My two main sources of information for this blog are the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. In particular I am always eager to read Eduardo Porter’s weekly column, Economic Scene, in the NYT. He frames the issues very well, even though I often disagree with him on the details. Yesterday’s column, “In Brexit and Trump, a Populist Farewell to Laissez-Faire Capitalism,” points out the similarities in the white working class support for both Brexit and for Donald Trump. It then goes on to advocate for what the economist Larry Summers refers to vaguely as “responsible nationalism.”
I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Porter and Mr. Summers that we need policies to boost the fortunes of blue collar workers, and here are some good ways to do it:
Tax reform to put more disposable income in the pockets of middle- and lower-income workers, to support job creators, and to provide a big incentive for American multinational companies to bring their earnings back home for reinvestment.
Immigration Reform. The key here is a rigorous Guest Worker Visa program to provide immigrant employees for businesses who are unable to hire enough qualified domestic workers. At the same time, a strict eVerify enforcement system would also be established to catch illegal immigrants and deport them.
Free and Fair Trade. Free trade among nations has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty worldwide, as well as benefitting all Americans with lower prices. What we have failed to do is to adequately help displaced workers retrain for the millions of high skilled jobs available in the U.S. which go unfilled for lack of qualified applicants.
Conclusion. Our country faces severe problems. If we don’t get deficit spending under greater control, we risk a new and more severe financial crisis. If we can’t create more and better paying jobs for the modestly educated, we will be faced with Trump-like demagogic candidates for president every four years. It will be a huge challenge for us to extricate ourselves from this mess in a peaceful manner.
“Speak softly and carry a big stick” President Theodore Roosevelt, 1900
There are many foreign policy issues facing the U.S. at the present time:
Russia is stirring up unrest in Eastern Europe by threatening the independence of Moldova and the Ukraine as well as several NATO countries.
The Middle East is in turmoil stirred up by ISIS and the effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
China is working hard to assert dominance in East Asia.
The world is more stable when there is a single dominant power such as the U.S.. If the U.S. retreats from this role, it is inevitable that regional powers such as Russia, China and Iran will assert themselves to take up the slack. We don’t need to act as the world’s policeman every time a problem flares up around the world. But democracies are better actors on the world stage than are autocracies. Therefore the whole world benefits when the U.S. projects power and interest. A column in today’s Wall Street Journal by Michele Flournoy and Richard Fontaine makes a very important point, namely that “Economic Growth Is a National Security Issue.” In other words, the stronger is our economy, the more influence and respect we will enjoy in our relations with other countries. Especially they recommend emphasizing:
Trade and Investment. It looks like Congress will give the President trade-promotion authority for negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement. Indian, African and European trade agreements could then follow.
Energy. The ban on the export of crude oil and natural gas should be lifted.
International Institutions. A Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will be much less of a threat to the U.S. one a TPP trade agreement goes into effect.
Ms. Flournoy and Mr. Fontaine are focused here on international economic growth. But all economic growth, domestic as well as international, will make the U.S. stronger and therefore better able to project power.
Conclusion: we need to focus more strongly on economic growth in all of its guises!