The Damage From Free Trade Helped Elect Trump

It seems that lots of media/political/business people “on the coasts” don’t get how big a deal trade played in Tuesday’s election.

Sold On Free Trade

In the late 70s the country was told that “protectionism” — protecting wages and key industries and — is bad for the economy and was sold “free trade” as a way to bring prosperity and jobs. “Trade” in this usage meant one and only thing: close a factory here and lay off the workers. Open a factory “there” to make the same goods, bring those goods back here to sell in the same stores to the same customers. It’s called “trade” because now those goods cross a border. The “sell” was that all those laid-off workers would be “freed up” to get better jobs.

Well, they never got better jobs — those were also outsourced or privatized or relabeled as low-wage “contractors” with no protections or benefits. So instead they had their homes foreclosed, their local stores forced out of business and their downtowns boarded up. Local and state tax bases dwindled so schools became terrible, infrastructure crumbled, public services cut and cut and cut. Meanwhile the investor class that pushed this and executive class that managed it pocket the wages these regions used to generate for themselves. (They also got huge tax cuts.)

Entire Regions Bled Dry

In the decades since entire regions have been bled dry of ways to make a living, their cities and towns and downtowns left behind to crumble, their aging former factory workers scrambling for WalMart jobs and turning to opiates for relief.

Take a few days and drive around the regions once known for manufacturing or steel production. See what this kind of “free trade” has done to them,

As you drive from town to town in Michigan and Ohio you see one after another a ring of the “big box” stores and national chain stores around each city. You also see the “brownfields” of rusted-out, closed factories, empty, falling-down buildings. Then you go to the downtown and you see boarded up houses, empty storefronts, deteriorating and deteriorated communities, idle people standing on corners. As you drive into these towns you can just see what is happening in a nutshell.

Bled dry. First by “trade,” then by Wall Street-owned chains and banks then by the Wall Street collapse that sucked away the remaining assets. And then Wall Street got bailed out by their taxes but they didn’t. These regions never got any help from the government, even as they watched the Wall Street types and executives and coastal elites living it up — on their money.

Wall Street was bailed out. But for decades this country allowed entire regions and populations to deteriorate and die, and inequality to soar, and didn’t do a thing about it. No one fixed it.

“I Alone Can Fix It”

Tuesday a lot of righteously angry people with nowhere else to turn got fed up, took things into their own hands and voted for the lying, insulting, women-groping demagogue who promised that he and he alone can fix it. “I am your voice … I alone can fix it.”

Pick a former manufacturing area, and look at how that area voted in Tuesday’s election. Key “swing” states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin were hit hard by deindustrialization and little to nothing was done to help the people there. And they voted for Donald Trump because he promised to “fix” it.

Trade Mattered Where The Votes Mattered Most

Andrew Flowers, writing at the FiveThirtyEight polling analysis site in Might Chinese Trade Explain Trump’s Success?

Recent research has indicated that trade with China has been more disruptive than previously thought. MIT economist David Autor and co-authors have documented how rising Chinese imports wreaked havoc on competing U.S. industries. In total, their research found the surge of Chinese trade was responsible for the loss of more than 2 million jobs between 1999 and 2011. But, interestingly — and this is where Trump’s electoral map comes in — it had a concentrated geographic impact. States in the Midwest, Appalachia and the Southeast were where Chinese trade hit hardest. Take a look at these maps showing where the U.S. industries were most exposed…

Click through to see the maps. Flowers then explains, “At first look, this map sort of overlaps with Trump’s success. He has won or is currently leading in several manufacturing-heavy Midwestern states; anti-trade sentiment is rife there.”

Exit polling drives this home. CNN’s exit polls, for example, tell the story:

Rust belt states agree with Trump that trade costs jobs

Donald Trump made trade a key message in his campaign. He promised to bring back the manufacturing jobs that he said were lost to trade deals.

Large shares of voters in key rust belt states key to Hillary Clinton’s electoral map agreed with Trump’s view that trade agreements have hurt American workers. And they overwhelmingly supported the billionaire businessman at the ballot box.

Half of Michigan’s electorate feel trade takes away jobs, and these folks supported Trump by a 57% to 36% split. The 31% who think it creates jobs backed Clinton by a 65% to 31% margin.

In Ohio, 47% of voters say trade hurts workers, and they lined up for Trump by a more than 2-to-1 margin. The 46% who say it creates jobs or has no effect strongly backed Clinton.

And in Pennsylvania, 53% of the electorate agree that trade is bad for jobs. Some 62% supported Trump, while 34% backed Clinton. Among the 35% who feel trade is a job creator, Clinton was the favored candidate by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

Trump Talked Trade From The First Day To The Last

Trump saw this and used it to propel his candidacy. Trump’s very first speech, announcing his candidacy, talked about trade — a lot.

“That’s right – a lot of people up there can’t get jobs. They can’t get jobs because there are no jobs because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs. They all have our jobs.

[. . .] I’m going to tell you a couple of stories about trade, because I’m totally against the trade bill for a number of reasons.

… Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have people that are stupid. We have people that aren’t smart, and we have people that are controlled by special interests and it’s just not going to work.

He went on to tell those stories. And more. There’s much, much more about trade in that first speech. From that moment on in his campaign, he continued to talk about trade, in almost every speech, in the debates, and then in his final “closing argument.”

Trump’s final ad displays a picture of Bill Clinton and the word NAFTA as Trump says, “The political establishment that is trying to stop us is the same group responsible for our disastrous trade deals…” Then, as a deserted factory is displayed:

“The political establishment is responsible for the destruction of our factories and our jobs as they flee to Mexico, China and other countries all around the world. The global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”

There’s no question about it: Trump used trade to propel himself to power.

Not Just Trump And Not Just Here

This is going on around the world. Elite “neoliberal” economic policies are driving inequality while wiping out the middle class and entire regions. Right-wing politicians are taking advantage of the distress and offering scapegoats, using xenophobia and racism to gain political power — just like Trump did.

Trump’s surprise win echoes the surprise win of Brexit — Britain’s vote to exit from the European Union. That vote was driven largely by the economic damage that EU’s open border and free trade policies were doing to the British working-class.

Glenn Greenwald writes about this at the Intercept, in Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit,

The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino-gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.

That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population — all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction — are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded. But human beings are not going to follow and obey the exact people they most blame for their suffering. They’re going to do exactly the opposite: purposely defy them and try to impose punishment in retaliation. Their instruments for retaliation are Brexit and Trump. Those are their agents, dispatched on a mission of destruction: aimed at a system and culture that they regard, not without reason, as rife with corruption and, above all else, contempt for them and their welfare.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, You can ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to all the people some of the time, and ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to some of the people all the time, but you cannot ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to all the people all of the time.

And here we are, with Trump soon to become President of the United States. Great. Just great.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

The Thing In The Budget Bill That No One Supports But Won’t Be Taken Out

The budget bill called the “Cromnibus” (for Continuing Resolution and OMNIBUS budget bill) contains a provision that undoes an important part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulation bill. It would allow banks to gamble on derivatives using money from taxpayer-protected accounts. Citibank literally wrote the provision and paid someone to put it in the bill.

No one in the House or Senate will say who was paid to put it in the bill. No one will admit to putting it in the bill. No one will say that support this provision. But it will not be taken out of the bill.

OK this is not a rhetorical question, it is a question to broadcast. This was written word-for-word by Citibank, to benefit Citibank, putting the taxpayers at great risk. How can something like this be in a bill if no one put it in the bill and no one indicates support for it? How can we not get it taken out if no one will say they put it in and no one will say they support it?

Someone was obviously paid to put it in the bill. People are obviously being paid to keep it in the bill.

How FAR from the principles of democracy, transparency, accountability and everything the country, the Constitution and the Congress are supposed to stand for can we go here?

Please click here now to call your senators and tell them to stand up against this dangerous attempt to rig the rules for Wall Street – and against us.

Full Employment: First Principle Of New Populism

Word is there’s an economic recovery going on. The New Populism ConferenceBut approximately 99 percent of us have no reason to believe that.

The public sees that the government bailed out the biggest banks and that the “recovery” is going really well for a very few people. But most Americans are actually falling behind, and know it. Wages are still stagnant at best and the minimum wage has fallen so far behind that people working full time remain in poverty. Unemployment is down largely because of people “leaving the workforce.” And all along government services are being cut and cut and cut.

People see the government working for a wealthy few at the top, and against the rest of us. People see the rigged game at work against them. This is not just an economic and human catastrophe. With an election coming, key Democratic constituencies have simply been left behind during the Obama administration. “Are you better off now than you were 4 or 8 years ago? HELL NO!”

So this could become a political catastrophe as well, potentially bringing the return of the very people and conditions that got the country into this mess.

An Ongoing Catastrophe For Regular People

What Washington has done since the “Reagan Revolution” and especially since the 2008 crash has benefited the few, usually at the expense of the general public. Washington rescued the big banks, and left homeowners and the rest of us to fend for ourselves.

Anti-inflation monetary policy has been a catastrophe for regular people. (Protecting Wall Street at the expense of Main Street? Really?)

Washington’s austerity, budget-cutting fixation has been a catastrophe for regular people. (Laying off hundreds of thousands of public employees, cutting public investment and cutting back on the safety net during an unemployment crisis? Really?)

Washington’s “free trade” policies have been great for giant, multinational corporations but have been a catastrophe for regular people, sending millions upon millions of jobs out of the country. (Not even confronting blatant currency manipulation that is costing 5.8 million jobs? Really?)

Washington’s corporate tax policies have been a catastrophe for regular people. (Giving companies huge tax breaks for moving jobs, factories and profit centers out of the country? Really?)

One catastrophe after another hitting regular people. And people see it coming from a system that is rigged against them, working just fine for a wealthy few.

We did get the “stimulus.” The stimulus reversed the terrible plunge in jobs and showed that our government could fix the jobs emergency.

But that was all it did, and that was it. It worked but it was just not enough to get things going again. And now it’s five years later. As most people can see, after the stimulus the Obama administration capitulated to Republican/Wall Street demands for austerity – and outright budget blackmail. The President even at times reinforced the right’s ideological position by boasting about government progress in balancing its books rather than emphasizing the human cost of not boosting government resources to drive job creation. Democrats even voted to cut food stamp spending and the president signed the bill! (Cutting Food Stamps in the middle of a national jobs and poverty emergency? Really?)

We Demand Full Employment

The New Populism Conference on Thursday will demand full employment as the first principle of the new populism.

We demand full employment! Full employment means there is a job for everyone who wants a job. There is simply no reason whatsoever that we can’t have full employment – except for policies that are intentionally keeping us from having full employment.

We demand full employment! Why isn’t our government stepping up and just hiring all of the people who need jobs? It’s not as if there are not enough things that need to be done. Our infrastructure is in serious need of repair. We need to retrofit millions of buildings and homes in the country to be energy efficient. We need to build a modern energy grid to bring energy from wind farms that we need to build in the plains states (where the wind is) to the cities and industrial centers (where the need is). We need to cut the number of children per classroom in half. We need to do … so many things. Why isn’t our government the employer of last resort, just hiring people to do those things we need done – in the middle of an employment emergency?

We demand full employment! Unemployment is a human and economic catastrophe. There are so many things our government could do besides direct hiring (which they should be doing). Our government could fix our job-sucking trade deals and balance the trade budget. Our government could demand that corporations return the trillions of dollars they are holding outside of the country to avoid paying the taxes due on that money. That’s a double whammy; take away the huge incentive to move jobs out of the country because of the tax break – and use the money they already owe to just hire millions of people!

The New Populism Conference

Two speakers at this week’s New Populism Conference, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and economist Jared Bernstein will talk about the importance of growth and jobs in order to bring about a rapid change in inequality.

Rep. Ellison will talk about the Progressive Caucus investment strategy for full employment. Bernstein will talk about full employment and his recent book, “Getting Back to Full Employment: A Better Bargain for Working People,” co-written with economist Dean Baker.


The New Populism Conference on May 22 in Washington (featuring Sen. Elizabeth Warren) will discuss ways to fight for an agenda for economic change that strong majorities of Americans already support. (See the Populist Majority website containing polling numbers showing that Americans support this New Populist agenda.) Click here to register or to watch the conference live online.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Compare Detroit And Wall Street

Compare the Detroit bankruptcy with the Wall Street bailout. The banks got trillions for bailouts. The bankers even got huge bonuse out of that bailout money

But in Detroit old people will lose pensions.

It’s about priorities.

Compare how the different situations were handled, who was helped, who paid. Detroit will have to “restructure” and sell off public property. Which banks were restructured, had to change the way they did business, give their property to the government, etc?

Will people in Detroit get bonuses like the bankers got?

“Spreadsheet Error” Economists Blame “The Left” Not “Science”

In an op-ed in the NY Times today the “spreadsheet error” economists tell us all we need to know about their research and their conclusions. In the op-ed, Reinhart and Rogoff: Responding to Our Critics, skip to the last paragraph:

“Now we are being attacked by the left — primarily by those who have a view that the risks of higher public debt should not be part of the policy conversation. “

“The left?”

I think these two words tell the whole story. All the economists and other scholars who are criticizing the errors and selective use of favorable data in work represent “the left.” Actual science that looks at the real world to see what actually happens is “the left.”

Downward Spiral

Here is the situation:

Continue reading

Jobs

Everyone knows that during the depression the government hired unemployed people to work on the infrastructure, parks, etc., and isn’t doing that this time.

Back then We the People were in charge, at least to more of an extent than today. So We the People did things to make our lives better. We the People doing things together to make our lives better is called democracy.

Now government just makes the lives of the wealthiest even better. This is plutocracy.

Cyprus Lesson: Watch Your Bank

There is a lesson from the Cyprus situation: If you are a large depositor you need to watch your back bank. You can’t just assume someone will bail out the banks — and you. The big banks have been able to keep governments from reigning them in, while getting governments to bail them out. That game is over.

From now on you have to take a look at the bank’s books and business practices and decide for yourself if your money is safe.

Right now it looks like large depositors in Cyprus’ banks are going to take a 30-40% “haircut” – meaning when the banks reopen 30-40% of their money will be gone. This is the “bailout” alternative to the banks failing and all of the money going away.

The Cyprus lesson is that deregulation and “keeping government from meddling with business” means it’s all on you now, on your own, by yourself, to watch out for your own interests. And that’s expensive. Really, really expensive.

It’s the libertarian dream, home to roost.

Not Greece

Cyprus is not like Greece. The government didn’t borrow a lot of money. What happened is that their banks failed. Cyprus’ banks seven-or-eight times the size of Cyprus’ economy when the EU average was three times, in-part because they offered tax-haven status to depositors around the world. In particular they attracted wealthy Russian and British tax-evaders. If the banks fail they will lose their money. And they were doing what big banks do with depositors’ funds — bad loan, speculation, investing in Greek bonds… It turned out that when something is unsustainable it can’t be sustained, and this time it wasn’t. The banks failed.

But it wasn’t just wealthy Russians and Brits on the line here … Cyprus’ businesses also have their money in Cyprus’ banks. So here’s the thing: If the banks just fail it would mean that every business in Cyprus would lose their money too, and be unable to make their payrolls, pay their creditors, even pay their rent.

When Banks Fail You Lose Your Money

Here is something that most people don’t understand: When banks fail every depositor loses their money. In the depression banks failed and depositors lost their money. Regular people around the country lost their savings. This is what causes bank runs – people trying to get their money out in time. The ones who don’t get there in time lose everything.

Since the depression American banks are insured up to a certain amount by the Federal Depository Insurance C-something (FDIC), and this has prevented these bank runs. When bank fails the FDIC steps in (usually on a Friday evening), closes the bank and arranges for another bank to take over the insured accounts (usually by Monday morning) and regular depositors hardly even notice the change.

European depositors with $100,000 Euros or less are also insured, so these Cypriot depositors will be repaid at some point. Amounts over that will have to wait for the banks to be liquidated, and might or might not get some pennies on the Euro.

On top of that, when banks fail you can’t get normal financing. It becomes difficult to borrow to meet the next payroll even though you have more than that due from receivables, or to get financing to upgrade your equipment even though your cash flow can handle the payments…

So governments have to step in when there is a systemic banking-system failure. If they don’t the entire economy in that country basically just shuts down.

The Cyprus Deal Means You Have To Watch Your Bank

So Cyprus needs to bail out its big banks or lose everything, and the government is making a deal with the International Monetary Fund and German and other banks for a loan to keep things going. It looks like the Cyprus bank bailout deal means depositors with amounts over the insured level are “taking a haircut” and losing 40% of their money.

Before this happened in Cyprus you usually large depositors could stick their money in a generic “bank” and if something happened a government would step in and get you most, if not all, of your money. Banks were generic banks, they held you money and when you needed it you could just get it.

But now there is a lesson: banks can fail and government might not step in and bail everyone out. You can lose your money.

You can lose your money.

This means you have to pay attention to which bank you are putting your money in. You need to look at the particular bank you are putting your money into and understand if they are playing games, speculating, hiding things from their books, making bets with a “London Whale,” using fantasy valuations or “repos” to make their books look better, laundering money for drug dealers or terrorists, etc.

It’s on you, because government’s aren’t doing it. Whether it is due to deregulation or “regulatory capture,” the banks are doing what they want, when they want and to whom they want. And no one is holding them accountable. You can lose your money.

Government is no longer functioning when it comes to big banks, so you have to do the work yourself. You can lose your money so you have to know if your bank is on the level. Good luck with that.

Anti-government types, you got what you wanted. Government is not “meddling” with businesses – at least not with the big banks. So sit back and enjoy the ride.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary

Today’s Housing Bubble Post

Yes, I am reviving the “Today’s Housing Bubble Post” that was so popular prior to the (last) crash.

In a local weekend paper today I saw a 3br, 2ba regular old house on a regular old street in a regular neighborhood in Cupertino, CA listed for $1.4 million.

Fed-driven low interest rates lead to asset bubbles. Tax cuts for the rich lead to massive wealth inequality and investors with too much money chasing fad-speculations like birds all flying off a wire at the same time.

We need a different approach. What we need for the economy is a massive infrastructure modernization effort. Since the Reagan tax cuts we have deferred maintaining our infrastructure (and cut education and everything else) and it has caught up with us.

The Congressional Progressive Caucus “Back To Work Budget” immediately hires 7 million people to fix our infrastructure and pays for it by bring tax rates on the wealthy back to Clinton levels, plus new brackets for millionaires and billionaires. And they tax capital gains at the same rate as regular income. But they don’t even bring it back to pre-Reagan levels!

How To Understand The Greece Situation

Why are the Greek people forced to take big wage cuts, lose pensions, etc., as well as forced to privatize — sell off their public holdings into the hands of wealthy 1%ers who will then rent the services back to them for a profit?
They are forced to do this to bail out banks. These banks made loans and charged fees and high interest rates according to their own evaluations of the risk of making those loans. They understood when they made the loans that people in Greece had pensions, etc. But now that the banks crashed the economy of the world, it is the fault of the lazy people of Greece for having pensions and living high on the hog, and they have to suffer so that the banks can get all their money.
Once again, banks made loans based on valuations of risk and charged fees meant to cover losses of potential defaults. They made loans to lots of people, expecting a certain default rate, and charged money according to that risk. But now that the risk is realized, they are not happy just making what they charged (which as based on the risks they understood), and want the people of Greece to cut jobs, wages, pensions, to make sure the banks are paid.
Now, watch this carefully, especially starting at 3:50. This is about Ireland, but it may as well be Greece, or here. From What Wolf and You Can Learn from the Irish Press for the GOP Debate,

“Now, why are the Irish people required to pay billions to unguaranteed bondholders under threat to the ECB.” “You people are intervening in this society causing huge damage, by requiring us to make payments, not for the benefit of anybody in Ireland, but for the benefit of European financial institutions. Now could you explain why the Irish people are inflicted with this burden.”
No response.
Also – and this is very important, note the difference between this journalist, and what we have here in the US. This journalist is willing to press the real question and is not kowtowing to the big corporate 1%er spokesman. You won’t see that on the American corporate media, not ever, if the reporter wants to keep his or her job.