Trump knows nothing about the economy.
Donald Trump’s deep-seated idiocy and shocking ignorance prevent the altogether foolish man from understanding economic reality. His willing stupidity has led His Accidency to routinely promise a return to industrial greatness, all premised on turning America’s back on globalization – the force that has led to unprecedented worldwide standard of living increases and 70 years without a major conflict – and returning to an economic policy that failed in 17th Century.
The president hopes to improve American manufacturing by levying tariffs on our trading partners, those whose goods contribute to a global supply chain that leads to affordable purchases. His solution will hurt workers, consumers, and the economy. If he were intellectually curious – a big ask for a man who assumes he knows more about ISIS than do the generals – he would quickly realize that to revitalize the American economy, we need significant investments in education, not a return to pathological protectionist plight.
Our perfidious president fails to understand that automation guts manufacturing’s demand for labor. The computer – not China, not Mexico, not immigrants – takes jobs. And there’s no rolling back such progress. Technology’s relentless forward march will inevitably displace former industrial workers (capitalism: creative destruction). Tariffs do not vanquish computers; angry 3am tweets don’t kill robots; all the campaign promises and bluster will not make Luddism successful for history’s first time.
Tariffs Don’t Work
In fact, Trump’s desired tariffs and other reworkings of trade pacts will hurt the economy, including (especially) the very workers from whose cultish trust Trump thrives. Tariffs disrupt the global supply chain. Trump wants, for instance, to slap a tariff on Chinese steel imports. That raises the price of steel for all manufacturers that create products with steel, such as cars. Such companies, paying more for supplies, stay profitable by laying off or refusing to hire new workers (to save labor costs) and increasing costs for consumers.
Suddenly, factory workers aren’t working because companies can’t afford to pay salaries. Consumers slow their buying habits because of price increases – this further hurts workers because demand for goods creates demand for labor. Fewer workers = less income; less income and more expensive goods = less buying; less buying = less demand for labor; less demand for labor = fewer workers. It’s a vicious cycle, kicked into gear by ill-advised tariffs.
So tariffs don’t work. (And there is no economic evidence or accepted/logical/rational theory that believes tariffs magically bring production back to America’s shores, so there’s no skirting tariffs’ negative externalities.) Manufacturing jobs will increasingly be lost to automation and disrupting trade can’t change that. What, then, can help displaced workers?
In an economy that increasingly relies on new technology, we need a workforce prepared for new and innovative industries. We can create that fairly easily. Displaced workers should have a robust safety net and easy access to job retraining and continuing education programs. The former, ideally, would work with local employers to train directly for demanded needs; the latter would help workers continually improve their skillset so that they can fluidly transition to new industries. Future generations of workers can be prepared for the new economy by expanding coding and other STEM classes in middle and high school. No more pottery or cooking – instead, let’s teach Python and biotechnology and 3D manufacturing. This requires fiscal policy dedicated cultivating America’s human capital. What could be a better use of money?
Rather than idiotically come up with moronic solutions meant to preserve outdated industries, our leaders need to look to the future. Unfortunately, Donald Trump seems utterly incapable of grasping our modern economy. He looks back to bygone days on which the sun has forever set. Trump makes impossible promises and condescends to voters; for their part, voters must realize that only a charlatan promises a return to the past. Instead, they too must look ahead and realize that the economy’s dynamic nature is its greatest asset.