Sunday, May 8, 2016

No one solves the problems

Trump is promising to bring good jobs back to the US. He doesn't say how this will happen, but we're supposed to trust him because he knows how to make good deals.

Is he different from other politicians (both right and left) who have promised good jobs? Were the earlier politicians (right and left) different from one another when they promised good jobs?

In many ways, they weren't different. Both sides failed. Their promises were half-baked words meant to get them elected, but not suitable to be implemented. Trump's promises look a lot like this.

I'm not an economist--not that economists have delivered all that well on their predictions/solutions (i.e. promises). I haven't seen an economist discuss which economies in the world are working well, and whether the US can emulate their success. I suspect that the US can't emulate their success. If we are to recapture our former higher level of economic success, we'll have to figure out our own path there.

The GOP path was tax cuts for 'job creators' and the trickle-down economy. Since Bush Jr., that path has clearly been a failure. The Democratic path seems like a hodge-podge of security nets programs and tax increases on the wealthy. How that brings more jobs isn't clear. I'd have to classify as a redistribution program, not a jobs-creation plan.

The failure of both the GOP and Dem plans have left the door wide open for Trump, and he has taken full advantage. I don't know how many of his supporters actually believe him. But for sure, they know that the GOP and the Dems have failed, so maybe it's time to try something else.

Ask the question: Is this working?

Worst of all, neither the Dems nor the GOP have grappled with their failures. Dems are doubling-down on the social safety net, while the GOP continues their trickle-down fantasies. Dems, for electoral reasons, won't consider that large-scale immigration has hurt average Americans. Many in the GOP elites won't talk about it either because they benefit from cheap immigrant labor, and they're looking at electoral demographics too.

So, it is no surprise that Trump wins the GOP presidential nomination, since he is the only candidate who will talk about immigration in forceful, if ugly, terms.

As for the general election, I'm not confident that Trump will lose. Hillary represents one failed plan, so she certainly doesn't deserve to win. Trump doesn't deserve to win either. No one seems to deserve the office. No one has strong, new ideas.

I recently read a history of the US from 1932 to 1972 (The Glory and the Dream by William Manchester). It was enlightening how Roosevelt tackled the depression. The problem is that the US is so much larger now with so many more layers of spending. Can we actual do anything major now? I have strong doubts.

Nonetheless, I wish more politicians were making big proposals that are outside of the same-old partisan failures. Instead of Trump vs. generic-Dem, we should have had the choice of a half-dozen new ideas. But we didn't, and that's the shame and the pity.


Extras. Are there countries we can learn from? HuffPost's top ten. US News and their ranking of 60 countries. Also by quality of life.


Dangerou said...

Wow. Talk about reductionist thinking. To paraphrase, you're saying that BOTH parties have failed. I'd say it depends on the definition and should be judged on objective criteria rather than just conventional wisdom at least partially informed by incessant blame-gaming designed for the party out of power to keep people as angry as possible to try to regain power. So all measures of consumer or employer or employee confidence are skewed to the negative side from reality.

Both parties have actually succeeded, more at less, at advancing the overall economy. The Dems have been better overall although the causes and effect of various economic policies are hardly clear and MOST subject to negative assertions. For example, Bernie Sanders echoes conventional wisdom now that trade deals have been "disastrous" for the middle class. Hmm. I'll bet the middle class is awfully happy that their money goes farther at Walmart.

So are you surprised all "ideas" are poll-tested and vapid? Get specific and the opponents will jump on any negative to anyone and all proposals have trade-offs.

But economic populism is also a mixed bag. Tariffs raise costs and have shown to help very little; you save a few jobs when the resources could have been better applied in other areas. Opportunists usually get most of the advantage, not the workers on the line. And let's not forget that factory or mining jobs, while they might have paid decently, were not "good jobs" people aspired to. They are and were jobs you took because you had to. Even before today, many of those jobs were automated (due to the grinding boredom or risks), or transferred from the rust belt to the sun belt for no unions, lower wages, and friendlier tax and environmental policies.

I'd also argue that the parties are always FORCED to grapple with their failures, whether they were actually failures or not. It's become so prevalent to now blame both, as if some other magical group of people will create a new party that will be 100% honest with the voters that they plans may or may not have all the positive results they hope for, and that some will be winners and others will be losers no matter what. The Republicans have just been better and downplaying their failures and the Dems have been less successful at all political messaging.

How about a post about the success of the two parties' policies at various times. Obama policies -- at least as much as Congress after 2011 has allowed -- have reduced unemployment from 10% to 5% while cutting the deficit by 70%. Those are objective standard and hardly automatic, as many European countries have discovered. Bush's results speak for themselves -- but even his policies looked OK for a long time, until they crashed and burned.

Further, whenever their is divided government and part of the country aggressively opposes one party's economic plans, the results are muddled as is any evaluation of the impact of those plans. Obama will say his policies reduced unemployment. His opponents will say their objections and blocking his policies did that. Conservatives will say their tax cuts should have been larger to produce the huge promised gains. Who can argue with them? There's no objective way for sure to know in an economy of 300 million people joined with a global economy.

I'd argue you need markets to produce efficiency and proper allocation of resources in a consumer-driven society. You also need government regulation to raise the floor for everyone to share in the fruits of economic growth, and to prevent opportunists from playing the rest of us by laying off their costs or gaining undue benefits from public resources.

CSH said...

Something I've been thinking a lot about lately is that ideology is really just window dressing for power. Ideology is a convenient way to organize our thoughts and find tribal allies, but power flows to various individuals more or less independently of ideology. Today the rentier class holds all the cards, and there is not really an ideology to stop them.

Full disclosure: I like that personally as I am as much a rentier as anyone. But if you're uncertain why things go the way they do, look to the rentier's interests to find your clue. For example, if smart people realize a return to, say, 6% interest rates blows the deficit up by a cool trillion a year, why are more people not alarmed? Absent outsize economic growth, the fixes require pain - pain especially to the rentier class. Or - when even staunch conservatives support regulations like Robinson-Patman and similar measures, how in the world is the business model of a group like Bain Capital legal? Helps the rentiers. And on and on and on and on.

How does the rest of society wrest power back from the rentier class? Hope I never have to find out! But there it is, anyway.

Dangerous said...

I find that the picture you used of the character from The Big Lebowski (with the same name as Jeff Bridge's character, Jeffrey Lebowski) as the epitome of the wealthy and powerful. That character had money, but if you watch the movie he's a fraud. He married into the money, did not do well with his business efforts, and pretended to be successful for his own ego. The character embezzled $1 million from a foundation.

The hero is Jeff Bridge's "Dude" Jeffrey Lebowski, skating through life on little money, dodging his landlord, and enjoying life.

Many wealthy people are frauds and highly insecure. Trump is the poster child for that.