After Trump Wins, What Now?

To the Trump voter, they assume he will end crony capitalism, restart steel mills, re-open coal fired power plants and suddenly it will be the 1950s again.  Oh and build a wall at the Mexican border while at at it.   

But after a flurry of executive actions, and perhaps even a targetted few laws, the position of the working class will not change for the better under Trump.  It may even get worse.

For example, let’s take crony capitalism.  What is it anyway? While Tea Partyers labeled the bank and auto bailouts as examples of crony capitalism, in fact the US does pretty well on measures of crony capitalism.  And the bailouts were not examples.  Real CC exists where the ruling families own the major businesses, and where via ambiguous laws and poor enforcement, new entrants to business are blocked, and political enemies suddenly find their enterprises attacked for tax evasion or similar offenses.  The exemplar of crony capitalism is Putin’s Russia.  

Trump is a fan of Russia.


Nor will the steel mills restart.  

We do have some domestic steel, but it is specialty steel.  The giant smoke stack driven behemoths of the first half of the 20th century are no more.  So good luck.  

So what about China?  Yes, the Chinese do not grant free access to US goods and businesses, and Trump is right that the US sometimes behaves like chumps.  And it was probably a bad idea to accept their admission to the WTO.  But China’s entry into the WTO represented a long term goal of US policy to move China away from the communist system.  We succeeded, but they replaced communism with crony capitalism skewed even more by a system of state run enterprises.  The end result with China is an example of unintended consequences.  A similar scenario played out with Russia.  They too ended communism, but replaced it with a much less effective crony capitalism, coupled with a renewed nationalism.  

The WTO itself is just an extension of trade negotiations run under GATT.  And like any intergovernmental agreement, compliance is a problem.  Even during GATT, we sometimes lost.  For example, 50 years ago, the Japanese took our electronics industry.  In my youth TVs were made by Admiral, Motorola and such in the US.  In the 60s, the Japanese used lower prices to take market share.  Were these prices real (so Japan exploited the wage differential) or did they engage in dumping?  It was argued both ways then, but either way, the US lost its electronics industry. We lost primarily not because of the policies themselves, but because we could never imagine Japan (known before the 1960s for making cheap junk) as a producer of high end goods.  Our policies made sense to allow Europe and Japan to rebuild; they began to fail when one of the parties (Japan) changed utterly from what it once was.  The same indifference to the potential of China led to our inability to factor in what would happen if their economy took off.  

Too bad for us.  But we were not so much chumps as unable to think about what might happen.  

We do this all the time.  

We did it 60 years ago with domestic policy as the suburbs opened up, and the central business districts slowly emptied out.  It took decades, but by 1980, most large cities were in trouble.  Many have recovered, but some have not.  And many smaller cities remain a wreck. 

I don’t know that Hillary is any better than Trump at guessing the long term consequences of policies, but she is better at listening to the people overcome by the consequences.  

It may not be much, but for working class voters, it would help if they could learn that Trump can’t really help them.  And even if he could....  trust me, he does not want to. 

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