President Donald Trump said he would make our country great again. While this might mean a number of things to different demographics, one of the big themes I got from the Trump campaign was the idea that we ought to rein in globalization.
For many Americans, it was the breaking down of economic borders that led to discontent. Whether it was the outsourcing of steel production, cars, or what have you that led to economic misery, the manufacturing class in America has been hurting badly.
There are a lot of Americans who want nothing more than to see jobs come back to their towns. Many of the people who voted for Trump in 2016 were members of organized labor. According to a Fox News exit poll, the typically left-leaning union voters turned out for Clinton in record low numbers.
It is clear that people feel betrayed by the system, and I cringed when I saw Hillary Clinton declare that “America is Already Great.” By some metrics, I am sure our country is great, but the citizens don’t want to hear a candidate declare that the status quo is acceptable and everyone needs to stop complaining.
Now that Trump has won, how is he going to get jobs back to America? Are we going to be seeing a dramatic recovery?
If Trump’s deal with Carrier Corporation in December is any indication, we might not want to hold our breath. Donald convinced an Indiana factory to stay within the United States, which sounds like good news. But, to stay competitive, those running the show say they are going to automate many of those good old American jobs. Notably, a study by the consulting firm McKinsey and Co. estimates that 45 percent of US jobs can be automated.
How exactly does one keep a company from automating?
On the up side, Trump has gotten Ford to agree to keep from building a plant in Mexico. He also threatened a “border-tax” on businesses taking advantage of our relationship with Mexico. Naturally, many Mexicans are afraid for their economy, since they have seen great economic gain in recent years from their international dealings.
Ultimately, I think we must do what is right for ourselves. Protectionism is an oddly un-conservative way for a Republican to look at the economy, and I can’t say I am really against it. My fear, though, is that Trump’s effort to help the economy will consist of largely symbolic gestures such as the Carrier deal. Hopefully, his future protectionism will be less toothless.
If Trump can defeat the dragon of outsourcing, though, he will still have to deal with the hydra of automation. The issue with the prohibition of outsourcing is the same issue with any kind of prohibition: it doesn’t fix the root problem. If one cannot outsource labor, why not simply automate it? Andy Puzder, the owner of fast food chains Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., has threatened to automate if minimum wage rises.
It doesn’t take an economist to figure out that outsourcing and automation are really about those green pieces of paper, and where there is a love of money there will be all kinds of money-saving gymnastics.
Whether it comes in the form of automation, outsourcing, underpaying, the denial of overpay, or any other trick in the book, those who hold the wealth will seek to maximize profits. Only when all of the things that ail the worker are taken into account can we have a fair economy.