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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Free Trade, SUV's, Muscles, and Donald Trump

Recently Dan McLauglin asked:  “Why Did Almost Nobody See The Trade Issue Coming Before Trump?”

Good question.  I'm a free trade guy, but right now I’m re-thinking it a bit.  At least I’m rethinking the sort of total, Randian, there’s-never-any-reason-to-manufacture-underwear-in-America view I used to have.  Maybe there have been some flaws in my thinking about free trade. 

I once read an analogy about muscles and SUV’s.  If I remember this right, the writer and his next-door neighbor started working out together.  I don’t remember the specifics exactly, whether it was something like cross-fit, but I do recall it was  a strenuous routine.  So strenuous that there was some question about whether there was any point to a couple of office guys in their mid-thirties trying to stay that fit?  Seriously, why bother?  Then one day (yes, you knew this was coming)  there was a major storm that knocked down trees all over the place, including between their houses.  The storm was so bad that trees were down everywhere, and it would be days or longer before they’d be able to hire crews to clear the downed trees out of their driveways.

So they got out their chainsaws, and started cutting wood and hauling branches.  If you’ve never done that sort of work you have no idea how hard it is.  But they got it done – driveways cleared, wives happy - all was good with the world.  Because when the emergency came, they had strength available that they normally didn’t need.  The writer’s point was that SUV’s are like that, and maybe that’s why people buy them.  Yes, those big, powerful engines use a lot of gas – much as big muscles take a lot of work and energy to maintain – but maybe someday you’re going to need that power, and you’re going to need it fast.  So you buy an SUV even though it’s expensive to maintain and most of the time the SUV’s full power is unneeded.

What if blue-collar people are like America’s muscle?   Maybe when their jobs go away, the muscle starts to get flabby.  Or worse.  Maybe the rest of us don’t care at the time because buying underwear made in Haiti is cheaper than buying underwear made in Pennsylvania, right?  But now those people who used to work in those factories - that demographic muscle - are sitting around, trying to figure out how to get on disability, developing heroin habits, and/or doing that other stuff that Kevin Williamson writes about. 

And let’s not forget that muscle also happen to be the people we count on to do the actual fighting when "we" go to war.

No, I’m not saying free trade is the cause of bad behavior in lower income whites, or anybody else for that matter.  But I am saying unemployment caused by jobs disappearing cannot help.

Maybe we should consider spending some money if we have to, in order to get those demographic muscles strong again.  Maybe it’s worth paying more for my skivvies if it means my blue-collar neighbors are working, and feeling both productive and appreciated.  Maybe our society would be stronger and better prepared to handle unexpected things.  When muscles are flabby and weak, they get hurt more easily.  When muscles hurt, they complain, and when you don’t pay attention to complaining muscles, they may betray you just when you need to count on them.  And to Dan McLaughlin’s point above, maybe if we were taking better care of our metaphorical muscles, Republicans wouldn't be standing around like we’ve been poleaxed by Donald Trump’s primary rampage.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Belgium, Islam, and the Western Press

There’s already an opinion piece at Washington Post titled "Why is Brussels under attack?"

It contains this clumsy and interesting compound sentence: 

“A growing right-wing political movement in Belgium has led to feelings of division in the country; Some Muslims say that a 2012 ban on Islamic veils such as burqas and niqabs in public spaces is a sign of their community's alienation from the Catholic mainstream.”

This sentence comes right after mention of high Muslim unemployment, and the “competitive disadvantage” Muslims find themselves in, in the Belgian job market.  That is, in attempting to answer the "why" in the article's title, the article begins with the plight of the poor Muslims, and then immediately blames a “growing right-wing political movement” for “feelings of division”. 

Oh, and 2012.  Keep that year in mind for a minute.  This stuff is outrageous.  For readers who bother going further, they find the following:
  • “Molenbeek's links to radicalized groups have long been known.”
  • “[F]unding from Saudi Arabia and other wealthy Persian Gulf states in the 1970s…was used to set up conservative religious schools in the area.” [emphasis added]
  • “A decade ago…a popular newspaper series…showed disillusioned young Muslims were being influenced by radical preachers.”
  • “[T]here is a whole generation waiting to participate in these actions."

I’m just a simple, Bible-thumping, conservative, American gun owner, but I would love to know how a so-called right-wing burqa ban three years ago can take the lead in being blamed for some Saudi-funded radical shit that goes back to almost the middle of the last century?  This article is simply another example of the mainstream Western press’s ongoing attempt to sugar-coat jihad and unchecked third-world immigration, and to libel any attempts to either defend against the former, or control of the latter.

No wonder that here in the U.S., the Trump Train keeps rolling.

Monday, March 21, 2016

What's missing from this Trump Analysis?

At the Washington Post’s Wonkblog, Jim Tankersley argues the  GOP "created" Donald Trump 15 years ago
“Urged on by their presidential standard-bearer, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, and by nearly all of the business lobbyists who represented the core of the party’s donor class, three-quarters of House Republicans voted to extend the status of permanent normal trade relations to China. They were more than enough, when added to a minority of Democrats, to secure passage of a bill that would sail through the Senate and be signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
“The legislation, a top Republican priority, held the promise of greater economic prosperity for Americans. But few could predict that it would cause a series of economic and political earthquakes that has helped put the GOP in the difficult spot it is in today(.)” 
Maybe.  But interestingly,  even though Trump exploded onto the presidential campaign stage by grabbing ownership of a related but different issue, Tankersley doesn’t mention it:  illegal immigration.

A lot of jobs went to China 15 years ago, and in the last 15 years a lot of other jobs have in fact been created in America (as the Obama administration is constantly reminding us).  But there are tens of millions of illegal immigrants competing with high-school educated Americans for those jobs.  Illegal immigration is the issue that originally got the TrumpTrain ™ started, not China trade.