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Talking About Buy American Campaigns

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One of Trump’s strongest appeals to the white working class is his aggressive economic nationalist rhetoric that seeks to punish other nations for sending goods to the United States instead of having them made here. Trump doesn’t actually care about any of this of course. He pals around with capitalists, the very people who are responsible for this. He tweets at union leaders when called out on his actions, blaming them for the loss of jobs. But it doesn’t really matter to a lot of these workers. Finally, someone is speaking their language. And when combined with other forms of white resentment, this is very powerful for large swaths of the white working class. Even if he fails to bring the jobs back (and of course he will fail because that’s not actually his goal), for white people who remember buying a new car every 3 years, they don’t believe that Democratic politicians are any better, even if they provide them with better health care options and want to save their Social Security. After all, they see those things, especially the older retirement-based benefits, as their rights as working Americans, not gifts from liberal Democrats.

Moreover, it’s simply reasonable industrial policy to create employment in industrial jobs in the United States. It’s necessary on a number of levels. First, it’s smart politics. Second, it stabilizes areas in decline by attempting to build jobs in struggling areas. Third, we have to provide a dignified life with good-paying jobs for working class people of all races. We can’t simply say, “Automation is inevitable. Tough luck. Here’s a little money to get some education to do some other job that will pay not very much, 52 year old worker with maybe a high school diploma.” This is a recipe for social disaster, as we are already seeing with the 2016 election and its horrifying aftermath. Moreover, there are good reasons to produce goods in the United States. The access to clean energy is one of them. If we want to create industrial policy that is going to be useful in mitigating climate change, then considering the whole cost of a project, including its climate costs, may well be a really good reason to produce goods in the United States, even if that costs more up front. Moreover, there are good reasons to not support or allow the labor and environmental exploitation of the world’s poor, and I have long called for international courts and national laws to regulate this, taking away some of the incentive for capital mobility.

One of the areas undergoing a lot of outsourcing right now is industrial food production. Companies like Mondelez, which sounds like a fancy French company but is actually just a renamed Kraft, bought up Nabisco at some point. It has now moved Oreo production out of Chicago to Mexico. The Nabisco workers are doing a national tour, talking to college campuses and other workers, about their plight. These are workers who are suffering. Their good jobs are gone and they don’t have any other options. As part of this, they have produced an animation explaining their position in a very simple way. It’s worth your time.

Unfortunately, this video and therefore the workers’ message, is a little bit racist. It starts out OK, playing on a very important point–that Nabisco factories in Mexico pay workers very little and have lax regulatory standards. These are good reasons to say, I don’t want my cookies exploiting others. But it’s a feint. The rest of the video doesn’t care one whit about the Mexican workers. Talking about bad regulatory standards and low wages is an excuse to say instead that we as Americans should want our products made in the United States. It says you should go into the grocery store, find products with Made in Mexico labels, and confront store manages to tell them you don’t want those products. And that’s a level of economic nationalism I’m not real comfortable with. But trying to thread a needle of wanting products made ethically no matter where they come from is going to be a hard sell to these workers. For them, it’s not just about saving their own jobs, it’s about AMERICA! And given that we on the left don’t really have an answer to their particular problems, you can see the appeal Trump would have to the white workers in these plants, as well as of course why black and Latino workers would be deeply disturbed by that appeal. In a global era, the answer to our problems is not AMERICA!, it’s ethical production that raises standards around the world while also seeking to keep good union jobs in the United States. But given how hard it is to articulate precisely how that happens, good luck communicating that to everyday workers. And good luck getting the white everyday workers to think the Democratic Party has an answer to their problems.

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  • kvs

    I still don’t see why this is the most learnable lesson from the election when polling suggests a majority of people, including swing state voters, thought Clinton was better on economic issues.

    Yes, Democrats should be better on good paying jobs, worker rights, and trade because they have plenty of room to improve. However, there’s nothing suggesting their actual stances on these issues are responsible for electoral trends.

    • Phil Perspective

      What is then?

      • Abbey Bartlet
        • Murc

          If this is true then we’re simply fucked, because we can’t (and shouldn’t try to) out-racist the Republicans.

          Erik’s analysis and prescription at least has a chance of being true and of working. “It was all racism all the time, nothing but racism” leaves us with no options unless you’re willing to seriously consider a violent uprising.

          • Abbey Bartlet

            If we’d gotten the White House this year, it would have been four more years of expanding voting rights and America getting browner. Now, I don’t know what happens.

          • kvs

            When 40% of VEP doesn’t turn out to vote, there are plenty of other voters to compete for other than the irretrievably racist.

            The point is that economic issues are already an area of strength. The question is how to make them more salient. I’m unconvinced that better policies are the means, even though they’re desirable ends in themselves.

            • rlc

              Trump rhetorical tactics about keeping jobs are incredibly popular here among the better paid uneducated white voters. They’re racist too, but you won’t win them without an “everyone deserves a decent paying long term stable job near where they live” message. Bernie understands this.

              Here’s the issues page for the DNC’s “ALEC Killer” website, which is supposed to fix the state and local electoral disaster:

              https://stateinnovation.org/issues/

              See the problem? Raising the minimum wage as the only visible economic strategy is not a positive message to the uneducated worker, of any race or gender.

              Again, I don’t think there is a formula to apply to actually implement the winning message, but complete abdication has not worked, um, well.

              • Snuff curry

                Raising the minimum wage as the only visible economic strategy is not a positive message to the uneducated worker, of any race or gender.

                Stop lying that that was “the only visible” strategy and fuck off with “any race or gender.” The success of white nationalists at massaging culture war dogwhistles into economic issues puts paid to all that: a higher minimum wage is coded as unfair advantages given to people, especially women, of color. “Uneducated” workers of color overwhelmingly support raising the minimum wage, full stop.

          • Derelict

            Racism was an important element, as Abbey notes. However, an even larger element is the level of not just mis-informaton but MAL-information that is floating around in the average person’s head. Republicans have been extremely effective in their messaging, as well as being extremely effective in serving their corporate masters.

            As a result, you have extremely large portions of the population who did not know until January of this year that ObamaCare and the Affordable Care Act are the same things. (My sister and her husband are cases in point for this.) You also have a situation where a majority of the voting-eligible population has been convinced that their vote is meaningless, and that even if they do vote, the two parties are the same; and even if the parties are not the same, my boss is a Republicans and I can be fired for voting against his interests; and even without THAT nifty consideration, I’m just too busy to pay attention.

            That last part–too busy to pay attention–results in both huge apathy and, as we saw this last time, large numbers of people actually making up their minds in the last day or two before the election.

            Eric’s strategy is about the only coherent answer to any of this. And it’s gonna take a looooooong time to bear fruit. But we’re either in this for the long game, or we may as well get used to living in an ex-democracy.

            • The Lorax

              did not know until January of this year that ObamaCare and the Affordable Care Act are the same things. (My sister and her husband are cases in point for this.)

              Wow. I thought this was just apocryphal.

              • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

                Only if “apocryphal” means “believed by 1 in 3”

          • NoMoreAltCenter

            The idea of a violent uprising to enforce the lukewarm centrist tenets of the Dem party is beyond laughable.

    • Dilan Esper

      It is possible that that majority of swing state voters included some die-hard Republicans (who voted for Trump for cultural reasons, or because of social issues or Supreme Court appointments) despite not buying into protectionist economics.

      Meanwhile Trump’s protectionist stance drew some voters out of the Obama coalition that won him the election.

      • kvs

        Given there was almost no coverage of policy during the election–and Clinton made sizeable gains after the debates when policy was discussed–while Comey’s letter received 10 days of round-the-clock coverage, this probably misses the point.

        • Dilan Esper

          I think it’s a GIGANTIC jump from “national media outlets overcovered Comey” (true) to “rust belt voters heard no information about the candidates’ positions on trade policy” (which I doubt).

          • Given that the only thing most voters were able to tell you about Clinton was emails, I think you’re giving vastly more credit to media coverage than is merited.

            • Dilan Esper

              The question isn’t voters in general, but swing voters in swing states. What did those voters in rust belt states who voted for Obama but didn’t vote for Clinton base their votes on?

              • …quite possibly emails? I don’t see any reason to suspect that swing voters would be any less likely to have widely different knowledge than the electorate as a whole, particularly since swing voters often aren’t exactly high-information voters. High-info voters tend to be partisans. We’re not typical of the electorate.

                I mean, if you have data suggesting otherwise, feel free to present it, but it strikes me as likely that, given the media’s complete lack of coverage of issues, swing voters didn’t know much, if anything, about Clinton’s positions on trade.

                • Dilan Esper

                  The data I have suggesting otherwise is the swing of only certain states towards Trump, whereas other states swung towards Clinton. And the states that swung towards Trump were rust belt states.

                  Is there a reason why rust belt voters are particularly concerned with e-mail security?

                • kvs

                  The polling suggested Rust Belt voters were the most susceptible to the Crooked Hillary meme and Clinton Rules journalism. Which is why the biggest swing away from her occured in those states every time Comey made headlines.

                  Policy coverage was minimal at all levels of journalism.

                • Abbey Bartlet

                  Which states swung towards Clinton?

                • I’m under the impression that the swing of states like GA and AZ towards Clinton can be explained by demographic changes. I don’t think rust belt voters need to be any more concerned with email security than the electorate as a whole for that to have swung the election.

                • so-in-so

                  Plus, “I voted for that (insert derogatory here) twice, and I still didn’t get my pony/steel mill job/coal mining job back!”.

                  Local Chamber of Commerce wants my help in opposing raising the state Minimum wage today. They don’t know me, it seems.

                • djw

                  Which states swung towards Clinton?

                  Washington, California, Georgia, Texas, Arizona, and Utah.

                  I don’t think it’s correct that to say that AZ and GA’s swing can be explained entirely by demographic changes. The relevant demographic shifts have been going on for some time; the voting shift is quite sudden.

                • Well, maybe not entirely. It’s possible that the overt racism of the short-fingered vulgarian’s campaign motivated minority voters in those states to turn out in greater numbers. Of course, that does raise the question of why similar trends didn’t happen in other states with large minority populations, but then, your list does include several of the states with large minority populations.

                • Abbey Bartlet

                  Sorry, I wasn’t clear there, but Dilan’s initial response was to something about Comey, so my actual question was: Which states swung towards Clinton in response to Comey?

    • DrDick

      Yeah, supporting TTIP was a much better position./s

    • Emmryss

      “The best research to date indicates that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs are likely to be replaced by technology over the next 10 to 15 years, more than 80 million in all, according to the Bank of England.” (“Coming technology will likely destroy millions of jobs. Is Trump ready?” Washington Post)

      I’ve yet to see a stance from anyone that addresses this. Why not? Most likely because the changes required would be too fundamental. Democratic social control over technology. The people most affected by technological change being the ones who decide whether it should be introduced at all, and if so, how and at what pace and with what safeguards and, especially, at whose expense.

      • NoMoreAltCenter

        The Dems won’t stand up against this. In 20 years time the world will be a hellhole of inequality that makes modern times look like the kolkhoz

    • ASV

      At least as of late September, Trump held modest leads on economic issues. I don’t see a later issue poll.

      • IIRC, exit polls suggested that voters preferred Clinton on economic issues by a fairly wide margin.

        • msmarjoribanks

          I don’t think it’s possible to really sort it out, because people voting against someone are likely to say they will be better for the economy — the fact they have already decided to vote for them, for whatever reason, biases it so it’s hard to say what the motivating force was.

          Exit polls said:

          Nationally 52% of Hillary voters saw the economy as the most important issue vs. 41% for Trump (64% of his voters saw immigration as the issue). In Michigan those numbers were 51% and 43%, so not much different. 71% of MI Trump voters considered immigration most important.

          On the other hand, 42% of voters saw trade as bad for the economy, and Trump got 64% of them. In MI this was worse: 50%, but Trump got fewer, 58%. (How much of this is immigration driven and trade being linked with it vs. trade being a specifically relevant force?)

          47% thought Obamacare went too far (44% in MI), and Trump got 82% (79% in MI). 69% of voters bothered by Hillary’s emails nationally went to Trump (of the 63% who were bothered), and in MI these numbers were 74% went to Trump of the 60% who were bothered. These numbers seem to have changed post election, showing there’s difficulty relying too hard on them.

          Nationally, 46% thought Clinton would handle the economy better vs. 48% for Trump, but in MI, 49% thought Clinton would handle the economy better, vs. 47% for Trump.

          Nationally 62% thought the economy was poor (v. 59% in MI), but only 27% (25% in MI) think they are worse off (this is my dad — he did better during the Obama years but is still convinced the economy is bad because he hates Obama).

          All this aside–it’s interesting, but I think not that informative–the issues focused on and rhetoric since the election makes me think it’s not the economy, stupid, but crime and immigration and stoking fears of terrorism (all made up — apparently the murder rate is spiking in Chicago and crime is up all over (though the latter is not true) because of illegal immigration, according to Trump, which is just utter nonsense) and playing culture war games, which games are that Dems and the media are pro crime if it’s black/brown on white (which it supposedly is, ludicrous) and secretly pro Islamic terror (maybe we are all secret Muslims).

          I don’t think it’s the economy. I think how easily a lot of white people can do a complete freak out if race becomes an issue at all. That racism didn’t prevent people from voting for Obama so long as race wasn’t really politicized, but it has been more in recent years because of all the police problems and the incessant focus on crime in Chicago (which must be because of Obama and the Dems being soft on crime by blacks/immigrants).

          I wish I thought it was economic issues, but I don’t. I’m open to good ideas there anyway, sure, but I still don’t think the white working class (meaning non college educated whites) vote Dem. Blaming policy for why they don’t seems to me to be delusional.

  • TVTray

    Tom Perez is a frickin’ Bernie Bro!

    • NoMoreAltCenter

      He is a “Progressive who gets things done”, which is code for “Centrist”

      • JL

        He’s pretty clearly neither a Bernie Bro nor a centrist. He was a good DOJ head of the Civil Rights Division and a good Secretary of Labor, with strong ties to immigrant justice and labor justice factions, who is running for DNC chair against someone with very similar views who backed a different Dem primary candidate in 2016. I think he should do something else rather than pursue the DNC chairship, since precisely because he and Ellison have similar views, I’m not sure what value he adds to the race other than turning it into a ridiculous primary rehash. Many people have suggested that he challenge Hogan for governor of MD. Another role that I could see for him is AG the next time we have a Dem president.

  • Karen24

    It’s been entirely too long since I’ve been lectured by a talking cookie. That said, I disagree that the spot is racist. It’s much more jingoistic and rah rah USA!! which is still an awkward message, but it’s a bit difficult to convey nuance and subtlety using animated talking food. We can actually use the message — Mexico has much less rigorous standards for food production — without implying that people of Mexican heritage here in the US are complicit in Mexico’s regulatory problems.

    • cpinva

      “We can actually use the message — Mexico has much less rigorous standards for food production — without implying that people of Mexican heritage here in the US are complicit in Mexico’s regulatory problems.”

      this too. along with less rigorous environmental and labor protection standards. it’s a whole lot easier to cheaply produce a product, when you have close to slave labor, and no one cares what you dump/how you dump it in the back 40. these three areas are what make third-world countries so attractive for capital mobility. take those out of the equation, and you’re back to a level playing field.

  • Dilan Esper

    The reality is that the dirty underbelly of buy-American campaigns is racism, and it’s harder to split that than Erik assumes.

    When I was young, my oldest brother was into Harley-Davidsons. So we had quite a few bikers over at the house and I got to know some of them. And they were extremely strong on the buy-American thing– it’s really one of the central aspects of biker culture. But it was ALWAYS served up with heapings of anti-Japanese sentiment (the phrase “Jap bike” was used a lot).

    The natural position of a cosmopolitan liberal is going to be in favor of globalization. It confers economic benefits on developing countries, it doesn’t discriminate in favor of relatively prosperous Americans, and it swims against the tide of American exceptionalism. Trade protectionism is very much the Pat Buchanan position.

    The thing that makes this complicated is that it nonetheless makes coalitional sense for Democrats to be protectionist, because of organized labor. And I think that’s right. But we should have no illusions that a more protectionist trade policy isn’t going to feed racist and American-centric attitudes among the white working class. I’m sure it will to some extent no matter what the messaging is.

    • Phil Perspective

      The natural position of a cosmopolitan liberal is going to be in favor of globalization.

      Of course, because most of them will never have to deal with the effects of globalization. Matt Yglesias is never going to have to worry about whether he can afford rent each month, or whether he can afford to get his water heater fixed. The only way he’ll stay unemployed for any length of time is because he chooses to. When you don’t offer people an alternative and follow through, “Buy American!” is the kind of stuff you end up with.

      • Dilan Esper

        There is certainly truth to that. One of the reasons protectionism has waned among Democrats is precisely because the coalition is more and more concentrated on the coasts, where globalization means cheaper iPhones, burgeoning tech and entertainment industries, and cheap immigrant labor, whereas in the rust belt it means closed factories. So with more and more Democrats concentrated on the coasts, they are able to push the platform in that direction.

        But it nonetheless also coincides with several viewpoints that liberals have about internationalism and racial equality.

      • Ronan

        This is getting stupid. The more plausible reason that yglesias supports globalisation is because he has more information than the average voter, and better understands the costs and benefits associated. In reality most people gain from “globalisation” , and those who truly suffer directly from the consequences of trade are a quite small section of the population. (Disproportionately concentrated in occupations that have historically been on the left)
        This is not to say that these groups dont need help, or that their concerns aren’t serious, but the “winners from globalisation” are not just the urban liberal elite, and the losers everyone else.

        • Brien Jackson

          Right. The farmers who overwhelmingly voted for Trump a) stood to gain quite a bit from TPP and b) will be hit disproportionately hard by the adverse effects of the trade wars he’s bound to start.

          • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

            Drum has an interesting post today about farmers in the Central Valley who voted for Trump and now are shocked/ pissed/ harmed by the fact Trump is actually doing the things to immigrants he said he’d do, and it’s screwing them. Drum has, appropriately, zero pity.

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              the farm papers here in the upper midwest are full of articles worrying about what’s going to happen to the big dairy operations who have immigrant laborers. Something like half the soybeans go on the export market, and while only a relative smidgen of corn is exported it doesn’t take much to move the market and a lot of the corn used here goes to raise hogs that are exported to China- in fact Smithfield, the largest pork production company in the US, is *owned* by a Chinese holding company. So if the orange terror really does start trade wars on top of the immigration fiasco he’s going to fuck that part of his base over as if they’d done drywall in one of his architectural atrocities. If I manage to not go broke myself it would be almost fun to hear their lamentations

        • Linnaeus

          I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive to argue that Yglesias’s perspective is informed by 1) better information and 2) a relatively more comfortable position with respect to economic dislocations that may come about through trade agreements. It doesn’t mean that he’s wrong, necessarily, but that his perspective may not be sufficient to understand the full scope of the effects of trade agreements.

          In reality most people gain from “globalisation” , and those who truly suffer directly from the consequences of trade are a quite small section of the population. (Disproportionately concentrated in occupations that have historically been on the left)

          For some people, though, the net gains are much greater than they are for others. Even orthodox free trade theory posits that there are net winners and net losers, and the net winners are supposed to compensate the losers.

          This is not to say that these groups dont need help, or that their concerns aren’t serious

          Of course, we in the US have done a generally poor job of helping people and taking their concerns seriously. Indeed, free(r) trade was sold as self-correcting; we didn’t need to worry about helping those negatively affected because they’d get newer, better jobs. Those promises fell short.

          • Ronan

            I think Yglesias’ (at times) blase attitude towards people struggling economically (a lot of which has little to nothing to do with ‘globalisation’) is more plausibly an outgrowth of class privilege. I think his support for globalisation (which was Phil’s argument) is much more driven by the fact that he sees it as having broadly positive consequences (which I tend to agree with him on, because it seems to be true)

            • NoMoreAltCenter

              It isn’t particularly difficult for these three things to be true at the same time:

              1. Yglesias is a privileged douche
              2. The net benefits of globalization outweigh the cost in dollar terms
              3. Hundreds of thousands of people are being fucked over by globalization

            • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

              It’s definitely an outgrowth of how economics has been taught pre-Picketty/Saez. The emphasis was all on GDP, so if NAFTA increases GDP, awesome. The dact that the wcpnomy was turning into a massive upwards wealth siphon wasn’t really discussed.

              • NoMoreAltCenter

                And no one was honest to the people it would be affecting, because they figured cheap manufacturing goods would make up for it all.

                • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

                  What I recall (as a lapsed Econ major ’93-95) was the discussion among academic economists was, “manufacturing jobs in the US are dying one way or the other – we can either try to do some retraining/ economic inxentives to ease the transition, or just let people lose their jobs and twist in the wind.” I’m not sure if the initial assumrion was correct, or if the proposed mitigators had a prayer of working. And many believed the rising tide of GDP would lift the fallen somehow. And of course the past decade has been just one unending lesson in how truly, embarrassingly naïve most academic economists are.

                • Ronan

                  But the overwhelming majority of the damage was not done by trade.

                  “The U.S. went from 30% of its nonfarm employees in manufacturing to 12% because of rapid growth in manufacturing productivity and limited demand, yes? The U.S. went from 12% to 9% because of stupid and destructive macro policies–the Reagan deficits, the strong-dollar policy pushed well past its sell-by date, too-tight monetary policy–that diverted it from its proper role as a net exporter of capital and finance to economies that need to be net sinks rather than net sources of the global flow of funds for investment, yes? The U.S. went from 9% to 8.7% because of the extraordinarily rapid rise of China, yes? The U.S. went from 8.7% to 8.6% because of NAFTA, yes?

                  And yet the American political system right now is blaming all, 100%, every piece of that decline from 30% to 8.6% and every problem that can be laid its door on brown people from Mexico.”

                  http://rodrik.typepad.com/dani_rodriks_weblog/2017/01/what-did-nafta-really-do.html?cid=6a00d8341c891753ef01b8d258cad8970c#comment-6a00d8341c891753ef01b8d258cad8970c

            • farin

              And the fix for the downsides of globalization is so simple: just take the money from the big winners and give it to the losers. In the frictionless world of wonk-punditry, that means the downsides basically don’t exist!

    • Abbey Bartlet

      The reality is that the dirty underbelly of buy-American campaigns is racism

      I hate to agree with Dilan, but yeah, that’s always been my experience.

    • Brautigan

      As a cosmopolitan liberal American, my natural inclination is to insist that my representatives worry first and foremost about representing the best interests of their constituents which is, after all, what they are elected to do. I assume that the Chinese, Mexican, etc governments will do the same for their citizens. To the extent they do not, we can do what we can to ameliorate, but not at the expense of American prosperity, which is really what protects American democracy.

      • Ronan

        If we lived in a world where the interests of the developing world were actually prioritised by western politicians and electorates over their own, then I might find something to get worked up about. But we are absolutely nowhere near that , in fact the reality is still the opposite .

    • Gwen

      I don’t think there’s anything *inherently* racist with “Buy American” insofar as it is simply neutral localism.

      If someone gave me the choice in avocados, between one grown in California and one grown in Texas (all things being equal) I would buy the one grown in Texas, because it supports Texas farmers. That is why the Texas Dept. of Agriculture has the GO TEXAN campaign and label (something which I *do* look for).

      But with that said, I see Mexico as being, well, relatively “local.” I tend to think that I have as much in common with a factory worker in Juarez than one in Wheeling.

      When your state does $100 billion a year in international trade with Mexico (40 percent of all of our imports and exports and a fairly significant part of our state GDP), you tend not to want to spoil the party.

      https://reason.com/archives/2016/12/13/free-trade-nafta-in-texas

    • SamChevre

      How important, generally, are America-centric ideas among working-class African-Americans? My experience would incline me to guess that it’s a working-class thing, not a white working-class thing, to dislike losing jobs to Japanese/Chinese/Mexican workers.

      • Linnaeus

        And not just a working class thing. I’d old enough to remember the rash of stories about outsourcing/offshoring becoming a problem, e.g., “I had to train my [insert non-US demonym here] replacement” when it began to hit “safe”, professional, white collar jobs.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    it’s odd, in a way, that this all came back *now*, when it seemed that people had come to accept the movement of goods- my tire shop is always trying to sell me implement tires from “across the pond”, in their words because the US tire is “overpriced for what you get”. Just a couple of months ago in a discussion on a farm board the consensus regarding the decline of Sears and specifically Craftsman tools was, “no big deal the foreign stuff is better *and* cheaper”

    • so-in-so

      People buying what I make/sell should “buy American”. When I’m the one buying, it’s “cheaper – better imports”.

    • N__B

      Foreign tools – at the ordinary level, not the insane-hobbiest stuff – weren’t better than Craftsman until Sears was gutted by greed-heads.

      IMO…I never had any use for Sears as a store, but I loved the Craftsman tools.

      • wjts

        My dad told me a story about one of his med school rotations. He uncovered the tray of instruments for whatever operation they were about to perform, and was surprised to see a Craftsman saw. “What?” said the surgeon. “It cuts as well as anything else, and it has a lifetime warranty.”

        • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

          Orthopedic ORs basically look like sterile carpentry shops.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Crafstman brand hand tools have tilted towards mainland China production in recent years. Quality has fallen about one notch.

        Harbor Freight has become a force impossible to ignore. And their best hand tools are made in Taiwan.

        I’ve bought a lot of Taiwanese tools and some auto parts in recent years, and the value has been fantastic — very good quality at a price that almost seems silly, considering.

        China is figuring out quality control and will be there soon.

        For interminible discussions and squabbles and nativism, but also great tool knowledge, see the forums at garagejournal.com.

  • Bloix

    For decades, the Democratic Party was the party of “look for the union label” and “Made in America.” Jimmy Carter, IIRC, was the first Democratic president who didn’t care much for unions, and Bill Clinton (another southerner) didn’t care about them at all. Since Clinton, the Democratic attitude has been, we can take the union voters for granted, they’ve got nowhere else to go. Well, yes indeed, they do, and it’s where working class voters in every country go when the organized center-left party abandons them – they go to fascism.

    The thing is, getting manufacturing jobs back is just about the easiest thing a government can do. You appoint a Fed Chair and Board of Governors who don’t believe that 2% inflation is a sign of the End Times. You keep interest rates low, do some deficit spending on infrastructure and government jobs (cops and teachers), let inflation rise to 3 or 4% for a while, and watch the value of the dollar fall 20%. Presto! American labor is competitive, imports fall and exports increase, and manufacturing is back.

    But Obama kept a Republican as Fed chair most of his two terms. On infrastructure spending, it’s true that he did the best he could with his stimulus, given the Congress he had, but then we never heard another peep about it. Instead, Obama talked about cutting deficits and getting spending under control. “[We’ve cut] our deficits by three-quarters,” he bragged in his second inaugural, as if that were a good thing. Meanwhile the dollar rose 30% since its low in mid-2011.

    So we do have an answer to these problems. It’s just that we’re not allowed to mention it because Wall Street doesn’t like it. The low-deficit strong-dollar consensus is so powerful that anyone who contradicts it is viewed as being crazy.

    PS- there’s nothing new in this. William Jennings Bryan understood it.

    • The thing is, getting manufacturing jobs back is just about the easiest thing a government can do. You appoint a Fed Chair and Board of Governors who don’t believe that 2% inflation is a sign of the End Times.

      A few weeks ago, I was out where my wife teaches. There was some sort of event I was dragged to. I got into a conversation with someone who turned out to be the wife of the school president. She said her biggest worry under was Trump was inflation. I told her I thought we could use some inflation. She looked at me like I was from another planet.

      • Murc

        She said her biggest worry under was Trump was inflation. I told her I thought we could use some inflation. She looked at me like I was from another planet.

        I can’t wait until the people who were permanently traumatized by the 70s either get fuckin’ over themselves or exit the body politic.

        A few years of 4% would be amazing for anyone carrying a debt load of any sort.

        • Dilan Esper

          I suspect the aversion of older voters to inflation doesn’t just have to do with living through the 1970’s.

          Inflation is good for workers (in moderation!) but punishes thrift. It reduces the purchasing power of a fixed income. And it also creates a certain sort of “price nostalgia” about the fact that things are so much more expensive than they used to be. These are all things that older voters think are extremely important.

          • Brautigan

            I suspect it is the fact, that for almost everybody alive today, their learned experience is that inflation means that “the price of things I need goes up, but my wages don’t”.

            • Maybe everybody over the age of 50. I have never heard a member of my generation (born 1974) talk in a worried about inflation, or even really mention it at all unless they are a policy wonk.

              • tsam

                I have faint memories of it being a hammer Reagan used on Carter. I was about 11 at the time, so not many fucks were given.

              • ASV

                I agree with this, but I suspect it’s also the sort of thing people have default negative views about even if those views are totally uninformed and shallow. So they’re not going to volunteer the idea that inflation is bad, but if new data comes out showing inflation is at a ten-year high, they’ll think that’s bad.

              • nixnutz

                I’m definitely in that boat where my wages have been basically flat for the last 20 years, or were until last year anyway. My experience is at the high end of the curve since I lived in San Francisco and Brooklyn during that period so I’ve seen my rent more than double along with transit costs and a few other things. I’m not especially concerned with “inflation” in the traditional sense but it sure seems that the .05% has gotten really good at capturing any and all growth so I don’t have much faith that any benefit would trickle down to me.

          • Yankee

            The main thing inflation does is shorten up your time horizon … you can’t plan for the generations when the present value of anything at all in 2050 is nearly zero. Since you can’t save your way to retirement, you can either be a rentier or go hungry.

        • vic rattlehead

          I’d love some big time inflation. Big league (bigly?), even. I have fuck all for savings or any other assets anyway, plus a shitload of student loan and credit card debt. Bring it on!

          • so-in-so

            Problem is, in GOP America the prices will rise, but not your wages. That CC debt declining in value doesn’t help put food on the table. Plus, I expect they’ll be allowed to sky-rocket the rates on CC debt, if not student loans.

      • Thom

        Planet Oregon!

        But really, she’s never read Krugman, or heard that the Fed has two missions that it has to balance?

      • Bloix

        I expect in her mind you were rooting for double-digit or even wheel barrels of currency. She probably doesn’t know about the 2% “target” (cap) and it’s never occurred to her that the difference between 1 1/2% and 3 1/2% could matter. What she heard was something like “we could use some of that Ebola virus” or “we could use a good earthquake.”

      • Bloix

        People who lived through the ’70s think of inflation as if it were a wildfire or a disease – if it’s not contained it spreads and wreaks havoc.
        She probably thought you were rooting for double-digit or even wheel barrels of currency. What she heard was something like “we could sure use some of that Ebola ’round here.”

    • JKTH

      It’s not even just 2% inflation being a sign of End Times. It’s inflation approaching 2% from a lower level. We have to raise rates before inflation actually reaches its target!

    • msmarjoribanks

      I’d say the decreased power of the unions by the time of Clinton (except for public unions) has more to do with the declining power of the unions than the Dems not caring about unions. (Not sure how cultural splits in the party that allegedly alienated unions in the early ’70s actually had an effect, I’m inclined to think that’s overstated in popular memory but haven’t looked into it enough and it might be a real thing).

      Bigger point is that if Obama had done all that, the response is “socialism” and “class war” and “killing the economic and growth!” And the so-called white working class and much of the middle class swing voters buy into it, and popular perception does matter when it comes to the economy. Maybe I’m just too old (I have 4 years on Eric), but I don’t think it’s just Wall Street that freaks out and I also think that the media push that Wall Street plus Fox plus most of the “responsible” mainstream media do encourages the freak out. I suspect that apart from really buying into the idea that cutting deficits is good, inflation is bad, Obama knew he wouldn’t get reelected if he followed such a strategy.

      The frustrating thing is the only president who can successfully push a deficits don’t matter, limited inflation could be good kind of strategy (more than limited I think hurts anyone, regardless of the party) is a Republican.

      One issue–and it goes back to realignment in the ’60s/’70s and how the US is unlike Europe is that populism in the US these days gets seen by much of the white working class/middle class as at their expense, however illogically. (And the Dems also rely on a certain segment of voters, who I am probably overestimating because I live in the middle of them, who are allergic to such appeals because they realigned Dem for cultural reasons and are the dreaded neoliberals and see populism as against them. I think these people are less of the problem than the perception that the strategy also doesn’t help with swing voters or get back the kinds of former Dems who long ago left the party.)

  • MPAVictoria

    I purposely try and buy Canadian made goods as much as possible. I do this because I find the quality tends to be better and I like supporting the jobs of fellow citizens when I can.

  • alexceres

    Automation is growing (or coming soon to an economic sector near you), and millions of more jobs are going to be vaporized. The economic benefits are too overwhelming to stop that. Even if we banned automation by legal fiat, we’d just import robot made products from other countries.

    I see the true problem as technology and other innovations have radically increased productivity over the last century. The profits from these gains have been captured mostly by the top 1%. This productivity increase has led to an ever decreasing demand for labor (oversupply, whatever you want to call it). The bottom 99%, having no meaningful capital ownership outside their primary residence, are totally fucked. The value of their labor will continue to decrease as demand for human (or expensive American) labor decreases.

    This is effectively a wealth distribution problem, that no main stream politicians wants to discuss. America has more than enough wealth to have brought jobs to the rust belt. We choose policies to give those profits to multi-millionaires and billionaires. Our current policy is to tell labor GFY.

    Either we discard millions of unemployable humans and leave them to rot, or we have government radically intervene in the market. Those are the only two outcomes.

    As progressives, we need to articulate a viable government intervention. We could subsidize human jobs by taxing companies, imports, or automation, or we could create some form of UBI. These basically amount to the same thing in the end.

    But without a massive tax redirection to ensure the bottom 99% gets a cut of the profits created by all the productivity gains, we’re left with abandoning millions to poverty. And racism. And nationalism. And hello 1933, how delightful this reprise shall be …

    • This strikes me as essentially accurate. Assuming the planet survives four years of Manhattan Mugabe (not necessarily a safe assumption), it seems increasingly likely that traditional employment will go the way of the dodo. Automation will destroy a number of traditional sources of employment – indeed, it’s already doing so. There will be new employment opportunities in maintaining the machinery that replaces traditional jobs, but it’s highly unlikely that there will be an equivalent number of jobs created in this field, and in any case, not everyone who loses jobs to automation will be capable of finding employment in this sector, because there won’t be as many of these jobs, and they will require a completely different skill set that not everyone will be capable of acquiring.

      The possibilities are that we become a neofeudalist dystopia, or we intervene massively in the economy to prevent this from happening. There are no other options. To be clear, UBI and subsidies aren’t the only remedies; our national infrastructure is in horrific shape and the government could create a large number of jobs improving it. However, this would be at best temporary. UBI or some other form of government intervention is the only long-term solution.

      • Aaron Morrow

        However, this would be at best temporary

        Until we hit the point where all infrastructure must be designed, built and maintained with little to no labor, I don’t see why it has to be temporary. Bridges don’t fix themselves yet, and even when they do, there’s clearly a political interest to ignore economic efficiency and pay extra for hand-crafted, artisan infrastructure.

        • Don’t get me wrong: there will always be a need for infrastructure maintenance (at least until such a point as it can all be automated). However, it’s highly unlikely that all the jobs that we could create in infrastructure would remain indefinitely, because once we’ve fixed the glaring problems that currently exist, there won’t be as much need for labour to maintain it.

          In other words, some of the jobs that we could create in infrastructure would probably be permanent, but a lot wouldn’t be. Infrastructure jobs won’t be a panacea.

  • Steamboat Bill

    We have had 50 years of Chicago economics that directly targeted the concept of industrial policy. It was wrong, as nearly everything in UC Econ is, but that never stopped Republicans from using it as a weapon to destroy the very idea of IP. There was a brief moment in the 80’s when Japan (Inc.), lead by the omnipotent MITI, was on the verge of taking over the US because of its industrial policy, but the subsequent collapse of the Japanese economy simply put the stake through the heart of the idea that there was ever a positive role for government.

    In light of the relentless right-wing ideological onslaught, the rise of Rubin/Summers (who were basically collaborationists) was pretty much inevitable. However, even if Hilary was the final gasp of the Rubinomics wing of the Democratic Party, that does not mean that the economic interventionists will fare any better against the right.

    Beyond simple racism and sexism (which, I agree, pretty much explains the Republican win), the ideological task of the Sanders/Warren wing is simply enormous. It has to fight not merely a well-funded Olin/Koch cabal, it also has to reverse generations of awful undergraduate economics teaching that starts and ends with the magical thinking of the “free market.”

    • Bitter Scribe

      My understanding is that the Japanese economy collapsed due in large part to their relentlessly protectionist trade policies. That doesn’t bode well for anyone who wants to impose protectionism here, no matter their motives or place on the political continuum.

    • alexceres

      Capitalism is a tool, not an end. Worshipping the dollar isn’t Christian. There are a lot of ways to communicate along the necessary lines.

      Explaining to an ignorant population economic policy would be an enormous task. But it’s also irrelevant. The democrats need to make people believe “we’ll protect you” and “you’ll get yours”. The biggest propaganda job is republicans persuading people that “elites” = “liberals, teachers, doctors, professionals” and not CEOs, bankers, and billionaires.

      The Republicans are going to raise everyone’s health care costs (if they can even afford health care anymore) and they are going to fail to bring back any jobs. Democrats need to hammer them on how every Republican policy takes money from the middle class and redirects it to the richest. Plus 4 years of Trump’s corruption and failures.

      Yes, a lot of folks are affected by racism and sexism. But if you gave them hope for actual money, they’d prefer that.

  • NewishLawyer

    The US still makes lots of stuff but we don’t make things that use thousands of workers at one factory and offers good pay.

    I agree that Trump spoke to enough of the WWC in terms of rhetoric but the big issue with Industrial jobs (and maybe all jobs) is not outsourcing but automation. Automation is occurring everywhere. This week I saw an article about a factory in China that replaced 90 percent of the workforce with robots and increased productivity while reducing the amount of product that got lost due to error and shoddy jobs.

    Within the next 10-30 years, maybe less, maybe more, we are going to see lots of layoffs because of automation. I suspect that this is going to happen in the same way that Hemmingway described bankruptcy, little by little and then all at once.

    Of course the market-friendly response is to say that while the Industrial Revolution destroyed jobs, it created more jobs and higher paying ones. The counter is that the process took decades and there is some evidence that this time might be different.

    I suspect politicians will not deal with automation until it is too late or unemployment hits 25 percent or higher.

    • DrDick

      That is because, beginning in the late 1970s, US corporations outsourced labor intensive manufacturing to low wage/no benefits/regulation countries. First it was Mexico, then SE Asia, and not China.

    • alexceres

      Unemployment won’t hit 25% for long. The infantry will have a job for you, Conscript.

      • Linnaeus

        If you’re out of luck or out of work, we can send you to Johannesburg.

        • Joseph Slater

          You can join the army or join the Corps
          We can’t make it here anymore.

  • DrDick

    I think that the kinds of trade deals you have talked about, with strong, enforceable labor protections, living wages, and environmental protections are the key. Imposing those dramatically reduces the incentives for offshoring and makes locating in the US more attractive without unduly harming foreign workers.

    • Linnaeus

      The conundrum is that those protections are precisely the kinds of things that the most ardent free traders want kept out of trade agreements, on the grounds that they increase labor costs and hence erode the comparative advantage of cheaper labor that developing countries have.

      • DrDick

        While they do erode it, they do not eliminate it (given that the cost of living is much lower in these countries)and they protect both the workers and others living in the area, which are both very good things for the local people.

        • Linnaeus

          I agree, it’s just that the folks who don’t (or who don’t care as much) are the ones writing the agreements.

  • Sumdood

    This tactic was tried back in the late 1980s and it didn’t work then and won’t work now. Americans like their cheap shit, even if they complain that it’s all from China.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJzPpVIIG_o

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Uoi40U4W-Y

  • Mike G

    And good luck getting the white everyday workers to think the Democratic Party has an answer to their problems.

    Especially when their requirements for a solution include “benefitting only my demographic while screwing the darkies”.

  • rlc

    Great post Eric. I was wondering when you were going to write it :-).

    I think an incomplete solution to the dilemma is to publicize hard the plan to spend money on infrastructure, as Bloix suggests. I doubt that inflation slowly increasing to 3% will matter much to the average *worker*. The talk freak shows and their retired audience is going to freak out anyway, over whatever they can find. But uneducated workers would love to have an opportunity to work on higher paid, local jobs.

    • FlipYrWhig

      And when they work on those jobs they will continue to loathe the Democrats who made them happen and elect the Republicans who tried to stop them, because that’s how they think, and they’re not going to change.

      • Linnaeus

        Some will. Some won’t.

      • rlc

        Look, I am probably further to the left than Loomis. I also happen to live smack dab in the center of the deplorables. I really don’t get the feeling that *any* of the commenters who respond with the sentiments (that’s all it is) revealed here understand that all these people, majority rotten ones included, live in communities with families built of old and young, male and female, gay or straight. I detest the deplorables. But I can tell you that when you straight up in-your-face-asshole alienate the former default breadwinners with a platform that consists only of this:

        https://stateinnovation.org/issues/

        you also go a long way to alienating that wider community.

        Right now I would guess (I’ve said this before) that the ~100K souls community that I am embedded in consists of likely >80% whole hearted mindless support for Trump. Not Republicans (that’s probably 60-70%). Sure, a bunch of them are hypocritical racist assholes. But politics is won at the margin in polarized societies and if one party completely abdicates on the issues of one of the largest slices of the *voting* population…

        Hell I give up. Yall city dwellers (I loved living on Townsend St on the Bay in SF) and my family are going to be under the thumb of the fascists for many years to come.

        Good gawd I am really needing the two weeks in Paris coming up. Although it’s going to be a bit challenging to listen to my visting Brit friends, given the even more impressive seppuku committed by Labour. And the French… did things really need to get this fucked up?

        • FWIW, a lot of people on this blog, myself included, live in quite conservative communities. My district went pretty overwhelmingly for the shitgibbon and hasn’t had a Democratic representative in decades. That said, we also saw over 10,000 people turn out for the protests on Jan 21. I suspect a rather large number of other regulars here live in similar environments.

          I’m also somewhat sceptical of the “we need to reach short-fingered vulgarian voters” argument since simply getting people who stayed home to show up at the polls would have won us the election. We’d probably have to sacrifice far fewer of our principles to do that, too.

          • rlc

            “we need to reach short-fingered vulgarian voters”

            Not what I said. The quoted goal is impossible. You need to reach the entire community.

            And with this, I’ll be back on this topic after the 2018 elections, where I will be delighted to admit that it is fantastic to have been wrong.

            • I don’t really see Democrats writing off the rest of the community. Could they be doing a better job trying to reach them? Probably. I don’t see them giving up on it entirely, though.

            • FlipYrWhig

              rlc, you seem to think there is some way to “reach the community.” This community doesn’t want to be reached. They aren’t waiting for a promise or a program that, when they hear it just right and in nice words, they’ll come running. They reject these things because of what they believe and they aren’t going to change. As I said elsewhere, it is _right_, morally, to help people, even assholes. It is not going to be a winning or rewarding electoral strategy to help assholes.

              • so-in-so

                It is not going to be a winning or rewarding electoral strategy to help assholes.

                Maybe not winning THEM, but a strategy of helping everyone might well be a winning one, and if it helps the assholes along the way, okay.

                • FlipYrWhig

                  We’ve already tried this. It was called “the Democratic Party.” Assholes decided they hated it because it helped too many dark-skinned people. Let’s just stomp them instead of trying to figure out how to make them like us. At a fundamental level, they despise us. It’s not fixable.

        • Origami Isopod

          I really don’t get the feeling that *any* of the commenters who respond with the sentiments (that’s all it is) revealed here understand that all these people, majority rotten ones included, live in communities with families built of old and young, male and female, gay or straight.

          Good gawd I am really needing the two weeks in Paris coming up.

          It’s pretty ironic that you’re painting most of us as elite urbanites. I sure as shit don’t have the paid time off or the scratch to jet off to Paris for two weeks. I’m doing okay now but it’s pretty fucking precarious in the grand scheme of things, and there are commenters here who are legitimately hurting.

        • Snuff curry

          former default breadwinners

          Ahistorical tone-deaf irony for the win, I guess. That’s quite literally only ever been true for a small minority of communities in a small chunk of comparatively recent history. So, boo-fucking-hoo to them and you, too. Attracting disproportionate amounts of attention is not the same thing as occupying the median experience.

    • so-in-so

      Assuming they are “higher paid”, that isn’t the cut of Trumpist’s jib.

      Most infrastructure spending under a GOP admin is going to directly go to corporations bottom line or executive bonuses. Probably be right in the bill that workers will be exempted from any and all minimum wage laws, or the contracts will be let to for-profit-prison corporations to supply labor.

  • libarbarian
    • Vance Maverick

      You’d think the increase would be 900%. Either they’re making only a third as much product as they used to, or there are some kind of costs associated with the machinery. Or a little of both, or perhaps I could click the link and read about it.

      • ajay

        That’s a good point.

        Changying Precision Technology Company replaced 590 human workers, or 90% of its workforce, with robots. What used to be manned by 650 people is now run by a dismal 60, primarily tasked to oversee that the machines perform in optimum conditions.

        Following the move, the company, which focuses on mobile phone production, saw pieces per person per month skyrocket from 8,000 to 21,000,

        So they used to produce 590*8000=4.7 million pieces per month and now they produce 60*21000=1.2 million per month.

        That’s not terrific… I can only assume that they mean “output” not “productivity” because otherwise they’ve wasted a lot of money!

    • NoMoreAltCenter

      In a sane economic system, that would be joyous news.

  • NewishLawyer
    • LeeEsq

      Isn’t this what the anti-identity politics liberals and left have been saying for a few years, that for liberals or the left to really succeed they need to go back to older models and focus on economics? I think that their might be too much investment in cultural leftism to go back to reformist leftism.

      • Linnaeus

        I don’t we should assume it’s an either-or-choice. Even the Vox author points out some of the limits to Rorty’s critique, while praising some aspects of it.

        • LeeEsq

          It’s not either-or but it isn’t we can have it all either. Its going to be a delicate balance between reform leftism and cultural leftism at least in terms of rhetoric. We might need to adopt more patriotic language and stop saying things like the United States was founded on white supremacy. The more ardent forms of social justice talk are probably going to have to get blunted a little.

          • so-in-so

            Discouraging our supporters without swaying our opponents, in other words. We tried that, doesn’t really work.

          • The language at last year’s Democratic Convention was pretty damn patriotic, especially in comparison to the Republicans’.

            • Origami Isopod

              This. “My country, right or wrong” isn’t patriotic unless you finish that saying: “If right, to be kept right; if wrong, to be made right” (paraphrased). To hell with ceding the concept of patriotism to reactionaries.

              • It’s not just that, though I agree completely with you, but even using the shallow definition of the term, the Republicans’ convention made America look like an unlivable hellhole, while the Democrats were pretty positive about the state of the country. A case could be made that they may have been too positive for some voters’ tastes, but they can’t be accused of not being patriotic.

                • Origami Isopod

                  I’m not sure optimism and patriotism overlap as closely as you say. The left and the right both have their sources of optimism and pessimism. While I obviously don’t agree that the U.S. is or was the unlivable hellhole that Drumpf made it out to be, there are some extremely deep problems with it that are crying out to be addressed. The difference is that the GOP’s “solutions,” aren’t.

                • Oh, I agree that there were certainly serious problems with the country even before the shitgibbon took office, which is part of the reason I said the convention might have been too positive. The thing is, though, that the Democratic convention consistently sung its praises of the institutions of government and the positive features of our country. That was nowhere to be found in the Republican convention, and indeed, it has also been nowhere to found anywhere in Tangerine Torquemada’s administration. Apart from his overt racism and misogyny, this is one of the biggest ways in which I find him to be a departure from previous Republican presidents.

    • Origami Isopod

      The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking for a strongman to vote for – someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.

      Yes and no. A lot of white suburbanites went for Trump. Illing (the Vox author) says that Rorty underplays the entrenched racism of the U.S., and one could say he does so here by attributing all the cultural resentment to the WWC. Racism has never been limited to them, only its less “polite” expressions.

      As for the “reformist” vs. “cultural” left, I don’t doubt that the Vietnam War (as well as Nixon’s corruption) played a role in making “old-fashioned” politics seem futile. But I don’t think Rorty gives newfound class privilege enough emphasis. He writes,

      While the Left’s back was turned, the bourgeoisification of the white proletariat which began in WWII and continued up through the Vietnam War has been halted, and the process has gone into reverse.

      On the other hand, the young adults whose parents benefited from the New Deal were moving into the white-collar world, and they felt less and less concern for labor issues.

      Rorty’s advice to the left was to pay attention to who benefits from such a strategy…

      This isn’t untrue, and Rorty is very clear that economic issues are not the sole issues that matter:

      Rorty’s concern was not that the left cared too much about race relations or discrimination (it should care about these things); rather, he warned that it stopped doing the hard work of liberal democratic politics.

      However, we’re going to need to remind the manarchists of that, because I’m sure they’re already taking him out of context.

  • Bitter Scribe

    Moreover, it’s simply reasonable industrial policy to create employment in industrial jobs in the United States. It’s necessary on a number of levels. First, it’s smart politics. Second, it stabilizes areas in decline by attempting to build jobs in struggling areas. Third, we have to provide a dignified life with good-paying jobs for working class people of all races.

    Unfortunately, none of those are priorities with employers, or at least the ones who are big enough to make a difference.

  • Gwen

    Meh. I just don’t get worked up over products that are made in Mexico, for approximately the same reason that rarely does anyone complain about Canada.

    As a Texan, I see encouraging economic development as being a positive social good. We don’t want our southern neighbor to be poor. If anything, I’d be willing to join a campaign to pressure Mexico to raise their minimum wage, or have better unions. But I’m not against “hecho en Mexico” at all.

    Now, CHINA on the other hand… (or Bangladesh, or Zimbabwe, or Belarus, or whatever) can kiss my foot.

    • Thom

      Oh yeah, all those US imports from Zimbabwe!

  • joejoejoe

    1) Dignity isn’t a finite resource. If Democratic policies are good for everybody in ways that improve rights or health or justice around the world — say those parts loud — and work to get better at the message. You can’t soft pedal doing the right thing because people are angry. You have to get them to be a little bit angry FOR your stuff. People will always be at least a little angry. The alternative is chicken-sh!t Rahm Emanuelism.

    2) Maybe Dems can double down on rebuilding the housing stock as a working class policy — with some libertarian zoning sweeteners like allowing for accessory dwelling units/mother in law apartments/granny flats in the new stock. That is good health policy too, aging in place. You could couple more flexible zoning with bad mouthing eminent domain as low-cost red meat to rabid voters. Giving people money to build additions where they can put their octagenerian parent and/or twentysomething kid is good policy. Developers like Trump love eminent domain but the people hate it. I know zoning is hardly federal but neither is education. Be the party of tradespeople!

    3) Stop talking in riddles. Every time I read a three-line statement from my Congressman it sounds like a fart. Just say ‘Betsy DeVos knows little about schools. What she does know is bad for kids. I’m voting against her.’ That’s it! Getting into the ‘proficiency vs. growth’ stuff wins you exactly zero votes. Democrats overexplain so much it makes me want to be independent.

    • bender

      All of this.

  • FlipYrWhig

    “Aggressive economic nationalist rhetoric” was always at most the icing on top of the toxic white-nationalist sludge cake that drove the Trump campaign. It was zero of his appeal. It was what hateful racists learned to say to reporters because they feel some compunction about saying their vote was to crack down on ni99ers, terrorists, illegals, and the people who coddled them. The economic-populist left is very excited about this analysis because they’ve predicted 11 of the past zero class-based uprisings, spotted before Trump in the form of “THE TEA PARTY HATES BANKSTERS TOO!”

    It is a good idea to talk about Democratic proposals for non-college-educated people, because we believe in fairness, but I absolutely guarantee you that the white Trump-voting beneficiaries of whatever Democratic proposals do emerge will _continue_ to spit in the faces of Democrats even while they benefit from the hard work Democrats do on their behalf, because they are foul, resentful people who like being foul, resentful people.

    • Linnaeus

      I absolutely guarantee you that the white Trump-voting beneficiaries of whatever Democratic proposals do emerge will _continue_ to spit in the faces of Democrats even while they benefit from the hard work Democrats do on their behalf, because they are foul, resentful people who like being foul, resentful people.

      I disagree with this somewhat.

      Yes, you’re going to have a hardcore set of voters who won’t be dissuaded from voting Republican no matter what Democrats do and, as you rightly point out, Democrats should continue to advocate for better policies for everyone because it’s the right thing to do. Being progressive is hard sometimes.

      People are complicated, though. We talk a lot here on LGM (and on a Certain Other Blog that many of us here read and comment on regularly) about the fact that it’s unrealistic to expect a political candidate to be “pure”. I think that maxim also applies to the electorate: voters aren’t pure either. With that in mind, you might be able to convince enough voters (who aren’t normally in your “base”) to join your coalition. Given how US politics are set up, and given the nature of the Democratic coalition, it’s more important for Democrats to do that.

      That means that Democrats will have to find a way to have a stronger presence outside of their “base” area. This is especially important at the state and local level, where Democrats are not doing especially well right now. It won’t be easy, but I think it’s vital.

    • mongolia

      “Aggressive economic nationalist rhetoric” was always at most the icing on top of the toxic white-nationalist sludge cake that drove the Trump campaign. It was zero of his appeal. It was what hateful racists learned to say to reporters because they feel some compunction about saying their vote was to crack down on ni99ers, terrorists, illegals, and the people who coddled them.

      this this this

      one thing i think that got way too little play in the election was how much of the anti-trade stuff was popular among trumps base was that it was an easy way to hate on foreigners and “others”. as in, while a lot of left-protectionists thought of this as a sort of “anti-trade wave” they could ride as a way of shifting us policy in this direction, what i saw it as was that the anti-trade sentiment on the right was really just a sort of dog-whistle they could wield and not get called out for racism, which also happened to bring along useful idiots like greenwald, fang, arnade, etc. along for the ride to further splinter the left-of-center coalition.

  • liberalrob

    I keep hearing all this talk about how massive investment in infrastructure projects will be a part of repairing the damage globalization has done to our manufacturing sector. And I’m all for massive investment in infrastructure projects. I just don’t see how it will go any distance towards accomplishing the goal of restoring manufacturing. The steel mills didn’t close because infrastructure projects dwindled, as far as I know. And I doubt the workers losing their jobs are in the main going to benefit from new jobs building and repairing infrastructure; they mostly didn’t do that kind of work in the lost jobs and would at best be treated as unskilled manual laborers in the new ones. Finally, the fact that Trump campaigned on supporting a massive investment in infrastructure makes me have to reconsider whether it’s really such a great idea.

    Protectionism isn’t the answer either. Once again, embracing the Buchanan/Trump program in this regard is something I instinctively recoil from just on general principles. Globalization is inevitable in a (relatively) free market; just as water seeks its own level when two bodies at different altitudes are connected, a massive disparity in profits relative to the cost of production will cause production to flow to where that profit is maximized. The United States is the single largest market in the world, but it is not the entire market or even the majority market (not even close!); protectionist tariffs on imports will simply redirect that flow of goods to markets where those tariffs do not apply, leaving the United States to suffer through shortages of those goods for no practical gain. Yeah, we’d sure be sticking it to the big corps though! Their U.S. sales would plummet!

    I really don’t see a good solution. Those jobs are gone and they’re not coming back, even if President For Life Trump decrees that it be so. If displaced workers can’t be retrained, and/or if there aren’t enough remaining or new jobs to absorb them, then we’ll have to support them somehow. A minimum guaranteed income would be one way.

    Or we could just let them starve and die in the streets, a.k.a. the GOP plan.

    • NoMoreAltCenter

      What you are saying makes it sound like “Nothing we can do. Sorry bout ya.” is the Dem plan as well.

    • mongolia

      I really don’t see a good solution. Those jobs are gone and they’re not coming back, even if President For Life Trump decrees that it be so. If displaced workers can’t be retrained, and/or if there aren’t enough remaining or new jobs to absorb them, then we’ll have to support them somehow. A minimum guaranteed income would be one way.

      honestly the only real solution to this is heavy unionization of service sectors. those are the jobs of the future, like it or not, and while a lot of them are shitty jobs right now, higher wages + expanded worker rights would allow these jobs to provide a comfortable middle-class lifestyle. i say this our only solution as there’s no panacea from national politics for this – the republican party currently in power literally wants to move back to the gilded age, and the dems are both geographically disadvantaged and only have too many interest groups to please to be the leader of the unionizing push.

      • Linnaeus

        This is definitely a good direction in which to go.

      • GCarty

        The problem with service-sector jobs is that most of them don’t bring money into a community in the way manufacturing jobs do (as most of them are servicing the community’s own residents). If most of the people in a community are poor then they won’t have the money to buy many services.

        The only service-sector businesses that would seem obvious candidates for poor areas unattractive to tourists would be call centres. Any better ideas?

    • alexceres

      This isn’t a manufacturing problem, industrial problem, or a trade problem. America as an aggregate economy is almost unimaginably wealthy compared to the history of the world, and our economy is growing. This is a wealth distribution problem. A massive growth in wealth and productivity over the last generation, but the average salary has remained flat for 2 or 3 decades, and the average salary for single men has decreased. So … where’d all that money goo ?

      And it’s quite tractable to improve through tax policy and infrastructure investment without inventing any new ideas. America has just chosen politically for rich people to get richer and everybody else to fight for scraps or die in the street or whatever it is that losers do

  • manual

    I think there is considerable confusion about Buy America/n.

    Buy America, which Trumps cabinet has floated refers to a series of domestic statutes that have Us domestic iron and steel requirements for transportation and certain water infrastructure projects. They effectively ensure that US taxpayer dollars are used to build us infrastructure. There are upsides and downsides, but they are hardly the weird facist/xenophobia that people are talking about. Many countries have these domestic priority requirement carve outs in multilateral trade requirements and are WTO compliant.

    So Im a little lost by the comments, I guess.

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