s position on trade? Racists. What did you expect?

    “[V]oters’ opinions about free trade seem to reflect their broader attitudes about what it means to be an American and the position of the United States in the world. Those who believe that the United States and people like themselves are inherently superior, and who oppose military and humanitarian intervention abroad, are also less likely to support international trade.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/09/27/the-mystery-of-why-donald-trump-focuses-so-much-on-trade/

    • a_paul_in_mtl says:

      It is true that for Trump and for most of his supporters, foreign trade is not a social justice issue, it is one of chauvinistic nationalism.

      So it may be that those who are personally displaced by globalization aren’t more likely to support Trump. On the other hand, stories of people being displaced by globalization because of foreign perfidy and traitorous companies abetted by sellouts in Washington do appeal to Trump’s supporters, in the same way that one does not have to personally be a victim of crime for his “law and order” message to resonate.

    • Brien Jackson says:

      Right, this is the crux of right-wing hostility to trade and globalization more broadly. They see everything in an intensely ethnocentric manner, and so questions of the global economy begin with the premise that American simply should be the biggest, richest, most powerful player in the market by along shot. That the post World War II anomaly has ended and big countries like China, India, and Brazil are being managed relatively well and becoming richer, larger players infuriates them (remember the freak out over Japanese growth in the 1980’s for an earlier example) and seems illegitimate, and common racist tropes about how brown people are stealing jobs are simply being extrapolated onto the international economy now.

      • sonamib says:

        That the post World War II anomaly has ended and big countries like […] Brazil are being managed relatively well and becoming richer

        Unfortunately that’s no longer the case since 2015. There’s a witch hunt going on against left-wing politicians, and the witch-hunters won’t be stopped by the mere destruction of Brazil’s economic, political and social systems.

    • Harkov311 says:

      Yes. I keep pointing out that Trump is not a class resentment candidate, he’s a race resentment candidate. His own supporters admit as much in poll after poll. The strongest indicators of Trump support are being a white man with no college education who is also inclined toward racism.

      Or as we call them here in Virginia, rednecks. Trump isn’t getting the working-class vote. He’s getting the redneck vote.

  27. AMK says:

    Even if you reapealed every free-trade deal America has tomorrow, the capital mobility issue does not go away. The money set is not going to say “well, there’s no NAFTA, so I guess we will just invest in a new factory in Ohio.” It is going to say exactly the same thing it does now, which is “there are hedge funds in Manhattan and real estate in London and tech startups in San Francisco and manufacturing in the developing world’s big markets.” There is no universe in which America’s capital class decides to un-rust the rust belt on any scale just because of trade policy.

  28. manual says:

    Erik – I agree that job loss is real and needs to be dealt with. But I take issue with the idea that Trump even has this right. First, NAFTA was not the biggest and worst trade deal; PNTR China was. This pseudo trade deal has cost vastly more jobs and increased more offshoring because companies had certainty about their investments.

    In addition, he was completely wrong about the VAT (the inbound tax just equalizes the tax treatment) and was completely wrong about currency devaluation.

    I get these are wonky details, but I do think they are important.

    • a_paul_in_mtl says:

      I guess Erik’s point is that, yes, they are important, and yes, Trump is not serious on trade. The problem, as he sees it, is that he still talks a good enough game on trade to seem better on it than Clinton to people who really aren’t acquainted with the details of policy.

  29. TroubleMaker13 says:

    Might be worth noting that persistent high unemployment has effects beyond those to the workers that are themselves unemployed. It strengthens the hand of capital in labor negotiations and disadvantages workers throughout the economy. When Clinton talks about hiring unemployed workers to improve infrastructure and clean-energy, to the extent that the fiscal outlay of those kinds of programs would close whatever aggregate demand gap remains from the great recession and drive us further toward full employment, labor could benefit throughout the economy from the improved bargaining position that would follow. More generally, fiscal policy that more aggressively promotes full employment would be a good start.

  30. Bitter Scribe says:

    Trade agreements basically do away with tariffs. And I’ve never been a big fan of tariffs because they’re really taxes on imported goods that tend to raise prices across the board. For example, the U.S. sugar tariff is why sugar in this country costs up to twice as much as on the world market.

    Yes, it’s tough when someone loses their job because of free trade. But the alternative often is having everyone who buys the product in question pay a tax to subsidize jobs in the industry that makes that product. How is that fair, especially for poor people who aren’t lucky enough to get one of the protected jobs?

    • a_paul_in_mtl says:

      Actually, they don’t just do away with tariffs. They also do away with restrictions on capital transfers between countries and, these days, also tend to include a host of provisions to prevent countries from enacting non-tariff restrictions on trade and capital mobility that tend to entrench the rights of capital and also restrict the right of governments to implement regulations that can be seen as restricting foreign trade and investment.

    • djw says:

      Trade agreements basically do away with tariffs.

      If this were true, they’d be considerably less controversial. The vast majority of criticism-from-the-left involves what the other valuable things targeted in those agreements, euphemistically classified as non-tariff trade barriers.

      • Murc says:

        Also too: the fact that they allow capital to move freely and labor not to, and they generally contain strong provisions against regulation on the nation-state level.

        It’s the first part that really sticks in my craw. If I had my way, capital mobility would be 100% tied to labor mobility.

        • sibusisodan says:

          Your last para is the way I’m moving too. Globally, we can’t manage the flow of capital: those who control it have more power, and there are more loopholes. Either we restrict its flow (somehow!), or we build a supranational body which is equal to the task of managing it.

          Restriction is probably easier…

          (also, Murc, you have been on point throughout this thread. Thanks)

    • ProgressiveLiberal says:

      Yeah, pretty much you’re wrong. They have almost nothing to do with lowering the already almost nonexistent tariffs. Those have long been gone. Now its about increasing protectionism for certain industries.

  31. ProgressiveLiberal says:

    Bring back the looms! Down with the cotton pickers!

    Denmark has free trade, unhindered capital mobility, and 71% of their population support TTIP. Oh, and a thriving middle class.

    (Dammit I’m late again. I never make it on time for Loomis’ silly trade and anti-productivity screeds.)

    • Linnaeus says:

      Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find discussion of the costs and benefits of trade deals and technological change (along with who pays the costs and who benefits), worker displacement, concentration of wealth, etc. to be silly. YMMV.

      • ProgressiveLiberal says:

        Blaming our problems on trade, when other countries prove that argument is demonstrably false, is indeed silly. Even worse is his anti-productivity view.

        • Linnaeus says:

          It’s not silly to point out that the glittering promises of “free trade” have not been fulfilled for everyone and that its full costs have not been adequately addressed.

    • Murc says:

      Denmark also has robust social welfare mechanisms and is part of an enormous trading bloc.

      Without those two things the “robust middle class” of a small nation like Denmark would be getting the shit kicked out of it if you had free trade and capital mobility.

      • Brett says:

        There’s your problem, then. It’s that politically powerful segments of the US population resist even the idea that they have to help the “losers” from unemployment and trade, if it means they might have to pay taxes to do so.

      • ProgressiveLiberal says:

        So your argument is that we should all be collectively poorer because we can’t pass a robust enough safety net? Sounds great. What are you willing to sacrifice for inefficiencies sake?

        Loomis still uses full service gas stations.

        PS. Each individual state in the US is part of a trading bloc that is more than 2X larger than the trading bloc Denmark is a part of. And both get cheap Chinese crap and can set up shop in Cambodia. What’s your point exactly? None of you can explain why other countries are doing just fine with even more “free trade” than our country has.

  32. MilitantlyAardvark says:

    A bit off the trade topic, but I am quite enjoying Howard Dean slipping the needle into Trump:

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/howard-dean-trump-cocaine-habit

    “Donald Trump has not only made his tax returns public or medical history public in any meaningful way. Hillary Clinton has done that and asked any questions they want to raise,” Dean said.

    “Something funny was going on with Trump last night,” he continued. “Do I think it was cocaine? Probably not. But, you know, again, the sniffling, the grandiosity, the delusions, the pressured speech. This guy has already proven himself to be unstable. The question is, why is he unstable?

    I can’t wait for Trump to prove his stability by unleashing an even more than usually demented rant.

  33. PJ says:

    It’s so great that white working class ressentiment gets the “economic” translation from academics even when they don’t ask for it and indeed disclaim it it certain areas.

    Seriously: I’m one of those people who continually harangues leftists activists about getting their arguments and policy points together and taking perception seriously. Fuck Trump voters getting the benefit of the doubt.

    • Drexciya says:

      No one, including the Latinos Trump’s promised to militarily round up and deport, or the Muslims he’s decided to ban and whose mosques he’s stated he’ll surveil, or the black people he’s openly condemned to an ethno-police state or the people of color generally who’ve noted the growing empowerment of white nationalism is paying attention to policy. We’re all acting out of emotion and Trump speaks to “people’s emotional upheaval about trade and unemployment”. If you wonder which people, and whose emotional upheaval and are having difficulty finding such people among your rather scared family and friends, you should just realize that neither you or your family is white enough to matter for the purposes of these conversations and that this is for considerate, overlooked reasons that you can nonetheless find the hundredth article about here (complete with appearances from JD Vance and Arlie Hochschild. Again).

      There’s what this election is about, and there’s what white people who are unaffected by what this election is about want to talk about. For some reason, we keep talking about only one of these things.

      • Linnaeus says:

        I’d love to talk about what this election is about. What’s been a bit frustrating for me is that the conversations I’ve seen or been involved in that presume to do so have been rather impoverished in both scope and content. Eventually, they descend into exercises in (mostly white) self-congratulation.

  34. cleek says:

    when did Hillary Clinton sign NAFTA into law?

    • Warren Terra says:

      Are you unfamiliar with that entity known as “The Clintons”? A lot of leading boogeyman theorists would be happy to inform you on the subject.

      • Murc says:

        With respect, Warren, neither Hillary Clinton nor her supporters get to have it both ways.

        She was either a top-level part of her husbands administration, or she wasn’t. If she wasn’t, she doesn’t get to claim that as part of her political and governing experience. (Which she has done. A bunch.)

        If she was, then she owns, at least in part, the failures and missteps of that administration. Especially the ones she endorsed at the time and for years after.

        • so-in-so says:

          It is possible, of course, that she disagreed but couldn’t say so (even an official member of the administration might be restrained at that point).

          Or, as in other things, she agreed at the time but has since changed her mind.

          I’d settle for “sees the way her party feels, and chooses to follow that”.

          • Murc says:

            These are of course reasonable points. But they differ greatly from the oft-heard argument of “Hillary wasn’t President so you can’t attach opprobrium for anything Bill did to her.”

  35. Bloix says:

    James Fallows quoting Robert Kagan (of all people) in the Atlantic, http://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2016/09/trump-time-capsule-108-bush-fahrenthold-kagan/500894/:

    We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does. But what Trump offers his followers are not economic remedies — his proposals change daily.

    What he offers is an attitude, an aura of crude strength and machismo, a boasting disrespect for the niceties of the democratic culture that he claims, and his followers believe, has produced national weakness and incompetence.

    His incoherent and contradictory utterances have one thing in common: They provoke and play on feelings of resentment and disdain, intermingled with bits of fear, hatred and anger. His public discourse consists of attacking or ridiculing a wide range of “others” — Muslims, Hispanics, women, Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, Arabs, immigrants, refugees — whom he depicts either as threats or as objects of derision. His program, such as it is, consists chiefly of promises to get tough with foreigners and people of nonwhite complexion. He will deport them, bar them, get them to knuckle under, make them pay up or make them shut up.

    • Murc says:

      We’re supposed to believe that Trump’s support stems from economic stagnation or dislocation. Maybe some of it does.

      I’m gonna be fair here; economic stagnation and dislocation are definitely part of the toxic stew that is Trumpism. An essential part.

      It isn’t an either/or thing. It’s not “just racism” or “they’re just poor and desperate.” It is both, they interplay with and exacerbate each other.

  36. rjayp says:

    That part of the debate also really bothered me. I need someone to come up with solutions about our lack of good jobs.

    The problem is a lack of demand. When we give all our money to rich people, they either gamble or save. They do not spend. Correct the distribution of income (high taxes on the rich, guaranteed income, jobs guarantee, etc.), and the jobs “problem” should solve itself.

    At any rate, that’s my initial take.

  37. burnspbesq says:

    And if we don’t figure out how to fix it, with very real, concrete plans for these workers

    I’m sure Loomis has a plan.

  38. mds says:

    TRUMP: NAFTA bad! Steal jobs back from dirty foreigners by cutting taxes on rich people!

    CLINTON: Here are ways we can create new jobs for millions of Americans.

    LOOMIS: Wow, Trump really connected with economically-insecure Americans. Clinton has a glaring weak spot in this area, because she’s pro-free-trade.

    Yeah, somehow I’m a bit skeptical of this analysis.

    On the other hand, my skepticism might be coming from excessive optimism. After all, as someone put it elsewhere on the internet, we’re in a time of low unemployment, low inflation, low gas prices, an enhanced health-care safety net, and (finally) some positive movement in median wages. And now’s when we get a massive groundswell of support for a faux-populist borderline fascist bag of shit? Sweet Jeebus, but the next recession could get ugly.

    • Rob in CT says:

      Delayed reaction. You know, like how the CRA caused the financial panic of 2008...

      More seriously… this shit has been building for some time, and I think that although economic conditions (two bad recessions followed by long, slow recoveries) are fuel for the fire, the dominant cause is predominantly white anxiety over social change (racial resentment, resentment rooted in sexism/preference for traditional gender roles, resentment of LBGT rights gains, etc), with the economic issues being secondary. I think it’s 70/30 or 60/40 or something like that. Obviously, the precise mix depends on the individual.

    • Linnaeus says:

      After all, as someone put it elsewhere on the internet, we’re in a time of low unemployment, low inflation, low gas prices, an enhanced health-care safety net, and (finally) some positive movement in median wages.

      I would add two caveats, however: we’ve just barely managed to get back to where we were prior to the last recession and there’s still many places in this country that the recovery has not reached.

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