Blow and Krugman

In “Republican Self-Destruction” Mr. Blow says on both the state and national levels, the party is demonstrating a willingness to let voter anger drive their actions.  Prof. Krugman, in “Trade, Labor, and Politics,” has a question:  Must workers suffer from globalization?  He says the political parties appear to have swapped positions on policy.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Whatever one may think about the current president and the two Democrats duking it out to replace him, you have to admit that they have, by and large, conducted themselves with an admirable level of civility and couth becoming of the office.

Not so for their Republican counterparts.

Indeed, the entirety of the Republican Party seems dead set on convincing voters that it has lost its way and is spinning out of control, consumed with anger and devoid of answers.

The two leading Republican presidential candidates engaged this week in a crude, sophomoric tiff involving insults of each other’s spouses. A nude picture of the front-runner’s wife was used in a Facebook ad. (I guess folks will have to get over their weird obsession with Michelle Obama’s bare armsif a fully bare naked cover model becomes first lady). One man threatened to “spill the beans” about the other’s wife; the other responded with a“sniveling coward” quip.

It was all so depressingly lowbrow.

And this all played out as some Republicans went apoplectic in the wake of the Brussels terror attack when President Obama attended a baseball game in Cuba and danced the tango in Argentina.

Obama responded to those criticisms like a thoughtful adult, saying at a press conference: “It is very important for us to not respond with fear.” He continued, “A lot of it is also going to be to say: ‘You do not have power over us. We are strong. Our values are right.’ ”

Obama’s response to personal attacks against him stood in stark contrast to the response of the Republican presidential candidates to personal attacks.

The truth is that there really is no contest when it comes to being presidential.

The poor choices and poor behavior of Republicans are not confined to the presidential candidates. Senate Republican leaders still haven’t agreed to grant a hearing for the president’s Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland, even when a new CNN/ORC poll found that approximately two-thirds of Americans want Garland to get a hearing and 57 percent agree that President Obama was right to make the appointment to fill the seat.

As CNN reported after the poll was released: “Congressional approval stands near its all-time low in CNN polling, with just 15 percent approving. That’s down 6 points since last February, and just a few points above the 10 percent low point hit in September 2013 just ahead of a partial government shutdown. Another finding from the poll, released earlier this week, found the Republican Party’s favorability also at its lowest point since that shutdown.”

And then there is what’s happening on the state level. On Wednesday, in a special session of the Republican-led North Carolina legislature, lawmakers pushed through a bill that a New York Times editorial called “appalling” and “unconstitutional.” The bill “bars transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender identity and prohibits cities from passing antidiscrimination ordinances that protect gay and transgender people.” The Republican governor, Pat McCrory, signed the bill into law on Wednesday andtweeted: “Ordinance defied common sense, allowing men to use women’s bathroom/locker room for instance. That’s why I signed bipartisan bill to stop it.”

Now please tell me who is going to do the policing of gender and how exactly will examinations be conducted? Will you now have to show a birth certification to claim a stall?

Business interests have already signaled their displeasure with the bill.

Earlier this month, Republican lawmakers in Georgia pushed through a so-called Religious Liberty Bill. As Reuters put it:

“The Georgia bill, reworked several times by lawmakers amid criticism that earlier versions went too far, declares that no pastor can be forced to perform a same-sex wedding. The bill also grants faith-based organizations — churches, religious schools or associations — the right to reject holding events for people or groups of whom they object. Faith-based groups also could not be forced to hire or retain an employee whose beliefs run counter to the organization’s.”

Georgia’s governor has yet to sign the legislation, but as Reuters pointed out: “More than 300 large corporations and small businesses, including Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola, have signed a pledge decrying the Georgia legislation and urging the state lawmakers to drop it.”

When Republican officials aren’t being infantile, they’re being archaic.The future of this country bends toward more inclusion and acceptance, regardless of our occasional regression. This country needs a president who doesn’t pout or get lost in puerile protestations.

I understand that Republican voters are filled with an insatiable anger stemming from unbridled electoral enthusiasm that still failed to halt unremitting social change, or elect their hopelessly unimpressive recent presidential candidates. But they are allowing themselves to be led out of the mainstream, over a cliff and into oblivion.

America is watching the Republican Party demonstrate its headstrong desire to self-destruct. I’m guessing most of America is not amused.

Yeah, but the mouth breathing knuckle walkers will continue to put gibbering morons into office thanks to gerrymandering.  Here’s Prof. Krugman:

There’s a lot of things about the 2016 election that nobody saw coming, and one of them is that international trade policy is likely to be a major issue in the presidential campaign. What’s more, the positions of the parties will be the reverse of what you might have expected: Republicans, who claim to stand for free markets, are likely to nominate a crude protectionist, leaving Democrats, with their skepticism about untrammeled markets, as the de facto defenders of relatively open trade.

But this isn’t as peculiar a development as it seems. Rhetorical claims aside, Republicans have long tended in practice to be more protectionist than Democrats. And there’s a reason for that difference. It’s true that globalization puts downward pressure on the wages of many workers — but progressives can offer a variety of responses to that pressure, whereas on the right, protectionism is all they’ve got.

When I say that Republicans have been more protectionist than Democrats, I’m not talking about the distant past, about the high-tariff policies of the Gilded Age; I’m talking about modern Republican presidents, like Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Reagan, after all, imposed an import quota on automobiles that ended up costing consumers billions of dollars. And Mr. Bush imposed tariffs on steel that were in clear violation of international agreements, only to back down after the European Union threatened to impose retaliatory sanctions.

Actually, the latter episode should be an object lesson for anyone talking tough about trade. The Bush administration suffered from a bad case of superpower delusion, a belief that America could dictate events throughout the world. The falseness of that belief was most spectacularly demonstrated by the debacle in Iraq. But the reckoning came even sooner on trade, an area where other players, Europe in particular, have just as much power as we do.

Nor is the threat of retaliation the only factor that should deter any hard protectionist turn. There’s also the collateral damage such a turn would inflict on poor countries. It’s probably bad politics to talk right now about what a trade war would do to, say, Bangladesh. But any responsible future president would have to think hard about such matters.

Then again, we might be talking about President Trump.

But back to the broader issue of how to help workers pressured by the global economy.

Serious economic analysis has never supported the Panglossian view of trade as win-win for everyone that is popular in elite circles: growing trade can indeed hurt many people, and for the past few decades globalization has probably been, on net, a depressing force for the majority of U.S. workers.

But protectionism isn’t the only way to fight that downward pressure. In fact, many of the bad things we associate with globalization in America were political choices, not necessary consequences — and they didn’t happen in other advanced countries, even though those countries faced the same global forces we did.

Consider, for example, the case of Denmark, which Bernie Sanders famously held up as a role model. As a member of the European Union, Denmark is subject to the same global trade agreements as we are — and while it doesn’t have a free-trade agreement with Mexico, there are plenty of low-wage workers in eastern and southern Europe. Yet Denmark has much lower inequality than we do. Why?

Part of the answer is that workers in Denmark, two-thirds of whom are unionized, still have a lot of bargaining power. If U.S. corporations were able to use the threat of imports to smash unions, it was only because our political environment supported union-busting. Even Canada, right next door, has seen nothing like the union collapse that took place here.

And the rest of the answer is that Denmark (and, to a lesser extent, Canada) has a much stronger social safety net than we do. In America, we’re constantly told that global competition means that we can’t even afford even the safety net we have; strange to say, other rich countries don’t seem to have that problem.

What all this means, as I said, is that the Democratic nominee won’t have to engage in saber-rattling over trade. She (yes, it’s still overwhelmingly likely to be Hillary Clinton) will, rightly, express skepticism about future trade deals, but she will be able to address the problems of working families without engaging in irresponsible trash talk about the world trade system. The Republican nominee won’t.

And there’s a lesson here that goes beyond this election. If you’re generally a supporter of open world markets — which you should be, mainly because market access is so important to poor countries — you need to know that whatever they may say, politicians who espouse rigid free-market ideology are not on your side.

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