The strangest aspect of the current presidential campaign is the staying power of the highly unconventional and controversial candidate Donald Trump. There is wide agreement that the secret of his success is his strong appeal to the members of the white working class whose incomes have been in decline for many years.
The plight of the working class is often viewed in the context of the overall increase in income inequality in the U.S. My last two posts, here and here, are part of that discussion.
Mr. Trump appeals to these disaffected voters by vowing to wall off Mexico and cut back on foreign trade. But it may be possible to “Revive the Working Class Without Building Walls” as Eduardo Porter suggests in the New York Times. According to Mr. Porter, what are needed are new government programs such as wage insurance or direct government employment.
Alternatively we could meet the illegal immigration and trade protectionism problems in a much more growth oriented way as follows:
- Immigration Reform. Set up an adequate Guest Worker program to serve only those businesses and industries which can demonstrate that they are unable to recruit enough local workers to meet their employment needs. Once the Guest Worker program is functioning properly, eVerify would be enforced to weed out unauthorized illegal workers and deport them back to their home countries. At the same time the number of H1-B visas would be expanded in order to retain more of the highly skilled foreigners getting advanced degrees in the U.S.
- Foreign Trade. As the above chart shows, there is a close connection between world trade and world economic growth. And clearly the U.S. economy benefits from world-wide economic growth. The way to balance off job losses caused by foreign trade is with more effective trade-adjustment assistance and job retraining programs.
Whether or not Mr. Trump receives the Republican presidential nomination or is elected to be president in November, we should address the real grievances of his supporters in ways that benefit the entire economy.