The Real Workplace/Economic Issue at the Core of the Trump Presidency…

Lots of polarizing stuff going on across both sides of the political aisle right now.  As always, I’m drawn to views that ponder the center – and to the ones that are all about the workforce we have in the United States.

With that in mind, I offer up the following from Joe Klein of Time (who conservatives view as a dangerous liberal and liberals don’t seem to fully own – which makes him someone I’d like to listen more to).  In the February 6, 2017 issue, Klein painted Trump economic policy as a test to long held free market ideas in the following way:

“In addition to a loaded slogan–“America First”–and a questionable demeanor, it is now apparent that President Donald J. Trump actually has a governing ideology. His Inaugural Address, the strongest and most coherent speech he’s ever delivered, was a clear statement of that
philosophy. It may change the shape of domestic politics. It may overturn the international order that has existed for 70 years. It certainly deserves more than the “divisive” dismissal it received from liberals–and more than the puerile crowd-size diversion that its perpetrator stumbled into during the days after he delivered it.

The traditional argument against free trade is myopic and simple: American jobs are going to Mexico and China. The traditional counterargument is more abstract: the price of children’s clothing at Walmart is much lower now that shirts are made in south China instead of South Carolina. Free trade, it is convincingly argued, has been a financial net plus for the U.S. But there has been a spiritual cost in a demoralized middle class, which leads to an existential question: Is the self-esteem inherent in manufacturing jobs long considered obsolete–think of those grand old steel mills–more important than the lower prices that the global market provides? Have we tilted too far toward market efficiency and too far away from social cohesion? Is there a middle ground? Trump’s insistence on changing the equation brings a long-neglected issue to the center of our political debate. He may be wrong, but the alienation that seems like a by-product of globalization needs to be addressed. A happier people may be worth the cost of higher prices.”

When you really start to think about it, having goods made in America – and they higher costs that would be passed along to consumers – is really just another tax.  With that in mind, I’ve written before that I’d love to see America’s willingness to pay more for good made here tested in the marketplace.  Of course, I wrote that at a time before we had a president that seemed hell-bent of penalizing and tariffing goods made elsewhere.

As Stein asks, is the self-esteem inherent in manufacturing jobs long considered obsolete–think of those grand old steel mills–more important than the lower prices that the global market provides?  To me, that’s a crazy interesting question that I don’t know the answer to.  To hear a liberal ask it and note that the time has probably come to at least test whether the ultra free-trade is the best path probably gives a lot of conservatives pause.

Hmm.

And yes, Alice, I’m aware that robots are replacing people in factories all around the world. But accounting, engineering and countless other professions are increasingly being shipped to talent bases willing to work at fraction of the cost.

I have to agree with the liberal Klein.  We really don’t know the answer related to free-trade vs higher cost American goods, and it sure seems like Trump is hell bent on providing the environment to test those ideas for the first time in 70 years. 

As Klein states at the end of his column: “These are crucial questions, without clear answers. It is good that Trump has raised them. It is unfortunate, however, that he is such a defective messenger.”

Truer words were never spoken.

This post originally appeared on The HR Capitalist
Author: Kris Dunn