The Trump Trade Scam

Lawrence Mishel

Lawrence Mishel Economic Policy Institute

Yesterday, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump gave a speech on trade, extensively citing EPI’s research which shows that trade deficits as a result of NAFTA and other trade deals, as well as trade with China, have cost U.S. jobs and driven down U.S. wages. It’s true that the way we have undertaken globalization has hurt the vast majority of working people in this country—a view that EPI has been articulating for years, and that we will continue to articulate well after November. However, Trump’s speech makes it seem as if globalization is solely responsible for wage suppression, and that elite Democrats are solely responsible for globalization. Missing from his tale is the role of corporations and their allies have played in pushing this agenda, and the role the party he leads has played in implementing it. After all, NAFTA never would have passed without GOP votes, as two-thirds of the House Democrats opposed it.

Furthermore, Trump has heretofore ignored the many other intentional policies that businesses and the top 1 percent have pushed to suppress wages over the last four decades. Start with excessive unemployment due to Federal Reserve Board policies which were antagonistic to wage growth and friendly to the finance sector and bondholders. Excessive unemployment leads to less wage growth, especially for low- and middle-wage workers. Add in government austerity at the federal and state levels—which has mostly been pushed by GOP governors and legislatures—that has impeded the recovery and stunted wage growth. There’s also the decimation of collective bargaining, which is the single largest reason that middle class wages have faltered. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is now more than 25 percent below its 1968 level, even though productivity since then has more than doubled. Phasing in a $15 minimum wage would lift wages for at least a third of the workforce. The most recent example is the effort to overturn the recent raising of the overtime threshold that would help more than 12 million middle-wage salaried workers obtain overtime protections.

Trump is absent or wrong on all these issues. He has said in the past that wages are too high. And he argues, without basis, that businesses are overregulated and overtaxed—further ingratiating himself to corporate elites and the party he now leads. Deregulation and tax cuts are have been tried and failed for the last four decades, simply enriching the rich without stimulating any growth.

Trump’s latest take on trade is a scam. He claims to be offering a path for workers, but is actually just offering mostly empty boxes on trade. What exactly is he trying to accomplish with renegotiated trade deals? And if he so keen to help working people, why does he then steer the discussion back toward the traditional corporate agenda of tax cuts for corporations and the rich? Some pro-worker, anti-elite populist Trump is.

 

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This has been reposted from the Economic Policy Institute.

Lawrence Mishel, a nationally recognized economist, is president of the Economic Policy Institute, a role he assumed in 2002. Mishel first joined EPI in 1987 as research director. In the more than two decades he has been with EPI, Mishel has helped build it into the nation’s premier research organization focused on U.S. living standards and labor markets.

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