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Trump And The Batman Effect

Today on Trump Twitter:

Here’s my concern.

When US companies do something that sounds good in the next few years, whether it’s hiring new people, or deciding to stay in the United States, or reporting high profits, some of them are going to credit President Trump.

First, because it’s going to get them good press. “Ford decides not to build plant in Mexico” is tenth-page news. “Ford decides not to build plant in Mexico because of President Trump” is front-page news.

But second, because it’s going to make the President like them. I don’t know whether Trump is secretly sending people to whatever conferences all of these people go to, saying “if you decide to do something good, give me credit, and I’ll do you a favor later”. I assume he isn’t. This is the sort of thing that coordinates itself, without any inconvenient documents that can get posted to WikiLeaks later. If you’re the CEO of Ford, and you notice you’re doing something that would make Trump look really good if you attributed it to him, why not attribute it to him for free, then remind him how much he likes you next time you need a tax cut or a subsidy or something? Trump has put a lot of effort into crafting his image as a person who repays favors (think appointing many of his earliest supporters to Cabinet positions) – you think businesspeople aren’t going to notice that kind of thing?

But also:

0.1% of the time a US company does something that looks bad, like close a plant or move jobs overseas, Trump is going to launch a media crusade against them. The Presidency has a big pulpit and he’s going to get a lot of people angry. Then Trump will offer them some kind of deal, and the company will back down. Not because they’ve learned the error of their ways. Not even because the deal was so good. But because making the President (and the public) happy is much more important to them than moving jobs to Mexico or whatever they were doing before.

Mother Jones mentions in passing that Carrier air conditioning, Trump’s biggest job “success” so far, is owned by a giant defense contractor who gets probably like 1% of their profits from air conditioning. Presumably the company would be happy to never sell another air conditioner again if it meant that the government chooses their fighter jets over the competing brand. Knowing Trump’s style of corruption, they have every reason to believe this will happen after they handed him a big PR victory.

This plan isn’t going to scale. Even Trump can only create so many media circuses. 999 companies will successfully move to Mexico in the amount of time it takes Trump to convince one company not to. But almost tautologically, the only ones we’ll ever hear about are the ones that become media circuses, and so it will look like Trump keeps winning.

So based on these two strategies, we are in for four years of sham Trump victories which look really convincing on a first glance. Every couple of weeks, until it gets boring, another company is going to say Trump convinced them to keep jobs in the United States. The total number of jobs saved this way will never be more than a tiny fraction of the jobs that could be saved by (eg) good economic policy, but nobody knows anything about economic policy and Trump will make sure everybody hears about Ford keeping jobs in the US. Every one of these victories will actively make the world worse, in the sense that these big companies will get taxpayer subsidies or favors they can call in later to distort government priorities, but nobody’s going to notice these either.

I think it’s important that we be prepared for this and send a clear message, before this gets any worse, that these aren’t to be taken seriously.

I also think it’s important to be prepared for the fact that this clear message won’t work. Imagine you’re a factory worker in Indiana, and every week you hear on the news that Trump convinced another factory to stay in the US. And also, you read an editorial by Paul Krugman or someone saying that this is all a trick. What do you end out believing?

And saving jobs isn’t the only way he can do this. Trump’s talent is PR, having his finger on the pulse of the media. He can spot things like that guy who raised the price of the toxoplasma drug 1000%, and then he can go in, make some corrupt deal, and get him to back down. He can spot all of those culture war things where the entire country is going to spend a month focused on the same small-town bakery, and by throwing around the entire might of the federal government he can probably make everyone back off and pose together for a nice group photo. If he can get all of these things right (and it will play exactly to his talents), then a majority of people won’t care what policies his administration passes. I think this is a big part of his plan.

There’s an old joke about Batman. Suppose you’re a hypercompetent billionaire in a decaying city, and you want to do something about the crime problem. What’s your best option? Maybe you could to donate money to law-enforcement, or after-school programs for at-risk teens, or urban renewal. Or you could urge your company full of engineering geniuses to invent new police tactics and better security systems. Or you could use your influence as a beloved celebrity to petition the government to pass laws which improve efficiency of the justice system.

Bruce Wayne decided to dress up in a bat costume and personally punch criminals. And we love him for it.

I worry that Trump’s plan for his administration is to dress up in a President costume and personally punch people we don’t like, while leaving policy to rot. And I worry it’s going to work.

[prediction: highly-publicized stories about Trump successfully keeping businesses in the US on a case-by-case basis, which never add up to a significant number of jobs saved, will keep coming, and be a central point of how his administration relates to the public over the next year: 50%]

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812 Responses to Trump And The Batman Effect

  1. lupis42 says:

    A chance to cross link two favorite blogs? Don’t mind if I do. http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=27382

    The upshot of the analysis, which I believe is entirely correct, is that Batman is a billionaire to *allow* him to spend all his time beating up criminals, and ensure that he can’t easily be bought off by the better heeled criminal organization. Every aspect of Bruce Wayne (orphan who inherits billions) exists to make him a better Batman. Batman is not a billionaire who decided to stop fighting crime, Bruce Wayne is a backstory invented to explain why Batman doesn’t take bribes, can afford to keep building new cars, and never needs to take a day job to make the rent.

    • eighty-six twenty-three says:

      Thank you for posting this!

    • LHN says:

      I wonder how much overlap there is. (I have a few comments on that thread, albeit under a different userid.)

      Though another reason for Bruce Wayne is superhero comics’ natural tendency for escalation. When introduced, Bruce Wayne was merely a rich playboy– basically a combination of justifying the lack of a day job (though having one never stops most heroes from operating) and having the Scarlet Pimpernel/Superman thing of the secret identity contrasting strongly with the hero. (So the reader can be in on the joke when people complain about how Bruce never does anything useful.)

      But just as foes had to go from bank robbers to would-be world conquerors and the Joker went from a guy with a gimmick to an unstoppable force of chaos, so Bruce Wayne went from “doesn’t have to work, and can afford a cool car and plane” to “captain of industry” (so much for not having a day job!) to “one of the wealthiest people on the planet”. Even though Batman’s workload rapidly increased to the point that it’s hard to see where he has any time for Wayne Enterprises.

      (Yes, Lucius Fox, but still: while he could be superrich merely by resting on his inheritance, he doesn’t stay Bruce Wayne, household name as both famous businessman and philanthropist, without actually putting in some time and work at it. Granted, Thomas Wayne apparently managed to juggle amassing that fortune with a medical career, so the ability to do that sort of thing runs in the family.)

      Green Arrow has frequently been a reflection of Batman going back to his earliest days, with a little more flexibility since he’s not so much of an icon. He’s lost his fortune at least twice (once in the comics around 1970 or so, once on the current TV show) due to spending all his attention on costumed crimefighting instead of his company.

      • Deiseach says:

        I thought the playboy image was as much to allow him to recover from being out all night, running around and getting beaten up 🙂

        But Batman has had so many retcons, re-cons, upgrades, re-imaginings, etc. – he started out in the pulp vigilante tradition and by now has become an all but metahuman plus been given a truckload of mental problems (he wasn’t particularly melancholic or psychotic to start out with but by now, depending on the writer and what axe they have to grind, he should be locked up in Arkham with the rest of them).

        • onyomi says:

          That’s funny–I never actually thought about that aspect of it. That is, being a notorious playboy is a good excuse for sleeping all day nursing a hangover (or concussion).

        • TheWorst says:

          Those retcons and re-cons serve an essential structural role, as well: Remember that they reboot the continuity every decade or so.

          Which means Batman does not live in a universe where Joker is always escaping from Arkham. Reboots every ten years, remember? Batman doesn’t encounter Joker more than a handful of times. If Joker escapes from Arkham, it’s basically never more than the second time he’s escaped.

          And remember that Joker doesn’t always go to Arkham; his most remarkable ability (if you pay attention to the actual stories) seems to be a talent for surviving long falls into hard-to-search places.

          The idea that Joker always will escape and kill again – and that Batman lives in a world where he should know this – is an illusion created by not paying any attention to what’s going on in Batman’s world.

          This generalizes. It always feels like there are obvious, “common sense” problems proving that everyone who knows more than you about a given area is really an idiot, and that professionals always know less about their own field than low-information amateurs whose knowledge comes entirely from cultural osmosis and “common sense.”

          The alleged brilliance and insight of clueless-but-high-confidence amateurs is overrated. If something seems to make no sense to you, but doesn’t bother people who know more about it than you do, the odds of them knowing something you don’t are high. The odds that they’re all idiots and have just never thought of The Obvious Thing are very low. It’s a good idea to update one’s model of the universe accordingly.

      • JayT says:

        “Yes, Lucius Fox, but still: while he could be superrich merely by resting on his inheritance, he doesn’t stay Bruce Wayne, household name as both famous businessman and philanthropist, without actually putting in some time and work at it.”

        I don’t know about that. Take Bill Gates for example, he is super rich and a household name as a businessman and philanthropist. Now, imagine if instead of spending all his time on philanthropy he spent 90% of that time on costumed crime fighting and the other 10% on philanthropy. I’d guess he would still be a household name even if he were out of the public eye 90% of the time just because of his wealth and his past successes.

    • Vladimir Slepnev says:

      I tried to justify Batman’s behavior sometime ago, and came up with the idea that he’s working with the authorities as a high profile lightning rod for supervillains. That way all his actions make sense, I think. Why promote yourself as a symbol of popular justice who walks around at night and beats up criminals? So supervillains are tempted to show themselves and make an example of you. Why the gadgets? To stay alive and call the cavalry. Why no killing? Condition of employment. In a world with that many supervillains, the scheme might well be more cost-effective than spending the batmobile money on charity or whatever.

      • wintermute92 says:

        This has always made the most sense to me.

        There’s an SMBC about Batman beating up muggers, where he learns that structural inequality is complex and hard to punch in the face. In the very old comics, that made some sense. The Penguin was basically just a mobster, and jailing him wouldn’t end crime.

        But over the last few decades? When the Joker is the scariest serial killer ever? When Talia al Ghul runs an international terrorist ring with the power to revive the dead? And Scarecrow’s ‘gimmick’ is bioweapons? Suddenly Batman makes a bit more sense. Killer Croc and Poison Ivy aren’t symptoms of urban decay, they’re terrifying superhumans. Punching them in the head is actually one of the most important tasks going.

        In the semi-modern Batman cannon, I think his role as a hero makes sense. Frankly, there are only two deeply confusing bits. First, why on Earth does anyone still live in Gotham – aren’t they all either dead, fled, or superhuman by now? And second, why hasn’t someone bulldozed Arkham in favor of a supermax prison? I guess no-kill might be understandable (despite the Joker’s horrific body count) as a way to keep supervillains aimed at the lightning rod (no one important is dumb enough to mess with Punisher), but couldn’t they build a better prison at least?

    • Nyx says:

      There’s still a problem if Batman’s backstory is more compelling and logical than he is.

  2. Incurian says:

    I wonder if it would be at all useful/possible to teach people that “jobs saved” is not a measure of prosperity.

    • Schmendrick says:

      In all seriousness, is “prosperity” really what blue-collar Trump supporters in the upper mid-west are looking for? Might they not be looking for “status quo plus,” e.g. slowing or stopping the industrial bleeding with maybe some job creation on the side through the fabled Infrastructure Project?” That would be the most obvious way they themselves might benefit.

      • wintermute92 says:

        Knowing some of them, they believe (national) prosperity is going to earn them precisely dick. After all, that’s been a predictable outcome for decades now.

        The “moral value of work” thing is overestimated, though. A lot of that is just that work looks like the only realistic road to financial stability for them. Sure, being unemployed gets boring if you can’t afford to travel, but plenty of people would take ~$40,000/year unearned and spend their days sitting with their grandkids, hunting geese, or whatever else you care to name. They just know that’s not going to happen, and they’re right.

        • Spookykou says:

          Knowing some of them, they believe (national) prosperity is going to earn them precisely dick. After all, that’s been a predictable outcome for decades now.

          I have no idea how accurate it was, and the name doesn’t build my confidence in it much, but I heard a news story about the ‘American Dream Index’ or something very similar.

          It supposedly looked at how many people on average made more money than their parents. If you were born in the 40s(around then, 50s maybe?) you had about a 90% chance to make more money (adjusted for inflation) than your parents. Where as people born in the 80s have about a 50% chance.

          I believe the person being interviewed said this was, in part, because of increasing inequality in the economy.

          Assuming any of that is true, general prosperity would not help(or not proportionally help) the vast majority of Americans.

          • Adam says:

            Of course, another way to interpret that is you had a better chance in the 40s because your parents had shitty low-paying jobs. Now that they have good jobs, your chances of doing better are lower. Far fewer people today live in poverty than during the Great Depression, so “get a better paying job than your parents” is a much different goalpost now than then.

          • Matt M says:

            I feel like “adjusted for inflation” is probably doing a lot of work here.

            The actual numbers and statistics, no doubt, are adjusted, because they would be virtually meaningless from a statistical point of view if they weren’t.

            But as far as how the average person thinks he is doing, relative to his parents, they probably are not adjusted. Or at least, people might have a passing knowledge of “to really be doing better than my parents, I actually have to make a bit MORE than they did, because of inflation.” But they do NOT have a table of inflation percentages dating back to the 1950s in front of them, or the ability to do compound interest calculations in their head.

            So someone who is making 100k today whose parents made 90k 20 years ago might very well classify themselves as “doing better” while the actual statistics would indicate they are not.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Adam I think they talk about all that also, it was an interview I heard over the radio a while ago that just seemed relevant to the idea of ‘general prosperity vs personal prosperity’ but I might have many of the details wrong.

            @Matt M I would be deeply saddened to learn that many people who make 100k would have such a poor understanding of inflation as to think they were doing better than their 90k parents of 40 years ago. In any case I am not so worried with personal perception, which I anecdotally would assume skews in the other direction.

            I am interested in the broader economic implications of only 50% of people making more money than their parents. If the economy is growing in a substantive way, we shouldn’t see these numbers right, unless maybe that growth is all going into the pockets of a small minority of the total population?

            That is not a rhetorical question, I am NOT an economist, this is just my gut feeling.

          • Adam says:

            Increased return to skill. It does seem like most of the gains are concentrating in the hands of a smaller number of people whereas the median American does about as well as their parents and not much better, except they live in a better world. There are tradeoffs, of course. Less war, less crime, better and cheaper durable and consumer goods, incredible transportation and communications tech making for a connected world, but pretty bad healthcare, housing, and education inflation and those are three pretty important things.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Matt M

            I don’t think people comparing themselves with their parents compare incomes at all. Did you know your parents income when you were growing up? Do you remember it now?

            Rather, you compare situations. How big/nice is your home and neighborhood? Do you have a car or cars, and if so, how old, how nice? How often can you go out to eat or take vacations? Any trouble making ends meet? Any trouble getting gifts for the kids for special occasions? That sort of thing.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Adam

            I agree with the ‘better world’ idea, but this seems to be largely technological growth, although I will admit it is difficult to completely disentangle technological growth from economic growth.

            I think it is at least possible in a counterfactual world where the marginal tax rate was *higher different such that we would see the same technological growth, higher median income, and our rich would just be yacht rich, instead of mega yacht towing two smaller yachts, rich.

            *I don’t know enough about the marginal tax rate to use a directional descriptor like higher, I mean go back to before R.R.

        • There is a different argument about work vs welfare that I haven’t seen discussed.

          One disadvantage of a sizable population permanently on welfare is that, short of threatening to riot, they have no bargaining power, aren’t worth anything to anyone else. From the standpoint of the productive part of the population they are a net drain. Given that the productive part of the population is also likely to be the most politically powerful part, that’s a very dangerous situation.

          • Spookykou says:

            Given that the productive part of the population is also likely to be the most politically powerful part, that’s a very dangerous situation.

            Here I was imagining the UBIers spending all that new found free time organizing politically to insure their new found livelihood.

            Next thing you know, the dock workers are rioting for the right to not work.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            One disadvantage of a sizable population permanently on welfare is that, short of threatening to riot, they have no bargaining power, aren’t worth anything to anyone else. From the standpoint of the productive part of the population they are a net drain. Given that the productive part of the population is also likely to be the most politically powerful part, that’s a very dangerous situation.

            If that sizable population is sizable enough how do they not have political power? Evidence points to the contrary… social program spending has expanded and deepened over time, not the reverse. (or would you say that is evidence of government acting in its own best interest, expanding creating social program dependents as a scapegoat?)

          • hlynkacg says:

            Because they comprise less than 50% of the population and/or are largely ignored/disenfranchised?

            A society having a sizeable but effectively oppressed underclass is hardly a unprecedented scenario.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yeah, the 65+ population is the most feared politically. They get out and vote, and you better not mess with their SS or Medicare.

            I’m not really seeing a direct correlation between receiving benefits and losing political power.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            Because they comprise less than 50% of the population and/or are largely ignored/disenfranchised?

            50% is way too high a bar. The Ds bend over backwards to court African Americans and that population is way below 50%. The Rs feel the same about the religious right, and again, way less than 50%.

            The figure mentioned above was 40K per year which is more than the median per capita income in the US, so more than 50%. Even at 40K per household you are at around 40% of the population, which is a pretty huge minority.

            I would be far more concerned about the political power (to confiscate more tax payer funds) wielded by such a large minority than the contrary.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not really seeing a direct correlation between receiving benefits and losing political power.

            It isn’t that losing political power is a result of getting benefits. This group is going to have no actual power–less connections to politically influential (especially as those in power become a smaller and more isolated group), no income not reliant on the state, no threat of strike, little skills.
            Unlike retirees who have connections and many have assets, it would be a group defined as having nothing but the threat of “instability”.
            They have political clout by virtue of numbers–as long as they are reliable voters and the society stays democratic.
            And then increase their cost, as their numbers grow.
            Fine, productivity will go up forever, right?
            Someday, there will be a shock to the system.
            Someone will say “austerity.” Someone will start throwing bricks. Skynet will go on-line.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            “Unlike retirees who have connections and many have assets”

            Retirees are influential because they vote.

            This class would be influential in exactly the same way.
            Yes. I assume (current) democracy.

            The danger is much more likely to be they have *too* much political power, growing their ranks and increasing benefits costing productivity gains leading to stagnation.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Right and then… there will be a shock to the system.
            Someone will say “austerity.” Someone will start throwing bricks. Skynet will go on-line.

            I’ll say this though, the US’ austerity riots will make the recent goings on in Greece and Venezuela look positively quaint and idyllic by comparison. 😉

          • I’m not really seeing a direct correlation between receiving benefits and losing political power.

            It’s not receiving benefits, it’s failing to produce benefits for anyone.

            There are two related points here. One is that the fact that a group are a net loss to the rest of the society reduces their bargaining power–they can’t threaten to emigrate or go on strike or anything analogous. Policies that make things worse for them and so drive them out make things better for the rest of the society.

            The other is that the reason they are not producing anything, in the scenarios being discussed, is that they can’t, that they are less competent than the rest of the population so less able to manipulate the system in their benefit. That isn’t true of the elderly.

            Further, of course, the not-elderly expect in time to be elderly, which gives them an incentive to try to keep things reasonably good for the elderly. Not true in a future where the top half of the ability distribution does all the productive work.

    • Randy M says:

      I seem to recall recent messages to the opposite effect.

      • Matt M says:

        To the working class who never had prosperity, “Make America Great Again” seems like basically “status quo from whatever non-defined era of the past you prefer… plus”

      • Adam says:

        So? It was stupid then and it’s stupid now, though it at least makes more sense at 10% unemployment than at 5% as well as makes more sense when your number is in the millions than in the hundreds.

        • Deiseach says:

          Point being, was the number in the millions? Politicians take credit whether or not it’s realistically down to their efforts for new jobs/jobs ‘saved’. How many of those jobs would have been created anyway? By how much would the economy have recovered naturally? Were there millions of jobs?

          I’ve had contact with government ministers promoting schemes due to my work, and they have a habit of re-announcing and recycling press releases, so that every six months the papers will report “Minister Murphy announces €10 million scheme to provide housing” and that this will naturally create X thousand new jobs in the construction industry – but nobody is particularly careful to check that this scheme gets announced over and over again, and hasn’t happened yet, and won’t come into effect until 2018, and the jobs won’t be directly created by the minister etc.

          But the government of the day then gets up and announces “Thanks to us, X thousand new jobs!”

          • Adam says:

            Honestly, I have no clue and don’t really care. Like I said, I thought it was stupid then anyway. Assembly line work is simply never going to be what it was and labor cost wasn’t the sole reason American automakers went bankrupt anyway. Their product lines were ridiculous. Nobody wants 36 different varieties of SUV. Fewer people than nobody ever wanted the goddamn Plymouth Prowler. This seems to get ignored sometimes. We actually did place tariffs on foreign automakers and they still outcompeted us and not just because their labor costs were lower. Regardless of where they build the vehicles, scaling back the product lines and focusing on the core things they do well, pickup trucks and economy sedans, is what saved Ford and GM.

    • doubleunplussed says:

      For the median person it very well might be a better measure than GDP. You can’t buy stuff your economy is producing if you don’t have a job. I don’t know why we’re so obsessed with GDP as a measure of prosperity – it reflects *mean* prosperity, but that’s horribly skewed toward the well off, which is why we use medians whenever we want to know what a typical person’s life is like.

      • Brad says:

        Go with some other metric then. The fact that you have a critique of GDP doesn’t mean you should abandon all attempts at looking at data instead constantly talk up stupid little anecdotes in a country of hundreds of millions.

        Come up with some measure that looks at the well being of some well defined part of the populace. Make it median workers, or 60th percentile households of at least four, excluding big cities — or whatever — just make it something concrete and well defined. And sure your metric can acknowledge that someone in a make-work job that only exists because of protectionism, nonetheless gets real value of it, but at the same time it ought to acknowledge that more expensive diapers, or air conditioners, or hot dogs are a real cost to the entire cohort.

        • doubleunplussed says:

          Sure, I was just taking the opportunity to have a go at GDP as a metric, because, as crude as “has a job” is as a metric, it’s probably still better.

          I’m pretty happy with looking at median household income, or median household disposable income, or basically anything else about how much money a median person or household has.

        • Nicholas Carter says:

          Energy Availability calculated as the average of the median and the mode wage in a nation divided by the price in the same currency of one Joule of energy (presumably the average of most common lighting source, heating source, and transportation source).

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Energy availability is an interesting metric, and one of the first ones I’d try for, but I’ve heard it brought up before in other circles, and it generally gets shot down because energy comes in different forms with different utility, and that utility translates to prosperity.

            I assume you mean only energy produced explicitly for consumption – electricity, gasoline, diesel, and food being the big ones. To which we note that the utility of a gallon of gasoline, say, is probably the utility of the thing it moves. One might produce 100 megajoules to move a person to their $12/hr job in the service sector. OTOH, 10 megajoules is (I think) contained in enough hamburgers to power a grad student through a week’s worth of TAing her students in upper-division physics. Which situation is more prosperous?

      • Said Achmiz says:

        There’s an excellent little paper by famed economist Oskar Morgenstern (whom you might know from such theorems as the von Neumann-Morgenstern utility theorem), wherein Morgenstern lays out his view of GNP/GDP and similar measures of “welfare”.

        The paper’s subtitle?

        “Primitive in the Extreme and Certainly Useless”.

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        GDP and jobs are both subject to Campbell’s law and Goodhart’s law effects. It’s the same fallacy to say that “keeping jobs in America” is good for America as it is to say that “high average GDP is good even if it’s all going to the wealthy.”

      • Tracy W says:

        GDP measures total Gross Domestic Production, not prosperity. It’s the sum of market activity, plus a few additions for international comparability (eg imputed rents for owner-occupied housing).

        It doesn’t even measure consumer surplus (the difference between what you buy something and how useful it is to you. Eg food keeps you alive, even if it’s a very small part of your budget, but GDP values food at the market price.)

        There are about three reasons for interest in GDP, firstly it indicates to us what a total country can afford to do including how much tax it could pay, secondly, quarterly GDP is the first measure to come out of how the overall economy did most recently, which makes it newsworthy, and thirdly, often it’s the best proxy we have for prosperity (as you can measure large chunks of it from the accounts of government and large companies, and surveying them is much cheaper than tracking down a representative sample of people on the margins of tax-paying society and getting them to fill out an income survey).

        But, leaving aside the odd sleep-deprived student, I’m not aware of anyone who actually thinks GDP is meant to be a measure of mean prosperity. The name is a bit of a giveaway.

    • cassander says:

      Useful, extremely. Possible, almost certainly not. Or, at least, you can teach it to them, but you won’t get them to learn it.

      • Jack Lecter says:

        People do seem attached to jobs as a metric. I’m not entirely sure why- I have one or two theories that seem accurate, but not sufficient to explain the magnitude of the effect.

        I agree that it would be really hard to get them to learn(1)- I agree that simply *explaining* wouldn’t do anything, but I’m hopeful of finding some alternate means of shifting people toward more rational beliefs. I *do* think we’ve made some progress since the old witch-burning days, even if it’s not as deep or as consistent as one would hope.

        1. Assuming, of course, that I’m right and they’re wrong. I find it difficult to assume otherwise, but I don’t want to come off as any more arrogant than I actually am.

        • wintermute92 says:

          …surely it’s not a mystery?

          Jobs are a big metric because whatever grand plans we envision, what we have is a system where you work or your life sucks. And if you live somewhere rural, in a red state, without well-off family, that’s far more true. We built a (shitty, insufficient) social safety net around life in the city, and so your average machinist in Kentucky has a life that goes to hell as soon as he’s unemployed.

          • Brad says:

            How exactly is the safety net built around life in the city? If anything the parallel welfare system in widely disproportionate use in Appalachia and the South (SSDI & Medicare vs TANF & Medicaid) is considerably more generous. And the recipients tend to have lower costs of living to boot.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:
            How is Medicare a substitute for Medicaid? Is there some program that uses Medicare dollars for those under 65?

          • Brad says:

            After two years on SSDI a beneficiary qualifies for Medicare regardless of age.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:
            Ah. I did not know that. Thanks for the clarification.

          • Jack Lecter says:

            Good point. This actually makes a lot of sense, and I’m sort of embarrassed not to have thought of it before.
            I think I never really transitioned from ‘Design-Society-From-Scratch’ mode (where I spent my teens, and where jobs are a poor metric) to ‘Work-With-The-Society-We’ve-Got mode, where they might be inescapable (especially since other metrics like ‘life-satisfaction’ seem to invariably rely on self-report.)
            Thanks for the input- I think it helped.

    • SEE says:

      Well, we could go back in time eight years and solemnly pledge to derisively mock the Obama Administration and its cheerleaders every time they trot out that “jobs created or saved” line about his stimulus spending.

      • Virbie says:

        Look, I get that it can be tough to understand a lot of the conversation that goes on around here, and I understand why you may have the temptation to desperately cast every conversation into uninformed political boilerplate that you have a canned response to. But do you have to be so incredibly transparent about it? It’s not even cute, it’s just sad.

        No one said anything about Trump unduly focusing on the useless metric of jobs; the complaint was that the population unduly focuses on it, which pretty much forces _every_ politician to do so. There literally hasn’t been a single president in my lifetime who hasn’t talked about jobs.

        • sierraescape says:

          That first paragraph is just a mess of condescension and adds little to the conversation. You’d be able to communicate your point better by deleting it and leaving the second paragraph, so as not to alienate the person you’re responding to. No one is convinced by snark, and even if you’re entirely correct I think it’s counterproductive to speak like that.

        • albertborrow says:

          His point was that this perfectly reasonable objection was perfectly reasonable eight years ago, but it’s only after Trump’s election that we talk about it. Trump shouldn’t change the narrative: what was stupid eight years ago is still stupid today, and if this metric is really as bad as we claim, we should regret only taking it into account now. If every single president in your lifetime has been talking about jobs, were you complaining about it when Obama was elected? Was anyone here?

          Not that his rhetoric was targeted at you in specific either. It certainly is worth a mental update for everyone, regardless of who you support.

    • Jules says:

      You might want to look at the rate of unemployment instead.
      And the share of population below the poverty line, since you guys have so many working poor.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Does it matter? People vote their individual economies, not their perception of the greater economy. In the last cycle the Democrats were trying to assure voters the economy was doing great with low unemployment. We all know the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers are phoney, of course, and very much depend on who you’re counting as unemployed, and just being employed doesn’t mean you have had a raise in the past 10 years.

      Working class voters went for Trump because they didn’t have jobs, and the people in their lives didn’t have jobs. In 4 years, they will not look at “jobs saved” numbers to decide if they’re going to reelect him. The voters will look to see how their own job prospects have changed in the last four years, and vote accordingly. If enough of them are doing well, Trump is reelected. If they are not, he is not.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        Its hilarious how Democrats expect people to vote a certain way based on some national statistics but we all know damn well they wouldn’t do that if they themselves were personally not doing well.

      • herbert herberson says:

        I don’t think the disconnect is that the numbers are phony. I live in a very pro-Trump area, and anecdotally I think there are plenty of jobs. I see help wanted signs everywhere, there are help wanted ads on the radio all the time, and the low-income people I work with in my job mostly don’t seem to have any trouble finding work.

        The disconnect is that the jobs are shitty. The best of them are 15/hr manufacturing jobs, and the rest are mostly in fast food, waiting tables, or gas stations. A more adroit and left-wing Democratic party should have been able to make hay out of this, since progressives have put a lot of work into making those jobs better paying and less shitty, but even notwithstanding the part where the shittiness of many of those jobs is sort of baked in and wouldn’t be entirely corrected by unionization or higher wages, this year’s candidate was neither left wing nor adroit.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I agree with you about the shittiness but I don’t know about making hay.

          What I think your hypothetical leftist would do is just a variation of the same condescension Hillary did. “What’s best for you is retraining at 50 years old to be a computer coder” or whatever. Instead your leftists would deliver “You don’t want an $8/hour dish washing job. I hear you! What’s best for you is a $15/hour dish washing job!”

          No. The working man wants the $25/hr job down at the plant where they do an actual job that a man does to support his family: build real things for people to buy. Not wash dishes, not bus tables, just for a couple bucks more until Ma’s Diner closes because Ma can’t afford that.

          Trump messaged right: “I hear you guys want factory jobs. We’ll get you factory jobs.”

          If Trump delivers factory jobs, he’s reelected. If he does not, he will not be. And the judge of factory job creation will not be BLS numbers or anything Trump tweets, but the voter, who knows damn well whether or not he has a factory job.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Certain leftists, like Sanders, and especially people farther left, who Clinton liberals deride as enabling of white supremacy, wanted to provide factory jobs also and had plans on how to do it. Those plans of course pissed off liberals even more than just the nebulous idea that working class whites deserved jobs.

          • po8crg says:

            When factories first happened, factory jobs were shitty jobs fit only for women and children (does the term “mill girl” ring bells in America, or is that a Britishism?). A real man’s job was running a homesteaded farm out West, and immigrants (stereotypically) arrived, did a factory job for long enough to build up savings to buy a homestead and then headed out West.

            There are two versions of how that changed – there’s the right-wing version where Henry Ford and other employers improved living standards for workers because it increased their profits, and the left-wing version where labor unions did by striking and other industrial action – but regardless, they did.

            If service jobs (not dishwashing, industrial machines do that, but jobs actually dealing with people. Remember that Arthur Miller had a shoe shop as a respectable job) paid $25/hr and existed in numbers, I think they’d become jobs with self-respect pretty quickly.

            My second biggest concern with UBI (after doubting whether we can afford it) is whether people will regard living on UBI as delivering self-respect. If not, it will be psychologically crushing, which will suck.

          • Tekhno says:

            @po8crg

            My second biggest concern with UBI (after doubting whether we can afford it) is whether people will regard living on UBI as delivering self-respect. If not, it will be psychologically crushing, which will suck.

            My biggest concern is getting a UBI, and if conservatives try to prevent that because they want some shallow protestant dignity, they can suck it up. The working class are not sulky children.

            No one is going to riot because they felt a bit sad because they got money directly instead of in some glorified welfare job. People feel super shitty about their jobs now and they don’t riot, so I don’t think people living comfortably merely deprived of “feeling like a man” or something are going to start marching in the streets with banners for completely useless jobs that are being done by robots.

            It’s the transition period that’s the problem, because it’s easy to see why jobs are pointless when you have super advanced robots doing everything and no one can compete. It’s a lot harder to see why when you think it’s because all the car companies went to foreign lands to use cheap labor. The problem will only be revealed when the jobs have been brought back but the businesses accelerate the drive for automation to get around having to pay the cost of American labor protections.

          • John Schilling says:

            No one is going to riot because they felt a bit sad because they got money directly instead of in some glorified welfare job.

            Right; that’s an oversimplification. They are going to take up activism for some other cause because they have nothing better to do with their time and because, yes, they feel sad that they are obviously useless and activism for some worthy cause seems like it might prove they are useful after all.

            They will riot when they don’t get whatever they are protesting about this month, because protests and riots are cheap when you don’t have anything to lose and don’t have anything better to do with your time, and because whatever is the most important thing left in your life after we’ve taken away concerns about jobs, money, etc, is the Most Important Thing In Your Life.

            And you won’t be able to keep them from rioting by giving them what they are protesting for, because half of them will be demanding e.g. Women’s Bodily Autonomy and the other half Stop Killing Babies.

          • tscharf says:

            One could interpret Trump as “This is how white people riot”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @tscharf

            Only if you’re looking for a meaningless sound bite, or if you’re making a high-level point that depends on the _contrast_ between mob violence and voting. Because there really isn’t much similar between voting for a candidate who makes the right noises and mob violence.

        • Deiseach says:

          The working man wants the $25/hr job down at the plant where they do an actual job that a man does to support his family: build real things for people to buy.

          Those, unfortunately, are the jobs that are going, if not already gone; automation can most easily take those over. Where automation has not yet set in, outsourcing has, because the shareholders don’t care if their Chinese or Filipina workers earn $6 per hour as compared to an American earning $25, they only care that the lower costs mean better margins which is reflected in dividends and share price increases.

          Service economy is the main absorber of manual work, and we’ve managed to make that “these jobs are low-paying and minimum wage or below because they’re only practice jobs for teenagers who will be supported living at home by their parents until they get real jobs, not real jobs for adults as they used to be” – hence the expectation of low prices in places providing such services. Look at the outcry about the cost of childcare, and I think that’s mainly because most people have in the back of their head “Sure my mother raised four of us and she didn’t need training, childcare is only looking after children like babysitting, why pay higher wages or say that creche workers need to be trained?”

          Service jobs are undervalued and hence underpaid but they are the only remaining jobs for those who can’t get jobs that take higher level qualifications. We’re going to be badly stuck by this as automation comes more and more on stream. I don’t think any party or any government in any country has a plan for this; you can’t churn out “sure you’ll all get jobs working as computer programmers” by including a few coding classes in the school curriculum, and not everybody is suited to that or can train as a coder anyway.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        We all know the Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers are phoney, of course,

        We do? I don’t know it. How do you know it?

        • Adam says:

          They’re not, obviously, and it’s ridiculous when people say this. The BLS publishes labor force participation along with headline unemployment, along with various other measures. The fact that white house press releases only mention headline isn’t the fault of the BLS and you’re free to personally prefer whichever metric you prefer and it’s still going to be a metric calculated and published by the BLS.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          It’s just lying with statistics. The unemployment rates are entirely dependent on how you categorize people. An engineer who loses his job is an unemployed engineer. Once he gets discouraged and quits looking for a job he’s no longer “unemployed” he’s “not participating in the labor force” so that’s one less “unemployed” person (economy’s doing great, eh?!). If he eventually gets a job at McDonald’s he’s now employed in the restaurant industry. Just saying “5% unemployment, economy’s great!” does not tell the true story of the health of the job market, because it doesn’t account for the discouraged and the underemployed.

          The real point being that touting such numbers is irrelevant in terms of persuading voters. No amount of statistical legerdemain is going to convince our fry-flipping engineer that the job market is healthy, and he’s going to vote according to *his* economy, not the government’s numbers.

          • Brad says:

            They compile six different measures of un- and under- employment, as well as a labor-employment ratio. The don’t on the other hand, ever publish anything like “5% unemployment, economy’s great!”

            There’s no conspiracy at the BLS to lie to to you.

            If you have a proposed measure that you think captures reality better than U1-U6 and could repeatedly and reliably be measured, let’s hear it.

          • gbdub says:

            “The unemployment rates are entirely dependent on how you categorize people”

            True. That doesn’t make the rates “phoney”, it just means you have to be careful how you interpret the rates.

            You can’t have stats without categories. BLS attempts to mitigate the dependence on categorization by reporting statistics based on a number of categories. Brad is right that the fault lies not with the BLS, but with the people who cherry-pick one (valid) BLS statistic while ignoring other (valid) BLS statistics, creating an invalid picture.

          • Deiseach says:

            Once he gets discouraged and quits looking for a job he’s no longer “unemployed” he’s “not participating in the labor force”

            How does that work in America? Over here, if you’re unemployed, if (a) you were previously employed, you get a payment called Jobseeker’s Benefit for a fixed period depending on your contributions (b) when that runs out, you transfer onto Jobseeker’s Allowance.

            Both are conditional on you looking for work and you have to provide evidence that you are seeking work, you’re also liable to be called up for training schemes, community employment schemes, etc. If you simply stop looking for work, your benefits are stopped as well, which means (unless you are working in a job and not declaring that, or involved in petty crime, or have a separate income source) you have no money to live on.

            Now, how our guys fiddle the unemployment rate is that, if you’re on a training scheme or on a community employment scheme, technically you are not ‘available for work’ and so you are taken off the Live Register (the account of unemployed) and put on a different payment (say a ‘training allowance’ that is more or less the same amount). That allows the government to fiddle around and say “Rate of unemployment decreased by 0.5% compared to last month” but it doesn’t mean so many hundred people got jobs, it just means they are not counted as “on an unemployment payment”.

            What is the American system?

          • Brad says:

            In the U.S. the unemployment numbers and the unemployment insurance programs aren’t directly linked. The unemployment numbers are based on a monthly survey administered by the U.S. Census Bureau called the Current Population Survey.

            In order to be considered unemployed someone has to meet these three criteria:
            * They were not employed during the reference week
            * They were available for work at that time
            * They made specific efforts to find employment during the 4-week period ending with the reference week. (with a minor exception)

            There are other categories besides unemployed that are reported on every month. Marginally attached to the labor force are those that looked for work in the past 12 months but not the last 4 weeks and the subset of marginally attached that didn’t look in the last four weeks because of perceived or actual poor prospects are called “discouraged workers”. Finally, there are those “employed part time for economic reasons” — i.e. those that would like to work full time but can only find part time work.

          • John Schilling says:

            What is the American system?

            As usual, the answer is that there are fifty different American systems. But there are some common general features.

            If you recently had a job and are actively looking for a job, you will for a time get unemployment insurance, which is what Americans usually mean when they say “welfare”. It’s sort of keyed to your past income but capped at a fairly low level, and lasts for about a year depending on what state you live in.

            If you are unemployed and not looking for a job, or unemployed for more than a year whether you had a job or not, but you have minor children, you get Aid to Families with Dependent Children. This also falls under the general window of what Americans mean by “welfare”, but it isn’t as central as is UI. It lasts as long as you have the minor children, and pays enough to keep them fed and housed in not-obviously-impoverished conditions. If you don’t have any of your own, you may be able to foster someone else’s, though that money comes through different channels.

            If you’ve got a crap job but minor children, you get the Earned Income Tax Credit on the wages from your crap job, which can at the low end result in negative taxation. Also the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka “Food Stamps”. These are in principle also available to those without children, but at a much lower level.

            If you recently held a job, are no longer even looking for a job, and can convince the government that you suffer a medical condition making you incapable of holding down your own job, you get Social Security Disability Income. This is keyed to your income from your old job, and lasts basically forever unless you are fool enough to look for work and thus prove you aren’t really disabled. SSDI is not generally considered “welfare”, but often is a camouflaged way to channel welfare benefits to people we can’t even pretend are going to look for and eventually get a job, or who are too proud to admit they are on welfare.

            If your disability doesn’t involve actual missing limbs, getting SSDI may involve a prolonged period of “you’re obviously faking!” “am not!” “are too!” until the supplicant has humbled themselves to the point that the bureaucracy deigns them Officially Not Faking. As distinct from Actually Not Faking, which is different.

            If you haven’t held a job in the last year or two, aren’t raising minor children, and can’t convincingly fake some disability to government standards, you are SOL in most American states. Live off your savings, sponge off your friends and family, live on the streets and eat at soup kitchens, panhandle, deal drugs, commit petty theft, get arrested for the free room and board at the county jail, whatever.

            Independent of all of this, if you don’t have even a part-time job but are looking for one, the Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes you as Unemployed; if you are not even looking for a job you are not Participating in the Labor Force. Both statistics are collected and published, with some breakdown on why people aren’t participating in the labor force, but it is usually only the Unemployment Rate that shows up in the newspapers and in politicians’ speeches.

            Politicians with an overabundance of chutzpah will note that the Unemployment Rate doesn’t count all of the people who have stopped Participating in the Labor Force and accuse the BLS of lying, presumably at the instigation of those evil politicians on the other side. The politicians on the other side likely are lying by omission in how they quote BLS statistics, but the BLS itself does a fair job for a government bureaucracy tasked with a complex problem.

          • The Nybbler says:

            John,

            Speaking as an American, I’ve always thought of AFDC (now TANF) and food stamps as being the central “welfare”, not unemployment insurance. Maybe this has to do with growing up in the 1980s in the DC suburbs, when the common stereotype of someone on welfare was a (yes, black) single mom having kids specifically in order to increase her welfare payments.

  3. GravenRaven says:

    You’re missing a major reason it’s going to work: Trump has no competition in this area.

    Imagine you are a voter who wants companies to stop moving jobs overseas. Anyone serious about policy in either party has been promoting policies that make it easier for them to do so for the past 25 years. Even if you prefer serious policy changes, Trump punching a few people in the face is still more than you could have reasonably hoped for.

    • hlynkacg says:

      ^ Bingo ^

      As I said before the election, Trump was (is?) the high variance choice, but given a choice between slim hope and no hope I’ll pick “slim”.

      • cassander says:

        I’d say that for most trump supporters, the choice is more between someone who ignores my issues (i.e. my tribe) and someone who at least gives them lip service.

        • tscharf says:

          I think this is accurate, and people very much discount a short term emotional win. It matters.

          Even though people mostly know there is no “miracle grow” for their regional economy in the works, it is pretty hard to watch people from more successful regions dance on the graves of their economy and tut-tut any attempts to improve things.

          In this case there seems to be direct evidence that trade policy adjustments may actually bring very measurable regional benefits, and the reaction from our evidence based experts is that it is all an illusion to fool the rubes.

          It reeks a bit of fear that expert opinion and prognostication may be exposed as not all that is was cracked up to be. Perhaps these experts are right, but let’s wait a while before passing judgment, shall we?

    • Leonard says:

      This works in the analog, too.

      The reason Gothamites love Batman is not necessarily that he makes any measurable difference in crime. It is that he is doing the one thing that they intuitively know, if it was done collectively, would stop crime.

      Of course, we real world people don’t care if there is crime in Gotham. Indeed, we want crime there — otherwise, no Batman, who we love. We love him not so much for punching criminals, though that is part of it. We love him because he is a virtuous man, a man with the masculine virtues in spades. But we are not the people in the analogy. Gothamites are.

      • shakeddown says:

        This seems to break down. The whole problem with this approach of Trump’s is that it’s completely non-scalable (it only works for media circuses).

        • Matt M says:

          So does Batman. I mean, he’s not out there chasing down car thieves. He mostly spends his time dealing with The Joker and Mr. Freeze.

          • LHN says:

            It at least used to be that Batman did spend time chasing down car thieves. (That’s how he got the second Robin.) And until the 80s or so, sure Gotham was plagued with super-villains, but it wasn’t portrayed as a dystopian nightmare. I suspect that the balance has gone a bit far– superheroes fight a never-ending battle because they’re characters in a serial, but if they’re not shown as making positive progress occasionally they can start to feel a bit futile.

            One reason I love the current Supergirl series: the show regularly shows her rescuing people from car accidents or getting kittens out of trees. She’s not just fighting alien criminals or human conspiracies at a net loss (bad guys eventually stopped, but lots of property damage and casualties), she’s also doing things that make ordinary life better, and it’s clear that’s what she wants to be doing as much as possible.

            Batman isn’t Supergirl, of course, and his fight is going to be darker-toned. (Mostly– the Adam West series, animated Batman the Brave and the Bold, and Lego Batman are also Batman.) But I still want to see the Wayne Foundation doing things that make real, permanent improvements to Gotham, and I want to see Batman interact with ex-villains he reached the way he can never quite reach Harvey Dent or Mister Freeze, or people whose lives weren’t destroyed because he was there.

            A nice bit in the Young Justice TV series: Batman explaining that the reason he recruited Dick Grayson as Robin and helped him catch his family’s killers wasn’t so that Dick would grow up to become like him. It was so that he wouldn’t. (And the second season shows Dick as a confident, competent leader who– while he has his own issues– doesn’t rely as much on anger and menace as Bruce does.)

          • TenMinute says:

            He did get rid of that awful monorail in the first movie. And the whole ferry thing seemed to imply Gotham was getting its civic spirit back, partly thanks to him.

          • Jack Lecter says:

            Also

            the one thing that they intuitively know, if it was done collectively, would stop crime

            given that a lot of what Batman does consists of launching vigilante attacks on people he thinks committed crimes at some point in the past, I think a collective version might seem more ‘lynch mob’ than ‘Justice League’.

            I mean, he’s hyper-competent in-story, but ordinary citizens presumably wouldn’t be, even if they worked really hard to keep their attacks non-lethal.

        • eh says:

          Taken as a PR strategy, in a world where any given cat video has a chance of getting hundreds of millions of views, it is very scalable indeed.

          Keeping with the superhero theme, Tony Stark probably rakes in billions of dollars on the back of his persona. Even though he can apparently create human-level general AI, combat drones, and inexhaustible power supplies the size of a fist, he cultivates a heroic and highly personal image to show the media and the general public. What does that say?

          I suspect that if Trump falls, it will be because someone has managed to place him as the antagonist in a narrative that the general public are receptive to, and only indirectly because of the efforts of rationalists to prove he’s an economic disaster.

          • MugaSofer says:

            Why do people constantly mention that Tony’s power sources are “inexhaustible”?

            We see him replace one in the first film (where he explicitly states that the shelf life is shorter the more power you draw from them), and the entire plot of the second film is based around the fact that he is constantly replacing the palladium cores as he uses them up.

    • TenMinute says:

      Trump punching a few people in the face is still more than you could have reasonably hoped for.

      Given his supporters were being told they would be punched in the face forever by the gloating victors, it’s definitely a case of “things went better than expected”.
      Time and Hope are the most important resources in a fight. Everything else can flow from them.

  4. Luke Perrin says:

    To what extent does Trump need Congress on his side for this to work?

    • Matt M says:

      Zero extent. He got elected despite half the GOP congressional delegation all but endorsing Hillary.

      Although he will get it anyway, because Congress needs to be on his side for their own sakes.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Agreed with Matt M, zero. For a different reason; this only requires Trump take credit for either things which would happen anyway or things which companies do to curry favor with him, neither of which requires Congressional action of any sort.

      I disagree that it will work all that well, though. If Trump supporters see a string of Trump triumphs in the press while they look around and see the same old depressed post-industrial wasteland as before around them, they’re going to start thinking Trump is just like every other President.

      • Matt M says:

        “I disagree that it will work all that well, though. If Trump supporters see a string of Trump triumphs in the press while they look around and see the same old depressed post-industrial wasteland as before around them, they’re going to start thinking Trump is just like every other President.”

        And yes, this is also true. It’s pretty much exactly what happened with Obama. The press constantly trumpeted how much great stuff he was doing economically, but a whole lot of the country looked around and said “Really, I don’t care about the S&P 500, things here look even worse than they did in 2008” and voted for the other party instead.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Exactly right. Which is why I think Scott’s hand-wringing is much ado about nothing. People with crappy personal economies voted for Trump despite the media telling them jobs were great. In 2020, if these people still have crappy personal economies they will vote against Trump, regardless of what he says. So Scott’s fear that Trump will leave “policy to rot” assumes Trump is an idiot who wants to lose in 2020, which is not in keeping with his character.

          Instead I imagine Trump will push policies that he believes will keep/create jobs in the US (reforming NAFTA, perhaps tariffs, etc), but while also expertly playing the PR game: bouquets for companies that keep jobs, brickbats for companies that leave. I don’t think there is a number of “jobs saved” too small for Trump to bother sending out a tweet. The praised companies will see increased business (every Trump supporter is buying a Carrier, I guarantee) and the damned will suffer (“NO MORE OREOS”). The message is clear: buy American, hire American. 4 cumulative years of this could be very productive. And we’ll find out when people vote their personal economies in 2020.

        • JayT says:

          I think the one difference is that Obama’s claims of success were far more academic, stuff like GDP growth.

          Trump’s claims of success seem to be focused much more on individuals, like “look at the great deal I got the Carrier workers!” I could see people continuing to support Trump because they just know that their turn at success is coming up soon.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes. And I think to what either framing appeals to you is probably largely proportional with your level of education. Academic statistics appeal to the well educated (who happen to be more liberal). Personal anecdotes about Joe the Plumber appeal to the less educated (who happen to lean conservative).

            The the well educated liberals who happen to be NYT columnists just don’t understand this. They don’t understand why anyone cares about Trump handing out tax breaks to a few hundred air conditioner factory workers when clearly Obama improved GDP by 1.2%

          • Deiseach says:

            Where it worked for the Democrat supporters was that they could say to white working class complaints (1) Obama would be able to do so much more if it wasn’t for the mean ol’ Republicans in Congress blocking him all the time because they’re mean and evil, which is why your personal circumstances aren’t getting better (2) you’re just jealous non-white people are doing better, you racist! “to the privileged, equality looks like oppression”, yah boo! Why aren’t you glad that poor Chinese rice farmers can now be sweated urban workers have an improved quality of life, you bigot?

  5. skholiast says:

    Anecdote: 1
    Statistics: 0
    this is why everyone recognizes “Batman” the story and few people would be able to pick out the real figures of violent crime in actual Gotham City from a lineup.
    This is the way the trend will continue to go. But is this a statistic or an anecdote?

  6. Uncle Max says:

    Sham announcements like this? Really? So cynical. Enjoy the legitimate winning for a minute. That Ford plant would not be expanded except for Trump and his promised reforms. That is not sham , to those workers or the tax base or the cities that will not die because Ford pulled out. Trump knows well good that companies will want to jump on board. The difference is, they gain positive PR by doing so and individuals in the US gain. The way up until now was, to gain influence with the President or his folks was in giving money.. and if any positive effects trickled down to the folks that’s a bonus. The worm has turned. Trump owes no one anything and he has a agenda to turn things around… yes because it will reflect well on him, but too, he wants to get things going again. He wins, we win.

    • Nicholas Carter says:

      Scott thinks that in eight years, it will be obvious that what Trump has to do to keep the jobs will turn out to have cost more then the jobs were worth.
      To explain Scott’s skepticism with a metaphor:
      Trump is trying to swat a horsefly that has just landed on his desk with a paperweight. His technique is sound, the fly will not dodge, his weight is solid, the fly will be crushed. You ask why Scott doesn’t enjoy the legitimate winning?
      Scott thinks that the fly isn’t on Trumps desk at all. He thinks it’s landed on Trump’s hand and he’s about to bring down that paperweight on his knuckles and break two of his fingers.

      • tayfie says:

        One of Trump’s greatest personal skills is negotiation, and as President, he will deal from the most powerful position possible. Do you think he would be a billionaire without great judgment in terms of dealmaking? Your metaphor shows that you still think of Trump as a buffoonish cartoon character, which, to me, was proven to be the wrong picture when he won the primary.

        Scott’s argument on this, more or less repeated by every network that doesn’t like Trump, simply isn’t convincing to me because it is all speculation about the costs of the bad deals Trump *might* make/have made. This is silly because, as Scott pointed out, there will always be more companies moving away than Trump can stop. If a company asks for too many favors, Trump can always walk and get the needed PR cheaper from a different company. He also, by virtue of his powerful government position and campaign rhetoric, doesn’t even need to give favors if he can make tariffs or lost government contracts a credible threat. Companies recognize this and will be grateful for whatever pittance favor Trump offers them.

    • Gaelen says:

      It was my understanding that the expanded plant in America is going to be for electric and autonomous vehicles, as well as the Mustangs and Lincolns that are already produced there. The Mexico plant was going to produce Ford Focus’, which will now be build at an already existing Mexican plant. This was done because of declining small car sales.

      No US plant was going to close to build the Mexican plant, and even after this decision, none of the cars that were going to be built in the Mexican plant are going to be built in the US. The expanded plant in Michigan is really tangential to the factory closing, and may, or may not, be related to Trump’s policies.

  7. Jacob says:

    Back in October, I defended Scott “Persuasion Master” Adams but dismissed his theory of Trump. However, that model seems to predict incredibly well not just the fact that Trump was elected but also the way he has operated. I have to admit that I was wrong and update strongly in favor of the “persuader” thesis. Namely that Trump is a master persuader hypnotist who will:

    A) Focus almost exclusively on PR and turning public opinion in his favor, in lieu of any other strategy and ideology.
    B) Be very successful at PR and and turning public opinion in his favor.

    Like Scott said, this PR focus is likely to manifest itself in obviously sub-optimal policies (i.e. crony capitalism). On the other hand, the possible damage of a PR presidency seems much more limited than what could be wreaked by an ideologue who doesn’t care if people hate him, like Ted Cruz (or even Pence).

    • gadren says:

      In particular, Scott Adams discussed the very issue that Scott Alexander is talking about, in his article “The New CEO’s First Moves (and Trump)” — though Adams focuses on these “punch a few big companies to show them who’s boss” actions as an important persuasion tool to set the tone from the get-go. Sort of a “pick a fight on your first day in prison” action.

      There’s a reason why everyone focuses on the “first 100 days” of an administration, beyond just having fresh political capital to push through an agenda: early victories will increase PR much more than later victories.

      What I think is interesting about Adams’ post is the emphasis on PR/perception as a necessary part of an economic system. Aspects of the economic machine are perception-driven and self-fulfilling, where perceptions that the economy is good/bad will amplify how good/bad it actually is.

      Given this, the model that Trump is doing is not the stereotypical beady-eyed economist scurrying off into a back room to start pushing and prodding the levers of The Economy like it’s an inert machine, but rather pushing and prodding the people that are part of The Economy and giving a story to believe. The traditional view of PR is something done solely for the benefit of whomever is being praised (e.g. a president putting out PR so his own administration looks better), but perhaps what we’re seeing is PR in the sense of giving people something to believe and thus improving things that way. There are reasons why societies all have their national myths.

      Though I do actually think this kind of Carrier/Ford stuff will lessen once the Trump administration actually begins. It’s important for Trump to push this stuff hard right now because of the “new CEO” effect, but also because right now a lot of people are under the (unconscious) impression that Trump is actually president right now. Ever since the election, people are looking less and less at what the Obama administration is doing (e.g. Russia’s response to the expulsion of diplomats, going “yeah yeah, whatever, we’ll just wait a month”). So this places pressure on Trump’s team to fulfill that unconscious belief that he is currently president — without actually having any of the true authority to change policy. Right now Trump has the power of the media, so that’s the tool that he uses to reinforce the idea that he is already president and “already saving jobs.” Once he actually has control over policy I would expect his focus to move more toward that.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        Yeah, that kind of PR is called propaganda. Honestly, I would be incredibly amused if his plan worked. Might even be worth the annoying whining of my Clinton supporting family members. As a Sanders supporter I was/am a lot more apathetic about which of them won the general.

        • Cerby says:

          The only difference between PR and propaganda is whether or not you like it. It’s all social manipulation.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            PR is colloquially more of a term for private groups. Propaganda is a term used for state sponsored stuff.

      • Jacob says:

        I think Trump’s ultimate motives are where I actually disagree with Adams, and this is apart from the “persuader” theory. Adams argues that Trump has plans to implement good policy, and does the headline grabbing stuff to establish himself and enable the good policy later. I personally think that Trump wouldn’t know good economic policy if it came and grabbed him by the p**sy.

        • Salem says:

          Trump’s cabinet picks indicate that he has a very well-defined policy agenda and is willing to spend a lot of political capital to push it through. Sessions, Price, DeVos, etc. How he will actually govern is up for grabs, but this is solid evidence in favour of Adams’s hypothesis.

    • Tekhno says:

      But is Trump really a master persuader if his approval ratings are horrible, and he only won because Hillary underperformed? He hasn’t been successful so far at turning public opinion in his favor. Other than his rabid core of supporters, he seems to keep having victory after victory in spite of being disliked by everyone else.

      Of course, maybe this is the long game, and eventually we’ll all be singing his praises, but I think that right now he looks more like some kind of probability wizard than a master persuader.

      • Forlorn Hopes says:

        The fact Trump’s approval ratings are merely horrible, and not so stratospherically low that he was unelectable might be evidence that he’s a master persuader after all.

        How many people could win an election when leading figures from their own party were endorsing the other candidate?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Why would a master persuader not be able to persuade the people he needs to persuade (given your hypothetical that not being endorsed makes it harder for him to be elected)?

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Self evidently Trump didn’t need to persuade them.

            Though I do see your point: If he’s such a master why couldn’t Trump persuade both the republican party and voters, rather than persuade voters but utterly alienate the party.

            My response is that Trump has some massive handicaps (e.g. “grab them by the pussy”) that alienates both voters and political elites. It alienates people so badly that Republicans politicians were endorsing Hillary.

            My thought is basically. Given he has such a huge handicap, the fact his popular vote is 46% and not 30% or even lower raises questions. Perhaps persuasion skills are part of the answer.

          • Adam says:

            To me, it just shows the country is absurdly partisan and most of those 46% would have voted for anyone with an R next to his name, whether they liked him or not. The post-hoc justifications would be different, but the outcome the same. Trump riled up a sufficient number of marginal voters in the right counties, but really he was only ever fighting over a tiny number once he won the nomination. He didn’t master persuade anyone in the primaries, either. He benefited from media-centric campaigning that rewards outsized personalities, the enormous field in which he probably loses at least two or three head-to-heads, and the fact that fewer people vote so getting out a small number of crazed fans who usually don’t can actually change the result.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            When Jesus was arguing with the Pharisees he wasn’t trying to persuade them. They can’t be persuaded. They knew they were evil and lying. Jesus led them into rhetorical traps so the Pharisees’ victims (the crowds) could see they were lying and wonder “who is this man who speaks this way?”

            The GOP establishment was always in the pockets of the Chamber of Commerce, and would never be “persuaded.” Trump’s target in sparring with them was the audience, to make the voters aware the establishments of both parties were not operating in their interests.

          • ashlael says:

            One of many ways Trump is like Jesus. Doesn’t believe he should have to pay taxes, only produces the best alcohol… The similarities are actually astounding!

          • MugaSofer says:

            Jesus explicitly endorsed paying state taxes, although given he was a wandering preacher, I doubt he had any assets worth taxing.*

            Although I guess that’s technically Trump’s excuse for not paying taxes as well.

            ————————————-
            *I recall one mention of a “communal purse” held by Judas, and that seems to have been for charity work.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            But Jesus did believe you had to pay taxes. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

          • Salem says:

            No, Jesus did not explicitly endorse paying taxes. Nor did he explicitly endorse not paying them.

            The Pharisees came to Jesus to trap him in a statement. But Jesus didn’t fall for the trick. Instead he gave a suitably ambiguous answer, so they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said. It seems you have completely missed the point of the passage.

            Jesus said “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” It is certainly possible to interpret that as support for paying taxes – the denarius is the emperor’s, so give it to him. But Jesus doesn’t say that – he tricks the Pharisees into saying so (and handling graven images in the Temple). It is equally possible to interpret that as support for not paying taxes – everything belongs to God. So the Pharisees weren’t able to discredit Jesus with the people, nor turn him in to the Romans.

            Frankly this is one way Trump is unlike Jesus – very different PR styles.

          • Spookykou says:

            Who knew Jesus was just another form of Anansi?!

      • wintermute92 says:

        Well…

        He was the least qualified candidate in American presidential history. He had no political experience and no military service. He made a lot of his money in unseemly businesses like gambling, education scams, and eminent domain real estate. He has a scandal list a mile long, and was under investigation for fraud during the election. He shows no particular signs of being intelligent, knowing much of anything, or intending to learn.

        And yet he wins. His approval ratings are bad, sure, but when pundits say “but he lost the popular vote!” they’re yanking your chain. These are the people who predicted he would lose the primary, then predicted he would lose the election like McGovern lost. And when he won narrowly, by electoral vote, that somehow proves what he did wasn’t actually impressive?

        I don’t like Trump. I fear and loathe him, in fact. But I think his PR skill has to be evaluated in light of the fact that on objective merits he should never have won a single state, much less an election.

      • tayfie says:

        First, I would be suspicious of any “approval ratings” that come from organizations that spent the last 18 months trying to stop Trump. What do “approval ratings” even mean in the context of a persuader? If I disapprove of Trump’s manner, but think he was the better choice, did he succeed? He persuaded me to vote for him.

        Third, I think you are right and Trump is doing persuasion in a divide-and-conquer approach, the same way he won the primary by knocking down opponents one at a time. He knows he can’t please everyone with every action, so he started with the people he needed most (working-class voters), and is working his way through other demographics.

    • onyomi says:

      If you accept the “Trump is a PR/hypnosis/persuasion master” thesis, you should probably also give serious consideration to the “symbolic victories matter” thesis.

    • MugaSofer says:

      Yeah, I’ve gotta admit, I really underestimated Scott Adams because so many of the things he says are factually untrue and/or obvious weaselling. He really does seem to have been largely right about this.

      Kind of like Trump in that respect, actually. They both predicted Trump would win, and everyone ignored them because, well…

      • suntzuanime says:

        Stop saying Scott Adams was right! Trump did not win in a landslide, he won a convincing but not impressively large Electoral College victory and actually lost the popular vote by a decent margin. For sure, the latter might be because he was playing to win the EC and Clinton wasn’t, but that just makes his EC victory margin look even less impressive.

        • MugaSofer says:

          Fair point.

          Adams got absolutely every detail wrong. He still arrived (possibly coincidentally – it was after all a binary decision) at something like the right conclusion, in what, March?

          Both of these things are true.

          Let me put it another way – Trump is skilled at PR in ways I am not. Adams claims, either as a deliberate lie or because he’s an idiot, to understand this. But he did correctly notice that a) PR is important and b) Trump is good at it, which allowed him to get something right I failed at.

          It would be foolish to conclude Trump is an unstoppable god based on two successes. But it would also be foolish to underestimate him a third fucking time.

          • Squirrel of Doom says:

            Having read Dilbert for a few decades, I have no doubt that Adams possesses some kind of remarkable genius/talent.

            So the idiot theory is out.

        • tayfie says:

          http://blog.dilbert.com/post/154768183356/how-to-be-unpersuasive

          > Word-Thinking: I have never heard of anyone winning an argument by adjusting the definition of a word. But that doesn’t stop people from trying. We argue over whether a fetus is “living” at any particular point. We argue over the definition of a true “conservative.” **We argue about whether or not Trump won in a “landslide.”** We argue about Trump being a “fascist.” I doubt any of this word-thinking changed minds.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Words point to underlying concepts. If you try say that the underlying concept of a “landslide” was fulfilled by Trump’s victory, I will laugh in your disingenuous face. This isn’t a point of fucking semantics, it’s a point of basic correspondence with reality.

  8. J says:

    I keep wondering what baseline people are using for their criticism. Sure, photo op politicking and messing with other countries’ elections are bad, but people phrase it as if Trump invented them. Obama literally had two guys come to the White House for a beer, and acted like throwing money at solar city was going to solve climate change (before it tanked). Berkeley literally has lotteries where a handful (like less than ten) of poor people get heavily subsidized housing. I’m all for getting at the real issues, but if we act like Trump is doing something unprecedented, we’re just doing the normal thing of deploring the outgroup.

    • Fifteen says:

      Did you mean Solyndra instead of SolarCity?

    • Earthly Knight says:

      http://www.npr.org/2014/11/13/363572151/after-solyndra-loss-u-s-energy-loan-program-turning-a-profit

      In 2011, solar panel company Solyndra defaulted on a $535 million loan guaranteed by the Department of Energy. The agency had a few other high-profile bankruptcies, too — electric car company Fisker and solar company Abound among them. But now that loan program has started turning a profit.

      Overall, the agency has loaned $34.2 billion to a variety of businesses, under a program designed to speed up development of clean-energy technology. Companies have defaulted on $780 million of that — a loss rate of 2.28 percent. The agency also has collected $810 million in interest payments, putting the program $30 million in the black.

      When Congress created the loan program under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, it was never designed to be a moneymaker. In fact, Congress imagined there would be losses and set aside $10 billion to cover them.

      • J says:

        Sure. The point is that saving a few hundred jobs or making $30M on a $34B investment are both symbolic victories that don’t have much to do with solving the kinds of problems we need a president for.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          The point wasn’t to make a profit on the loans.

          It was to create viable green energy companies, which it has done.

          • Matt M says:

            Is a company truly “viable” if its entire existence is dependent upon the outcome of certain political elections?

          • Randy M says:

            Do you mean ongoing or at inception? Compare with a baby. I think the term could fairly be applied to a company begun with political money.

            Or are you saying these companies would now collapse without additional government funding?

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            If they were viable, they wouldn’t need subsidies.

          • eh says:

            Alex: if you think of coal, wind, solar, nuclear, etc. as being more or less cost-effective according to various variables like technological progress and location, and believe that the market will generally choose the most efficient option available right now rather than the option with the most potential for future growth, then it’s clear that pouring money into research and subsidies for a given technology can increase its viability over time.

            This is not to say that subsidies were the best choice, or that solar and wind were the best choice, but a technology that wasn’t viable can quickly become viable through investment.

          • “, and believe that the market will generally choose the most efficient option available right now rather than the option with the most potential for future growth,”

            As long as the future growth is a benefit for the company that produces that growth, it pays the company to include it in the calculation of what to do. Rank Halide lost money for a long time researching dry copying–and finally gave us Xerox. Private companies routinely plant trees for lumber.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            The private sector is perfectly capable of researching technologies for future use. That’s how much of the technology we use today was developed.

          • Jules says:

            The government has larger shoulders than any single private actor, and is in a better place to make massive long term investments.
            The government has the power to push forward entire industries, and has done so numerous times and with frequent success.

            The knee jerk reaction of thinking that anything done by the government instead of the private sector is necessarily crap? It’s unwarranted.

          • eh says:

            David: yeah, absolutely. The question of whether government intervention was necessary is different to the question of whether solar has now become viable, though, and I don’t think viability rests on whether the past investment into solar was public or private. If the numbers coming out of the solar industry recently are to be believed, the areas in which is is viable without subsidies have been rapidly expanding, presumably as the result of significant investment from both sides of the fence.

            The arguments for government intervention seems to rest on removing negative externalities, i.e. the whole global warming/pollution debate, and creating positive externalities, i.e. putting useful research into the public domain. I don’t know enough about either area to have a useful opinion.

          • Deiseach says:

            Speaking of green energy initiatives, Northern Ireland is currently embroiled in a mini-scandal – the so-called “cash for ash”, with an embattled First Minister being pressured to resign and counter-claiming it’s all down to misogyny.

            The state-funded RHI [Renewable Heat Inititative] was supposed to offer a proportion of the cost businesses had to pay to run eco-friendly boilers, but the subsidy tariffs were set too high, and without a cap, so it ended up paying out significantly more than the price of fuel.

            This enabled applicants to “burn to earn” — getting free heat and making a profit as they did it.

            Claims of widespread abuse include a farmer allegedly set to pocket around £1 million in the next two decades for heating an empty shed.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            No, what’s unwarranted is assuming that the government is the only one capable of making these investments, or assuming that the government will make them efficiently, when typically government investments are bogged down by cronyism, red tape, and politicking.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Alex Zavoluk:
            That isn’t the calculus.

            The government isn’t making the investment in an attempt to make returns. They are interested solely in getting more of the industry off the ground as soon as possible. The net is simply more investment capital quicker, especially in a market (2009) where capital is fleeing to safety and near term demand for power is predicted to be near flat.

            In other words, the timing of those loans mattered a lot to whether they would achieve their ends.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            The government isn’t making the investment in an attempt to make returns.
            They are interested solely in getting more of the industry off the ground as soon as possible.

            You have as much proof for this alleged angelic motivation as others have for the nefarious one: keeping bureaucrats in their jobs and handing out gifts to preferred cohorts.

            Even if the motivation was pristine, who chooses which industry to get off the ground? The technocrats? Why solar, why not nuclear, why not fusion, why not terraforming an earth post-AGW-apocalypse, why not…. who knows?

            The concern is not should we assign the cost of negative externalities (pollution) to those who benefit from them (gas/oil/coal consumers) it is the government-driven resource allocation that necessarily has a motivation and because of its market-disruptive effect cuts off the development of alternatives that in the end are likely to be much more viable.

          • John Schilling says:

            They are interested solely in getting more of the industry off the ground as soon as possible.

            That seems almost naïve. At the highest level, where budgets are set, the government is interested primarily in getting votes, and on a timescale less than the time required to develop and field any significant new technology. At the lower levels, where any research is being done, the government is interested primarily in preserving the job security of the project or program’s management.

            These things may be somewhat correlated with “getting more of the industry off the ground as soon as possible”, but it seems to me almost tautologically self-evident that private investment aimed at profiting from a business will be better correlated with the whole getting-off-the-ground faster thing.

            There are scale and coordination issues that sometimes make government-funded R&D a reasonable proposition. The caricature of the private sector as entirely mercenary and the government as entirely altruistic, is as misplaced here as it is just about everywhere else.

          • The government isn’t making the investment in an attempt to make returns. They are interested solely in getting more of the industry off the ground as soon as possible.

            What are the assumptions about government actors and the incentives they face that lead you to that conclusion?

            My assumption is that government actors have essentially the same motives as other people. Those motives lead them to do things that benefit concentrated interest groups at the expense of dispersed interest groups, that produce short run benefits at the expense of long run costs.

            Market failure ultimately comes from situations where actors take actions most of whose costs or benefits go to other people. That occasionally occurs on the private market, as in the case of pollution (negative externality) or discoveries in basic research (positive). It is the normal situation on the political market.

            You seem to be working with a philosopher king model of government, which is inconsistent with both theoretical arguments (public choice theory) and evidence.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:

            We are talking about a specific, one time loan program that was passed as part of the stimulus package in 2009, not all government programs ever.

            Believe it or not, many politicians actually have policy goals. And those policy goals are not limited to “enrich my friends” or “reward my cronies”.

            When Grover Norquist says he has a policy goal of starving the government of money so that it will shrink, I believe that is his actual policy goal.

            Sure, there is triangulation that occurs based on coalitions and reelection and a number of other factors. But those ride along side actual policy goals. I think the politician who is completely internally neutral on favored policy (cum policy) is actually a fairly rare beast.

            Just because politicians are “more slippery” than the average Joe does not make them a magically friction free surface.

            Obama and the Democratic representatives at the time actually like green energy and wanted more of the power generated and used in the US to come from non-fossil-fuel, non-fission sources. That is actual policy that they wanted. Then they designed a program that would push this goal forward in a time where private capital for any projects at all was going to be constrained.

            Why is that hard for people to accept?

            If someone votes to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood because they say they don’t like the fact that Planned Parenthood performs abortions, I think the most likely actual reason is that the don’t like abortions being performed (at Planned Parenthood or anywhere else).

          • John Schilling says:

            @HBC:

            Believe it or not, many politicians actually have policy goals. And those policy goals are not limited to “enrich my friends” or “reward my cronies”.

            Correct. For almost all politicians, “ensure my own job security” ranks much higher than either of those.

            But just one post ago, you were saying that the government was interested solely in promoting green energy, or presumably whatever other policy goal they feel is ideologically or socially beneficial. You’re kind of moving the goalposts to a midfield position if you are now saying that a politician’s goals are not limited to the most venal sorts of corruption. Maybe it’s 15% implement desirable policies, 35% keep my job so I’ll be able to implement desirable policies in the future, 35% keep my job because it’s a cushy job, and 15% venal corruption.

            And you know what? It’s the same in the private sector. SpaceX is 15% getting Elon to Mars, 35% making Elon rich so he can afford to get to Mars, 35% making Elon rich because Elon likes money, and 15% venal corruption. Or maybe the percentages are different, for either or both, and maybe there are other motivations thrown in the mix.

            But you can’t, or at least oughtn’t, model private businesses as simple profit maximizers, you certainly oughtn’t model politicians as dispassionate policy advocates, and you can’t get away with supporting the latter by saying, “but politicians aren’t wholly corrupt”.

          • MugaSofer says:

            They said their motive was purely policy-based in making this one specific loan.

            They have repeatedly said that they don’t believe all politicians are motivated solely by policy goals forever, and continuing to argue as if they do is a pretty obvious strawman.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            The politicians at the top can honestly believe in the causes they claim to support, but they still don’t have the incentive to make sure any particular program is run efficiently, because it isn’t their money.

          • Aapje says:

            @Alex

            The same is true for many CEO’s, who also spend other people’s money.

            The libertarian argument is quite strong if you pretend that all private sector decision makers are spending their own money, while decision makers in the public sector can waste money with no personal repercussions; but unfortunately for you, this is not reality.

          • Matt M says:

            “The same is true for many CEO’s, who also spend other people’s money.”

            Fewer people’s money, a lot less money, and with much more immediate feedback mechanisms. Not to mention that their incentive packages are often explicitly tied to the rewards the “other people” get for their money (e.g. stock options)

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            “The libertarian argument is quite strong if you pretend that all private sector decision makers are spending their own money, while decision makers in the public sector can waste money with no personal repercussions; but unfortunately for you, this is not reality.”

            Owners may pay other people to figure out how to spend their money, but those people are still directly accountable to owners , and there is no corresponding accountability in the government. Yes, sometimes (rarely) a particular story about a particular politician will gain some traction, but typically politicians and bureaucrats just demand more money to replace what they spent poorly (or lost).

          • The politicians at the top can honestly believe in the causes they claim to support

            Humans in general are good at persuading themselves that what is in their private interest is also good and in the general interest. Professors mostly believe that spending more on universities is good for the world. Schoolteachers that spending more on schools, which includes raising teacher salaries so as to get and keep more good teachers, is good for the world.

            And I doubt there are very many CEO’s who don’t believe that what their company does is good for the world.

            Applies to workers too.

          • Deiseach says:

            SpaceX is 15% getting Elon to Mars, 35% making Elon rich so he can afford to get to Mars, 35% making Elon rich because Elon likes money, and 15% venal corruption.

            Eh, I’d replace the “venal corruption” with “vanity project”. Some people commission gigantic statues of themselves, others develop manned Mars missions 🙂

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        So .1% ROI? Didn’t people claim Trump’s entire business career was a sham based on that sort of investing capability?

        • lkbm says:

          As noted HeelBearCub noted, While Earthly Night isn’t making an argument that it was a good ROI. They were presenting counter-evidence to the rhetoric that Obama was pretending throwing money at a single solar company would solve climate change.

          That aside, it’s an error to treat government spending, even if it’s a loan to a company, as a regular investment (or a regular loan). Building the Interstate Highway had a 0% ROI…except for the massive economic gains for the entire country.

          It might feel different with Solyndra since it literally was a loan, but the government clearly wasn’t working as a bank trying to get interest on a loan, and certainly not as a venture capitalist trying to stake ownership of the next Facebook. As J was complaining, it was part of a big investment to help jump-start US involvement in an industry of environmental importance.

          Maybe you don’t think the US government should be spending money to spur domestic corporations, or maybe you think solar is a bad industry to be trying to boost, but in any case, it’s not appropriate to evaluate it as if they’re regular investors. (Though, it’s also worth noting, Trump’s not being evaluated for making loans with ROI of 0.1%, but investments with low ROI.)

          Success for government investment should be measured in economic gains, international political and economic clout, and other quality-of-life gains (such as addressing environmental issues), not interest rates on their loans.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            “except for the massive economic gains for the entire country.”

            Don’t forget the strong encouragement to drive cars and build other roads instead of public transportation, resulting pollution and suburban sprawl, reliance on gasoline, traffic, etc.

            “Though, it’s also worth noting, Trump’s not being evaluated for making loans with ROI of 0.1%, but investments with low ROI.”

            What distinction are you trying to draw between investments and loans?

            Specific companies/industries should not need subsidies or penalties beyond internalizing externalities. If the costs of AGW are high, carbon taxes should make investment in renewable energy profitable enough. Subsidizing a particular entity is terribly inefficient, as it insulates them from competition.

          • lkbm says:

            Don’t forget the strong encouragement to drive cars and build other roads instead of public transportation, resulting pollution and suburban sprawl, reliance on gasoline, traffic, etc.

            I’ll readily admit there are serious negatives to the Interstate Highway system, but the point is, the way you evaluate its success is obviously not “did the money get paid back with a nice high interest rate.”

            What distinction are you trying to draw between investments and loans?

            I’m definitely not an expert on this, but the way I think about it is:
            * Banks (as the prototypical example) lend money. They get paid back, usually. There’s some risk, but it’s low. The reward is generally fixed, and also generally pretty low, because it’s a fairly efficient market.
            * Investors buy part of a company. You don’t get paid back and you don’t know the return. If the company flops, you lose. If it does okay, you do okay. If it gets huge, you get rich. This can happen because it’s not a highly-efficient market.

            Loans, I assume, are essentially commodities. If you’re slightly better at assessing risk than other people, you can make slightly higher average returns, but there are no big wins.

            Investing in a company seems more like an “art”–by which I mean it’s not something we’ve been able to scale up into a nice clean algorithm. It’s still a place where people with a good sense for it can significantly out-perform the market.

            If you want to see if someone has good business acumen, looking at how well they do at lending money is a poor method. If they’re terrible at it, it’ll show, but anywhere from okay to great will be all look pretty similar. If they’re just okay at investing, though, it will look quite different from if they’re great.

            My perspective is skewed towards start-ups (and, I’ll readily admit, by my not really knowing much about this stuff at all), but this is my general sense of the distinction.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            > the point is, the way you evaluate its success is obviously not “did the money get paid back with a nice high interest rate.”

            Sure, there are other effects you can evaluate, but if you’re making “loans” then it is one piece you should include. You can even evaluate ROI for general programs, you just take all the benefit of a given program, not just that which accrued directly to the government.

            So loans are individually small but scalable, investments are individually large? But what constitutes “large” or “risky” depends entirely on how much money you have to begin with. If you can make many diverse investments, your business will resemble a bank in the e.g. home-loan market, just with slightly higher variance and ROR.

      • cassander says:

        That’s about a 1% return for the government. The stock market returns about 5% I’d happily borrow a billion dollars at 3%, pay the government one and make 100 million.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          “Sure, the program created tens of thousands of jobs, helped to hasten the transition to clean energy, and made the federal government a profit in the process, but does it also grant wishes?”

          • cassander says:

            You miss the point. I could make just as many claims for the “loan cassander a billion dollars act” of 2017, that doesn’t make it wise policy.

          • Spookykou says:

            From what I understand of the controversial ‘loan cassander a billion dollars act’, cassander corp intends to invest all the money in the market and then pocket 100 million of it. Are you trying to say there is no substantive difference between that, and creating tens of thousands of jobs and hastening the transition to clean energy?

            Maybe you are saying cassander corp will lie, and tell everyone they are doing the latter while doing the former, are these the many claims in favor of the ‘loan cassander a billion dollars act’?

            I think I might still be missing the point.

          • cassander says:

            “Investing in the market” does create jobs. I will buy securities from someone, who will take that money and either spend it or invest it. Some of the jobs created will presumably be in green energy. My effect will be more diffuse, but no less real.

          • Spookykou says:

            I understand that investment creates jobs, but I think there is a non-trivial difference between a targeted program to promote the potentially very important green energy industry, compared with the gains of general investments.

            I am a big fan of capitalism and I think that it is the best solution more often than not. However green energy seems like the kind of potentially important, high hanging fruit, that capitalism might not get around to fast enough without some sort of external insensitive, like big fat government loans.

            Obviously if you think that green energy has no hidden potential/non-immediate upside, then the L.C.B.D. Act starts to look comparable.

          • MugaSofer says:

            Cassander, if you buy a new car, use it for years, then re-sell it at a small profit … do you consider this a spectacular failure on your part if the profit isn’t better than playing the stock market?

          • cassander says:

            @MugaSofer

            If the goal was to make money on the car, then yes.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            Jobs are cost, not a benefit.

          • Aapje says:

            Jobs are a cost to a company, a benefit to the employee.

          • Spookykou says:

            Jobs are cost, not a benefit.

            Job creation is generally viewed as a benefit of government action, at least by the government.

          • Randy M says:

            Can I do one?
            Jobs are an exchange. Labor and/or expertise by one party for (usually) cash from another. Any given job represents both a cost and a benefit from each party. The sum of any particular can be positive, zero, or negative.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Cassander, that’s poor accounting. The money you made on the car includes the use you got from it when you owned it, not just the sale price.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            I could make just as many claims for the “loan cassander a billion dollars act” of 2017, that doesn’t make it wise policy.

            Let’s suppose you bamboozle congress into giving you the money, and you succeeding in accomplishing everything you claim. Why, then, was it an unwise policy?

            Here’s a reasonable criticism of a government policy: “it failed to produce benefits commensurate with its costs.” But that’s not going to cut any ice here, the green loans program turned a profit. So the criticism we’re hearing now is instead “it failed to produce benefits which were arbitrarily large.” Would that most government policies suffered from only this latter defect!

          • quanta413 says:

            “So the criticism we’re hearing now is instead “it failed to produce benefits which were arbitrarily large.” Would that most government policies suffered from only this latter defect!”

            Considering the actual criticism at hand now is that its returns were 1% and you could expect to hit ~5% returns by pouring money into the stock market, your claim that people are complaining the benefit wasn’t arbitrarily large appears to be either poor wording for “asking for a government project to come near the average rate of return is unreasonable” or to have been pulled out of thin air.

            Let’s shift the question to “is it better to make targeted investments in specific companies/industries or for the government to impose clean energy standards, carbon taxes, etc. that will increase the incentives to get what we want? And how does political feasibility come into this?” The obvious answer is probably “subsidies are easier to impose than rules because it’s a concentrated payoff to a specific group that can roll some of that subsidy back into lobbying for more subsidies whereas everyone fucking hates taxes and regulations”, but I’d really like if someone could give a better answer.

          • Tekhno says:

            Imposing clean energy standards and imposing carbon taxes just makes things more expensive if there’s nothing more clean to even move to. If all we have is oil then adding an extra cost to it to discourage its use does nothing, because we have to use it even if we pay more.

            A subsidy instead concentrates capital on helping to grow that next cleaner way of producing power that we all need to move to.

            Trying to discourage something is just onerous if there’s no practical alternative, so it’s surely more productive to assist the alternative until it is practical. There’s a very good reason to hate taxes and regulations in this case.

          • If all we have is oil then adding an extra cost to it to discourage its use does nothing, because we have to use it even if we pay more.

            You are assuming that all demands are perfectly inelastic except via substitutes.

            If all we have is oil, we can still decide whether to buy small cars or large, drive or take the bus, car pool or not, live far from work in a pleasanter environment and commute or live near work in a less pleasant environment and walk, … .

            You are making one of the most common non-economist mistakes–looking at how things are presently done and seeing it as how they have to be done rather than as the solution to an optimization problem whose inputs include prices.

            A subsidy instead concentrates capital on helping to grow that next cleaner way of producing power that we all need to move to.

            The payoff to the politician who decides what to subsidize how might depend on whether what he subsidizes produces visible results in the next few years but not whether it produces results ten or twenty years later, by which time he is out of office and someone else, quite possibly of the opposite party, gets to claim the credit for how well things are going.

            It does depend on whether the firm he subsidizes belongs to people who make campaign contributions to him and his party, on whether what they are doing can be made to look good in the short run to voters who have no reason to invest lots of time and effort in analyzing arguments for and against.

            The payoff to the private investors deciding whether to invest in developing new technologies depends on whether they work, as judged ultimately by the market and, earlier than that, by other investors with both the incentive and the expertise to look at what the firm is doing much more carefully than voters.

            It isn’t a perfect system, because some of the payoff goes to other firms that copy what the first firm does, but between patent law and first mover advantages the firm that develops the technology has substantial advantages.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Tekhno

            But if there are no immediately viable alternative options to oil, then an increase in the cost of oil provides an increased payoff to developing the alternatives. It’s not direct like picking companies, but that can be an advantage because rather than having the government attempt to guess the correct technology the information distributed throughout the entire market can be used. Of course, this is worthless if you don’t have many engineers, entrepreneurs, etc. in existence but solyndra wasn’t blue sky research. There’s also a much lower risk of absolute failure via taxes and regulations than research. If no direct alternatives are possible, then injecting capital can’t succeed whereas as David Friedman points out, taxes and regulations can change behavior even if you assume no direct alternatives are possible.

            Taxes also give you the option of spending some of that money to clean up the cost of pollution. You can basically internalize the externality which as I understand it is usually considered a good thing.

            Not to mention, you have to collect taxes to subsidize companies. For all spending, there must be either taxes or borrowing (which will require taxes to pay it off eventually). At some point, you have to either raise taxes or displace other spending to subsidize companies. So I’m not convinced that hating taxes and regulation compared to subsidies is very rational even if it’s understandable (and politically how people seem to act).

          • Tekhno says:

            It doesn’t have to be perfectly inelastic, it just has to be very inelastic and demand for oil should be, since it is required to make so many basic goods, for food and transport. If petrol or diesel gets more expensive at the pumps, it’s a big deal.

            People having to buy smaller cars, car pool, take the bus etc AKA have lower living standards is a negative outcome imo. We can tackle global warming without lowering our living standards with subsidies.

            But if there are no immediately viable alternative options to oil, then an increase in the cost of oil provides an increased payoff to developing the alternatives.

            The only way that would work is if you did put enough pressure on companies that they had to do this due to high costs, which would lower living standards. Not acceptable. You make my goods more expensive and I get mad. Tekhno smash.

            The advantage of subsidies is that you don’t spent time pissing people off trying to squeeze the result you want out of them. We already know that solar and nuclear fusion are the things we need. We just need to throw enough money into research to find the most efficient way of making cells, and to get overunity in fusion.

            Since subsidies take from the general base of taxation, there needn’t be any increases in fixed costs to all polluting businesses in the economy.

            Germany has 31% of its electricity coming from renewables right now, in line with reaching the government’s goal of 35% by the end of the decade, so whatever we are doing now is working. Obviously we have both, but replacing a lot of existing subsidies with even higher carbon taxes/more regulations would be a bad idea. If the subsidies are working, then the results they produce in one country can carry over.

          • quanta413 says:

            The only way that would work is if you did put enough pressure on companies that they had to do this due to high costs, which would lower living standards.

            Not true, markets don’t generally work like that. What matters is that the increased cost of oil to the consumer means that technologies that might have previously cost more than oil may now cost less than oil does. This means previously nonviable business plans are now viable.

            The advantage of subsidies is that you don’t spent time pissing people off trying to squeeze the result you want out of them. We already know that solar and nuclear fusion are the things we need. We just need to throw enough money into research to find the most efficient way of making cells, and to get overunity in fusion.

            If I remember correctly, the joke is that “fusion is always 10 years away”. The idea that subsidies aren’t trying to squeeze the result you want only makes sense if you don’t need to do research. But by its very nature, when doing research you have no idea what the payoff will be. And if there is no research to do, then subsidies are worse than taxing pollution or regulating it because it involves the government picking a winner rather than competition between the various alternatives that become viable due to incorporating the real cost of oil/gas/whatever into people’s calculations.

            Since subsidies take from the general base of taxation, there needn’t be any increases in fixed costs to all polluting businesses in the economy.

            How is this a good thing unless you are the polluting business? Instead of the cost occurring to the polluting businesses, now it’s just spread across everyone being taxed regardless of whether or not they are polluting. If everyone needs whatever process is creating the pollution these are basically identical. The only question is the magnitude of taxation required in each case. The general fund still has to be collected via taxation. If you spend it on subsidies you’re not spending it on something else.

            Germany has 31% of its electricity coming from renewables right now, in line with reaching the government’s goal of 35% by the end of the decade, so whatever we are doing now is working. Obviously we have both, but replacing a lot of existing subsidies with even higher carbon taxes/more regulations would be a bad idea. If the subsidies are working, then the results they produce in one country can carry over.

            But how do you know it’s the subsidies that are working as opposed to the carbon taxes (Germany has a way higher tax on gasoline than the U.S. for example) or the regulations requiring using more renewable energy? And if multiple countries subsidize research, their is likely to be wasted money due to duplicate efforts.

          • Tekhno says:

            You’ve changed my mind. I now agree that taxes and regulations will do better than subsidies in this case.

            I previously thought that subsidizing incomes would be better than the minimum wage. I wonder if I’m wrong about that too.

  9. James Miller says:

    Trump could deploy the game theory tactic of using the ability to harm just a few people to still control many. Assume that I want to influence 100 people, but it’s common knowledge that I can harm only one of them, although it’s my choice of who. I tell the first person “do what I want or it’s you who will be harmed.” If he complies I say the same to the second person, and if he complies the third and so on. In equilibrium, all 100 people will do what I want unless they can coordinate and compensate the person I do end up harming.

  10. SkepticalEnlightenment says:

    I think your analysis misses the point. I don’t believe that Trump is ridiculous enough to believe that he alone will single-handedly get the US growing at 3% GDP. What I believe we are seeing, however, is Trump using his persuasion skills to buoy the mood of that part of America that has been suffering under sub-1% GDP.

    The “economy” as we know it, is just the aggregation of billions of individual transactions that happen every day based on the desires of the participants. Emotion plays strongly into this in terms of decision to engage or NOT engage in commerce based on the individual’s confidence of a good outcome. If people feel at risk, they hold their money close. If they feel that the times are about to be good, perhaps they choose to invest.

    My favorite analogy to use of the economy is that of a brand new seagoing ship. When the ship is brand new, it operates at peak efficiency in terms of fuel costs. As the ship ages, sea life begins to deposit on the hull and creates drag. Once the efficiency drops to a certain point, the hull must be scraped to remove the offending material and reduce the drag again. That’s how I view all the laws and regulations that crop up over time. Every dollar that goes into simply complying with a regulation is a dollar that can’t go to wages or profits. And it seems that the economy is about to get a well needed hull scrubbing.

    Economic theory tells us that as jobs are destroyed, labor is freed for other productive endeavors. I strongly believe that there is so much drag on the economy overall, that we have been very deficient in creating the new jobs to employ those displaced. As examples I point to the AHCA provisions that require business over 49 employees provide health care to anyone working more than 30 hours per week. How many small businesses have capped out at 49 people over these years? How many people are working 2 jobs now that they are limited to 29 hours?

    I think Trump is primarily acting as the Chief National Cheerleader and if he can create the perception of success, then real success is on the way.

    • antimule says:

      Funny thing is, crash of 2008 happened after lots of deregulation. Not sure if it is related, but it is funny.

      • baconbacon says:

        Funny thing is, crash of 2008 happened after lots of deregulation.

        Depends what you mean by deregulation, lots of things that got lumped under the deregulation umbrella were really “deregulation” where old regulations were changed, not simply dumped.

      • Moon says:

        Of course the crash of 2008 happened because of deregulation. It’s only the repeated propaganda from Fox News and others that have people thinking about it any other way.

      • Jayson Virissimo says:

        What measure of regulation do you have in mind? Using a naive measure like eyeballing the number of pages of the Code of Federal Regulations seems to indicate the opposite of what you claimed.

        • Nicholas Carter says:

          There were two specific regulations (one had a bird in it’s name?) that were instituted after a similar, smaller, crash in the 1970’s. They forced banks to specialized, maintain reserves based on industry, not engage in certain kinds of security, or securities of a certain rating, etc., etc., etc.
          In the early 2000’s those regulations were repealed, there was an explosion of investment and several bank mergers. This was what made the banking sector so vulnerable to the failure of specific bank companies.

        • Adam says:

          They’re almost certainly referring to the repeal of Glass-Steagall and GSEs funding sub-primes, which is a popular boogeyman for why banks were as exposed as they were, but as much as the housing crash was mostly an American thing, the credit crunch and Great Recession were global, and worse in most of the rest of the developed world than in the U.S., so I don’t find blaming that to be very convincing, nor blaming the CRA or any other government action or inaction. In retrospect, very nearly everyone involved in finance, either in government or the private sector, thought CDOs were much safer than they actually were and had a poor understanding of tail risks, which is a well-known cognitive bias of all humans. Bad things are going to sometimes happen regardless of how we organize the decision-making bodies of our societies.

      • cassander says:

        This is decidedly false. The 2000s saw the biggest financial regulatory expansion in decades and the mark to market requirements of SabOx were directly involved in the acute stage of the 2008 crisis.

      • Tracy W says:

        Crash of 2008 also happened immediately after the introduction of Basel II, the international financial regulation aimed at tightening up risk management of banks and other financial institutions. Not sure if it’s related, but it is funny.

      • Squirrel of Doom says:

        The crash of 2008 happened after billions of years of events.

  11. janrandom says:

    Have you read Scott Adams?

    http://blog.dilbert.com/post/153905823756/the-new-ceos-first-moves-and-trump

    If I read his interpretation right then these are just ‘first moves’ that set expectations. The assumption is that once started positive reinforcement will ensure that good news come in without Trump doing anything.

    My prediction: Trump will stop doing quick wins in the first half of 2017: Probability: 50%

    The “50%” is kind of a joke of course. Apparently you are not very sure in this prediction. Me neither.

    • antimule says:

      >The “50%” is kind of a joke of course. Apparently you are not very sure in this prediction. Me neither.

      50% is a joke prediction if it is one of two equal options. Since there are hundreds of possible policies, predicting that Trump will pick one with 50% confidence is nothing to look down to.

      • nelshoy says:

        Eh, you could look at it as 50% Trump will continue what he’s currently doing-50% he’ll stop.

    • MawBTS says:

      Reminder that Scott Adams predicted Trump would get 65% of the popular vote. Allow this to damage his credibility to whatever extent you deem appropriate.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Here. Thanks, I’d forgotten about that foolish precision. I thought he had restricted himself to the correct prediction that Scott Adams would judge the result to be a landslide.

      • Adams is no longer even trying to be a rationalist. He’s another pundit now. It gotten him more blog-views,media attention and money, and he probably is going to stay one for quite awhile.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          Adams is a far-right propagandist

          which is annoying because the things he tries to manipulate people into believing are often the things i believe. Hillary is sick? I’m bullish on that. And so forth.

          I guess you need to have an understanding of manipulation, to understand what he is trying to do. He’s no rationalist. At best, he has some true knowledge of “persuasion”, which he then twists to justify anything he desires. Oh, and he makes good comics.

        • MawBTS says:

          Well, he is famous because of a comic strip, so caveat lector!

          His “Clown Genius” post was a great read, although in retrospect it has all the hallmarks of a fake explanation. I still think a weaker version of his claims might be the truth of it (perhaps “Trump has high levels of charisma”, although that sounds like a no brainer.)

          I give him credit for predicting the direction of the election, but his margin of error was way bigger than all those pundits having Hillary up by +2 and +3.

          Plus he says weird shit from time to time, and it’s hard to know whether he’s being ironic, or post-ironic, or post-meta-ironic. Clearly I am like a little baby.

          • Jack Lecter says:

            I think that particular comment is intended seriously- I remember he had a whole thing about experience being over-rated and easy to pick up from advisors.

            He says a lot of other weird shit, though.

            I think he’s got a lot of fluid intelligence, but I don’t actually trust him. But he’s entertaining. So I am conflicted.

            My approach so far is to read his stuff when I’m bored, be entertained by it, mine it for good ideas, and try to filter out bad ones.

            This leads to me feeling grateful to him for the good stuff, and tending to blame myself for not catching the bad stuff. I’m still trying to work out whether this approach is sustainable in the long term. It’s kind of an important question, since I use the same approach with a lot of other authors (although not our host, who scores really high on both intelligence and trustworthy factors, and actually does research.

          • Squirrel of Doom says:

            I imagine being told true things that I don’t believe (because I’ve misunderstood the world) will always sound like “weird shit”.

            Of course, so will a million fallacies.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Was Adams ever trying to be a rationalist?

      • tayfie says:

        I assume you mean here:

        http://blog.dilbert.com/post/137137359536/today-i-help-you-see-the-future

        This was January. Most pundits were still saying Trump would never win the primary, let alone the general election. Adams was more accurate than any of them.

  12. Cerebral Paul Z. says:

    Every one of these victories will actively make the world worse, in the sense that these big companies will get taxpayer subsidies or favors they can call in later to distort government priorities,

    Also in the sense that cars will be more expensive than they need to be.

    • Schmendrick says:

      Wait, isn’t that already true? Don’t big companies already get significant concessions from government, and aren’t cars already more expensive than they “need” to be? Isn’t this just a question of who’s handing out the concessions in exchange for what, and who’s piling on the regulations to what end?

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        Change it to “even more concessions” and “even more expensive” if you like; doesn’t change the point.

    • Deiseach says:

      Every one of these victories will actively make the world worse, in the sense that these big companies will get taxpayer subsidies or favors they can call in later to distort government priorities

      Ahem.

      As president, Hillary will:

      Strengthen American manufacturing through a $10 billion investment in “Make it in America” partnerships that bring together workers and labor, business, universities, community colleges, and government at every level to harness the strength of manufacturing communities across America. Businesses that take part will pledge not to shift jobs or profits from these partnerships overseas. And we will support strong “Buy American” standards so we make things here.

      Prevent countries like China from abusing global trade rules and reject trade agreements that don’t meet high standards. Hillary will strengthen American trade enforcement so we stand up to foreign countries that aren’t playing by the rules–like China is doing right now with steel—and fight for American workers. She will say no to trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that do not meet her high standard of raising wages, creating good-paying jobs, and enhancing our national security.

      Revitalize the hardest-hit manufacturing communities by creating tax incentives to encourage investment in communities that have faced or are about to face significant manufacturing job losses.

      Crack down on companies that ship jobs and earnings overseas and create incentives for companies to bring back jobs to the U.S.

      Invest in America’s manufacturing workforce to ensure that it will always be the best in the world. Hillary will expand apprenticeships and training so our manufacturing workforce is always the best in the world.

      And the money to do all this is going to come from…. the public purse, via grants, subsidies, programmes, tax cuts, tax breaks, incentives… Or are the leprechauns going to turn over their pots of gold to make up this $10 billion? This is politics, Scott. Trump is particularly egregious, but he’s so very obvious about it because he’s an outsider and doesn’t do things the neat, smooth way of professional politicians.

      I am damn cynical about politics and politicians. I liked Bernie Sanders but I didn’t think he had a snowball in hell’s chance of getting elected, precisely because he was too old-school Labour. Independents and small third parties will struggle on, but it’s always going to be the two big beasts who dominate (even if the Republicans do implode, as the Liberals in the UK eventually did; they got replaced by Labour who became the second Big Party to be Tweedledum and Tweedledee with the Conservatives) and those parties are too tied in to the existing networks of financial, political, and social custom.

      • albertborrow says:

        I need to study more UK politics – it’s both politically relevant, interesting, and probably portentous of where American politics are going. Not only that, but the UK is a great case of smaller-scale politics, which I usually advise for.

        It certainly feels like it would take heaven and hell to dethrone either of the two main parties, but I don’t know how imploding would feel from the inside. The Republicans seem to be on edge, but the Democrats are also split between supporting identity politics and supporting left economic policies (which are not mutually exclusive, but appeal to different groups). Who knows.

        • Deiseach says:

          There was a lot of gleeful prophesying prior to the election result that this was it, the Republicans were going to fall apart.

          Now, since I don’t believe the Democrats thought they were going to pick up a good chunk of ex-Republican voters (nor wanted to), I think they thought this left them in an unassailable position of power with the (anticipated) Democrat president in office, a rump Republican party not able to mount a coherent opposition and (with the two-yearly elections for Congress and Senate coming up), the Democrats winning back a majority either in 2016 or, at worst, in 2018.

          Now, plainly they thought that monoparty control would be a good thing since they are the Party of Rainbows and Kittens, but I do wonder. Even if the Republicans had fissioned, there would still remain that rump party. The more extreme would have set up some new very right-wing national party, some moderates would have drifted to the Democrats. I think a strong centrist third-party might have emerged, and even if it did split the (formerly) Republican vote, that still would have encouraged some on the left to think “Hey it doesn’t have to be the Democrats or nothing! We could run our own People’s Party!”

          A broken Republican party might also have led to a broken Democratic Party, is what I’m saying 🙂

          • The Nybbler says:

            They didn’t expect the Republicans to fission. They expected the Republicans to become a permanent minority, say 60/40. So the Democrats would be able to do whatever they wanted and the purpose of the Republicans would be to mount a futile protest so dissenters could feel represented (and not take the Second Amendment option, perhaps)

            This was just a pipe dream of course. Eventually (and not a long “eventually”) an issue would come up that divided the Democrats, and the 40% “designated losers” would look like really convenient possible allies to one side or another.

          • BBA says:

            To whoever Deiseach has been reading:

            Anyone who expects the Democrats to take the House in 2018 is a damned fool. The electoral map puts the Democratic party at a strong disadvantage, and besides which Democrats don’t vote in midterms. (Modulo 2006, and I don’t expect Trump to fuck anything up that quickly. Rome wasn’t burnt in a day.)

            Anyone who figured “under Hillary we’d be poised to take the House” is especially foolish since the President’s party typically loses the midterm. Which makes sense – the opposition is furious while the party in the White House is either complacent (if things are going well) or despondent (if they aren’t) and in either case has little motivation to vote.

            Yours,
            A realistic Democrat (yes, we exist)

        • po8crg says:

          Several things:

          First, electoral systems affect party systems, so looking at European countries other than the UK – all of which use proportional systems – will give you comparators that are much more different from the US than the UK.

          Second, all US parties would not qualify as a political party under most European laws. There is no statement of political belief that members of the party can be expelled for failing to comply with. You could be a hard-line Stalinist and register Republican and no-one could stop you voting in, or even running in, a primary.

          European political parties are more exclusionary, which means that in Europe the GOP institutions would have excluded Trump from the primaries. In most European countries, if you have a political opinion that is not well-represented by a current party, you set up a new party and they can become successful or not depending on other people supporting it (to pick some successful examples, Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, the Greens in Germany and several other countries, D66 in the Netherlands, the Pirates in Sweden, Syriza in Greece, AfD in Germany, Ciudadanos and Podemos in Spain). In the US, you just run in the primary of one party or the other and you can become successful if people vote for you. But in the UK, we have a non-proportional system which is biased against small parties (like the US) and we have exclusionary parties (like the rest of Europe).

          The upshot is that people found new parties and it takes a long long time before they take off. UKIP was founded in 1991, but didn’t get much in the way of electoral success until the Euro elections in 2009. Labour was founded in 1900 and first got substantial success in 1918. Several other parties, e.g. the Greens, have taken much longer than 18 years – that 18 is pretty much as fast as it is possible to build a party.

          The other feature of British politics that is strange from a US perspective is regional parties (well, they’re national, but not across the whole UK), like the SNP in Scotland. Imagine if California was run by the California Party, who had both Senators and 90% of the Congresspeople from Califonia, and ran their own presidential candidate who always won the electoral college votes in CA, but wasn’t even on the ballot anywhere else. The Presidential system militates strongly against this (the CA party candidate could never become president), but with no Presidency, the parliamentary system does mean that a region party can dominate representation from their own region and then negotiate at the national level with nationwide parties. You can see a good example of this across your own northern border with the Quebec parties right up to the collapse of the BQ in 2011.

    • tscharf says:

      Every one of these victories will actively make the world worse

      So I guess we are in the optimal economy now?

  13. Wency says:

    Carrier air conditioning, Trump’s biggest job “success” so far, is owned by a giant defense contractor who gets probably like 1% of their profits from air conditioning.

    Maybe this is pedantic, but let’s try not to spread journalistic mischaracterizations too far. UTX is 50/50 a building equipment and aerospace parts company, with the aerospace sales being primarily non-military, though they are involved in the F-35.

    Specifically, a quick look at their SEC filings indicates that the HVAC + building security segment of UTX, which includes Carrier, generated about 28% of 2015 revenues (and 31% of operating profit). The two Aerospace segments (UTC Aerospace Systems + Pratt & Whitney) together generated just over 50% of revenues, of which about 20% (i.e. 10% of the total) were sales to the U.S. government. The rest of the revenues were from Otis Elevators.

    UTX was a bit more aerospace/defense-heavy before they sold Sikorsky to Lockheed.

    • shakeddown says:

      This is a good point. That said, we need to look at potential margins – a big government deal could *make* them into a company that gets huge profits from defence contracting (not sure how easy it is to pivot, but with the leg-up over the competition you get by having a president owing you a favour I suspect it’s doable to the required degree).

      • bean says:

        Not as much as you’d think. P&W is one of the major engine suppliers, but it’s going to be hard for Trump to tamper with airplane engine choices from the White House. (Doing that requires cooperation from a certain former Marine, if nothing else. Good luck with that.) Also, they currently produce the engines for all of the big upcoming aircraft programs anyway.
        UTC Aerospace is a big second-level subcontractor. They’re involved in everything, but not on any specific thing in a big enough way that Trump is going to be able to do much for them. Every airplane in the world probably carries something of theirs, but it’s one of a couple dozen different things, all of which are bid competitively on any given aircraft.

        • Wency says:

          Thanks for the color. I’m only passingly familiar with UTX — I just know how to read SEC filings. But your characterization rings true to me of their being involved in a bit of everything.

      • Deiseach says:

        a big government deal could *make* them into a company that gets huge profits from defence contracting

        They have a long way to go according to this table – United Technologies Corporation (the owners of Carrier) are 13th in the Top 100 defence companies, with only 12% of their business coming from defence contracts. Number One is Lockheed-Martin which gets 88% of its revenue from that sweet, sweet government contracting, and No. 3 is BAE which gets 92%.

        As Wensky says, selling off Sikorsky took a lot of their purely defence contracting away, so whatever pull or favour they might have with the Trump administration is small potatoes by comparison.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          That looks to me like it becomes even easier to reward or harm them. Smaller contracts make up a bigger chunk of their defense revenue.

          • bean says:

            It’s not just how much of their revenue is from defense, it’s how they get it. The big aerospace companies are rather boom or bust. The B-21 contract was very close to being a decision as to whether Northrop Grumman or Boeing would stay in the combat aircraft business. NG won, and it’s not certain that Boeing St. Louis will survive as more than a shell.
            P&W makes a lot of money on engines from people outside the US government, and isn’t likely to suddenly branch out into other fields. Also, they make the engines for both the JSF and B-21, so it’s not like Trump is going to be able to grow their business that much. UTC Aerospace makes lots of small parts for airplanes. Things like landing gear and propellers. They don’t make complete airplanes, or even big parts of complete airplanes (like, say, BAe does) which means that any attempt to funnel money to them is going to be really difficult and raise a lot of eyebrows. The situation would have been different before they sold Sikorsky. UTC is, of the people high on that list (which, BTW, is global, not just US) uniquely poorly suited to receive preferential treatment by government officials. Everyone else above it makes end-item products that a government could plausibly choose over their competitors. UTC doesn’t.

          • gbdub says:

            The issue is that UTX is, in the defense world, almost exclusively a subcontractor. They don’t really get contracts direct from the government – they work from the Boeings and Lockheeds of the world to make widgets in support of Boeing/Lockheed contracts.

            So Boeing and Lockheed might have a big competition over the next fighter contract – and UTX will support both proposals because either fighter is going to have some UTX bits in it. One or the other might be offering UTX a somewhat better deal, but it’s not a big swing for UTX either way.

          • bean says:

            The issue is that UTX is, in the defense world, almost exclusively a subcontractor.

            UTC Aerospace, definitely. Engines are a big enough deal that P&W might be able to gain some business from political points scored with Trump. Except that they’ve already won the engine contract for all three big upcoming aerospace projects (F-35, B-21, and KC-46). If the F136 hadn’t died, then maybe there would be some moral hazard remaining for them. But there isn’t.

          • Deiseach says:

            The point about global list is very good; BAE gets a lot of custom from Saudi Arabia, for instance, and there is a murky connection between British government ministers cutting favourable deals with Saudi Arabia in order that defence contracts go to BAE, including blatant massive bribes funnelled into the pockets of minor members of the Saudi royal family who were ministers, directors, etc in charge of such procurement.

            That’s the kind of problematic relationship you need to be worrying about. By comparison, Trump giving good publicity to an air conditioning plant owned by a small scale (when talking on this level) sub-contractor is peanuts. The US government pulling all deals with them – or rather, with the companies they work for – would hurt, but 12% means they’re not as vulnerable as, say, Lockheed who would get very damaged if Trump announced by fiat they were never selling anything to the US military ever again (not that that is ever going to happen). UTC could probably just try winning a supplier deal with whomever was picked instead of Lockheed to provide US military aircraft, and they’d probably have a good chance. Lockheed can’t try selling planes to its direct competitor.

    • dkdunkirk says:

      I came to post this. Two more comments on the quote from the article…

      First, this the kind of thing you take away from the situation when your “news” comes from hard-left publications like Mother Jones.

      Second, the reason the administration-elect started with Carrier is because it was big news in the state of which Pence is the governor, where he knew the players, and carries influence. So I hardly think this can be ascribed to some deep government back-scratching with the defense industry. Again, see point 1.

      • Matt M says:

        “Second, the reason the administration-elect started with Carrier is because it was big news in the state of which Pence is the governor, where he knew the players, and carries influence.”

        Not only that, but the announcement that Carrier was GOING to relocate to Mexico came during the GOP primaries, shortly before the Indiana primary, and Trump made a big deal about it at the time saying “If I was President, this wouldn’t happen!”

        So this was a logical follow-up to a specific narrative that Trump supporters were already familiar with.

        Edit: IIRC, when Trump was campaigning in Indiana, he met with Carrier workers specifically to discuss how his plans could save their jobs.

        • Deiseach says:

          Trump made a big deal about it at the time saying “If I was President, this wouldn’t happen!”

          Politician keeps campaign promise? I’m shocked, I tell you! 🙂

      • herbert herberson says:

        Mother Jones is not hard-left. It’s center-left. It’s the equivalent of something like National Review on the right. Hard-left would be, at most, something like Democracy Now (whose equivalent would be something more like Breitbart in terms of slant, although I’d maintain it is more rigorous and reputable in terms of substantive reporting).

        • gbdub says:

          Are the two of you perhaps using a different version of “hard”? On the one hand, I agree that Mother Jones is “center-left” rather than “far-left” in their point of view. On the other hand, I find them very biased toward that point of view.

          I find this to be a common fault in media analysis: we tend to treat “unbiased” and “centrist” as synonyms, when “biased-unbiased” and “centrist-partisan” are at least in theory independent axes. (I could be a very open minded right-winger who considers and engages left-wing arguments despite mostly coming down in favor of the right. I could also be a very biased centrist who summarily rejects any information that might support far-partisans of any stripe.)

          We also tend to confuse “depth” with lack of bias, when that’s not strictly true. I can cover all the arguments for my side in great detail, but if I ignore the other side, I’m still more biased than a Post-It note with a slogan for both sides.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Agreed, on all counts, although I do think that a multifaceted analysis like that would end up making MoJo look pretty decent. It has an agenda, but it doesn’t hide it, it does some very good in-depth reporting (http://www.motherjones.com/authors/shane-bauer), and doesn’t seem to in the habit of excluding or being misleading about important facts–the actual link is entirely consistent with the facts Wensy supplies (“Carrier is a big company, but it’s owned by United Technologies, a gigantic defense contractor that does a lot of business with the federal government—soon to be headed by one Donald J. Trump.”).

          • herbert herberson says:

            I’d add that the author of that link is also one of the most prominent public proponents of the leaded-gasoline-crime-theory, which undermines some fundamental assumptions of both sides of the political spectrum in the way that true unorthodoxies so often do

        • Deiseach says:

          Mother Jones reads to me definitely more left than “centre left”, if not precisely “hard left” (my standards for “hard left” are, admittedly, something like the Morning Star). Perhaps Mother Jones is something like the New Statesman, which has softened its stance, after many turbulent years, post-Blair and New Labour?

          “Carrier is a big company, but it’s owned by United Technologies, a gigantic defense contractor that does a lot of business with the federal government—soon to be headed by one Donald J. Trump.”

          Can’t say if Carrier is a “big” company as these go, but United Technologies is not a “gigantic” defence contractor (it got 12% of its revenue from defence contracts in 2015 and it acts mainly as a sub-contractor supplying parts to the bigger fish) and while it may do “a lot” of business with the federal government, it does not do the majority of it. It’s a lot less reliant than the big defence contractors who live or die by government contracts; yes, more government business would be nice, but it’s more likely to get that via contracting for the big cheeses in the defence world who get more contracts from governments (and it’s a global business, so they’re also interested in selling abroad) than directly from the US government.

          Unless Trump mandates that every army base at home or abroad has to use Carrier air conditioners? 🙂 (Their refrigeration units seem to be commercial, not domestic).

      • Deiseach says:

        because it was big news in the state of which Pence is the governor

        Mmm-hmmm. Just like the way the Minister for a neighbouring county announced all sorts of goodies for his constituency (that came at our expense when moving headquarters for the vocational education committee out of our county into his) when he was in the government in power, or the Minister for Health preceding the previous Minister for Health preceding the current Minister for Health announced a spiffy new health clinic opening up in his constituency.

        Politics as usual.

  14. cassander says:

    >I worry that Trump’s plan for his administration is to dress up in a President costume and personally punch people we don’t like, while leaving policy to rot. And I worry it’s going to work.

    Isn’t that basically what all Presidents do? Certainly it’s what Obama did bailing out the auto industry when he first got into office, is doing now with Russia, and did so for much of the time in between.

    That said, responses like this are one of the main reasons that I came to desire that Clinton lose to Trump. Everything Trump does will be examined far more circumspectly by blue tribe because they loathe him, even when it’s no different that what his predecessors did. Had Hillary cut the carrier deal, then ford made this announcement, it would be celebrated as a triumph and proof of Clinton’s virtue. Not by Scott, but I doubt Scott would have written a piece worrying about Hillary dressing up as president and punching people she doesn’t like while letting policy rot.

    • nelshoy says:

      Saving the US auto industry from bankruptcy is a much larger deal than ensuring the geographical location of single factories. I also don’t see how the Russia situation is in anyway comparable. Better point to examples like Solyndra, as mentioned by someone else in the comments, but that was still a much larger deal than anything Trump is bragging about. I think Scot is right to draw attention to Trump stooping so low to make deals. It’s still not a good thing to the extent it’s precedented.

      I also don’t know how the blue tribe is supposed to keep Trump accountable, since he clearly doesn’t do what academics and media outlets say and Republicans will control all the relevant branches of the government.

      Hillary wouldn’t have made these deals, especially before coming into office, and even if she did she probably wouldn’t be tweeting them.

      • cassander says:

        >Saving the US auto industry from bankruptcy

        The US auto industry wasn’t saved from bankruptcy. the bankruptcy settlement was adjusted in favor of democratic constituents.

        > I also don’t see how the Russia situation is in anyway comparable.

        expelling diplomats is the textbook example something you can do to “do something” without actually doing anything.

        >I also don’t know how the blue tribe is supposed to keep Trump accountable, since he clearly doesn’t do what academics and media outlets say and Republicans will control all the relevant branches of the government.

        Quite a few of those republicans are blue tribe or fellow travelers, but it’s quite a claim to say that negative media coverage will have zero effect on moderating trump.

        • Wency says:

          The US auto industry wasn’t saved from bankruptcy. the bankruptcy settlement was adjusted in favor of democratic constituents.

          Thanks, this is too seldom pointed out.

          Chapter 11 bankruptcy doesn’t mean “everyone is fired and everything is destroyed”. Most people here have probably flown on an airline that went through bankruptcy.

          The crux of Obama’s intervention is that the unions, which played a key role in the automakers’ decline, ended up owning more of GM at the expense of the bondholders. We can predict that the bondholders would have pushed for an arrangement that was crueler to the working man but resulted in a leaner, more profitable and efficient company.

          Which sounds nasty, but if lean, anti-union Tesla takes market share from GM and costs the jobs of those legacy union laborers, it’s cool and hip.

        • nelshoy says:

          >The US auto industry wasn’t saved from bankruptcy. the bankruptcy settlement was adjusted in favor of democratic constituents.

          I don’t know details about that, but from what I understand the “big three” automakers were in danger of bankruptcy and received many billions of bail-out money from the federal government. That’s still a big deal and had a discernable effect on the American economy writ large, unlike these Trump deals.

          >expelling diplomats is the textbook example something you can do to “do something” without actually doing anything

          My wording was too strong and I agree that the expelling diplomats is posturing. But posturing against a foreign power doesn’t have to be PR. If you’re maintaining a boundary you need to match transgressions with a big response. I believe Obama’s message is primarily a response to what he sees as Russian sabotage, not PR with his party members.

          You could argue that Trump is sending a message to other companies that try to export American manufacturing will get in trouble, but I doubt anything he’s done to the companies thus far has been punishment, but has rather had the opposite effect by rewarding them with publicity.

          >Quite a few of those republicans are blue tribe or fellow travelers, but it’s quite a claim to say that negative media coverage will have zero effect on moderating trump.

          Not zero effect, but not much more than that. Trump’s pivot to the center that he obviously needed to do to win the election didn’t really materialize. I don’t see much reason to think that after election season is over he’ll start responding MORE to the media when they barely matter instead of just calling them “totally biased and unfair” on twitter.

          • gbdub says:

            GM and Chrysler did in fact file for bankruptcy and went through Chapter 11 reorganization. The government provided several billion dollars in financing in exchange for a final deal that was better for the unionized workers and their pension funds at the expense of secured bondholders of the companies.

            You seem to be saying this was better than Trump’s actions, mainly because it was bigger? But in both cases, a company got a “special deal” in order to benefit its workers despite that deal not necessarily being the economically ideal / fair solution.

          • nelshoy says:

            Yes, I am pretty much saying it is better because it is bigger. A president shouldn’t personally intervene every time a minor company wants to offshore just so he can look good. There are too many little companies!

            as for the object level comparison, Obama’s actions need to be seen in the context of an large American industry potentially going under and a shrinking 2009 economy at large. You don’t have to be a big fan of corporations to realize that decisions like the auto bailouts and TARP were needed to keep things from getting even worse. Might there have been more optimal ways to handle things? Undoubtably, but coordination is hard and time was short.

          • gbdub says:

            Well, the economy’s in better shape than it was in late 2008 / early 2009. Should president-elect Trump sit on his laurels until a sufficiently large company is on the verge of collapse?

            You’re arguing that the auto bailout was more impactful than the Trump Carrier deal. I don’t disagree.

            But you haven’t provided a convincing argument for why the Trump deals are bad.

          • cassander says:

            >I don’t know details about that, but from what I understand the “big three” automakers were in danger of bankruptcy and received many billions of bail-out money from the federal government. That’s still a big deal and had a discernable effect on the American economy writ large, unlike these Trump deals.

            gbdub’s response is correct. The effect on the US economy was not measurable. GM and Chrysler did not avoid bankruptcy, and even if they had filed chapter 7, the vast majority of the people working for them would simply have had their divisions sold to other companies and kept working.

            >My wording was too strong and I agree that the expelling diplomats is posturing. But posturing against a foreign power doesn’t have to be PR.

            Expelling diplomats is purely PR. those diplomats will be replaced by others in a short period of time, with just as many spies among them as the previous batch.

            >Not zero effect, but not much more than that. Trump’s pivot to the center that he obviously needed to do to win the election didn’t really materialize.

            Trump radically re-organized his campaign in August

            >I don’t see much reason to think that after election season is over he’ll start responding MORE to the media when they barely matter instead of just calling them “totally biased and unfair” on twitter.

            Even if you think the media has no effect on him, it has an effect on everyone else and that means it affects him.

      • Deiseach says:

        Hillary wouldn’t have made these deals, especially before coming into office, and even if she did she probably wouldn’t be tweeting them.

        Nah, she’d have used them as campaign pledges.

        1. Let’s break through the dysfunction in Washington to make the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.

        2. Let’s make college debt-free for all and transform the way we prepare Americans for the jobs of the future.

        3. Let’s rewrite the rules so more companies share profits with their employees and fewer ship jobs and profits overseas.

        4. Let’s make sure that Wall Street, corporations, and the super-rich pay their fair share of taxes.

        5. Let’s put families first and make sure our policies match how you actually work and live in the 21st Century.

        No shipping jobs overseas? Good paying jobs for Americans? College for everyone? Part of that big jobs surge was going to come from “connecting every household to broadband by 2020; building a cleaner, more resilient energy grid; recommitting to scientific research that can create new industries; and cutting red tape so that small businesses can get off the ground.”

        Some green energy company gets a government grant and sets up a plant in Nowheresville? You bet this would have been tweeted as “Hillary delivers on what she promised”. Obama’s (or his administration’s) use of social media such as Twitter has set the direction; Hillary (or her social media handlers on her behalf) would have to be tweeting and be seen to be visible and active in the ‘new media’. You can’t turn the clock back on that one.
        Everyone does this, everyone makes big promises and uses anything to say that they achieved their aims and goals.

        • nelshoy says:

          So your criticizing Clinton for having policies?

          I think there’s a difference between “I enacted this policy and X company was able to stay as a result, this is a specific good example of what my policy is doing” and “I personally called up the CEO of X company and sat down with them until they kept this factory in America”. Trump’s doing the latter, that’s the weird new thing.

          Reductio ad absurdum:

          “Thanks to the Affordable Care act, Julie, a single mother of two, was able to purchase healthcare for her children.”

          “Me and Julie just had a fantastic, productive meeting. She’s agreed to sign up for a private, AMERICAN healthcare plan.”

          • q-tip says:

            Thanks. Nicely stated.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m not criticising any politician for having policies, I’m saying that what Trump is doing in a crude, personally boastful way is what all politicians do.

            The campaign portrayed her as personally intervening, personally making her voice heard, personally getting involved in a range of issues. Sure, this is meant as “Thanks to the policies I implemented and will implement”, but there is also the portrayal of her personally standing up and fighting and vetoing and arguing with the other side:

            As our nation’s chief diplomat, Hillary didn’t back down when the stakes were high. As Hamas rockets rained down on Israel, Hillary went to the region immediately. Twenty-four hours after she landed, a ceasefire went into effect—and that year became Israel’s quietest in a decade.

            I particularly like the bit about rockets raining down, don’t you?

            They all do it. It’s standard boilerplate: “I, Mickey Joe McMadden, went out there as your public representative and fought for your rights, the fine citizens of Ballygobackwards. I stood up and argued your case. Thanks to me, the new slurry pit in Tonelehgwee is due to come on stream in 2017!”

            Local politicians take out ads in the local papers to announce “I have done this, that and the other”. I was very amused last year to see three representatives of three different parties all laying claim to the credit for new social housing project being built in our town (none of them had a damn thing to do with it, but if you believed what you read in the paper…)

    • ashlael says:

      Trump letting policy rot is on the more optimistic side of my expectations for what he would do to policy, so personally I’m pretty happy if he spends all his time as President Man punching evil CEOs. Much better than him tinkering with things that matter!

      I’m still half-expecting him to add his own face to Mount Rushmore.

      • wintermute92 says:

        With all the Batman metaphors around here: punching muggers is a shitty way to fix crime, but if your baseline for rich people is “lobbying to cripple public healthcare and education” then Bruce Wayne comes out smelling like roses.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        “I’m still half-expecting him to add his own face to Mount Rushmore.”

        I’ve said since the beginning that’s what he really wants. He’s got money, fame, women. Doesn’t have immortality. But you only get your face on Mount Rushmore if you *actually* Make America Great Again and everybody loves you for it.

  15. notacc says:

    (Reader for some months, first time commenter here)

    I’d like to offer a bit of a different viewpoint on these tactics and the Trump presidency as a whole that perhaps helps a few readers see current events from a slightly different perspective.

    The main points I’d like to suggest:
    1. The incoming government is not particularly reliant on Trump and does not exist because of Trump.

    The evidence for this: since the Citizens United verdict changed campaign financing in the United States, the Republican / conservative parties have dominated 3/4 of the past national elections – 2010, 2014, and 2016. It is entirely possible that the only reason the Democrats held on in 2012 is because of an unusually skilled national politician (Barack Obama, his GOTV campaign, and his ability to get African-Americans to the polls) combined with a Republican presidential candidate that had unusually low appeal to blue dog working-class democrats.

    Combined with the fact that Trump seems to have had not much of a coattails effect (perhaps with the exception of helping Pat Toomey hang on to his senate seat in PA), clearly had a negative effect on Republican fund-raising efforts, and that other Republican candidates often polled better than him in early head-to-head polls with Hillary Clinton, it seems highly likely that we were in for yet another conservative wave year at all levels of government.

    In other words, in a slightly different world, it could easily have been President-elect Kasich or President-elect Rubio, and we’d be stuck in a similar situation, merely minus the (a) effect of empowering racists / nationalists unique to Trump, and (b) the low but worrisome chances that Donald Trump will do “truly unhinged” things while President.

    2. However, with the rise of Trump, the right wing capitalist class has found a narrative that “works” at cementing their control better than any in the recent past.

    Trump is no outsider – as a multi-billionaire who made money in real estate and media, and with close friends and connections at the top of real estate, the media, and politics, he is a better example of any meaningful definition of “the establishment” than any DC politician. However, he has been successfully cast as such, and this has helped cement the control the “establishment” (the hyper-capitalist class, a government that works for them more often than against them, and their political allies) now has over every branch of government. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Trump’s proposed cabinet, which is essentially a team of capitalist millionaires, billionaires, and lawyers who have largely opposed the government programs they are now in charge of. While government law and lawmakers already significantly favored and allied with these people, the proposed administration has the direct appearance of being a quite blatant capitalist take-over of the executive branch.

    3. There is another enormous payoff for these companies in supporting these Trump-esque political shows that makes them even more likely to continue.

    This final point is an important aspect to understanding the current political environment that I think Scott has ignored. There is another enormous incentive for these deals to continue: if they are popular, they help keep the current capitalist-class government in power, allowing it to continue to follow through on their plans to deregulate dozens of industries, lower taxes for the uber-wealthy, and decimate the power and rights of labor, workers, and environmental protections. The plans for doing these things that the incoming administration has already outlined are unprecedented, and even if they are only able to follow through on a few of these plans, the benefits to corporate America and the corresponding losses for workers and the environment will be enormous.

    Even if the direct quid-pro-quo corporate benefits and positive press from deals like the Ford or Carrier deal didn’t pay off the meager corporate losses from keeping a couple hundred jobs in the US, the true corporate benefits come in the form of keeping a hyper-capitalist government in control and all of the deregulation corporate welfare that will result from that. Dismantling protections for and rights of workers and the environment is the end goal of this corporate administration and it is likely that these shows exist to help keep them in control to achieve these goals as long as possible.

    4. (Edit) A final point that offers some hope – I’m not sure that there is yet evidence that the working class will buy into these shams and similar Trump PR. In general, I believe the working class is much more intelligent than professionals/intellectuals (and odd-ball racist quacks like Scott Adams) often give them credit for. Working Americans are entirely capable of understanding that 700 jobs is a worthless sham of a deal; they are often unionized and rely on and understand the importance of existing labor rights; their kids go to local public schools and they want those to be as good as possible. Most of the evidence that people will continue to buy into the Trump administration, even as it acts directly against their interests, is reliant on pseudo-scientific abuse of psychology and quakery in the vein of Scott Adams, or a nonchalant disdain for working class people that probably put us in this political position to begin with.

    • cassander says:

      >The evidence for this: since the Citizens United verdict changed campaign financing in the United States, the Republican / conservative parties have dominated 3/4 of the past national elections – 2010, 2014, and 2016.

      Citizens united changed campaign financing…..by more striking down one aspect of the BPCRA and returning the law to where it was in 2002. Unless you think 2004-10 was some golden period of american democracy, this doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

      >Trump is no outsider – as a multi-billionaire who made money in real estate and media, and with close friends and connections at the top of real estate, the media, and politics, he is a better example of any meaningful definition of “the establishment” than any DC politician.

      In New York, maybe. But he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous.

      >clearly had a negative effect on Republican fund-raising efforts, and that other Republican candidates often polled better than him in early head-to-head polls with Hillary Clinton, it seems highly likely that we were in for yet another conservative wave year at all levels of government.

      Wait, which is it? Are republican donations up or down?

      >2. However, with the rise of Trump, the right wing capitalist class has found a narrative that “works” at cementing their control better than any in the recent past.

      That you think such a thing exists, or that trump is anything like some sort of hyper-capitalist, is further proof of a fundamental unwillingness to actually examine what the other side is thinking.

      >the hyper-capitalist class, a government that works for them more often than against them, and their political allies)

      and this cements it. Hyper capitalists working with governments!

      you claim to have been reading here for months. Have you read none of the arguments the many right wing commentators have made that are not the caricatures you address here? If you haven’t, why not? If you have, why did you not address them rather than these fantasies?

      Our shtick here is trying to make good faith efforts to understand the arguments our ideological opponents make, to steelman them, not strawman them. You appear to have made zero effort to do that.

      • herbert herberson says:

        For a self-appointed epistemological gatekeeper, you’re really twisting notacc’s words. He didn’t say Trump was part of the “DC establishment,” the conflict you see between your first and third grafs can easily be understood as the difference between soft-money and direct donations to the Republican party/politicians (not to necessarily endorse the Citizens-United-is-the-Root-of-all-Evil framing, but that’s actually secondary to the larger point), and the whole second half of your post is so dependent on your own assumptions that I can’t even tell what exactly it is that you find so ridiculous (although I do appreciate you editing out the part where you outright told him to go away)

        • cassander says:

          >For a self-appointed epistemological gatekeeper, you’re really twisting notacc’s words. He didn’t say Trump was part of the “DC establishment,”

          He said, “he is a better example of any meaningful definition of “the establishment” than any DC politician. ” I’m taking establishment and insider to be more or less equivalent here, do you dispute that assertion?

          >first and third grafs can easily be understood as the difference between soft-money and direct donations to the Republican party/politicians

          Well first, I disagree that there’s a much of a meaningful difference (in terms of buying influence) between soft money donations and donations to “third party” entities. But even if you accept that there is, the fact is that corporate entities could make unlimited donations to third party organizations prior to the BPCRA, they chose not to, presumably because they preferred giving soft money. So even if we accept that there’s a difference, the practice is still more restricted than in the past.

          >and the whole second half of your post is so dependent on your own assumptions

          Pointing out that he’s addressing left wing caricatures instead of actual arguments in no way depends on my assumptions. You don’t even debate the point.

          • herbert herberson says:

            As to the first part–I don’t know where insider comes into play. He’s saying a NYC billionaire is more of an establishment figure than a DC politician, and you’re replying with “But he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous.” That phrase doesn’t appear in the post you’re responding to. Reasonable minds can differ on whether Trump’s wealth makes him as much a part of the establishment as a politician, but you’re not differing, you’re putting words he didn’t say in his mouth and saying it makes him ridiculous.

            As to the second part, I don’t debate the point because you’re not making one. You’re Jon Stewarting–simply repeating what he says as if it is self-evidently absurd… apparently because you think he’s talking about the motivations of regular people on the right instead of a small section of high-level elites

            Neither of those alone would have been enough to make me comment, but doing it in a post where you accused him of doing the same sort of thing got my eyes rolling (particularly when combined with the part you edited out).

          • Spookykou says:

            ‘Trump is no outsider’ is I imagine, a reference to the popular campaign message that Trump is not a DC insider, I don’t think cassander is being unfair in assuming that is what OP meant.

            I am inclined to agree with cassander here, I think there is an important difference between ‘wealthy business class’ and ‘political class’ and being one does not make you the other.

          • herbert herberson says:

            @Spookykou It’s entirely reasonable to think what you do in the second paragraph, but it’s entirely unfair to put facially absurd words into someone’s mouth when they didn’t say them and call them ridiculous for saying the things they didn’t say.

            And, most of all, it’s ironic to accuse someone of being in a bubble when you yourself are so far in a bubble that you hallucinate words that aren’t there by virtue of not comprehending a fairly clear and simple restatement of a commonplace position held by one’s political opponents (i.e., that the capital-E-establishment is more characterized by the extremely wealthy than by politicians)

          • Spookykou says:

            I take that to mean you disagree with my first paragraph.

            I am not sure what bubble I need to belong to or not belong to, in order to draw a, in my opinion, reasonable connection between ‘Trump is no outsider’ and the fact that one of Trumps campaign slogans was functionally ‘Trump is an outsider’.

            Trump uses the phrase ‘Drain the Swamp’ as I understand it, to refer to the political corruption he feels has taken hold of the American government. DC insider is, as I understand it, a common idiom to refer to the exact kind of corrupt politicians that Trump is referring to in his ‘Drain the Swamp’ slogan.

            Taking all of the above, when notacc says that ‘Trump is not an outsider’ because Trump is a Hyper mega Capitalist, they seem to be(see above for my bias) conflating the concepts of a corrupt political oligarchy with a corrupt economic oligarchy. *edit* oops

            Ignoring for a second the reality of those two groups, conflating them into the same group is, in my opinion(and I imagine cassanders) wrong. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is obviously ridiculous, but I also don’t think cassander is being obviously ridiculous(what you seem to be going for) by stretching wrong to obviously ridiculous.

            Basically, do y’all got any more of that charity?

          • herbert herberson says:

            I feel like I’m living in crazy town? All I object to is that one guy said:

            “Trump is no outsider – as a multi-billionaire who made money in real estate and media, and with close friends and connections at the top of real estate, the media, and politics, he is a better example of any meaningful definition of “the establishment” than any DC politician.”

            and another guy replied:

            “In New York, maybe. But he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous.”

            One guy said: “He’s an A, and that makes him more of a B than any C”
            The other guy said, “He’s not a C, and claiming he is makes you look ridiculous.” I object to this because the first guy very specifically, and I thought clearly, state that Trump was not a C.

            He did, indeed, “conflat[e] the concepts of a corrupt political oligarchy with a corrupt economic oligarchy.” That was his entire point–that thinking those are two separate things is a false dichotomy. You don’t have to agree with it (personally, I do, but you don’t!), but the reply didn’t disagree with it, it twisted it into being practically the opposite, and did it in the context of a condescending post whose main theme was “you shouldn’t mischaracterize your opponents’ views” which originally told the OP to not post here.

          • Spookykou says:

            Well I think I understand where some of the confusion is coming from.

            I read the first quote not as some configuration of A B and C.

            My reading looks more like

            Trump is A, he is very A, he is more A than this other guy you normally think of as A.

            They are conflating ‘not an outsider'(insider) and ‘part of the establishment’, where the establishment is general power brokers, economic leaders, and insider is(at least how I have heard the term used) political leaders and power brokers.

            They are responding to the general campaign claim that Trump is an outsider(political outsider) with ‘Trump is not an outsider(political outsider) because he is part of the establishment(economic insider).

            So taking the above interpretation, when I see you write out,

            As to the first part–I don’t know where insider comes into play. He’s saying a NYC billionaire is more of an establishment figure than a DC politician, and you’re replying with “But he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous.”

            I, first, think you are being uncharitable by insisting that somebody who said ‘not an outsider’ didn’t technically use the word insider.

            You then seem to double down on the fact that they never technically mentioned insider

            but it’s entirely unfair to put facially absurd words into someone’s mouth when they didn’t say them and call them ridiculous for saying the things they didn’t say.

            Second I think Cassander is making the same point that I am making, that Trump being part of the economic establishment is totally irrelevant to the broader political question of Trump being a political insider or not, and claiming that he is shows a fundamentally poor understanding of those terms as they are used in the broader conversation, or, “makes you look ridiculous.”

            I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

          • herbert herberson says:

            It’s certainly an interesting case study in communication errors. I definitely wasn’t trying to parse any distinction between “not an outsider” vs. “insider.” It didn’t even occur to me that that was what you thought, I was just totally confused by that part. And, certainly, as I tried to say, it’s okay to respond to “Trump, as a billionaire, is an insider” with “yeah but he’s not a DC insider and I think that matters” (although I certainly don’t agree). If that’s what cassander was trying to do, though, I think he did it very poorly both on the merits (didn’t give us any reason to distinguish the two) and on pure communication (still can’t read the line “he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous” as anything other than falsely alleging that the OP stated “Trump is a DC insider”)

          • cassander says:

            @herbert

            >(didn’t give us any reason to distinguish the two) and on pure communication (still can’t read the line “he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous” as anything other than falsely alleging that the OP stated “Trump is a DC insider”)

            Let’s review the claim. Trump is no outsider – as a multi-billionaire who made money in real estate and media, and with close friends and connections at the top of real estate, the media, and politics, he is a better example of any meaningful definition of “the establishment” than any DC politician.

            the establishment (which I consider synonymous with insiders) is being defined as people with connections in real estate, media, and politics. I think we can agree that real estate is the least important of these. That leaves media and politics. Trump is unquestionably well connected in the media. He’s definitely well connected in New York politics, but not in DC prior to 6 months ago.

            The connections that one needs to get buildings built in New York are important and powerful, but they aren’t the same connections one needs to affect national policy. The media trump is connected to are the people who make reality TV shows, not capital hill journalists. I stand by my assertions that trump is unquestionably part of the New York establishment, that there’s a difference between that and the national, that distinction is important, and that using his wealth and NY connections to assert his membership in a national establishment is patently silly.

          • herbert herberson says:

            It’s “patently silly” to think that a billionaire who invites former presidents to his wedding and has been a nationally known public figure for 30+ years counts are part of the national establishment? Not just something you disagree with, not just something that is wrong, but something that is self-evidently absurd?

            Bubbles within bubbles, I think. Not everyone sees the clear line between the economic and political spheres that you do–to most of the left, they’re two sides of the same coin. There are millions and millions of people, myself included, who think that way, and the amount of digital ink I apparently had to spill to make that clear is actually kind of startling.

          • cassander says:

            >It’s “patently silly” to think that a billionaire who invites former presidents to his wedding and has been a nationally known public figure for 30+ years counts are part of the national establishment? Not just something you disagree with, not just something that is wrong, but something that is self-evidently absurd?

            fame and celebrity are not power. Neither is wealth. The measure of being an insider is not if you can get an ex-president to come to your wedding, but if a the ex-president invites you to theirs.

      • notacc says:

        >Citizens united changed campaign financing…..by restoring the law to where it was in 2002. Unless you think 2004-8 was some golden period of american democracy, this doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

        No, that’s a highly limited view of the full impact of the decision. While the specific court case was in response to a 2002 law, the ruling was more generally applicable- it made all government restrictions on independent political spending unambiguously illegal. This means that several laws and regulations from different times in American history (1947, 1970s, 1990) were overturned or voided, along with eliminating the chilling effect that being a legal grey area had on independent political spending.

        http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/jan/22/charles-schumer/campaign-finance-ruling-united-citizens-historical/

        This helped open the door to the huge increases in independent political spending by year that we’ve seen since.

        https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/cycle_tots.php

        Because you were so accusatory towards me of being intellectually dishonest, I feel like it is only fair that I am able to ask you: were you truly unaware of the full effects of the ruling? Should you not spend some time learning more about it before commenting on it further?

        >In New York, maybe. But he’s not a DC insider, and claiming that he is makes you look ridiculous.

        I wasn’t claiming that he was a “DC insider” – note that I never used that term, and this was for a reason- plenty of people with an enormous impact on political and economic conditions live outside of DC – perhaps even the majority of people with a significant impact on these conditions. It is on the face quite obvious that he was part of a political and economic establishment that is largely responsible for creating many of the economic conditions and many of the political laws of the United States. I don’t think you’ve disproven that by pointing out that he lives in New York.

        >Wait, which is it? Are republican donations up or down?

        In general since 2010, political donations from hypercapitalists have skyrocketed, as can be seen in the data above. (Of course, in order to use the law to their best advantage, labor and environmental advocacy groups have also had to increase spending)

        What I was referring to was that many of the usual right wing players in that scene reduced their usual funding directly because of Trump’s actions:

        https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/23/sheldon-adelson-trump-super-pac-donation-25-million
        http://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-no-koch-brothers-money-486610

        >That you think such a thing exists, or that trump is anything like some sort of hyper-capitalist, is further proof of a fundamental unwillingness to actually examine what the other side is thinking.

        I don’t particularly think it is unreasonable to believe that there are a number of extremely wealthy people in this country who work with and support to conservative politicians to further capitalist ideology to continue to protect their own wealth and power, and that Donald Trump is one of those people. I’m not quite sure what evidence or links I should provide to support that claim, because it is extraordinarily obvious to me – perhaps you should describe what evidence you’d link to see so you can accept the existence of wealthy people who contribute to self-beneficial capitalist politics?

        >and this cements it. Hyper capitalists working with governments!

        But surely it is obvious that elite capitalists work with government all of the time; again, I can provide numerous examples of this as evidence, but it is so obvious to me that I am not sure what you’re looking for me to provide, so please elaborate on what sorts of evidence would convince you that elite capitalists work with the government. Large industries receive enormous subsidies and tax-breaks from government all of the time; they also consistently lobby for laws and lawmakers that support their own self-interests. They lobby for self-beneficial restrictions on and eliminations of workers rights and environmental protections. They wine-and-dine government officials for contracts and quid-pro-quo arrangements. Donald Trump’s own businesses received enormous support from government and lobbied to change government policies, and closely associated with government officials.

        You were quite brief in your response, and I feel like I’m left to be forced to infer what you’re attempting to say (which I am hesitant to do, because you seem to already be angry at me for what even though I wasn’t responding to you or anyone to begin with!), but perhaps you think that a “true capitalist” eschews the existence of the State, and that all of this “crony-capitalism” is merely corrupt government run amok?

        But why would a good capitalist not want there to be a state that they control? If there was no state, it would be in the immediate and direct interests of elite capitalists to create one and control it as much as possible- to protect their assets, to gain corporate welfare and mandated contracts, to limit the powers of workers to organize, and even to ensure themselves a monopoly, as many industries have done.

        These people I’ve referred to are indeed hyper-capitalists, because they are making significantly more money than they would if they decided to leave the government alone or vouch for its complete elimination!

        >you claim to have been reading here for months. Have you read none of the arguments the many right wing commentators have made that are not the caricatures you address here? If you haven’t, why not? If you have, why did you not address them rather than these fantasies?

        A few things – (a) my post was, as initially stated, to put forth my own views on the subject, not to attack, debunk, or even in any way address someone else’s perspective, which you seem to think I was doing. (b) I honestly don’t believe that you’ve successfully (err, in all honesty, I’m not quite sure what you were attempting to accomplish, but here goes) “debunked” or shown the invalidity of anything I put forth, because you were quite cursory and dismissive in the sort of way that you seem to be so critical of.

        • cassander says:

          >were overturned or voided, along with eliminating the chilling effect that being a legal grey area had on independent political spending.

          You’re actually coming out in favor of government having a chilling effect on speech? Well, at least you’re bold. But you miss the point, prior to 2002, anyone who wanted could donate as much soft money as they wanted, with basically no restrictions.

          >This helped open the door to the huge increases in independent political spending by year that we’ve seen since.

          Spening was increasing by huge amounts every year prior to CU. All CU did was shift that spending from one accounting box to a different accounting box, there’s no evidence it meaningfully changed the amount. And even politifact says that chuck’s claim was mostly false.

          >I wasn’t claiming that he was a “DC insider” – note that I never used that term,

          No, you said “DC establishment”. but feel free to explain how you think insider meaningfully differs from establishment.

          >I don’t think you’ve disproven that by pointing out that he lives in New York.

          I wasn’t talking about where he lived, I was talking about where he was politically connected. I have no doubt he’s very connected in New York, as a real estate dealer he’d have to be. But New York is not DC.

          >Wait, which is it? Are republican donations up or down?

          In general since 2010, political donations from hypercapitalists have skyrocketed, as can be seen in the data above. (Of course, in order to use the law to their best advantage, labor and environmental advocacy groups have also had to increase spending)

          No, you can’t. You have to look at total spending, which has been skyrocketing for decades, and not just cherry picking one category of spending.

          >What I was referring to was that many of the usual right wing players in that scene reduced their usual funding directly because of Trump’s actions:

          So which is it? are the plutocrats pouring their money in to elect one of their own, or pulling out? You’re still selling two narratives.

          >I don’t particularly think it is unreasonable to believe that there are a number of extremely wealthy people in this country who work with and support to conservative politicians to further capitalist ideology

          That much is reasonable.

          >to continue to protect their own wealth and power,

          this much is not.

          >and that Donald Trump is one of those people.

          and this much is absurd. As you just pointed out, many of that tiny clique hate trump, who is anything but a model capitalist ideologue.

          >I’m not quite sure what evidence or links I should provide to support that claim, because it is extraordinarily obvious to me –

          Yes, that’s the problem. It’s very easy to assume that people we disagree with are bad people entirely in the absence of evidence. The Koch brothers campaign against higher taxes and for prison reform. the latter cannot be explained by any desire for gain, so why do you assume the former is? and why do you not assume that left wing billionaires who donate to progressive causes aren’t in it for gain?

          >Large industries receive enormous subsidies and tax-breaks from government all of the time; they also consistently lobby for laws and lawmakers that support their own self-interests.

          Large industries, yes. Capitalists, no.

          >You were quite brief in your response, and I feel like I’m left to be forced to infer what you’re attempting to say (which I am hesitant to do, because you seem to already be angry

          lazy argumentation annoys me. You’re literally positing a secret cabal of plutocrats trying to subvert american democracy. It’s laughable.

          >But why would a good capitalist not want there to be a state that they control?

          A good capitalist believes in capitalism. All he wants is the state to be a neutral arbiter, hence the old joke “fear the libertarians, they’re conspiring to take over the world so they can leave everyone alone.”

          >A few things – (a) my post was, as initially stated, to put forth my own views on the subject, not to attack, debunk, or even in any way address someone else’s perspective, which you seem to think I was doing.

          Again, that’s the problem. You should be taking the perspectives of others into account because the positions you’re articulating involve assumptions about their goals and motives. The portrait of the right you’ve painted here looks like it could have come from Nancy Pelosi’s facebook feed. There are quite a few right wingers around here, maybe even too many. If you want to know what they’re thinking, you could just ask them.

          • Gaelen says:

            lazy argumentation annoys me. You’re literally positing a secret cabal of plutocrats trying to subvert american democracy. It’s laughable.

            As misstating arguments does me. He proposing K street, and our campaign funding system.

          • herbert herberson says:

            You’re literally positing a secret cabal of plutocrats trying to subvert american democracy. It’s laughable.

            It’s laughable that you find this laughable. Not to say you have to agree with the straightforward quasi-Marxist version of American history that sees the conflict between capital and more populist impulses as a driving force–but trying to label it as absurd on its face doesn’t do anything besides reveal which bubble you occupy.

          • cassander says:

            @herbert herberson

            For how long does marxism and quasi-marxism have to be wrong about all of its predictions, and many of its factual claims, before we’re allowed to laugh at it?

          • herbert herberson says:

            I disagree with your assessment, particularly as you apply it here.

            And you’re certainly allowed to laugh at it. You’re just not allowed to laugh at it while simultaneously posturing as some kind of dispassionate crusader for fairness and objectivity.

      • qn1 says:

        I think the comment about Trump being “the establishment” is saying that The Real Power is in the hands of the rich capitalists/bankers/media types and not DC insider politician types. So the fact that Trump isn’t the latter doesn’t refute it.

        I think that solid chunks of the right think that The Real Power lies more with the DC insider politician types, while solid chunks of the left think it’s with the rich capitalists/bankers/media types.

        I’m not sure which of these, if either, are true.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I think that solid chunks of the right think that The Real Power lies more with the DC insider politician types, while solid chunks of the left think it’s with the rich capitalists/bankers/media types.

          I’m not sure which of these, if either, are true.

          Some people like the idea of working for unelected rulers.

          Other people like the idea of elected rulers controlling others.

    • since the Citizens United verdict changed campaign financing in the United States

      Citizens United was decided in 2010. It found unconstitutional part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. So it “changed campaign financing in the United States” only in the sense of undoing a change in the rules that had occurred eight years earlier.

      And all it changed was the restriction on expenditures by organizations, such as corporations and labor unions. If the case had gone the other way rich individuals would still have been free to spend as much money as they wanted in support of political causes, as long as they didn’t coordinate with candidates.

      Two possibilities:

      1. My description of the case is wrong.

      2. You have been fooled into parroting a Democratic talking point.

      Feel free to choose between them or offer a third alternative.

      • notacc says:

        Hi, here’s what I wrote in response to a similar claim above:

        “That’s a highly limited view of the full impact of the decision. While the specific court case was in response to a 2002 law, the ruling was more generally applicable- it made all government restrictions on independent political spending unambiguously illegal. This means that several laws and regulations from different times in American history (1947, 1970s, 1990) were overturned or voided, along with eliminating the chilling effect that being a legal grey area had on independent political spending.”

        I believe this politifact description is a reasonable description of what changed, legally speaking, due to the 2010 cases. Let me know if you find a better roughly non-partisan summary from another source, I am genuinely interested.

        http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/jan/22/charles-schumer/campaign-finance-ruling-united-citizens-historical/

        Note that I was actually unaware of the exact differences between Speechnow.org v. FEC and the Citizens United case, but because they occurred so close to each other and the rulings were highly related and dependent on each other, I’ll keep referring to the outcomes of both as due to “Citizens United”.

        Edit: More on the impact of Speechnow.org v. FEC: While the Citizens United case itself was not concerned with individual donations, the ruling was used as legal precedent to decision the Speechnow case, which *was* concerned with limiting individual contributions.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/27/us/politics/27campaign.html

        Here’s some decent empirical data on how campaign finance has practically changed since the ruling: (tl;dr: more independent spending, less disclosure of that spending)

        https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2014/01/21/how-citizens-united-changed-politics-in-6-charts/

        What I do see is that political spending was on the rise pre-2010, which is why I will only say that Citizens United was likely just a large contributor to this rise, not the sole cause. Needless to say, I don’t think Citizens United is completely responsible for all electoral outcomes in the last 6 years – Republicans would still have won these midterm elections, for example, and political spending would have continued to increase – but I do think it is not a coincidence that it has occurred correspondingly with a sharp turn to the right wing for the country.

        I also don’t think that most kinds of “campaign finance reform” are some magical fix to what I see as the US’s political problems, as some Democrats seem to – there are plenty of countries in the world with very different electoral rules and financing laws that also have ruthless capitalist classes and right wing political support, such as the UK and Australia.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Individual expenditures are almost the opposite of individual contributions. CU and Speechnow were both about speech by organizations and contributions thereto. Neither had any effect on individual billionaires, who could always do whatever they wanted. Raising the limit on contributions made it easier for small numbers of millionaires to coordinate, though.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Neither had any effect on individual billionaires, who could always do whatever they wanted.

            Not quite “always”; a law restricting spending on one’s own campaign was passed in 1974, but struck down in 1976.

            The idea that CU is responsible for Trump’s victory given the Clinton campaign’s connection (and co-ordination; few campaigns actually _follow_ those election campaign finance laws, because no fine is worse than losing) with more such money than Trump, seems unlikely.

        • Thanks for the additional links. I note, at the top of the page you link to:

          “Editor’s note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.”

          That’s a reference to Schumer’s claim that Citizens’ United overthrew a century of prior regulation.

          I agree that the case, as precedent, could affect things other than the law part of which it overturned. But is it your claim that, prior to 2002, corporations or unions were forbidden to spend large amounts of money pushing laws or candidates, not in the form of contributions? Is it your claim that, after 2002 and before Citizens United, wealthy individuals were so limited?

          If you are not willing to make either claim, I don’t see how you can argue that Citizens United produced a sharp change in the working of the American political system. If you are making the first claim but not the second, then is your point that the case shifted power away from the Koch brothers and Soros and towards Google and Apple and the UAW?

          • ashlael says:

            I believe his claim is partially that prior to citizens united there was a legal grey area which discouraged political spending because of the risk of ending up in court. After, certain things have been declared unambiguously legal so they are done more.

            Further I believe his claim is that that grey area did not originate with the 2002 legislation.

  16. In many of the versions of the Batman mythos (comics, movies, TV, etc.), Bruce Wayne and his corporations and foundations do engage in a good deal of philanthropy, however. The bat-costume stuff might just be a hobby of his.

  17. eighty-six twenty-three says:

    I’ve always thought of Trump as someone who specifically does *not* repay favors.
    For example, he’s known for not paying his contractors on the grounds that he “didn’t like their work”.

    Arguably many companies will still try to do him favors, on the grounds that a 50% or 25% or 10% chance that Trump will pay them back is still worth the effort.

    • The Nybbler says:

      For example, he’s known for not paying his contractors on the grounds that he “didn’t like their work”.

      That was said during his campaign, but since he’s clearly been able to continue operating (rather than having everyone refuse to do business with him), I suspect it’s exaggeration. Most likely he _usually_ pays up and _usually_ repays favors. Perhaps he’s even estimated the optimal amount of betrayal he should engage in, on the theory that if you’re too honest, people might think you’re a pushover.

      https://xkcd.com/325/

      • Matt M says:

        Also, refusing to pay a vendor is not really the same as “repaying a favor.” Vendors aren’t doing him a favor. That’s a business relationship and Trump has never shied away from the fact that he sees business as a zero-sum competition with winners and losers.

        For the record, ANY company who thought they could short-change a vendor without suffering any serious legal or PR penalties would absolutely 100% do it.

        • Randy M says:

          I think there are plenty of independent contractors or small businesses that wouldn’t, but once you get beyond that level, most likely. This is also the kind of thing that’s more easily moved at the margins by culture than law.

  18. johnmcg says:

    It seems this is a converse of the narrative problem economic conservatism has versus liberalism, in general.

    Economic liberalism generally has an appealing narrative — this sympathetic person didn’t have health care coverage before; she does now. If you have a debate, and one person shows up with that story, an another person shows up with a spreadsheet showing that overall costs are going up, the person with the story is going to win. (Which is why I don’t think we’ll see a real repeal of ACA). The beneficiaries of liberal economic policy have names and faces; the negative impact is nebulous and diffuse.

    Somehow this has shifted. Trump supporters were saying that things were getting worse, and liberals were responding with charts and graphs about how awesome everything was.

    There’s a whole comic book franchise around Batman, not so many about technocrats. Even in business, someone like Trump with a decidedly mixed record is who we elected president instead of any number of business leaders with more generally impressive records.

    So, I don’t think the narrative will be countered by charts and spreadsheets, or “one map that explains” or calling those unconvinced by these tools stupid. There’s probably going to have to be a compelling counter-narrative.

    • albertborrow says:

      You may not be cognizant of the left-wing economic narrative, but it’s always been there. Regulating economy and slapping down big business has been a meme for as long as there has been capitalism. If you’re arguing for an incoherent, anecdotal narrative about the left side of the economy, look no further than the fear mongering about oppressive mega-corporations. If you think Batman is somehow indicative of a pro-laissez faire narrative, and that the right’s opinion is more prevalent, look no further than, say, Robocop. Or the Terminator movies. Or any number of works written by poor, starving students of literature.

      There is already a compelling counter narrative – a narrative that has moved mountains ever since Sinclair’s The Jungle. It isn’t personal, anecdotal narrative that swung this election – or, if it was, you’re not going to be able to swing back by escalating that narrative further.

  19. I think you are correct about what he is doing. It’s worth noting that this is one example of a much more general approach to PR.

    The climate version appears on both sides of the fence. Any time something bad happens due to weather, post a big story implying that it is due to global warming. I quite recently, in a FB exchange, had someone quote a chunk of the IPCC report about bad things due to extreme weather–pretty clearly without noticing that there was no claim that the particular extreme weather causing those things was due to AGW. On the other side, any time the weather is unusually cold, put up a story implying that it shows that AGW is bunk. When research shows arctic ice surprisingly low, one side trumpets it, when it shows antarctic ice surprisingly high, the other side does.

    As I like to put it, everyone agrees that weather is not climate, half the people when the weather is hot, half when it is cold.

    In the climate case, you at least get some balance because people on both sides are using the same strategy. I’m not sure how that plays out with Trump. Are there equally effective bits of news that can be trumpeted by his opponents as evidence he is doing a bad job? Short of Russia invading the Baltics, which very likely would be his fault, I can’t think of any.

    • yodelyak says:

      Does this become a case of you-break-it-you-own-it?

      What if blue-tribe-land finds small and mid-size businesses and sends them to the Drumpf transition webpage, to post requests to please re-negotiate their business obligations or tax burdens so they can stay in business? One of the hazards of being a monarch is that when a citizen petitions for relief from a problem, you really do have the power to solve the problem for them. Just not all of them.

  20. Bugmaster says:

    I realize this may be an ignorant question, but:

    What specific economic policy measures could our government implement in order to prevent companies from moving jobs to Mexico — without creating too many negative side effects ? Assuming, of course, that companies are moving those jobs because this is the most efficient way to do business, and not because they hate America or something.

    As for Batman:

    What’s your best option? Maybe you could to donate money to law-enforcement, or after-school programs for at-risk teens, or urban renewal…

    I can sort of see Batman’s point of view, though. Presumably, all of these techniques have been tried in Gotham already. You donate money to law enforcement, but the corrupt police force just pockets it and keeps going. You create after-school programs for at-risk teens, but most of that money ends up stuck in administrative costs, and there’s no clear way to measure success of such programs in any case. You invent lots of new police tactics and security systems, and tomorrow Falcone is using them to secure his warehouses against Maroni. You make lots of press conferences intended to shame the government into action, but they have no shame, so there’s no action; and besides, on paper, your justice system is already super-efficient anyway.

    So, you can keep doing all that until you run out of time and money; or, you can dress up as a bat, and start punching people in the face until you can punch your way up all the way to the people who actually make the decisions. You will never stem the tide of endemic corruption, but perhaps you’d at least get to steer it a little…

    • hlynkacg says:

      …and If you’re lucky you become a symbol that the people don’t have to be afraid of the villains. People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy. A man can be ignored or destroyed but a symbol…

    • Buckyballas says:

      What specific economic policy measures could our government implement in order to prevent companies from moving jobs to Mexico — without creating too many negative side effects ?

      It depends on how many negative side effects are “too many”. Nearly all economic policy changes will create winners and losers. Even if some policy achieved the goal you suggest, there would ipso facto be fewer jobs in Mexico, which is a negative side effect if you happen to live in Mexico.

      However, for your information, some ideas that are currently being debated are a tax deduction for domestic production (e.g. the Domestic Production Activities Deduction) and modifying our corporate tax system to tax where the sales are made rather than where the profits are made (a “destination based cash flow tax”). I am no expert, but I think the idea is that American companies will no longer be incentivized to keep their profits overseas and more likely to invest those profits at home (please correct me someone if this is a bit off). Both seem like they would slightly change the calculation on whether or not to “move jobs to Mexico”. The GOP would like to get rid of the former (too bureaucratic and ripe for abuse) and replace it with the latter. I am not really qualified to judge the downsides of the latter, and would be interested in the analysis of a more economics-inclined contributor.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Right, I’ve heard the former idea, but to me it sounds like a hack. This hack could work in the short term, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a stable solution.

        The second idea has been floating around for ages, IIRC; is there a reason that no one had tried it ? Or, if some other countries had tried it, do we have any data regarding the outcome ?

        • Mouth says:

          Let me google copy and paste the link above for you.

          “destination based cash flow tax”

          • Bugmaster says:

            Yeah, I skimmed the link originally, but I was looking for something like, “Finland implemented this model and we are 85% confident that this resulted in a 1% GDP improvement” or something like that, not just an explanation of the proposal.

        • Fossegrimen says:

          I think the main thing with the second idea is to repeal the repatriation tax. The repatriation tax is uniquely American and afaik was introduced by FDR to prevent people moving gold abroad during the depression. (My source on the introduction bit is weak and I’m really curious if it’s correct, so please correct me if possible.)

          The way it works is that if I am a major manufacturer and earn money abroad, I will have to pay 35% tax when I move the money to the US.

          This means that if I have a billion sitting in Ugland House and I want to build a factory, I can build it in Mexico and get a billion worth of factory, or I can build it in Texas and get 650 million worth of factory.

          I can’t see any substantial negative effects of just removing the tax. It doesn’t bring in substantial revenue, since companies just let the money sit abroad forever and if they desperately need cash in the US, they can just borrow against the cash held abroad. Removing it would make all investments in the US from foreign money more profitable.
          (and it is enough money that it could make a difference by being invested in the US, currently about 2.5 trillion)

          Whether Trump does something about this is my main criteria for whether he means what he says or not.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      What specific economic policy measures could our government implement in order to prevent companies from moving jobs to Mexico — without creating too many negative side effects ?

      An axe to the minimum wage?

      Depends on what you consider “too many” and “negative side effects”.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Depends on what you consider “too many” and “negative side effects”.

        If our ultimate objective is to improve the economy and decrease unemployment in order to maximize quality of life; and our solution ends up harming the economy, employment, or directly reducing quality of life; then I’d say it had too many negative side effects — despite being nominally effective at its stated goal (preventing some jobs from moving overseas).

        An axe to the minimum wage?

        What does this mean ?

        • ashlael says:

          He means cutting the minimum wage drastically, to reduce labor costs in the USA and encourage firms to continue producing there.

      • shakeddown says:

        An axe to the minimum wage?

        Would that even have a meaningful effect? We’re pretty near full employment right now as it is, and part of the point of factory jobs is that they’re generally pretty well above minimum wage, so I don’t see how it would have a significant effect.

        • Antistotle says:

          https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000

          https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000

          The unemployment rate is understated by a small, but significant amount.

          Gallup does this, but I don’t know the numerical validity:

          http://www.gallup.com/poll/189068/bls-unemployment-seasonally-adjusted.aspx

          Where some of the workers have gone:

          https://www.ssa.gov/oact/STATS/dibGraphs.html

          http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/04/08/after-decades-of-decline-a-rise-in-stay-at-home-mothers/
          http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/06/05/growing-number-of-dads-home-with-the-kids/
          (I think that overall having a stay-at-home parent is good for the family and the children, and generally if it’s the least-significant-breadwinner staying home it’s not a huge impact on family finances)

          So no, we’re not at “near full employment”. There are a lot of people who are either un-employed who could be employed, or under employed.

          However I strongly suspect that minimum wage being lowered won’t help create jobs now, it will just prevent losing jobs later.

          Note that this is distinct from *raising* the minimum wage by any significant amount (in a given year) which WILL drive entry/subsistence level jobs out.

          • Bugmaster says:

            If we lower the minimum wage, what happens to people who are currently barely scraping by on their minimum-wage jobs ? I can foresee some options, but I don’t know their likelihoods:
            * The markets (housing/food/medical/transportation) adjust to accommodate the lower purchasing capacity of such consumers, so nothing much changes
            * These people end up homeless and on the streets, thus straining our public service budgets even further (also, maybe they’ll die off eventually, and the problem will take care of itself)
            * Nothing much, people with jobs can always scrape by, even on lower wages (by cutting out frivolous expenses, say)
            * We implement some other solution to take care of those people (but if so, what solution ?)
            * These people leave the country for better life elsewhere
            * Revolution ! (ok, I admit, this one is pretty unlikely)

          • Skivverus says:

            If we lower the minimum wage, what happens to people who are currently barely scraping by on their minimum-wage jobs ?

            Don’t think I saw this listed in your options, but what about “they keep the wages they had before the law changed; those wages just happen not to be ‘minimum’ anymore”?
            Horribly optimistic, I know. Though you could probably temper that by noting that they’d have to watch out for pay cuts (as opposed to just getting fired).

          • Randy M says:

            We don’t do pay cuts, we do “Don’t have enough to give you a cost of living increase this year.” I’ve been told here that inflation is a virtue because average people won’t see this as a pay cut. Combating sticky-wages.

        • quanta413 says:

          We have low unemployment; considering how people who aren’t searching for jobs don’t count as unemployed and part-time is still employed I don’t think “we’re near full employment” follows. Especially considering unemployment is high variable by group.

          On the other hand, I also don’t buy that axing the minimum wage would necessarily have a meaningful effect (in the short term). Too much stickiness in people’s behavior.

    • Brad says:

      What specific economic policy measures could our government implement in order to prevent companies from moving jobs to Mexico — without creating too many negative side effects ?

      I’m not a libertarian but I’ve been influenced by libertarian thought enough that talking about a job or jobs as if they were an entitlement or a piece of property that someone owns rather than ongoing voluntary exchange seems somewhat strange to me.

      It’s unfortunate that at least in the places I’ve been reading libertarians have chosen to keep whatever opinions they have about protectionism to themselves for the sake of their alliance with conservatives.

      • Jiro says:

        The problem is that we don’t control the government of Mexico, but the government of Mexico, by controlling Mexico’s economy, can create incentives which affect how Mexicans and companies act, which in turn affects us. Just because the final step of the process (the activity of the Mexicans and the companies) is voluntary doesn’t mean that the whole process is.

        • Brad says:

          Spell it out. This manipulation which you write about so darkly, if it exists, amounts to allowing U.S. entities including consumers to get goods and services for less than they otherwise could have. In other words the allegation is Mexican government is subsidizing U.S. consumption.

          That doesn’t exactly sound hostile until and unless you buy into this “our jobs” framework wherein a job is something that is yours, to have and to hold forever and ever amen, rather than an ongoing, and ultimately contingent, trade of value for value.

          It’s remarkable to hear Republicans sound like Wobblies. Like I’m living in a Twilight Zone episode. I’d think it’d be even stranger for self professed libertarians, but apparently not.

          • Jiro says:

            No manipulation is needed. Ordinary self-interested policies and ordinary incompetence will do it.

            Mexico’s government doesn’t need to be in a consipracy in order to have lots of poor people and otherwise make it attractive for companies to move to Mexico and Meicans to move to the US. It just needs to act as a lousy government.

          • albertborrow says:

            I don’t think the idea is that America strictly possesses those jobs – rather, the idea is that the companies that create those jobs possess them, and it is their fault for taking things overseas.

      • Antistotle says:

        Where is that?

        Because most of the Libertarian stuff *I* have read has been pretty anti-protectionism as just bad policy.

        This is distinct from creating a business friendly climate here in the US, which is not protectionism, or taking the position (which I do) that our policy towards a foreign state should mirror that state’s position on us (for example if Elbonia were to slap a 100 percent tariff on American Lefthanded De-frobinators, we should put a 100 percent tariff on vertically polarized geegaws).

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        It’s unfortunate that at least in the places I’ve been reading libertarians have chosen to keep whatever opinions they have about protectionism to themselves for the sake of their alliance with conservatives.

        I mean, as far as Libertarianism on the internet goes, you can’t get more mainstream than Reason, and I sure don’t get that vibe from them at all.

      • Adam says:

        I haven’t, but frankly, I feel like a bit of a pioneer on when I gave up on ever having a real alliance with conservatives. Not that I expect one with liberals either by any stretch. All I really care about at this point is continued tech progress and the costs of large-scale war outweighing the benefits enough to keep it from happening. We’ll wring our hands at distribution changes in perceived status, but mostly be fine. I guess it’s easy for me to say because I’ll almost certainly be fine regardless of what the government does or doesn’t do. I’m not on any particular margin.

        It is disappointing to see in my friend group, even more the support for immigration restrictions than trade restrictions, but Trump is a blip. He’s not a watershed like people are acting. He has historically low approval and won with the largest margin of defeat anyone has ever won an election with. He’s not representative of our country. He won because we have a bizarre way of selecting presidents that no other country uses and the majority who don’t support him cluster too tightly in a small number of places that have their votes underweighted because of a compromise we had to make 250 years ago to get slave states to sign the constitution. Sometimes a thing you need to do that seems fine at the time comes back to bite you in the ass.

        That said, if all he does is get rid of the repatriation tax and corporate tax or just lowers it, I’d totally support that, but also don’t think it will make much of a difference in terms of saving or creating middle class jobs for uneducated workers in single-industry towns or whatever it is the fabled white working class is supposed to want. Americans are never going to be the best bet for low-skilled labor and human labor is going to become increasingly less necessary to build anything anyway, independently of anything the government does. Trump can put band aids on a couple hundred people every now and again, but he can’t stop this. Even with drastic tariffs, manufacturing jobs still moved and will continue to move from the rust belt to the American south anyway and coal/steel country is done in the long run. I’m sure it sucks to live there and be told there isn’t shit we can do for you, but oh well. Gold rush boomtowns are now ghost towns. It happens. My grandparents had to move to Los Angeles and now their grandkid is an engineer, not a factory worker. Join the club. Your grandkids might be service workers, creative, artisans, god knows what in 2050, but they aren’t going to be earning above median salary plus a pension to pull coal out of the ground.

      • Spookykou says:

        Huh, this seems to be assuming that ‘property rights’ are some sort of real or true right that are fundamentally different from say, the right to have a job.

        Could you explain where this right to own property comes from?

        • BourbonWaltz says:

          The right to property comes from the right to self-ownership.
          It is a right to the fruits of your labor.

          The entitlement of a job is the entitlement to confiscate someone else’s property against their will.

          They are opposites

          • Spookykou says:

            I guess I was not clear.

            I was not asking for a, rather inventive, ‘origin of rights’.

            Rather I was calling into question the common and, to my mind, some what strange assumption that property rights are somehow elevated above all other rights for no apparent reason.

            I know at first blush ‘right to the fruits of your labor’ sounds all noble and proper and ‘right to steal’ doesn’t, but that is just a matter of preference.

            To put a finer point on it, ‘right to the fruits of your labor’ is largely meaningless without ‘right to the shit I need to apply labor to in order to produce fruit’ and by the time you get to that right, you have lost all semblance of profound human truth.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            “To put a finer point on it, ‘right to the fruits of your labor’ is largely meaningless without ‘right to the shit I need to apply labor to in order to produce fruit’ ”

            If what you make has value beyond the “shit” you need, you create property and that is what you own. You do not own said shit without paying for it. If your labor uses “shit” whose value is less than the product of your labors, then you have not created property, you’ve only stolen “shit” (or lost money), and you do not own anything.

          • Spookykou says:

            Edit: Removed snarky comment

            Imagine a hypothetical prehistoric man, comes across a fine looking tree, he cuts the tree down and carves some nice wooden sticks out of the tree.

            What right did he have to the tree?

            None.

            What right does he have to the sticks he made out of the tree?

            Does he have property rights? Why?

            Lets move forward in time, a man owns the forest that the tree is in this time.

            Another man comes along and wants to cut down a tree to make some sticks. He will need to pay one money to get the tree, should he pay the money?

            How did the other man come to own the forest? Was he just the first person to say that the forest belonged to him, or was he the first person to be able to enforce his claim on the forest?

            The divinity of property rights.

            If I buy a tree from his forest, that he didn’t really own, do I then really own the tree, in any meaningful way?

            Property rights are just the extent to which you can extend your will to claim things around you and defend them. Our society insures your property rights because they are useful. If society decided to defend the right to a job, or not, that does not change the fact that your right to a job is just as artificial a construct as your right to property. It is a useful tool for a civilization, or it isn’t. It is not a grand universal truth.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            You are putting words in my mouth. I never claimed that property rights are elevated above other rights. You also didn’t ask for some universal truth.

            You only asked the difference between property rights and the “right” to a job. I responded that one is a protection from coercion and the other is a license to coerce.

            With your tree analogy you appear to claim that all property rights come from a 1st coercive act (the taking of the tree) and are therefore just as coercive as the entitlement to a job? The entitled job creates no net positive because no one wants the product of the job. The work that results in property creates a net positive by definition: someone makes sticks because sticks have value. This is a fundamental difference.

            In a world full of trees, why do some prehistoric men lay claim to unclaimed trees and others do not? You claim that they simply are able to enforce their claim…. I claim that the prehistoric man who takes that 1st tree recognizes that it can be converted into sticks while others do not. There is no coercive act involved, because the tree is not of value to anyone yet, as it is unclaimed. Years later, that 1st insight has been built on with the ability to create a process for stick making, a stick making factory and a distribution network.
            The man has property because he made sticks out of trees and was able to make them in such a way as to create tremendous value, not because he took a tree. The origin of his property right is not the tree, it is in the ability to turn the tree into sticks.

            He did in fact build that.

            Or if you prefer, another important distinction: without a man owning the forest the tribe would end up with no trees (see tragedy of the commons), so there is an overall economic positive. Job entitlement has no such net positive.

          • Spookykou says:

            Huh, this seems to be assuming that ‘property rights’ are some sort of real or true right that are fundamentally different from say, the right to have a job.

            I guess real or true are not technically the same as universal…

            I am not sure, given you start with the comment about universal truth, if you actually disagree with me at this point or not?

            In the event that you do.

            You seem to think that the trees thing is about theft, but it isn’t, theft is still just implying ownership. There is no mechanism by which anyone can have a ‘right’ to anything, rights are constructs enforced on the world, not properties of it. We decided what rights we wanted to protect, and we protected them. Property rights are not ‘special’ in some fundamental way.

          • Jiro says:

            Imagine a hypothetical prehistoric man, comes across a fine looking tree, he cuts the tree down and carves some nice wooden sticks out of the tree.

            If the tree is unowned by anyone, then he gets to own the sticks. You’ll need some rule about distributing unowned property (if he carves a branch, does he get the branch only or does he get the whole tree?)

            If the tree is owned by someone, you need some rule about how to distribute ownership in the result (If I steal your pencil and use it to write a million dollar novel, you don’t get the million dollars).

            But in neither case does exactly what you use for the rule affect any conclusion you want to make about property ownership in general.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            “I am not sure, given you start with the comment about universal truth, if you actually disagree with me at this point or not?”

            Yes I certainly disagree. I make a distinction between a natural right and a legal right that you are missing. There is no such thing as a natural right to a job.

            “There is no mechanism by which anyone can have a ‘right’ to anything”

            Yes there is. But I will grant you that you have to begin from an axiom: the right to your life is a natural right. The mechanism for a right to property is labor: part of a person’s life is used to produce the property. If the person owns their life they own the product of their labor.

            What is the mechanism for the “right” to a job? In fact, what exactly do you mean by a “right” to a job? Do you mean (a) individuals have the right to earn a living by selling their labor, or do you mean (b) individuals have the right to a portion of someone else’s production?

            “We decided what rights we wanted to protect, and we protected them. Property rights are not ‘special’ in some fundamental way.”

            Property rights are not more special than other natural rights, such as the right to life, etc.

            Is your claim that we arbitrarily (culturally) decided that we own the production of our labor?

            That we arbitrarily decided that the right to life is a right?

            That we could just as easily have decided everyone has a right to a pedicure once a week, or to kill every third person they come across?

            Do you claim that human nature is culturally constructed or doesn’t exist?

            Dogs growl when you take their bone and toddlers cry when you take their toys. Both have an innate sense of property. We have to use culture to teach them to share.

            If you answer just one question, answer this:
            Can you explain to me where the right to not be murdered (or enslaved) comes from, and how is it fundamentally different from the right to a job, if it is at all?

          • Spookykou says:

            Just because it is culturally/socially derived doesn’t mean it is arbitrary.

            I am not trying to say that a right to property is not a useful right, I think it is a very natural growth from the needs of society, couldn’t be farther from arbitrary.

            My whole complaint is the assumption implicit in Brad’s comment that the right to property is better implicitly, or is more true, implicitly.

            He is not trying to argue that a right to work or a right to a job is less useful than a right to property, he is saying that a right to property is a ‘real’ right and a right to a job isn’t. But this distinction is totally artificial, there are no real rights, just more or less useful rights that get codified into law or norms of society.

            Societies then tend to maintain the right to infringe on your rights if they feel they need to, even your right to life isn’t safe. If you want to define some rights as more or less natural, that is fine, but not really useful, because it relies heavily on where we are in time. It might be that the right to work becomes a codified right that naturally arises from automation in a way that killing every third person never would, we don’t know yet how natural any new right might be, but we can probably assume it isn’t totally unnatural, if people are seriously considering it.

            If you want to argue that a right to work or a right to a job is less functional than a right to property go ahead, but that is an argument on the merits of the right you want to protect, not an argument based on the deontological truth of property rights.

        • Brad says:

          Could you explain where this right to own property comes from?

          No. I decline to be diverted into a discussion of what ‘is’ is.

    • cassander says:

      >What specific economic policy measures could our government implement in order to prevent companies from moving jobs to Mexico — without creating too many negative side effects ? Assuming, of course, that companies are moving those jobs because this is the most efficient way to do business, and not because they hate America or something.

      You move to Mexico because Mexican while Mexican workers are less productive, they also cost less, so the numbers work out. The solution is whatever you think will lower the cost of production in the US without hurting productivity. The red answer is get rid of bad labor laws, excessive regulation, high taxes, the blue is better education, healthcare reform, and a third thing.

    • Nicholas Carter says:

      There’s only one thing I’m aware of that actually would affect that too terribly:
      You create the five-year prison sentence for corporations.
      If it is determined that a corporation is employing (or an onsite vendor of the corporation is employing) undocumented workers or that the company has moved jobs out of the United States, on the first offense it is now illegal for a period of five years to buy, sell, or disburse a dividend on stocks, bonds, or credit vehicles of that company. During this period, it is considered Securities and Accounting Fraud to report the value of these holdings as anything other than $0.
      If there is a second offense in the five year period, the company is entered into Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings against the Federal Government, which liquidates the company.

  21. Lawrence D'Anna says:

    “I worry that Trump’s plan for his administration is to dress up in a President costume and personally punch people we don’t like.”

    I think that’s just about the most benign thing I’ve ever heard someone worry that Trump might do as president. Four years of policy inaction and costumed shenanigans almost sounds like a best case scenario.

    • Randy M says:

      Agreed, I was thinking that this was a useful and reasoned critique but so far from the professed worries about Trump that it is almost praising with faint condemnation.

    • cassander says:

      You think that now, just wait till you see how much presidential batmobiles cost…

      I was being facetious, but now that I write it, I realize that it’s not a half bad metaphor.

      • bean says:

        But he’s already punched someone over that. It won’t make a bit of difference, and it annoyed everyone who knows about that project, but I’m sure it made it him feel good.

    • Deiseach says:

      “I worry that Trump’s plan for his administration is to dress up in a President costume and personally punch people we don’t like.”

      Isn’t that the complaints about the alleged Russian hackers? Trump is too weak against the evil mastermind Vlad the Terrible, we needed Wonder FirstWoman who would have given him a black eye and sent him scowling back to the steppes!

      As an aside, any thoughts on how Putin handled the US expulsion of Russian diplomats? Everyone was expecting tit-for-tat as is usual in these cases, and then he came back with “We’re not going to disrupt people and their families during the holiday season taking breaks in their dachas” and inviting the American diplomats’ kids to New Year’s Eve celebrations. Even the Mail on Sunday was scoffing that one of the 35 alleged spies was actually a chef; this is not how you would expect a Tory newspaper to react to the US making a move against the (former) Reds.

      I mean, as PR (and importantly as PR tactics inside Russia), this looks very clever. To the Russians, this makes Obama look both petty and mean, kicking out people in a fit of pique where it wasn’t anything to do with them and disrupting their lives (having to pull kids out of school, pack up and move back, etc. all during the holiday season). And instead of the hothead macho bully, Putin looks like he can keep his cool and not be manipulated into a response.

      And if we’re talking about presidents making big gestures just to show the public that Something Is Being Done, even if it’s just cosmetic, isn’t this kind of expulsion exactly that sort of move?

      • Randy M says:

        Even the Mail on Sunday was scoffing that one of the 35 alleged spies was actually a chef;

        I don’t think Russia is necessarily doing anything out of the ordinary, but this seems silly–is it that implausible that a spy could have a cover job?

        • Aapje says:

          Also, the Russians are known for poisoning their enemies and traditionally, poison is often put in…food.

          To quote Dr Strangelove: I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I think he knows that Obama is a lame duck and that he’s simply waiting to see what the new administration will bring. In the mean time he gets an opportunity to appear magnanimous and paint himself as “the adult in the room” and form what I’ve been able to glean from Russian language media that is precisely what he’s been doing. As far as I’m concerned this is further evidence that Putin is far more competent and astute than our own political class gives him credit for.

        TL, DR: I agree with your assessment

      • Antistotle says:

        > …this makes Obama look both petty and mean, kicking out people in a fit of pique …

        Which is pretty accurate.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I wasn’t going to say it but…

        • wintermute92 says:

          Particularly since he knows Trump won’t be continuing his policies here. As part of a larger Cold War II (Cold War Harder) strategy, it might be justified. But as a one-off tantrum that he already knows won’t see any follow-through?

          That just looks sad.

      • wintermute92 says:

        Sure: I think Putin won this one bigtime.

        First, inaction helps build the “we didn’t do nothing” narrative. A diplomatic catfight makes everyone look guilty, while this helps him cast America as paranoid and dishonest.

        Second, it’s a pretty clear moral win. These diplomats weren’t being accused of meaningful spying or cyber-ops, they just got kicked out because doing that to diplomats is a way to show you’re angry at someone. Not responding makes the whole thing look petty and sordid.

        Third, I think Putin’s responses have been clearly enabled by Trump’s victory. If the fight is going to escalate indefinitely, refusing to engage makes you look weak and forces you into a reactive role. But it’s not: in ~2 weeks, Trump takes office and Cold War diplomacy goes out the window. I don’t especially think that’s a good thing, but I do think it makes this a case of the American policy establishment “getting in one last dig”, which will achieve absolutely nothing.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Obama gave Putin the rare chance to look like the bigger man, and Putin rather gleefully took it.

        It’s not that this makes Obama look petty and mean; Obama did that himself. I can’t imagine what he expected to accomplish; there’s no possible positive outcome I can come up with. The only thing I can think of is it’s a version of Sarah Hoyt’s “roll left and die”; Obama was making gestures to signal to people on his side domestically that he’s still with them, either because he thinks it will help his “legacy” or get him better speaking engagements or something.

        (however, just because someone’s a chef doesn’t mean he’s not a spy; he could even be a commando as well
        http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105690/ )

      • gbdub says:

        Expelling the diplomats seems especially petty, because otherwise it is laughably weak.

        If we actually have a smoking gun that the Russian government conspired to alter the outcome of our presidential action, then this is a pointless underreaction.

        If we don’t (which seems increasingly likely, given we’ve still heard nothing but anonymous leaks from the CIA), then it’s a tantrum.

        Either way, Putin can just smile and do nothing – we’ve already admitted we’re either helpless or childish.

  22. lliamander says:

    A lot of comments have already questioned whether a Super Trump[0] is really as bad as you think it might be (or even bad at all) but I’ll just add a few additional observations in.

    I’ve been watching a lot of superhero shows lately, and they all pretty much come out in favor of the role of superheroes as PR champions who give the people hope. Of course, there is an obvious financial incentive for the producers of superhero fiction to support the idea, but it’s worth considering whether the arguments in favor are sound.

    Is it really the job of a Chief Executive (whether in government, military, or business) to deal with policy details? Isn’t that the job of the President’s cabinet? My observation in business is that the job of the CEO is to set the strategy and hire the right people, but their *life* becomes being the figurehead of the company and marketing it in the public square. I think Trump has already established himself as someone who listens to his advisors; so if you have concern about his policies then it makes more sense to criticize his cabinet than to criticize how he spends his time.

    Obviously, I think using good PR to hide bad policy is a Bad Thing. It’s good to provide arguments against those policies, but if you want to make a change you’ll also have to look at countering his PR. Many prominent news agencies attempted to do just that [1] but in such a comic-book-villain move by collectively abandoning journalistic ethics that they probably secured him a two-term presidency. A different strategy will be needed in the future.

    [0] Trump has too much positive energy and public recognition to be a Batman. He’s more of a Superman. Peter Thiel is more of a Batman (working in the shadows by, e.g. supporting Hulk Hogan against Gawker). Jeff Bezos or George Soros as Lex Luthor? Discuss.

    [1] Perhaps most notably the Washington Post, owned by Bezos. Hence the Bezos/Luthor connection noted above.

    • Randy M says:

      I thought you were mixing your metaphors before remembering that Hulk Hogan is a real person.

      • lliamander says:

        I am very careful about delineating my comic book universes. I thought about referencing Watchmen, but even that is only “sorta” in the DC comic-verse.

    • shakeddown says:

      I don’t see how Trump can be Superman. Trump’s thing is “Unleash our power and throw away those pesky self-imposed limitations.” Superman’s whole thing is having self-imposed limitations, since they’re the one thing that stop him from turning into Zod.

      • lliamander says:

        Metaphors can certainly be tricky things. I do not wish to make an ethical comparison, but rather one of “energy” and “tone”.

        Trump, to his supporters, is a positive, inspirational (“Make America Great Again”), larger than life figure who operates out in the open. Trump, like Superman, can be associated with American exceptionalism and middle-American values (despite the fact that he, unlike Clark Kent, was born into Big City culture). He also presents himself as someone who likes to turn enemies into friends. Furthermore, Trump is the point-man for this right-wing resurgence (if that is what is indeed happening).

        Thiel, in contrast, comes across as grim, serious, perhaps even bitter. He prefers to work in the shadows (his support of litigation against Gawker) and who seems motivated by vengeance (or at least likely to hold grudges). I would say this makes him similar to Batman. He’s not the point-man of the resurgence, but he’s arguably still a major player (considering his role in the Trump campaign and beyond).

        • LHN says:

          You might be able to make a case for the Golden Age Superman, who was pretty much a bully. (Though unlike any real person, and trebly unlike Trump, he had the superpower of never bullying anyone who didn’t deserve it. Just as Batman never holds someone over the edge of a building to extract information and later realizes that he was just an innocent bystander.)

          But Superman since probably the early 40s isn’t like that. There are superheroes who taunt their enemies, shout insults, etc. But Superman (at least when he’s not engaged in sadomasochistic secret identity games with his friends) is a genuinely nice guy who doesn’t need to endlessly prove he’s the best. Because of course he is.

          As someone once said, “‘Don’t tug on Superman’s cape?’ You know what happens if you tug on Superman’s cape? He asks you to stop doing that, please. And you will.” Heck, even if you tug on Batman’s cape the worst you’ll get is a look that’s sufficiently intimidating that you’ll relocate.

          It’s the Guy Gardners and Quicksilvers of the superhero world who’ll actually get into it over simply being made to look bad. Or if his targets really look universally just and proportional to his fans, then maybe a quipping hero like Spider-Man or a crazy-like-a-fox one like the Creeper.

          But Superman, whether it’s Christopher Reeve or George Reeves or any of the print incarnations (that haven’t gone round the twist and declared themselves Emperor or something) doesn’t roll that way.

          • lliamander says:

            You’re distinction about Golden Age Superman is well taken. Again, metaphors have their limitations, though some (including Scott Adams) would debate whether Trump bullies the undeserving. Adams’ argument was that, at least during his campaign, Trump did not attack US citizens, singularly or collectively, except for public figures who openly attacked him first. I don’t know if this 100% true, and that doesn’t mean that Trump’s attacks were moral or justified, but in so far as it is true it reflects a certain degree of respect and chivalry towards the all citizens equally in a way that was absent in Hillary’s “deplorables” comment (for example).

            Every metaphor has a specific purpose, a specific property of it’s subject that it is highlighting by means of comparison with the object. When I say a boxer has a “glass jaw”, I do not mean that it is transparent; I simply mean to highlight the boxer’s fragility by comparison to the fragility of glass.

            The purpose of Scott Alexander’s original metaphor was to highlight (and criticize) Trump’s property of being a wealthy magnate who uses his resources to make symbolic victories and self-mythologize, versus the ostensibly rational alternatives. The purpose of my metaphor was to contrast Trump with Thiel in the Trump campaign mythology. Likewise, your comparisons with the likes of Quicksilver highlights Trump’s bravado.

            Incidentally, I am sincerely pleased that the only replies so far have been in response to my one footnote. It’s an indulgence of high-geekery to engage in discussions of super-hero metaphors sadly often lacking in most meatspace discourse.

          • haljohnsonbooks says:

            And this is why we should be grateful that neither Quicksilver nor Guy Gardner wear capes.

          • Jiro says:

            The purpose of Scott Alexander’s original metaphor was

            The purpose of a metaphor is to convince someone of a conclusion while skipping the whole “use logical reasoning” step. As such, unintended aspects of the metaphor are no worse than intended aspects of the metaphor in searching for truth, and you have little grounds to complain when someone uses them.

        • shakeddown says:

          Trump, like Superman, can be associated with American exceptionalism and middle-American values (despite the fact that he, unlike Clark Kent, was born into Big City culture).

          This is actually a really good comparison. Superman was born with small-town values but moved to be a big-city reporter, but still keeps some of his Kansas Farmboy image. Trump’s grandfather started out working-class, and Trump tries to play his image like superman (with somewhat less justification, but enough to be excusable if you like the guy) – “I may live in a city, but I’m a working-class guy at heart.”

  23. Jiro says:

    Doesn’t most of this apply to all presidents who say they are going to do X and have one or two highly publicized incidents of them trying to do X?

    If so, then relative comparisons between Trump and other presidents may still be valid, since the other presidents are made to look better just like Trump.

    • q-tip says:

      Mm, it isn’t unusual for presidents (et al) to choose photogenic examples of the people helped by policy X or Y to trot out in front of the cameras or invite to sit next to the First Lady at the SOTU.

      I read Scott’s concern as: under our new president, the photogenic examples may be the ONLY people helped by policy X or Y. Which is to say, it wasn’t really a policy, just a one-time deal. And quite likely a fake deal at that.

      • Jiro says:

        Just like “Trump’s election will be good for SJWs” (that prediction of Scott’s pretty much failed, and anyone who voted against Trumpo because he listened to Scott on this ought to feel foolish), the argument is basically “here’s a plausible-sounding scenario. I guess it’ll happen”.

        • Spookykou says:

          I don’t think enough time has passed to know if Scott was right or wrong about Trumps influence on SJW.

          Also I think it is important to remember the mechanisms that he was talking about in that particular case. It was his opinion that Trump would be fuel for the SJW fire, and justify their positions by providing a more credible oppressor. As far as I can tell that is exactly what has happened in the SJW community, see fear of death squads and Trump assisted suicide. The long term influence of this ‘real oppression’ obviously can’t be accounted for yet.

          The only meaningful way that SJW has been ‘hurt’ by Trump is the particular post election narratives that blame identity politics for pushing people to vote for Trump. Even if the narrative is overblown( or at least I think it is) the fact that nominally liberal/left/democrats are coming out stronger against SJW could in theory have a chilling effect on SJW. Again, the long term impact on the SJW movement is far from clear at this point, as far as I can tell the post election democratic autopsy is far from a settled matter.

          I think it is also important to keep in mind that even if the second point is correct, even if we assume there is a strong and maintained backlash in the liberal/left/democratic party against identity politics (not because it is wrong, but because it alienates working whites, or what ever) and that lowers the broad appeal of SJW, the first point, about a true oppressor might also be right, resulting in a smaller but even more radicalized SJW movement. It is unclear if this would be considered good or bad for SJW.

          Again, it’s hardly been long enough to know for sure what will happen to the SJW movement and what Trumps election will do to it, he hasn’t even had time to oppress anyone yet.

          • John Schilling says:

            As far as I can tell that is exactly what has happened in the SJW community, see fear of death squads and Trump assisted suicide.

            I’ve been explicitly told by defenders of the SJ community here that fear of death squads, etc, is not really a thing and I am being unfair when I attribute such beliefs to anyone but the lunatic fringe.

            Can we get an official ruling on this somewhere?

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @John Schilling,

            I don’t think anyone is going to mistake me for an SJW, but at least here in the Big Apple you do see people expressing those fears in the wild.

            It was a lot worse immediately after the election. Since then people have had time to calm down and enjoy the holidays. I expect to see a resurgence of Trump hysteria post-inauguration though.

          • Spookykou says:

            I would assume their position is not that literally no person ever expressed fear of death squads, but that it does not represent a main stream (their stream?) or consensus concern.

            Ultimately I am only using it as an example of a possible mood shift, so I think that if you accept that it happened at all, then even if the idea hasn’t reached fixation it could still hint at subtler but broader mood shift, the top part of a large piece of ice in the ocean thats true size remains hidden, or something.

          • Matt M says:

            Has Scott not explicitly stated he has seen patients who are suffering severe anxiety related to a fear of Trump-inspired death squads?

          • Spookykou says:

            I am not sure if it was death squads exactly, but thematically similar fears after the Trump election yes. I am inclined to believe our host.

        • q-tip says:

          Except there are some examples of Trump doing what he is predicted to do in the future. It isn’t a “plausible scenario, therefore it’ll happen” situation at all!
          The new prediction could be wrong, but I don’t see how bringing in the past prediction invalidates the new one.
          (Also, I don’t think we fully know what Trump’s election will do to SJWs yet, but maybe you just mean “it made them upset?”)

  24. beleester says:

    I also think it’s important to be prepared for the fact that this clear message won’t work. Imagine you’re a factory worker in Indiana, and every week you hear on the news that Trump convinced another factory to stay in the US. And also, you read an editorial by Paul Krugman or someone saying that this is all a trick. What do you end out believing?

    On the other hand, imagine you work for one of the 999 other companies that Trump didn’t stop, and you’re now unemployed. Suddenly, Krugman’s claim that you’ve been tricked sounds a lot more plausible. Even if the media is running 24/7 coverage of Trump’s big wins, that can’t stop you from noticing your own lack of a job.

    The Democratic answer to this strategy is the classic question: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

    (If the voters say that they’re happier watching Trump metaphorically punch bad guys even when they’re worse off economically, well… we learned something about what makes people happy, I suppose.)

    • Deiseach says:

      The Democratic answer to this strategy is the classic question: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

      And if the answer to that is “Sure, because if Hillary won, Ford would have moved that plant to Mexico and I wouldn’t have a job now”?

      You’re arguing about the 999 other companies that Trump didn’t stop. But for the people in that one town who are now working for the 1 company who stayed, they don’t see it as a trick. They see it as “1,000 companies out of 1,000 would have moved and I’d be worse off”.

      If the voters say that they’re happier watching Trump metaphorically punch bad guys even when they’re worse off economically, well… we learned something about what makes people happy, I suppose.

      Let me turn it around on you: can you imagine someone saying “I live in a small town, we were dependent on one major employer that shut down the factory and moved to Mexico, and now I have no job and am economically much worse off. But I’m so glad Mexicans have a job instead of me! That’s why I voted for Hillary, because she wants to bring up the global standard of living!”

      People keep saying that voting for Trump/the Republicans is voting against your economic interest, and maybe that’s so. But eight years of a Democrat president and you’ve no job because manufacturing industry is dying on its feet, do you think people would still vote Democrat even though they’re worse off economically because they’d enjoy seeing Hillary stand up to Putin?

      That’s the kind of argument I think is in bad faith; it’s a very simplistic model of “the Republicans are all rich and evil who want to make money by grinding the faces of the poor and minorities, but the Democrats love everyone and have a preferential option for minorities so voting for one and not the other is against your economic interest”. But if the global movement of economic development is against traditional industries and there are going to be people left behind inevitably?

      I don’t see any response to “voting for the Democrats doesn’t make me any better off than voting for the Republicans, and at least the Republicans share some of my values” except “you’re only jealous that POC are doing better now” and “to the privileged, equality feels like oppression”.

      • beleester says:

        You’re arguing about the 999 other companies that Trump didn’t stop. But for the people in that one town who are now working for the 1 company who stayed, they don’t see it as a trick. They see it as “1,000 companies out of 1,000 would have moved and I’d be worse off”.

        If 999 people lost their jobs, and 1 person kept their job, you’ll win more votes by appealing to the 999 than to the 1.

        I don’t see any response to “voting for the Democrats doesn’t make me any better off than voting for the Republicans, and at least the Republicans share some of my values” except “you’re only jealous that POC are doing better now” and “to the privileged, equality feels like oppression”.

        You pull out this strawman, and you accuse me of arguing in bad faith?

        The simple argument goes like this: “Voting for the Democrats will make you better off. You’re being left behind, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We’ll help you through the hard times and get you the training you need to compete. We’re going to get you a better job than the one you lost. We’re going to start up green industries and they’re gonna be yuuuge.” Etc, etc.

        This is the standard, Econ 101 policy position – Reap the benefits of free trade, use them to offset the losses, help displaced workers move into more productive jobs.

        Clinton didn’t sell that argument, she came off as not caring about the Rust Belt. But don’t mistake “Clinton couldn’t sell it” for “Democrats don’t have it in their platform.” Sanders probably could have sold it – he tapped the same populist streak as Trump. And more importantly, whoever the Democrats run in 2020 can sell it, because the Republicans are in power and they’ll get blamed for everything by default.

        I don’t know if they will sell it, it’s possible that they try to repeat their current strategy with someone more charismatic than Clinton. But if Trump’s “Batman strategy” fails to improve the Rust Belt (probable), and if the Democrats think the Rust Belt is worth appealing to (toss-up), they have a pretty good case they can make.

        • gbdub says:

          Well that is the problem – saving one job out of 1000 is still more appealing to the 999 than saving zero jobs out of 1000.

          “Don’t worry, it makes the GDP go up and that’s good for everyone!” isn’t winning over the 999 – Democrats have been mocking “trickle down economics” for decades, and ultimately that’s the same argument as “globalization is good for everyone”.

          Your “simple argument” is fine, but that’s not the one Sanders made – he was all about protectionism and punishing outsourcing fatcats etc. He just wanted to be protectionist AND pro-undocumented-immigrant (not sure those are really compatible…)

          • Anaxagoras says:

            Well that is the problem – saving one job out of 1000 is still more appealing to the 999 than saving zero jobs out of 1000.

            Sure, but the people in the 999 aren’t comparing their situation to the one they’d be in under Clinton. Republicans may claim that all 1000 would have lost their jobs without their actions, and they may even be right, but an appeal to the hypothetical will not be persuasive.

          • gbdub says:

            Basically, Trump has saved one job and is loudly proclaiming it as a Yuge Victory, in order to give hope to the 999 that there jobs will also be saved (and bolster his image, natch).

            Scott asserts that there is no way that Trump can save the 999, and that furthermore the way he saved the one job is a net negative, so Trump’s hope is false – but people will buy the hope and we’ll be stuck with meaningless grandstanding and cronyism instead of effective policy.

            You seem to basically agree with Scott but think Trump won’t be able to sell the hope anymore and will be exposed as a fraud.

            I’m not sure which of you is right. But what is Trump’s alternative? He can either:
            a) Do what he’s doing, save the jobs he can by any deal necessary and attempt to mercilessly spin them into Yuge Victories and false hope.
            b) Save the jobs he can but not try to spin a big PR win out of it and be honest that 999 jobs out of 1000 are screwed.
            c) Not save the jobs but try to convince everyone that the 1000 jobs were doomed either way and ultimately we’re all better off because Economics
            d) ???? policy that is somehow better than a) or c) (that neither you nor Scott have really proposed).

            a) Seems like the obvious best choice for Trump. The existence of d) is uncertain, c) will definitely get unemployed factory workers pissed off at him, and b) is just a) but giving up a chance for good press.

            If the worst that can be said for Trump’s approach is that it’s unsustainable, and people will ultimately catch him on it… I’m not sure it bothers me that much? Every president is going to try to gin up sympathetic press and photogenic “wins”.

            Scott hasn’t done enough to convince me that these deals will be all that bad – false hope is bad, but no hope is worse. I don’t like suboptimal economic policy, but I’m not convinced any politician is going to implement optimal policy and in any case the local-losers of said policy are always going to be righteously pissed. I can’t really blame an unemployed guy for not being sufficiently comforted by the thought of a Mexican getting a job and a Californian getting a $500 cheaper AC unit.

          • Anaxagoras says:

            My conclusion isn’t necessarily that Trump won’t be able to sell the hope. It’s that if he succeeds or fails, it will have very little to do with the fact that he saved one job of the thousand (nor with the true costs of doing so, whatever they may be). The Carrier deal and the like fade fast from the news.

        • Antistotle says:

          The simple argument goes like this: “Voting for the Democrats will make you better off. You’re being left behind, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We’ll help you through the hard times and get you the training you need to compete. We’re going to get you a better job than the one you lost. We’re going to start up green industries and they’re gonna be yuuuge.” Etc, etc.

          Except that we’ve been hearing that shiznit since the 1970s[1], and it’s NOT happening. Government “retraining” is often…not impactful. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/02/03/Time-Fix-Failed-18-Billion-Job-Training-Programs.

          [1] There’s been government training for longer, but it’s in the 1970s that we started getting our asses handed to us in the factory work sector and that was when the promises of job re-training took off.

    • shakeddown says:

      So the democrats get the votes of the guys who’ve been fired, but soundly lose the bloc of voters who are just at risk of being fired. Unless Trump turns out much worse than even I expect, the second bloc is way larger. “Are you better off than you were four years ago” works with widespread low-grade economic downturn (which could well happen, but is independent of specifically factory workers losing jobs), but not on high-variance damage.

    • cassander says:

      >On the other hand, imagine you work for one of the 999 other companies that Trump didn’t stop, and you’re now unemployed.

      I’d bet you’d be a lot more annoyed at the company that fired you than trump. If anything, you’ll start saying “Damn if only the czar trump knew, he could have helped us. we need more trump!” Or at least, my just so story is as plausible as your just so story.

  25. Rusty says:

    Loved the article and the Batman analogy was new to me at least. But isn’t part of the argument hopelessly round the wrong way?

    You seem to be arguing that the problem with Trump is that he will still let lots of US companies go overseas. What is wrong with that? Mexicans have equal value to Americans don’t they. Why shouldn’t they get good jobs and make cars?

    And if your answer to that is that Mexicans (and other foreigners) do have equal value but Ford is an American motor company ask yourself where this ends. Are all US firms worldwide to relocate to the US? All British firms to the UK, German ones to Germany? And don’t stop there – all Californian firms should make everything in California. And if not all firms, which? Who decides? The Department of Making America Great? That will work just about as well for America as it did for the Soviet Union. (Whatever happened to these guys??)

    There was a great article I saw the other day where the author asked how we should feel if a new pill was invented that gave people immediate perfect health until they drop dead suddenly at 120. Of course that pill is going to put all the doctors, nurses, pharma company workers, psychiatrists etc etc out of business. Millions will be out of work overnight. Do you ban this pill? Does it make a difference if the pill is made in China? Or in Mexico?

    The article makes the point that once you have this pill you not only have great health, all the money you would have spent on health you can now spend on other stuff. So America is much, much richer than before. And has great health. It seems a good deal to me.

    Of course Scott’s point that the rest of his policies will pass by unnoticed may be the real point of the post but I just wanted to make the point that free trade is worth fighting for and if Trump hangs on to that while playing some kind of three card trick that isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world. If he does it for real lots of people in America and rest of the world will get poor fast.

    Here is the article I mentioned. Its much more enjoyable and illuminating than my post.

    https://medium.com/@russroberts/the-human-side-of-trade-7b8e024e7536#.olc7745mp

    • Matt M says:

      ” Mexicans have equal value to Americans don’t they. ”

      Not according to U.S. voters they don’t.

      • Rusty says:

        That is a fair point. I guess who can and can’t vote is part of what makes a country a country. So my post was muddling things a bit because the rest of my post was trying to make the point that if you put Americans first it makes sense to let Ford make the cars in Mexico.

        • Matt M says:

          Yes, and from an economics standpoint you are 100% correct.

          But the average person doesn’t understand economics, or even if they do, doesn’t necessarily care to follow its logical conclusions.

          • gbdub says:

            Part of the issue is that, economically sound though it may be, individual cases of outsourcing tend to have distributed benefits and concentrated harms.

            Ford moving a plant to Mexico will make every Ford stockholder a little richer and/or every Ford car cost a little less. Which is nice but not life-altering. But for the people now suddenly unemployed, it’s extremely bad.

          • shmohawk1 says:

            The average person has different metrics for measuring the economy than economists do. An economist might say that outsourcing the plant will be better for the the GDP, maybe even so much so that they can put the laid-off workers on welfare for exactly the same amount they were making at the plant. In the abstract, that makes sense.

            And the blue-collar guy who lost his job will say “f* your abstract, f* your welfare, and f* you. I want a job.”

            The desire to be self-sufficient and to do meaningful labor are core values for most people. The economy was made for man, not man for the economy.

        • Antistotle says:

          because the rest of my post was trying to make the point that if you put Americans it makes sense to let Ford make the cars in Mexico.

          If all we’re talking about is *a* car plant, yes.

          But workers outside of farm labor and factory work, are not fungible, and there is a limited amount of work that *cannot* be exported overseas, those mostly being jobs that require a physical presence.

          There is a non-zero likelyhood that in March I will be firing 3 people whose jobs are going to go to India, because they can be done slightly worse over there, but at 1/4th the price. Which is, in the minds of the people running this project a win, because we can fix things another way.

          While it makes economic sense to out an American out of work and hire a Mexican to do the same job at 1/3rd or 1/2 because the *rest* of Americans can then buy the results cheaper, the extreme of that is that we move everything off shore that can be.

          I bet when we start outsourcing our Economics Analysis to economists at Chilean and Bolivian universities–who will do the work at 1/4th the cost–that Economists start to object 🙂

          • Bugmaster says:

            To be fair, at my company, we fired a couple of our American programmers and hired 4 Ukrainian ones (not all at once, though). They request about 1.5x less pay, but they are also about 4x as productive as the average American programmer. We would’ve hired them even if they were more expensive than Americans. YMMV, of course.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            That’s interesting. Why are they more productive? Better training? More work ethic?

          • Rusty says:

            I guess you move everything to where it can be done best. The Indians and Mexicans are happy and the Americans are getting their stuff cheaper so have money to spare to do more things they want to do. Maybe pay more on employing US health workers who are happy because they now have more/better paid jobs.

            Of course as you say in your last paragraph its easier to take a lofty view if it isn’t your industry being disrupted.

  26. Deiseach says:

    When US companies do something that sounds good in the next few years, whether it’s hiring new people, or deciding to stay in the United States, or reporting high profits, some of them are going to credit President Trump.

    But every politician does this. If Ford had done this a year ago, Obama would be using it in speeches as proof that the recovery was here to stay and his policies of good jobs for American workers were making this possible. If Hillary had won the election, her team would be using this as “confidence restored thanks to the safe pair of hands that are going to be in charge for the next four years”.

    Trump is just particularly obvious about banging on the drum of blaming businesses for overseas investment and outsourcing. My own country tailors corporation tax and other goodies to attract foreign direct investment (because we are so reliant on that as a source of employment) and, at least a couple of months ago, there was some concern that if Trump’s tax policies are put into practice, they genuinely will draw back American companies – not so much because of jobs, but that it would “make it less financially attractive for companies to hoard money offshore”:

    US multinationals have an estimated $2 trillion in cash held offshore, profits earned in markets outside the US which have not been returned to headquarters, as doing so would expose them to US corporation tax. Trump has proposed a special once-off tax rate of 10 per cent on such cash, to encourage companies to bring it home, and raise cash to fund his investment programme.

    As to defence contractors keeping an air conditioning factory open because they’re hoping for juicy government contracts, well, don’t they do that already? Isn’t that the whole point of lobbying? Anyway, it’s not United Technologies (owners of Carrier Air Conditioning) you need to worry about, it’s Lockheed Martin which gets 88% of its revenue from defence contracts and so is most vulnerable to the need to suck up to the president.

    Trump is a stone thrown into the pond. The splash and the ripples are still being felt and nobody knows what it is going to be like when it settles back down.

    • tscharf says:

      The media uses this technique constantly with their never ending anecdotes about the cultural narrative du jour. They use it because they find it an effective story telling technique to persuade their readers who typically nod off when presented with “boring” data.

      Example: It I didn’t know better I would have thought cops have been maliciously hunting people based on color for the last several years and the primary threat to young black men was cop killings. There were no calls for movements to make sure people knew the correct facts and for repetitive anecdotes to be banned from violent crime stories. Articles didn’t make it a point to remind the reader cops account for a very small percentage of all killings. The misleading PR here was for a “good cause” so the big picture didn’t matter.

      Trump didn’t invent this technique, but he’s pretty good at it, and the isolated demand for rigor here seems to be politically motivated.

  27. TenMinute says:

    “Here’s my concern” uh oh.
    “if it meant that the government chooses their fighter jets over the competing brand.” How much power does Trump have over this process? None.

    “Every one of these victories will actively make the world worse”.
    I’d put more credit in this prediction if you hadn’t already made it clear any victory for Trump counts as “making the world worse” to you.
    You went full partisan. Good look getting your credibility back.

    • Nicholas Carter says:

      Scott’s entire thing is that Trump is good at things he doesn’t care about, and bad at things he does care about. So logically, anywhere Trump can win Scott doesn’t think it matters, and anywhere it matters Scott thinks Trump can’t win. And he thinks disagreeing with the first clause of that last sentence is jut a distraction from the second part.

  28. moridinamael says:

    Scion (from Worm) is a much more obvious comparison than Batman. I will leave the implications of that comparison as an exercise.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      “Obvious”? Really?

      Batman is a tremendously famous character from the most popular of American popular culture, known the world over. My grandmother, who barely speaks English, knows who Batman is.

      Scion is… I have no idea who Scion is, and I’ve even read part of Worm. Most people haven’t even heard of the thing.

      Perhaps this sort of thing is one of those “bubble” things I hear people talking about? There’s “writing for your audience”, and there’s “writing for such a small subset of your audience that they can fit in your kitchen”.

  29. AnonEEmous says:

    Just to be clear, Ford also cited things like reduced corporate taxes, and better regulatory structure. How do you know that these type of policy moves won’t just…keep jobs here? Trump didn’t even offer Ford a specific deal at this point in time – just broadcast his economic policy moves. I see no reason why this shouldn’t continue.

    Edit: Reading through this comments section, everyone seems to be citing this as some type of “batman face punching”. No, Ford explained pretty clearly that Trump’s economic and regulatory policies are what changed their minds, and though they might be lying to cover up an already-made decision, they weren’t strong-armed or bribed into making that decision, and there’s every reason to think that other companies might make that decision in a genuine way. If those policies apply to everyone, then this is “batman improving the legal system”, not “batman face punching criminals”.

    • gbdub says:

      Yeah, Scott’s analysis rests on the idea that Ford 1) will expect a quid pro quo 2) will actually get a quid pro quo 3) the quid pro quo will be net bad for America compared to letting Ford move to Mexico.

      So obviously there’s a potential failure mode there – companies threaten to leave just to get a sweetheart deal, Trump allows himself to be taken advantage of this way in order to get a PR “victory”.

      But Trump seems to be offering both carrots and sticks (he can get good PR from delivering either) – how many face punches and special deals do you actually have to dole out before companies naturally start modifying their behavior to be in the potential carrot recipient bucket rather than the possible stick victim bucket?

      Ford seems to have taken this action without any particular promise from Trump, except the implied promise of reduced regulatory / tax burden. But as long as that reduced regulatory burden applies to everyone (not just Ford), isn’t that just making the US generally more attractive for manufacturing?

    • Two separate points on the threads about exporting or not exporting jobs:

      1. If Trump keeps companies in the U.S. by imposing high import taxes or similar restrictions, that makes the U.S. and the world poorer. If he does it by reducing corporate taxes to something more like the level of our competitors or eliminating regulations that increase the cost of doing business without producing corresponding benefits, that makes the U.S. and the world richer. It isn’t clear what mix of the two approaches we should expect.

      2. People talk as if we could export all jobs. But trade is trade–foreigners expect to get something back from the U.S. in exchange for the goods they send to the U.S. If, at current exchange rates, producing everything is cheaper abroad, the result will be a shift in exchange rates until that is no longer true.

      That’s elementary trade economics, the working out of the principle of comparative advantage in a world of floating exchange rates. In a world with a single commodity money–the gold standard in the 19th century–the same thing happens through the mechanism of changing prices.

      • Brad says:

        It isn’t clear what mix of the two approaches we should expect.

        Which way does it make you update when Trump tweets “Make in U.S.A. or pay big border tax!”

  30. vV_Vv says:

    When US companies do something that sounds good in the next few years, whether it’s hiring new people, or deciding to stay in the United States, or reporting high profits, some of them are going to credit President Trump.

    Companies like to be on the good side of powerful politicians. Nothing special about Trump here.

    This plan isn’t going to scale. Even Trump can only create so many media circuses. 999 companies will successfully move to Mexico in the amount of time it takes Trump to convince one company not to. But almost tautologically, the only ones we’ll ever hear about are the ones that become media circuses, and so it will look like Trump keeps winning.

    While Obama single-handedly reversed global warming with his deals with Solyndra and the like, didn’t he?

    Some amount of demagoguery and cronyism and borderline corruption are the unfortunate but likely unavoidable side effects of representative democracy.

    Or you could use your influence as a beloved celebrity to petition the government to pass laws which improve efficiency of the justice system.

    Or you could use your influence as a beloved celebrity to run for office on a platform of enforcing law and order and providing jobs to the unemployed. Wait a minute…

  31. NIP says:

    I see so much hand-wringing on this site from Scott and other progressive intellectuals over how Trump is going to be terrible for everyone, but especially for the white working class people who voted for him. What I never see is solutions to the problems of white working class people from these same intellectuals. They seem much more concerned over the welfare of third-worlders, minorities, and their own social class. So I have devised a test. If you pass, you can proudly say that if you personally were President, you could do a better job than Trump, *and* more importantly, that you could take WWC votes away from him in a general election. Here’s the test:

    I want you to pretend for the sake of this test that you are a presidential candidate. It doesn’t matter for which party. Your task is to explain to me, a white working class person, why your economic policies will help me, my family, and my local community. There are several rules you must abide by during this explanation:

    1. If you resort to charts, graphs, statistics, scientific reports or journals, expert authority, or use any economic jargon a person with a public high-school education can’t understand perfectly, you are automatically disqualified. Assume for the sake of this test that you’re on /r/explainlikeimfive, and that I don’t trust the media, academia, or basically anyone outside my social circle, including you. (Or just pretend that you’re C.S. Lewis. Remember, you’re not being penalized for length, just for density of intellectual jargon. If you absolutely cannot dispense with it, I’ll allow it if you can explain it to me very slowly and patiently, in small words and with analogies.)

    2. If you make any appeals to the welfare of anyone other than me, my family, and my local community, you are automatically disqualified. Assume for the sake of this test that I do not have your enlightened concern for third-worlders I’ve never met (or even for other parts of the country, for that matter!).

    3. Any explanation that involves me or my kids getting a job programming, or putting myself into debt to buy an education for a completely new career, automatically diqualifies you. Assume for the sake of this test that I am not only dumb, but poor and can’t afford college both in terms of time and money, as I live paycheck to paycheck. Exceptions will be made if you can somehow come up with a plan that involves free or subsidized education/job training, and make me believe it will actually result in a new job.

    4. Any explanation that involves me or my family going on welfare automatically diqualifies you. I am a prideful creature and derive self-worth and social status from my work. I simply won’t listen to anyone who says they can’t find anything for me to do.

    (EDIT: 5. You are allowed to lie, and your explanation doesn’t have to be objectively correct. This is a test of persuasion. You have to convince me that you are not only capable of solving my problems, but also that you are on my side. Arguably the latter is far more important.)

    If you can manage to convince me to vote for your hypothetical candidacy based on your explanation of your economic policy under these constraints, then congratulations, you might just have a shot at helping your faction regain control of the country in four to eight years.

    Try your best! And remember, Donald Trump managed to do this. You’re not dumber than dumb ol’ Mr. Trump, are you?

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Notably absent from your requirements: Telling the truth, or giving an explanation that’s correct. You say

      If you pass, you can proudly say that if you personally were President, you could do a better job than Trump, *and* more importantly, that you could take WWC votes away from him in a general election.

      but your test would seem to only test the latter.

      • NIP says:

        …I did say that the latter was more important, did I not? It doesn’t matter if your policies would work if you can’t implement them because you can’t convince anyone to vote for you, because they don’t trust you. So allow me to clarify: for the purposes of this test, I am explicitly saying that telling the truth or having an objectively correct explanation are not requirements, since for the purposes of the test, I am a person who cannot distinguish either.

        EDIT: I have updated my OP with this clarification.

    • TenMinute says:

      What I never see is solutions to the problems of white working class people from these same intellectuals.

      I don’t know, I have seen progressive intellectuals talk about taking our right to vote away “for our own good”, which is a kind of solution.

      • q-tip says:

        I have seen progressive blog commenters muse about a turnabout-is-fair-play scenario of disenfranchising white males for a time – as a mental exercise/reductio.

        Which intellectuals were you talking about?

    • Buckyballas says:

      Err.. mandate enslavement of all non-white Americans and redistribute non-white wealth via giant tax cuts? Invade Mexico and enslave Mexicans? Does that count? There’ll be a lot more jobs (especially military jobs) and a lot more money to go around.

      • NIP says:

        Good start, given the rules, however you’ll need to go in far more depth. Also, remember that while I am entirely self-interested in this scenario, I’m not some sort of mustachio-twirling racist strawman. You have to convince me that this plan will work, that it’s the best plan, that it’s the only worthwhile plan. Actual white supremacists haven’t managed to do this. You can’t do it by assuming I’m a white supremacist.

        Also, while this is SSC and therefore it’s impossible to tell for sure, I get the impression that you’re being facetious. I assure you that I’m putting this test forth completely seriously, and expect at least one serious answer.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        Presumably you were being facetious, but I find it amusing/annoying when people make facetious suggestions like this (with the implication of “this is clearly what you must want, you evil person”), because even the obvious ethical issues aside, they wouldn’t actually work!

        Enslavement of all non-white Americans? Even assuming some sort of really extreme racism (not to mention an ironclad way of drawing the boundary around “white” that doesn’t —good luck with that one), how the hell would you even do this without plunging the country into utter chaos?

        Redistribute non-white wealth via giant tax cuts? One-time redistribution doesn’t work (cf. the Soviet Union, etc.), and then further wealth doesn’t get created.

        Invade Mexico, enslave Mexcians? Sounds extremely expensive, not to mention the massive piles of casualties on the American side.

        And so forth.

        Or is it simply your opinion that the hypothetical white working person does want all of these things and is too stupid to realize that they won’t work?

        • Buckyballas says:

          My opinion was that some solutions that are ostensibly good for the white working class (and pass NIP’s rubric) would actually have terrible consequences for the white working class, as you point out. I just proposed some extreme ones to illustrate the point. Trade protectionism is a more typical one that has been discussed a lot on these boards. I guess I just oppose the idea of the question. Sometimes you need some further examination (including charts and academic papers) to gauge what works and what doesn’t work. Sorry, I should have said this in the original post.

          • NIP says:

            >I guess I just oppose the idea of the question. Sometimes you need some further examination (including charts and academic papers) to gauge what works and what doesn’t work

            If you read what I wrote carefully, you’ll see that nowhere did I say that you shouldn’t have a cogent argument based on the facts that you know. I merely said that for the purposes of what is effectively a Trumpian Turing Test, you can’t *explicitly reference* academic material.

    • Anaxagoras says:

      My honest opinion is that rural poverty is an incredibly hard problem, and quite possibly unsolvable.

      Things that could address it:
      1. Catastrophe or eucatastrophe — In case of nuclear war, rural poverty is no longer a problem! Conversely, the singularity would likely also resolve it.
      2. Obviously evil things — The hypothetical WWC fellow may not share my enlightened concern for third-worlders, but they would not be comfortable with things like Buckyballas’s suggestion of mass enslavement or wars or conquest against random other countries. Even expelling city-dwellers en masse and forcing them to live in the country would probably be too gratuitously cruel.
      3. Plans that don’t match the requirements — UBI might help, but that’s welfare. Free relocation to cities and initial housing support once there doesn’t feel too welfare-y, but seems a lot like the retraining; even if it were propped up financially, it’s still gambling one’s roots.
      4. Bullshit — I might be able to come up with something intuitively appealing that matches the requirements and is complete nonsense politically and economically. I’m not interested in doing that right now.

      On the other hand, although this is something I have thought about, I’m far from an expert on this. The problem looks intractable to me, setting aside your requirements but adding the one being even vaguely political viable, but perhaps some researcher has a solution. I do understand this doesn’t really present an answer to your question, but this is just my thoughts on it.

      • NIP says:

        Thank you very much for your honest reply. The purpose of my test, among other reasons, is to provoke soul-searching of this kind. It very well may be an unsolvable problem given the constraints I’ve put down (which are intended to reflect the current political climate which won Trump the presidency); but that is no reason to simply give up, I’m sure we can both agree.

        I have to point out that poverty among the working class (and not just the white working class) is not merely a rural problem; there are plenty of suburban and city-dwelling folks of my social class, including myself, who are having extreme difficulty holding on to work, and the prognosis for the future looks grim.

        >2.

        I agree completely with you that the WWC is not a demographic inclined to cruelty or bigotry, and you’d have a very long row to hoe if your intent was to convince them of solutions that counteract the current narrative of the U.S. as a benevolent and tolerant place that (at least tries to) allow a fair playing field for everyone. It’s not impossible, but you’d need Hitler levels of charisma and an even worse economic situation than we’re already in.

        >4.

        I can understand not being interested in using dishonesty, but as the test is calibrated to determine who can defeat a Trump-esque candidate at persuasion (since no policy would succeed which can’t get any votes), I had to allow it in the rules.

        • Anaxagoras says:

          Regarding 4, “I’m not interested in doing that right now” literally means right now. I felt that bullet point, as something allowed by your rules was too important to ignore, but I didn’t feel like taking the time to come up with something that would fit it, since it seemed so expansive that almost anything could fit. I guess I’ve spent more time defending that decision than coming up with something for that would be, but I guess use my charisma to claim that I’m in contact with aliens (Space aliens! Not the other kind!) who can bring about something under 1.

          I definitely agree that poverty among the working class is not merely a rural problem. Nonetheless, I think that rural poverty is a significantly different problem from urban poverty, and requires different remedy. Take my following claims with a grain of salt, as I am not an expert and am not very confident in them:

          1. There’s a lot of money in cities; it’s just not especially evenly distributed. Conversely, in rural areas and small towns, there may be very little money after the main employer up and left.
          2. Cities are geographically very small. This means that it’s easier to get between locations and less necessary to own a car, but also much more expensive to live in or near, which may result in a longer commute.
          3. Generally, there is much greater selection of goods in a city, but prices are also higher.
          4. Urban communities are more heterogenous, culturally and ethnically.
          5. It’s easier to work more independently in rural environments.

          I think at least some of the differences between urban and rural areas are relevant to addressing poverty. To use a mildly contrived example, a resume-assistance program might well help the urban poor be more competitive for jobs, but would do nothing for someone in Log Mills, MI, where the lumber company which was the source of all economic activity closed up shop a decade ago.

          • NIP says:

            >I didn’t feel like taking the time to come up with something that would fit it, since it seemed so expansive that almost anything could fit

            It’s cool mang, don’t sweat it. That rule is just there for realism’s sake, and because I thought it would be interesting to see if anyone would actually try to bullshit their way throught the test (which could totally work; I’m actually working class and not terribly well-educated).

            I agree with your points about urban vs. rural areas, though I’m not an expert either. I see now that solutions to poverty among the working class may differ depending on where they live, and it’s something that would have to be addressed in any proposed economic relief plan.

    • BBA says:

      Let me step back from your exercise for a moment. What is the “white working class”? Is it defined by income or by education? If the latter, Republicans dominated the WWC back in 2012, with that firebrand populist Mitt Romney, and still lost.

      From the same author a few months later: considering “southern white” as an identity-politics voting bloc. In this mindset it’s as futile for the Democrats to try to win back the (largely southern) WWC as it is for Republicans to try to win the black vote.

      This is all a cycle old, but Tuesday shouldn’t change the narrative.

      • NIP says:

        >Let me step back from your exercise for a moment

        Well okay, but you haven’t even stepped up to it, yet 😉

        >Is it defined by income or by education?

        A good question, as there are naturally plenty of whites who are employed but who aren’t of the same social class as what I’d call “white working class”, and who don’t vote the same. If there was any tolerance for Nuevo-Knee Actionary terminology around here I’d just call the WWC “Vaisyas”; but in the absence of such a common lexicon, I’d say that the main distinguishing feature is education rather than income. They are people who on average have a high school education, on the low-end are dropouts or have GEDs, and on the high end have trade certifications or vocational training that took at most two years to complete. Business school graduates are at the very tippy-top.

        Of course, if we’re only deciding who belongs to this class based on one factor, we’re going to miss a ton of people. In truth, “white working class” is more of an anthropological than an economic category, which is why I like the term “Vaisya”. They attain social status through sacrifice: working long hours, making lots of money, and using that money to support a nuclear family, and help out their extended family. Conspicuous consumption is also a marker of status, but doing so at the expense of family is considered trashy. If they’re lucky, their children will be smart and upwardly mobile and get a fancy college degree, which they’re convinced will be used to help out the family with even more money and perpetuate the cycle of prosperous nuclear families, but rarely works out that way in practice, as the smarter and more upwardly mobile a demographic is, the less they care about family. They generally work with their hands, even if they’re the owner of their own business, and if they do intellectual work it’s in the realm of facts and figures rather than ideas.

        It’s a rough sketch, but that’s generally who I mean when I say “white working class.”

        As to your other points, you seem to be saying that depending on how you define the white working class, this exercise in trying to win their votes may be pointless. Am I correct? If so, I don’t see how that is; no matter how you slice it, they’re citizens with legitimate concerns, and if someone can legitimately answer them in a way they can understand and sympathize with, they’ll vote for that person whether they have an R or a D next to their name.

        • Deiseach says:

          on the high end have trade certifications or vocational training that took at most two years to complete

          Hey! It takes four years to complete an apprenticeship as an electrician and become a journeyman! 🙂

          Depending on the trade and how far you want to go re: qualifications level, an apprenticeship can take between one to five years.

          • Adam says:

            Yep. My uncle, cousins, and brother-in-law are all glaziers and that’s a four-year apprenticeship.

            This discussion is kind of muddied, though. Skilled trades were hurt in the immediate after-effects of the housing crash because construction tanked for a few years, but they’re doing pretty well now. They’re not the same as single-industry towns and factory work. You can’t offshore construction, but it mostly happens in cities that are already doing well. Nobody is building 80-story high rises or putting in new suburban subdivisions every six months in the rust belt or coal country and they’re not going to.

            In general, I think skilled trades are still a great bet, but you have to move to where the work is if you don’t already live there. My dad has been a plumber since he was 19 and has never been out of work a day in his life.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You can’t offshore construction

            My uncle is a construction union rep in Illinois. I once said that to him and he responded that more and more construction is happening with pre-cast concrete sections, said work, in fact, being done offshore.

            I’m not sure how much of an issue this, but apparently it is a concern for those in the trades.

          • Adam says:

            Well yeah, huge caveat that unskilled labor is still subject to offshoring, automation, immigrants doing the work cheaper. It’s the plumbers, electricians, glaziers, etc that are going to be fine for a while. If all you’re doing is carrying wood and swinging hammers, probably not.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            There’s a good possibility that even skilled construction can be done away with in the future. Some kind of pre-built modular housing type thing with the modules built in Mexico or China and shipped over could potentially take off. Probably at least a few decades away though.

          • Adam says:

            Not all skilled trades are reliant on construction. The glaziers kind of are. Plumbers and electricians, not really. Modular houses still require maintenance and modification. Glaziers being dependent largely on office buildings as well, nobody has yet built a modular office building.

            But sure, in a far enough future, all human manual labor is quite possibly gone.

          • On trades and rural employment …

            One possibility is that the growth of telecommuting, VR, and similar developments might substantially reduce the advantages of urban living, causing a population shift out to areas with much less expensive housing. In which case the lawyers and professors and financial types now living a hundred miles from the big city instead of ten miles will want to hire people to babysit their kids, and build their new houses, and … .

          • Adam says:

            Yeah, good point and I definitely hope that happens soon. Geographic concentration has a lot of benefits, but it’d be a better world for everyone if it wasn’t a prerequisite to gainful employment with a decent long-term prospect.

    • mitigatedchaos says:

      Lower the minimum wage to a dollar, make up the difference with per-hour wage income subsidies. It’s real American work, by real American companies, not just government make-work digging in a ditch somewhere and filling it back in. We will get the money by digging into welfare programs – everyone that isn’t like Aunt Jemma in her wheelchair is going to show up to work each day and contribute to making America great again. Businesses will love it. Workers will love it. Communists will scream and cry as it forestalls the “revolution” they so desperately long for and SJWs will hate it since they’ll actually have to do a job.

      It isn’t a handout. It’s a promise to keep the American dream alive and accessible to everyone in America – that if you work hard and believe, you, too, will have a seat at the table.

      Simultaneously, penalize the unfair trade practices of nations such as China and Indonesia, where big government Communists cheat by subsidizing their industries, stealing American ideas and making knock-offs of them, forcing their workers to live in dorms while they dump toxic waste into the rivers. It isn’t fair that anyone should have to compete like that. We will apply tariffs on all goods coming from these cheating foreign industries so that you get to compete on fair terms.

      • NIP says:

        5/10, good first try. Gold star for the jingoism, but you can’t rely on that alone. It’s a tad sparse and needs some more explanation.

        Some questions which might raise your score if you can answer them:

        1. What is a wage income subsidy?
        2. Why are you lowering the minimum wage?
        3. How do those two things work together, explicitly, to give me and my friends and family jobs?
        4. Which welfare programs will you be cutting into to pay for these subsidies?

        Note that real-life me may perfectly understand what you just said, but test-version me may not.

        • mitigatedchaos says:

          That’s the true difficulty.

          Hourly wage subsidies with a relatively low minimum wage are really one of the only few effective methods to (potentially) greatly increase employment in an era of both outsourcing and automation. (We’re already subsidizing companies such as Walmart by issuing state-funded healthcare to their employees.)

          The question is how to sell it to them. I think it could be the “conservative” answer to forestall Basic Income when trucking employment hits the wall in the next decade or so, but a shift is needed so that they either won’t realize it’s a “government handout”, or will no longer care.

          Probably focusing on how it will get rid of “welfare queens” (regardless of how much those even exist) and other supposed ‘leeches’ (not that they use that term) by forcing them to work and normalizing an attitude of work (which actually could help the inner cities) may help. But I’m not a PR guy or advertiser.

          The thing is, the Democrats should have realized all this, but I think they just plain don’t like the WWC anymore, so a plan like this, or any plan to buy off the WWC to prevent Trump, was never formulated.

          • NIP says:

            I tentatively agree with everything you just wrote.

            The real problem is, stated crudely, “What the hell are we going to do with all these people?” In an age of automation and outsourcing, and in a country with a democratic tradition where even economically irrelevant people get a say in government (no matter how symbolic and innefectual in practice), what in the world are you going to do when they start demanding things that you can’t realistically give back to them? Especially when they have a recent memory, at least cultural if not personal, of a much more prosperous time for those of their social class? You can’t do *nothing*; besides being morally objectionable, you’re asking for major unrest if you ignore their concerns.

            …which is why I framed this test the way I did. There may not be a solution they want. But you’re going to have to frame your solution as one that they’ll want, unless you’re willing to dispense with democracy.

          • Randy M says:

            The real problem is, stated crudely, “What the hell are we going to do with all these people?”

            I haven’t read it in a long time, but this reminds me of the background demographic situation in Nancy Kress’ Beggars in Spain series.
            I’m not sure she had an answer, I think it was more dystopian.

            I’m pretty Red Tribe background (not uneducated, though), but the idea of automation’s increasing capabilities making employing people economically inefficient despite the willingness to do so, and a skill set that matched a fairly recent cultural/evolutionary environment definitely opens me up to the morality of providing UBI.

            But, I don’t think people (all or maybe just mine) are well-suited for abundance. Even if it could be assured to continue and a diminishing of human capabilities didn’t matter, I think a great many would fall into depression and indolence rather than a creative and joyful fellowship. And then there’s the resentment of a structural inequality; I don’t think it is as much of a problem now as there is still some perception of equality of opportunity, but when everyone can take the attitude of either “I’ll never have what you have” or “You’ll never have to do what I have to do” seems apt to be quite unstable.
            tl/dr: I expect it is a hard problem likely to get worse.

          • gbdub says:

            Are we subsidizing WalMart… or is WalMart subsidizing us? On the one hand, WalMart doesn’t have to pay the full cost of their employees healthcare. On the other hand, if WalMart vanished (or replaced their existing workforce with fewer but higher paid employees), we’d be stuck with a bunch of unemployed people (and the full cost of their welfare and health care, without their meager but existent WalMart wages).

            “We are subsidizing WalMart!” relies on the belief that WalMart can just pay everyone twice as much with no negative consequence other than a slightly shallower cash swimming pool for the Waltons to swan dive into. But that seems like magical thinking, with the actual relationship much more complex.

      • hlynkacg says:

        A note to others, and hat-tip to mitigatedchaos, this is how you sell the “red tribe” on welfare.

      • Deiseach says:

        It’s a promise to keep the American dream alive and accessible to everyone in America – that if you work hard and believe, you, too, will have a seat at the table.

        That’s the problem, though: the minimum-wage/no longer a minimum wage jobs were always seen as stepping stones – start off in one of these, work really hard, and either work your way up to be foreman/supervisor or even one of the bosses, or move on to a better job with good pay and conditions.

        In the future that is not going to be the case. There will still be the need for the (non-automated) low-skill labour jobs which are the minimum wage and below, but there is no longer the “work your way up to something better” (not unless you have a particular skill or talent). Joe at the plant could put in his years and get promoted via seniority, but we don’t do that anymore. If we’re moving to a “knowledge economy”, are you smart enough to get one of the jobs that do take skills and technical knowledge? If not, then you’re stuck in the ‘under minimum wage + income supplement’ trap.

        The old way of work has changed and we’re still struggling with what will replace it.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      Seems like the Japanese model might qualify, relatively high price floors on rural products combined with rigorous quality control (so buyers get something for their high prices paid and producers can take pride in their high quality to justify their expensive prices) and state level zoning to reduce the prices of real estate in and around cities (making the rural urban switch not a one time decision where not leaving leaves one relatively far behind peers who came earlier).

      • NIP says:

        Could you elaborate? I’m not really familiar with the history of the Japanese economy. Was this combination of high price floors + quality control and use of zoning to lower urban real estate prices the way that the Japanese handled their transition to an urban-focused high tech economy? Did it succeed? How would it work in the U.S.?

        • massivefocusedinaction says:

          Well for example melons are like $50 in Japan. Apples are several dollars, etc. Wood is also quite expensive.

          There you’ll find £12 apples; wooden boxes of 12 strawberries, each lovingly encased in a satin padding, for nearly £40; and sumptuous-looking gift medleys priced at £97, each item meticulously protected with tissue paper and foam padding. Then there’s the ‘king of fruit’, the musk melon, wrapped in a ribbon and set on a special stand with soft lighting, for more than £100 apiece – here a mere pittance compared to the most expensive on record, sold at a whopping £14,000 for a pair.

          http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/why-is-fruit-so-expensive-in-japan-9605105.html

          Many of the examples in the article are relatively extreme, but all produce is much, much more expensive in Japan, which means their rural urban income divide is smaller than in the US. This cites lower inequality than Germany, but only 1.7% of the population is on public assistance.

          On Housing policy Tokyo had more houses constructed in 2014 than the entire state of California, or the Nation of England. Which kept rents flat there even as they rose rapidly in housing constrained cities.

          One of the issues, that I suspect is happening in the US is that too much investment in relatively low productivity housing is constraining investment in dynamic small businesses that would otherwise be creating jobs that are destroyed in other segments of the economy.

          • Jiro says:

            Melons are not $50 in Japan. The $50 melons and £12 apples are special gifts whose value comes from being a gift; those are not the normal prices of apples and melons. It’s like looking at the price of a greeting card and saying “pieces of paper are $5 in America”.

            It isn’t hard to look up prices of food in Japan. Compare the apple prices on that list to the special gift box apples you quote. It turns out that melons are indeed expensive, but still a fraction of $50.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Even if it worked, the suggestion is relatively socialist. You’d need pretty good PR to sell it. You’d also have to deal with trade restrictions otherwise people could just buy imported produce.

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      I campaigned for Bernie Sanders in multiple states and for reasons that would take a while to explain we talked to tons of Republicans and Independents as well as Democrats. I feel like it would be easier to argue for why someone should vote for Sanders than for me personally, mainly due to me not having a long voting record and decades of consistent opinions as well as a working class background. However, I’ll give it a shot since I’ll have the benefit of improving some of the Sanders arguments I thought were weak and also being able to add in some new stuff. Plus you said I didn’t have to be strictly honest and I’d never disrespect Bernie by trying to lie about his beliefs for votes. I’m a bit burned out from work but ah well. Here we go:

      The most important group of people in the world are Americans. I think this because I’m an American. If I had to choose between helping a fellow citizen and anyone else I’d pick my fellow citizen. Assuming I wasn’t doing anything morally wrong I’d pick a fellow citizen over multiple foreigners. I’m campaigning to be the president of the United States. I don’t have enough power over other countries to even be confident that my taxpayer funded intervention wouldn’t be undone as soon as my back was turned anyways. Look at all the money wasted in the Middle East just to bog us down in a war with Isis. America first.

      As someone who is going to put all my focus on the people of my own country, a strategy which may have lessened the instability of the central American countries whose citizens are all illegally crossing our border, I feel like it would be perfectly reasonable to create a moratorium on illegal immigration and to increase deportation. If the people are telling me that they feel that immigration is harming their communities and job options I owe it to them to make a sincere test of their belief. Furthermore if in fact the liberals are right and immigrants are necessary to fill a certain class of jobs because they are the only ones desperate enough to do them, I want to know that that is the case and then figure out why my country allows a job market like that to exist. Liberals always talk about accepting the lived experiences of others and I’m going to take them at their word and accept the lived experience of people who feel threatened by illegal immigration.

      Most experts agree that NAFTA has not been the economic boost that was promised. Its either been a negative or a negligible positive and furthermore that is only when you look at pure GDP. In the instances when global trade works, it requires fair play. China doesn’t play fair. They cheat. The reason America has so much trouble being competitive is that we attempt to make businesses pay a fair wage. Countries like China and Mexico have much lower living costs as well as fewer worker protections. If China can exploit their hundreds of millions of poor citizens to do a job for almost nothing, American productivity per worker means nothing.

      Since many average citizens are unable to get good jobs, due to outsourcing, they can’t even benefit from the cheaper goods from other countries. When you live paycheck to paycheck because Apple outsourced your factory job, having 100$ shaved off the price of an iPhone is worthless. Of course the liberal, coastal, city oriented “middle class”, cause lets be real they don’t consider you to be middle class, has jobs that aren’t easily outsourced and so they get all the benefits but none of the costs. During Brexit London had a massive majority to Remain while nearly all the rural parts of the country voted to Leave. I wonder why that is.

      When someone arguing for free trade and immigration calls you a dumb racist for your opinion do they ever offer to give away half of THEIR paycheck to a company they have no stake in in order to help people in the third world get out of poverty by working 12 hours for a dollar a day? No? Well, dressing up in a 1000$ evening gown and going to a 5000$ a plate dinner with George Clooney and writing a check for 5% of their income, MAX, is almost as good right? Sure they had a choice and can brag with all their friends about how generous they are but, you can sorta maybe feel good about all those poor people you helped when you can’t take your kid to the doctor, right? Gotta be positive.

      Oh also, all that coal we stopped burning to save the environment? China produces and consumes as much coal as the rest of the world combined. Boy maybe that helps how competitive their manufacturing is.

      Luckily when we aren’t wasting our money on wars halfway across the globe we can improve our own lives. We can create a program where we pay people to do actual work. We can fix our bridges, our roads, our dams, and our public transit infrastructure. We can even fix our plumbing. Contrary to popular belief, Flint isn’t the only city that has water quality issues.

      Liberals love to talk about the education assistance programs in Germany. College for everyone! What they never tell you, except for maybe some of the far left groups, is that part of that is Germany paying for people to learn trades. Carpentry, plumbing, construction, electrical work, etc. The reason the lefties say it and liberals don’t is because liberals look down on the trades. Except every 4 years when they tour union halls trawling for votes.

      Germany has even tighter industry restrictions than we do but somehow their manufacturing sector and construction sector are thriving. Paul Ryan says we can compete with Mexico by lowering the minimum wage and taking shortcuts with our safety. Over 20% of Germans work in manufacturing jobs. Less than 10% of Americans do. But their workers have more rights and better wages.

      Why do we pay tons of money in taxes in order to subsidize liberal arts degrees? Why don’t we focus funds on trade schools and other programs that result in productive jobs? Germany does this and their results are amazing. Are Germans just better than us? I think we decided that about 70 years ago. Why aren’t we doing this? Because it doesn’t produce citizens who support liberal policies and thus Democrats don’t like it. The part of the middle class that values liberal arts degrees over a steady, good paying job are reliable Democratic voters.

      Meanwhile, Republicans don’t support it because a government policy that actually worked well would contradict their entire belief system. Republican politicians and mega donors LIKE the Democratic focus on useless four year degrees. Both parties have been focusing voter attention on non-economic issues because it creates a system where their party can’t ever die out. Solved problems mean you have to find something else to use in your negative ads about the opposing party.

      Another similar tug of war issue both parties love are guns. A prosperous society has less violence, gun based or otherwise. Democrats love gun control and Republicans love crime. Democrats say guns cause violence and Republicans say guns protect you from dangerous minorities. Either way lower crime rates would hollow out their arguments.

      What America needs is a candidate focused on sincerely solving problems for all citizens without insulting the intelligence of their opponents. We need actual jobs making real, concrete goods that pay enough for everyone to buy those goods. We need to help our own poor instead of putting on galas whose main purpose is to attract TV cameras into which we brag about our generosity towards the rest of the world to impress our friends. Anyone who WANTS to work should be able to find a job worth doing.

      • NIP says:

        Dude, real talk: if I had heard what you just put down from the Sanders campaign during election season, I’d have voted for him instead of Trump. Let’s take some notes here for others and explain why what you wrote kinda gave me a hard-on:

        >The most important group of people in the world are Americans. I think this because I’m an American. If I had to choose between helping a fellow citizen and anyone else I’d pick my fellow citizen.

        Good, good start. I mean, you’re preaching to the choir in this scenario, but it’s important in a climate where nobody trusts anything out of a politician’s mouth to unmistakably come out in favor of your constituency at the very start so that there’s absolutely no doubt.

        >I don’t have enough power over other countries to even be confident that my taxpayer funded intervention wouldn’t be undone as soon as my back was turned anyways. Look at all the money wasted in the Middle East just to bog us down in a war with Isis. America first.

        Amen. If there’s anything a working class person hates, it’s wasting their own money on people who aren’t part of their ingroup, especially if they’re seen as ungrateful or a lost cause. Charity they’ll support, if it’s voluntary and they can afford it; the hope that “maybe, someday, a foreign government might treat its citizens less crappily if we pay to bomb some tinpot dictator and arm a bunch of insurgents who probably hate our guts anyway” is somewhere around 999 on the list of things they care about, between intrigue in the British royal family and the latest sanctions passed by the U.N. This is why Trump’s comments on Iraq and Afghanistan may have confused a lot of liberals but resonated with working class people; they’ll only support a war with a clear, obtainable goal that benefits either them or their sense of charity. And then, only if they feel everything is fine at home. Pretty much any Middle Eastern conflict at the moment doesn’t fulfill those criteria, except maybe “bombing the shit out of ISIS”, and then only because ISIS is so cartoonishly evil that paying a few extra in taxes to send some planes after them sounds like the least a self-described superpower can do.

        >If the people are telling me that they feel that immigration is harming their communities and job options I owe it to them to make a sincere test of their belief

        Take note here, as this is very important. Being willing to support a policy that your constituency supports even if you personally don’t is key in building trust. They understand that not everyone agrees all the time, but they still expect their elected officials to respect their wishes, because that’s why they voted for them. If a policy they supported turns out to hurt them, they’ll be the first to let their officials know and support its change.

        >Furthermore if in fact the liberals are right and immigrants are necessary to fill a certain class of jobs because they are the only ones desperate enough to do them, I want to know that that is the case and then figure out why my country allows a job market like that to exist

        Something I never hear said. Fuckin’ A. You think working class folks don’t sympathize *at all* with immigrants? Of course they do – but if their interests are opposed, they’re not going to side with foreigners, that’s nuts. I’ll tell you, if I was ever offered a job picking fruit for some farmer, I’d take it in a heartbeat, no matter how hard the work or how low the pay, because some work is better than none. I know there’s probably hundreds of thousands of American teenagers, among others, who’d take that offer over competing with retirees to be somebody’s bitch all day at McDonald’s or Walmart. That being said, of course nobody *wants* to do a crappy job, and if picking fruit is shittier than it has to be because of the dishonest labor practices of businesses who hire illegals, then there’s a simple solution: stop those dishonest practices and let legal citizens do the job under honest conditions.

        >Since many average citizens are unable to get good jobs, due to outsourcing, they can’t even benefit from the cheaper goods from other countries. When you live paycheck to paycheck because Apple outsourced your factory job, having 100$ shaved off the price of an iPhone is worthless.

        Something economists don’t seem to understand very well.

        >Of course the liberal, coastal, city oriented “middle class”, cause lets be real they don’t consider you to be middle class, has jobs that aren’t easily outsourced and so they get all the benefits but none of the costs. During Brexit London had a massive majority to Remain while nearly all the rural parts of the country voted to Leave. I wonder why that is.

        Another thing that nobody talks about. GDP may be going up, but a rising tide does not lift all boats in a real economy, and there’s a real sense of class divide starting to grow in the U.S. Trust me, the working class doesn’t enjoy having this new feeling, as it contrasts with everything they’ve ever learned about how America is supposed to work, but it’s there.

        >Oh also, all that coal we stopped burning to save the environment? China produces and consumes as much coal as the rest of the world combined. Boy maybe that helps how competitive their manufacturing is.

        A small part of why the average working class American doesn’t give a shit about global warming even if they accept it’s happening. Who cares if Bangladesh or some shitty islands halfway around the world get flooded, or a coral reef dies – I need a good job. I can’t pay my rent. My kids can’t go to the fucking doctor.

        >All that stuff about Germany and free trades education

        Honestly, why *can’t* we do that? I’ve never heard someone relatably articulate an argument for why America should be more like a European country before, and I’m getting a funny feeling in my pants because of it. If that’s socialism, then slap my ass and call me Ivan Pinkovich, because I like it.

        >A prosperous society has less violence, gun based or otherwise. Democrats love gun control and Republicans love crime. Democrats say guns cause violence and Republicans say guns protect you from dangerous minorities. Either way lower crime rates would hollow out their arguments.

        I agree completely that fixing poverty and unemployment in the inner cities would basically make the whole culture war brouhaha over gun violence completely moot.

        >That last paragraph

        10/10, crying manly tears of freedom, you pass the test. Anyone else giving it a shot, take notes. There’s honestly a lot more I could comment on about what you wrote, but overall my main reason for passing you with flying colors? Simple empathy. You followed all the rules, don’t talk in abstracts, paint a picture of working class life that’s authentic of their “lived experience”, as they say, and offered at least one concrete solution (which turned out to be “let’s be more like Germany”, that surprised the hell out of me) delivered in a non-condescending way that highlighted how things could be better for us. If you want to help the next Bernie Sanders win, it’s easy if you try.

        • the anonymouse says:

          If that’s socialism, then slap my ass and call me Ivan Pinkovich, because I like it.

          This sentence makes me unreasonably happy.

        • dndnrsn says:

          @NIP

          Honestly, why *can’t* we do that? I’ve never heard someone relatably articulate an argument for why America should be more like a European country before, and I’m getting a funny feeling in my pants because of it. If that’s socialism, then slap my ass and call me Ivan Pinkovich, because I like it.

          Education in Germany is basically about streaming heavily and early, putting a stronger emphasis than a lot of other countries do on getting people ready for blue-collar jobs, and making education affordable or free. It’s a lot more complicated than the North American model, and there’s more consequences based on how kids are doing early on.

          The streaming probably puts a lot of people off. It means that far fewer people get into university. Where three- or four-year degrees are a status symbol, this would be a hard sell. Back when I was a student I remember the student union types agitating for tuition cuts talking about “free German university” but somehow none of them ever mentioned that far fewer people go to university in Germany. It’s kind of crappy for late bloomers.

          It is also relevant that blue-collar workers in Germany have a lot more say in things like company management, etc.

          • psmith says:

            streaming heavily and early

            Yep. Disparate impact.

          • tscharf says:

            College being a requirement / status symbol is what needs to disappear. How many people work in jobs that utilize a large degree of what they absorbed in college? Most of what I absorbed in college was THC.

            A college degree seems to be used in place of an IQ test. Why sit in a boring lecture for 4 years when you can get IQ / physical skills tested and learn on the job like people do anyway?

          • Randy M says:

            A college degree seems to be used in place of an IQ test. Why sit in a boring lecture for 4 years when you can get IQ / physical skills tested and learn on the job like people do anyway?

            You are going to be in the minority if you frame it this way. I don’t think I knew anyone in college who didn’t enjoy themselves. I also don’t think I knew anyone doing a careful cost-benefit analysis of their time there, especially not versus a contrafactual world in which the degree held no signaling power.

            But, of course, that is sampling from the group of people who went to college. Still, I don’t think it is generally looked at as four years of boredom by and large, nor would that be accurate. Especially once it is mandatory and free!

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think people talk down university educations too much here. There are general skills that one learns in university that aren’t necessarily connected to what is actually studied. Additionally, the social side of things is really, really important. As tscharf notes, most of what he absorbed was THC – but the person who meets friends, romantic partners, people who can get them jobs, etc while absorbing THC, ethanol, whatever, is getting something of the experience. At least, this is how I rationalize my time in university to myself.

            The people who get a bad deal out of university are the people who can’t afford it and who would be better off going into a trade or something but have been conned into thinking that a degree in whatever is the is the road to upward social mobility. I know plenty of people from affluent families with degrees from a good school who are currently working crappy jobs they are way overqualified for. Is someone from a lower-middle-class or lower-class family who had to take on loans (or, heavier loans) and maybe didn’t go to as good a school going to be in a better position? Probably not.

        • multiheaded says:

          Man, actually, you know what? Fuck the white working class. It stole the land fair and square, time for people with more pressing need to steal some for themselves.

          /not endorsed but seriously fuck that. saying this as an immigrant myself, you understand. (and probably taking up a Jerb, although working remotely from a different country)

          • Jiro says:

            I am not particularly inclined to want immigrants coming in to steal from me, on the grounds that the stealing is morally justified.

          • John Schilling says:

            One could make a coherent case in many ethical systems for the thesis that immigrants are entitled to whatever land they can steal and hold. In the contemporary United States of America, that case will run up against the hard reality that immigrants can’t actually steal and hold much of our land, certainly not the good parts, without triggering overwhelming retaliation.

            And, given the balance of power, any plan for stealing what bits of land might be reasonably up for stealing, is almost certainly going to involve step 1: come up with an excuse less likely to alienate allies and infuriate bystanders than. “it’s time for us to steal some land”. If it’s time for you to steal some land, then it’s time for you to come up with a plausible justification for why you don’t need to steal it.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Literally no country on Earth is inhabited by its original people. Why are Americans special just because they were the last ones to do it? In fact they weren’t. The majority of immigrants coming to America are also descendants of a people who stole their land. The Aztecs don’t rule Mexico do they? No, its the descendants of the Spanish.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Most economic migrants from Mexico are mostly of Native American ancestry.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Bad news about those Native Americans… there were several waves of immigration from Asia to the Americas in pre-Colombian times. The groups that were here when Columbus got here weren’t the first.

          • Jiro says:

            Why are Americans special just because they were the last ones to do it?

            That is an argument that the stealing by immigrants is morally justified (because it is no worse than stealing by Americans).

            I am still not particularly inclined to want immigrants coming in to steal from me, on the grounds that the stealing is morally justified.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Very good. That sort of rhetoric would make me actually consider voting for a Democrat if it were backed by substantive policy stances. Biggest problem I saw were some language/phrasing stuff which can be workshopped (e.g. the ‘protect from scary minorities’ bit. If you want to take a shot at establishment republicans with this audience on the subject of gun control/crime, my suggestion would be pointing out Republican “Tough On Crime”/”Zero Tolerance” approaches just make life shitty for everyone without actually making anyone –safer-. That sort of approach)

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Well neither Sanders nor I are Democrats so you don’t even need to deal with that part.

          As far as work shopping, this is mostly a rough draft. I had an argument like this with more finesse written out somewhere, maybe on Medium?, during the campaign but after Sanders was out I dropped all of my social media accounts.

      • Mr Mind says:

        >The most important group of people in the world are Americans. I think this because I’m an American. If I had to choose between helping a fellow citizen and anyone else I’d pick my fellow citizen.

        All hail Moloch, our new Lord.

        No, I understand the tone and intention of the exercise. I also understand the post-ironic frame under which this discussion is happening.

        But that is naked, unadulterated Moloch staring directly into your eyes.

        The sooner we dissolve the idea of nation the better.

        • Deiseach says:

          The sooner we dissolve the idea of nation the better.

          And when will you tackle culture, which is what is going to replace it? You expect African-Americans and Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans to act like whitey, you racist?

          I agree that the cosmopolitan ideal is one of a Westernised secular culture where everyone wears business suits and speaks (American-accented) English, but if you overcome the idea of “The Nation”, I wish you good luck with tackling AAVE and that insisting on keeping a separate dialect, way of dressing your hair, foods, etc should all be junked in the name of non-differentiation: anything that sticks out as unique or that you claim is part of your culture not shared by others is, after all, the same class of thing as claiming a nationality that is unique and special.

          • Mr Mind says:

            I believe that culture is co-created, rather than imposed. I also prefer when culture is the result of people aggregating rather than imposed to people.

            That said, technology is advanced to a point that is presenting us with threats / opportunities that rapidly scale to global level. We are already doing poorly on things like global warming, there’s no reasong to think we are going to do better with incoming crysis.
            I firmly believe that if we want to survive, as a species, the next two centuries we are going to need a mean to coordinate to a global level, that is much much better than current trans-national organisms.

            This does not necessarily means imposing the same culture everywhere, a global coordination can work with ports and translations. It means though that the part of the culture that counter coordination must go, whatever they are.

          • I firmly believe that if we want to survive, as a species, the next two centuries we are going to need a mean to coordinate to a global level, that is much much better than current trans-national organisms.

            We don’t even have a very good way of coordinating at the national level. My conclusion is that if we are going to survive as a species, we need ways of dealing with change that work on the small.

            One of the arguments for dealing with AGW by adaptation rather than by trying to prevent it is that my keeping down CO2 output by using expensive solar power instead of inexpensive fossil fuel only works for me if everyone does it. My dealing with warming by switching to crops that do better in a slightly warmer climate or with sea level rise by diking or by building structures a few hundred yards further inland than in the past works for me if I do it, for me and my neighbors if we do it.

          • Tekhno says:

            @Mr Mind

            to coordinate to a global level, that is much much better than current trans-national organisms.

            Coordination isn’t free. When someone asks you to cooperate, you should always wonder “Whose cooperation”. There are 50 different versions of what a “cooperating” humanity looks like, which we’d have to fight over.

            The team of no team is still a team.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Its just scaling up the social bonds of family/friends to a national level. How many people do you know who would save someone else’s kid instead of their own all things being equal? Also I’d be the president of America. Its basically the same as fiduciary duty. I was clear about a limitation based on moral grounds also.

          • Mr Mind says:

            I understand about your own child / family member with respect to another one’s child, because it’s about deep emotional bonds. But why would you prefer, given the option, saving someone (you’ve never met and never will) say from Chicago instead of Kinshasa is beyond me. It seems illogical and immoral.

          • Jiro says:

            The person from Chicago has, on the average, a lot more cultural commonality with you than the person from Kinshasa.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            The person in Kinshasa doesn’t care about me. A person in Chicago has a stronger motivation to help me just as I would them. That’s the whole point of a nation. Also since I was making a case for being elected President of America, the argument is not the same as being a private citizen.

          • Tekhno says:

            But why would you prefer, given the option, saving someone (you’ve never met and never will) say from Chicago instead of Kinshasa is beyond me. It seems illogical and immoral.

            It’s highly logical. There’s a higher probability that someone from a polity that has at least a reasonably shared cultural basis is going to be someone who is compatible with me and someone I’m going to be able to form emotional bonds with, versus someone who grew up in a culture founded on common premises I find incompatible with my own values.

          • There’s a higher probability that someone from a polity that has at least a reasonably shared cultural basis is going to be someone who is compatible with me and someone I’m going to be able to form emotional bonds with, versus someone who grew up in a culture founded on common premises I find incompatible with my own values.

            With the communication and transport technology of two hundred years ago that was likely to be true, although even then you had groups, such small religious sects, whose members had more in common with other members in other countries than with their neighbors.

            But wouldn’t you expect the effect you describe to get weaker and weaker over time due to technological change? The people my daughter does online gaming with and views as friends live in three or four different countries on at least three different continents. The people who comment here live in considerably more countries than that–but I have more in common with them than with the random American.

          • Tekhno says:

            @David

            The effect might get weaker based on technological factors, but at least at the current moment, Africa, India, and much of the Middle East might as well be full of space aliens as far as I’m concerned. Anyone extremely religious I’m also going to be less compatible with than an atheist. The number of devoutly religious people in my country is very very small, but in some other countries it’s very very large.

            The people my daughter does online gaming with and views as friends live in three or four different countries on at least three different continents. The people who comment here live in considerably more countries than that–but I have more in common with them than with the random American.

            There are certainly cultures which transcend borders, but this may be largely due to history and the shadow of empires. A lot of countries are “westernized” now, so I can assume to have more in common with a random person from South Korea or Australia than I can with a random person from Afghanistan or the Democratic Republic of Congo. An example that’s less extreme is that I’d assume a typical person from Hong Kong to be more compatible with my value system than a typical person from mainland China.

            If you introduce a filter like a website or a game, then you go to far higher levels of accuracy that would preclude countries. I might be more compatible with a highly selected elite of people from Somalia than I would with a random person from my town, but that would be different from the typical example.

        • hlynkacg says:

          The sooner we dissolve the idea of nation the better.

          I could not disagree more. In fact I would go so far as to say that this an inherently dangerous and misanthropic goal. Do you really think that eliminating the concept of “nations” would stop people from sorting themselves into in-groups and out-groups? I sure as hell don’t.

          Thus far the most effective and reliable way we’ve found to convince people from diverse racial, religious, and ideological backgrounds to play nice with each-other is to give them a shared identity/goal that can be appealed to. You’re proposing we throw that out.

          Take White Americans and Black Americans, Urban Americans and Rural Americans, Catholic Americans and Protestant Americans, remove the shared “American” identity and what do you have? You have multiple culturally distinct groups who have centuries of grievances against the other. Do you want to start a 30 Years War? because this is how you start a 30 Years War.

          Diversity does not unite us, unity unites us.

          • Randy M says:

            “Diversity is our strength weakness that may have some positive side effects.”

          • Mr Mind says:

            Thus far the most effective and reliable way we’ve found to convince people from diverse racial, religious, and ideological backgrounds to play nice with each-other is to give them a shared identity/goal that can be appealed to. You’re proposing we throw that out.

            No, I’m proposing we enlarge the ingroup until it contains all human beings.
            I understand what you’re saying. Nations are a wall against even smaller tribes. But those wall have moved over time, I hope we can move them out of the horizon.
            If you want to play ingroup vs outgroup we have plenty of games and sports that allows this.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            No, I’m proposing we enlarge the ingroup until it contains all human beings.

            Pretty much every attempt to do so has either been restricted to a comparatively tiny group of people (some religious sects), or caused suffering and death on a massive scale (communism, the French Revolution). What makes you think that your attempt will fare any better?

          • Tekhno says:

            @Mr Mind

            No, I’m proposing we enlarge the ingroup until it contains all human beings.

            But I don’t like allhumanbeings! He’s a jerk!

        • The original Mr. X says:

          The sooner we dissolve the idea of nation the better.

          And replace it with what, choosing our ingroups on the basis of whether they hold the right views? Because that’s what attempts to transcend nationality usually end up leading to.

          • Matt M says:

            I mean, it’s certainly more logical than choosing them based on the physical location your mother happened to be in when you exited her birth canal, is it not?

            As nasty as partisan conflicts can be, at least they make a certain amount of sense. More sense than “I was born on this side of the river and you were born on that side of the river!”

          • onyomi says:

            Everyone who believes in niceness and community and seeking truth.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Matt M

            It seems to me that you are suggesting that the current state of the Middle East or sub-Saharan Africa is preferable to that of the US or Singapore. Having experienced all of these first hand, I disagree vehemently.

            Edit:
            @ onyomi

            Good luck setting that up with out a contiguous boundary. After all, you can’t have a “walled garden” without a wall.

          • onyomi says:

            Or ostracism. Or a system of reputation. Also, geographical location is becoming less and less important?

          • Randy M says:

            I mean, it’s certainly more logical than choosing them based on the physical location your mother happened to be in when you exited her birth canal, is it not?

            Nations have not traditionally defined themselves this way. The political & geographic entity was defined by the tribe that occupied & ruled it, not vice versa.

          • hlynkacg says:

            geographical location is becoming less and less important?

            I disagree, barring a “rapture of the nerds” style singularity, meat-space will always take precedence.

          • onyomi says:

            I disagree, barring a “rapture of the nerds” style singularity, meat-space will always take precedence.

            Meatspace is still important, but in determining whom you identify with, socialize with, buy and sell with, it’s a lot less important than in the past, and all signs point to this trend continuing.

            I am not 100% against actual walls, and am much more of a believer in the “melting pot” theory than the “salad bowl” theory. But one could conceivably have a melting pot labelled “niceness, truth, and community.”

            In the United States we sort of experimented with having a melting pot labelled “freedom and self determination and separation of church and state and…”

          • hlynkacg says:

            one could conceivably have a melting pot labelled “niceness, truth, and community.”

            Sure, but that pot still needs a physical (meat-space) boundary that can be defended against the neighboring theocracy that thinks you’re a bunch of decadent heathens. Otherwise your ability to tele-commute will be trumped by their ability to burn you at the stake.

          • Adam says:

            I think part of the point is many of the people who buy into niceness, truth, and community are stuck in those theocracies being burned at the stake and it’d be nice if it wasn’t anathema to a nationalist to help them just because they had the poor luck to be born in the wrong part of the world.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ hlynkacg:

            It seems to me that you are suggesting that the current state of the Middle East or sub-Saharan Africa is preferable to that of the US or Singapore. Having experienced all of these first hand, I disagree vehemently.

            You could have added old Soviet Russia to that list. “Not sufficiently pro-revolution? No food for you, comrade!”

          • hlynkacg says:

            it’d be nice if it wasn’t anathema to a nationalist to help them just because they had the poor luck to be born in the wrong part of the world.

            It’s not anathema, it’s Imperialism.

          • It’s not anathema, it’s Imperialism.

            Only if you go there. If you let them come here, it’s immigration. During the period just before WWI, we were rescuing a million people a year–or, more properly, letting them rescue themselves.

            One advantage of doing it that way is that you only rescue the ones who want to be rescued.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t think that was the sort of “help” Adam had in mind, if it were, it wouldn’t follow as a criticism of nationalism.

          • Adam says:

            No, immigration is a form of assistance I meant. If contemporary American nationalists don’t oppose the immigration of people from war-torn regions, I guess campaign season fooled me. Free trade and labor mobility are two of the more important things to me. I don’t think purchasing consumer goods from countries where labor is cheap, thereby making their labor less cheap, is imperialism either.

          • hlynkacg says:

            No, immigration is a form of assistance I meant. If contemporary American nationalists don’t oppose the immigration of people from war-torn regions, I guess campaign season fooled me.

            I think you are making the classic mistake of conflating legal and illegal immigration. From a nationalist perspective a “Mexican” who comes to the US legally, renounces their Mexican citizenship for US citizenship, and adopts American cultural norms is not “Mexican”, they are an “American” and thus “one of us”. Nationalist actually like this. After all, people wanting to be on your team is solid evidence that your team is good/winning.

            Problem is that this is not the vision of “immigration” that open borders advocates and the wider American left have in mind when they talk about “immigration”. To them “assimilation” is a dirty word and as a result we have a situation where we can liberal immigration policies or we can have multi-culturalism but we can’t have both, because in a multi-cultural society you have to be very carful about which cultures you let in.

            I assume you remember the brough-ha about “screening muslims”. Do you remember the corollary? American nationalists were quite willing to offer asylum to Syrian Christians, Jews, and even Shia, Kurds and Suffi. But they were as painted despicable racists for failing to accept everyone unconditionally.

            If you tell people that not only are they forbidden from discriminating between potential head-choppers and potential head-choppees, but that they are horrible people for wanting to do so, the Nationalists will reply (quite reasonably IMO) with “Fuck This” and then vote to build a wall around the entire country which is exactly what they did.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Contemporary American nationalists may feel the people in the war-torn regions are the reason it’s war-torn. A rather different situation than the Cold War where few thought the escaping South Vietnamese were the cause of their plight, for instance.

            That aside, there’s also the problem of the welfare state and the fact that the country’s policies are no longer assimilationist. The first means there’s a much better chance immigrants will be a burden rather than a boon, the second means that immigration means the natives have to adapt to the immigrants rather than the other way around.

          • Problem is that this is not the vision of “immigration” that open borders advocates and the wider American left have in mind when they talk about “immigration”. To them “assimilation” is a dirty word

            You are writing as if open borders advocates are a subset of the left. I suppose there probably are some people on the left who take that position, but the position I mostly see there is only for more immigration, especially of refugees, and a path to citizenship for current illegals.

            The open borders advocates I’m familiar with are libertarians such as Bryan Caplan and myself.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @David Friedman,

            Bryan Caplan is a particularly bad choice of example here given that one of his big arguments for open borders explicitly depends on leveraging ethnic tension between un-assimilated immigrants and natives.

            Unbelievably horrible immigration schemes are unfortunately not the sole province of the Left. Plenty of people on the right are willing to betray the American people as well.

          • Mr Mind says:

            How about giving up the idea of an ingroup being necessary?

            The beauty of global coordination is that every sub-global coordination is suboptimal.
            Once you form a coalition with 50%+1 of the power available, the incentive is toward assimilation.

          • Adam says:

            I don’t know much about Caplan’s plan and don’t endorse it, but I’m also not on the left, don’t think people should be accepted unconditionally, they currently are not, I believe in assimilationist policies, every immigrant I personally know after having grown up in the city that was the top entry point of immigration for the past 30 years assimilated pretty well, including the illegal ones, and a fair number of southeast Asian refugees from the 70s actually were quite a burden and assimilated somewhat poorly, most notably the Hmong, though they are a small group and the Vietnamese themselves mostly did much better.

            I understand perfectly well that there are reasonable arguments to be made prescribing precaution, and most of what I see on SSC is of that variety, but when I refer to campaign season, I’m referring to the new president himself. I did not see any particularly reasoned or reasonable appeals from him. I saw pure reactionism, pretty much starting off his campaign saying most Mexicans (which includes me, by the way) are rapists and drug dealers, or responding to the San Bernardino shooting by proposing a total Muslim ban. That says to me that Trump himself has not sufficiently assimilated American values, which includes free practice of religion, including religions I don’t particularly like, of which Islam is certainly up there.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ DavidFriedman

            The fact that libertarians and a few others on the right share it, does not change the fact that advocating open borders/unrestricted immigration is primarily a “left wing” position in contemporary American politics.

            @ Mr. Mind

            Just how do you expect to do that? Are you seriously proposing that we do away with concepts like “love”, “family” and “friendship” because that is what it would take.

            Any idea that encourages someone to value the feelings or well-being of a particular human over that of the species in aggregate is going to be at direct odds with your goal.

            @ Adam
            This conflict goes a back years before the election. Trump is “the reaction” rather than “the cause”.

            Like I said above…

            If you tell people that not only are they forbidden from discriminating between potential head-choppers and potential head-choppees, but that they are horrible people for wanting to do so, the Nationalists will reply (quite reasonably IMO) with “Fuck This” and then vote to build a wall around the entire country.

            Trump was quite clearly the “Fuck this, let’s build a wall” candidate.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @hlynkacg:

            I think you are making the classic mistake of conflating legal and illegal immigration. From a nationalist perspective a “Mexican” who comes to the US legally, renounces their Mexican citizenship for US citizenship, and adopts American cultural norms is not “Mexican”, they are an “American” and thus “one of us”. Nationalist actually like this. After all, people wanting to be on your team is solid evidence that your team is good/winning.

            Civic nationalists like this. Ethnic nationalists, not so much.

          • Adam says:

            Okay. I don’t know who was telling you this. Obama deported more people than any president ever and expanded the fuck out of border patrol and ICE alike. People act like Trump was running against Twitter mobs, not Hillary Clinton. Or against the 17 or so other Republicans he beat who I don’t think were telling anyone it’s bad to distinguish between ISIS and refugees.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @DavidFriedman/hlynkacg:

            “Open borders” in the right-wing sense that I have seen is a laissez-faire economic argument saying that both people and capital should be free to move around as they please, usually going hand in hand with getting rid of public services, or whatever. It’s very much a “guys, I’ve crunched the numbers, and it turns out that in spherical cow land, this is the best possible policy choice, there will be no problems because free market” thing.

            “Open borders” in the left-wing sense tends to be more of the “don’t enforce existing laws, no one is illegal, stop the deportations, don’t keep people out who want to get in” variety. They generally support heavy public services. (As an aside, I’ve never seen an explanation of how the two can be combined without problems, and if someone can point me to one I’d be grateful). Their arguments for getting rid of or not enforcing immigration law are generally not based on having crunched the numbers and concluded that allowing anyone to go anywhere will mesh fine with the brave new ancap future, as they are rarely ancaps. The arguments that I have seen tend to fall along the lines of “it’s nice here, and it is morally awful to keep people from less-nice places who want to be here from coming here.”

            There are a lot more of the latter than the former, because ancaps only exist on the internet. As do ancoms, I think: the only anarchist I have met in real life somehow simultaneously believes that there should be no states, and also that there should be the sort of a system that has only ever existed within the purview of a state, or within very small groups.

            (To put a more serious spin on it, people who make “I have sat down and crunched the numbers, and…” arguments are extremely rare).

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Adam, maybe Obama increased border patrol, but he decreased the rest of ICE.

            It is not clear that Obama has increased border patrol at all. The increase in deportations under Bush was from switching from catch and release to formal deportations. Is Obama’s increase from completing that transition or did his border patrol really catch more people than Bush’s?

            (The increase in formal deportations is an increase in severity, even if it is not the increase in raw number that it is widely portrayed as.)

          • @Dr. Dealgood:

            What you describe as an unbelievably horrid immigration scheme is pretty much what the U.S. had prior to the 1920’s–open immigration and little redistribution. It was the system that made it possible for my grandparents to come here.

            Which part of the argument do you disagree with:

            1. A major barrier to open immigration is the worry that poor people will come here to live on welfare.

            2. Open immigration without welfare is enormously better for the people who would come, in the millions a year judging by past experience, than closed borders with welfare inside them.

            3. Hence your position amounts to preserving your preferred welfare state for people who are, by world standards, relatively rich, at the cost of keeping many millions of poor so unfortunate as to be born in the wrong place from coming here and ceasing to be poor.

            The idea that free immigration is a good thing and incompatible with a generous welfare state that includes new immigrants is not original with Bryan nor likely to shock me. I made the argument in a chapter arguing for free immigration in a book published the same year Bryan was born.

          • cassander says:

            @dndnrsn says:

            >(As an aside, I’ve never seen an explanation of how the two can be combined without problems, and if someone can point me to one I’d be grateful).

            I believe the argument is that allowing in the immigrants will make those programs more sustainable because immigrants are typically younger and the vast majority of the US welfare spending is re-distribution from young to old, not rich to poor. I’ve not seen rigorous math to this effect, but given that only a relatively small minority of people end up being tax positive over the course of their lives, I’m skeptical.

          • Randy M says:

            I wish we could have a test earth for this kind of question. If western libertarians set up global elections, I suspect we’d see something like:
            Year 1: Be it resolved, there are open borders and no welfare. Passed, 6 billion to 1 billion
            Year 2: The people vote to rescind the “no welfare” part.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ adam

            Do you remember President Obama saying that considering the religion of an applicant for refugee status was “shameful and un-American”? Are you familiar with the slogan “no one is illegal”? I don’t think I’m that far out in the weeds here.

            @ dndnrsn

            Agreed, which is why I view the “I’ve crunched the numbers” crowd as a subset of the wider “we need to make immigration law more permissive, or eliminate it entirely” crowd.

            @ DavidFriedman

            This only seems to reinforce my claim that you can have multi-culturalism or you can have liberal (as in permissive) immigration policy. But you can’t have both. The existence of a modern welfare state doesn’t change the equation so much as it raises the stakes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @hlynkacg:

            It is relevant, though, that they arrive at that conclusion for wildly different reasons, and usually do not get along much.

          • Brad says:

            “Open borders” in the right-wing sense that I have seen is a laissez-faire economic argument saying that both people and capital should be free to move around as they please, usually going hand in hand with getting rid of public services, or whatever. It’s very much a “guys, I’ve crunched the numbers, and it turns out that in spherical cow land, this is the best possible policy choice, there will be no problems because free market” thing.

            “Open borders” in the left-wing sense tends to be more of the “don’t enforce existing laws, no one is illegal, stop the deportations, don’t keep people out who want to get in” variety. They generally support heavy public services. (As an aside, I’ve never seen an explanation of how the two can be combined without problems, and if someone can point me to one I’d be grateful). Their arguments for getting rid of or not enforcing immigration law are generally not based on having crunched the numbers and concluded that allowing anyone to go anywhere will mesh fine with the brave new ancap future, as they are rarely ancaps. The arguments that I have seen tend to fall along the lines of “it’s nice here, and it is morally awful to keep people from less-nice places who want to be here from coming here.”

            One of these groups are actually advocating “open borders”. The others are victims of a smear campaign. Yes, they are in favor of looser immigration rules but, not generally being a certain personality type they don’t routinely subject every one of their opinions to a ruthless reductio analysis. They do not ever advocate for open borders and so to call them open border advocates is strikingly dishonest.

          • Randy M says:

            Eh. It’s going to take more than pique to convince that people opposed to any enforcement of immigration law are actually in favor of some unspecified other immigration law.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ dndnrsn

            In some contexts? Yes. For the purposes of the current debate? Not really.

            @ Brad

            I don’t see how the whole “no one is illegal” slogan or the push to refer to them as “undocumented immigrants” rather than “illegal” can be interpreted as advocating anything less than open borders.

          • Brad says:

            @hlynkacg
            Have you ever talked to one of the people that say such things? Just sat down and talked about how they envision the overall system working?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad:

            There’s a reason I used scare quotes – the left-wingers arguing against enforcement of immigration law, relaxation of immigration law, etc do not use the term “open borders”, for the most part. You are correct that they do not call themselves open borders advocates, and I did not say that they were uniformly open borders advocates. I should have been more clear with my phrasing, as I was mixing up two distinct groups.

            There is a line between those with clear policy proposals for relaxing immigration law, providing amnesty or suspension of enforcement to are (eg DACA, DREAM), etc and those who seem hostile to any border controls, immigration restrictions, deportations, etc. It is unfair to call the former open borders advocates – but is it unfair to apply that to the latter? Even if they do not call themselves open borders advocates – if that should be limited to the people of a certain personality type who have crunched the numbers – it is hard to see that they are advocating for anything but open borders.

            Analogy: someone who says that an illegal act should not be punished is essentially saying that act should be legal, or regarded as such.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Brad

            Yes, and what those I’ve spoken to envision is de facto open borders even if it’s not de jure. See dndnrsn’s analogy above. A law that is not uniformly enforced is effectively not a law.

          • Brad says:

            @dndnrsn
            What about marijuana? There are those that are for decriminalization and those that are for legalization. Is it fair game to collapse that distinction even though the two policy approaches end up producing different outcomes?

            @hlynkacg

            A law that is not uniformly enforced is effectively not a law.

            Then we have not even a single law and are living in an anarchist paradise.

          • dndnrsn says:

            No, and I acknowledged that it was a screwup on my part to conflate the two.

            EDIT: I’m not sure if decriminalization vs legalization is an apt analogy, though. In the case of immigration you’ve got multiple shadings:

            -relax the rules, but keep rules, and keep enforcing them
            -just don’t enforce the rules
            -get rid of the rules
            -bonus option: get rid of the rules, but forget about problems with people going wherever the welfare state is nicest, because we got rid of the government, now get off my property before I have my security firm fight your security firm

            Whereas decriminalization basically boils down to ordering police to stop hassling anyone over recreational personal use, instead of the current situation, where whether or not the police hassle you depends on whether or not they want to hassle you (which could be for any number of different reasons), versus legalization, which is treating weed like booze, probably (I live somewhere with relatively restricted and highly taxed booze, and how to deal with weed now that it looks like it’s going legal is a topic of debate).

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @David Friedman,

            Your points are utterly nonsensical to me.

            Yes, a poor foreigner might reasonably prefer that America have open borders so that they could immigrate at will. They might also reasonably prefer that Americans don’t lock the doors to our houses and leave our car keys in the ignition. In both cases the situation is much more convenient for them so by your logic it must be morally obligatory.

            American immigration policy does not, and should not, revolve around the interests of non-Americans. That goes against the express purpose of the United States of America:

            We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

          • Year 2: The people vote to rescind the “no welfare” part.

            That’s why libertarians who argue for open borders and no welfare generally propose a long delay before new immigrants become voting citizens.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Brad

            If you really believe that, why are you wasting your time making forum posts when you could be making pipe-bombs?

            You made it quite clear in our previous encounters that you view Trump’s supporters as an existential threat and that you feel little compunction about using violence to achieve political goals.

            @ the rest

            See Dr Dealgood’s comment above.

            Edit:

            @ DavidFriedman,

            I don’t think I have ever seen a prominent libertarian, other than you just now, suggest that there should be anything less than immediate universal suffrage. I am extremely skeptical.

          • Brad says:

            @hlynkacg
            What the fuck are you talking about?

          • hlynkacg says:

            I’m saying that your observed behavior is at odds with previously expressed beliefs. If we are indeed living in anarchy, why aren’t you acting like it?

          • I don’t think I have ever seen a prominent libertarian, other than you just now, suggest that there should be anything less than immediate universal suffrage.

            Have you seen any prominent libertarian suggest immediate universal suffrage for new immigrants? I haven’t. Perhaps you could point at a relevant quote?

            So far as “just now,” the book where I offered my arguments on open borders was published more than forty years ago.

          • hlynkacg says:

            No, what they advocated was universal suffrage for all adults living under the government’s jurisdiction. I don’t recall anyone saying anything about “recent immigrants” being an exception to that rule.

          • “No, what they advocated was universal suffrage for all adults living under the government’s jurisdiction. ”

            Who are “they?” Can you actually point at a prominent libertarian arguing that we should have open immigration and instant citizenship? So far you are making an assertion but offering no evidence.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            hlynkacg banned for one month unless they can present me with evidence that Brad actually endorses violence against Trump supporters

        • gbdub says:

          America unilaterally giving up on “the idea of the nation” is probably suicide. It’s like nukes – sitting on a huge pile of bombs is suboptimal, but unless everyone throws theirs away at the same time, disarming makes you worse off.

          Basically, we have a choice between maintaining a walled garden containing us and everyone we actually care about, or accepting “a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity” to borrow a phrase. If the former is Moloch worship, then all hail our demon overlord.

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            The whole point of Moloch is that he sets you up so that you can’t unilaterally give up on him. That’s how he traps you.

            Not that there is much that can be done about it at this point.

          • Basically, we have a choice between maintaining a walled garden containing us and everyone we actually care about …

            We managed for about a hundred and fifty years without the wall. During which period most of the ancestors of most of the people I care about came.

          • Randy M says:

            The wall in this case was not the literal Yuge Wall, but the concept of a distinct nation. This has most certainly existed from the inception of the country.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            “We managed for about a hundred and fifty years without the wall. During which period most of the ancestors of most of the people I care about came. “

            That was before the modern welfare state.
            Incentives matter?

          • This has most certainly existed from the inception of the country.

            The idea that there should be serious restrictions on who could come into the country has existed from very early, but the actual restrictions only became serious, with the exception of the case of oriental immigration to the West Coast, in the 1920’s. Hence my hundred and fifty years.

          • Randy M says:

            Rate of immigration is not solely relative to laws or artificial barriers; a change in any of ease of transportation, relative population densities, relative wealth, relative stability, etc. could present a situation not analogous to those prior years.

            For a reduction to absurdity (sorry, my latin is poor), there are no laws about immigration from Mars. In 300 years, there may be.

          • gbdub says:

            Yes. The “wall” consists of laws, behaviors, shared values, etc. all of which are made easier to implement by the idea of a “nation” (and all which have been part of the concept of “The United States of America” for a long time).

            A walled garden doesn’t mean you don’t let anyone in – it just means you make the people you let in agree to a set of rules, and that you care more about the inside than the outside. It means that you don’t let other gardens with bigger walls take advantage of your open-garden policy in ways that help them at your expense.

            It’s worse than a world without walls, but probably better than a world where you’re the only one without a wall. So get back to us when you solve the coordination problem, but until then rebelling against Moloch makes us worse off.

          • John Schilling says:

            We managed for about a hundred and fifty years without the wall.

            We did, to be fair, have a moat.

          • We did, to be fair, have a moat.

            Until the rise of railroads in the mid-19th century, water transport was always cheaper than land transport. The Atlantic wasn’t a moat, it was a highway.

            And a million immigrants a year used it, coming into a population a third what ours now is.

          • It means that you don’t let other gardens with bigger walls take advantage of your open-garden policy in ways that help them at your expense.

            Could you expand on the metaphor a little? In what sense are other countries with bigger walls taking advantage of our policy? If you are talking about immigration, is it your argument that countries that had immigration restrictions back when the U.S. didn’t were somehow gaining at our expense? If you are talking about trade, the same question, more with regard to Britain in the 19th century and Hong Kong in the post WWII world, the U.S. never, far as I know, having gone all the way to free trade.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Of course, back in the old days worse communications meant that it was harder for immigrants to keep in regular contact with the old country, whilst most of the immigrants came from countries with reasonably similar cultures to the US. This made assimilating these immigrants much easier. I don’t think, therefore, that it’s valid to compare the situation now with the situation in the 19th century.

          • Mr Mind says:

            America unilaterally giving up on “the idea of the nation” is probably suicide.

            It is, indeed. If something like what I’m proposing is doable, it must have a coordinate ignition, or it would fail before reaching critical mass.

            Basically, we have a choice between maintaining a walled garden containing us and everyone we actually care about, or accepting “a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity” to borrow a phrase. If the former is Moloch worship, then all hail our demon overlord.

            It is Moloch worship indeed. But I think we (are going to) have a third option, thanks to technology.

      • Deiseach says:

        The whole question of illegal immigration is “why is our economy based on the necessity for cheap labour that can be denied rights and deported once their seasonal work is no longer required?”

        What little I read about it a few years back seems to go “The apologia for this is that farm labour needs seasonal manual labour, needs it to be very cheap, therefore needs to pay less than Americans would work for*, and that’s because Americans have become used to cheap food that is in season all year round. To pay a living wage would mean hiking up the cost of food, not just in the whole-food/organic/fair trade stores, but in the chain grocery stores – and there’s a separate problem there with large chains having the power to squeeze wholesalers on prices that are set artificially low – so we can’t afford to pay wages attractive to Americans so we rely on disposable labour – people who will come over the border, work for peanuts, have no right to any benefits, and can be dismissed when we don’t need them any more”.

        That’s a big problem and one nobody is willing to tackle, because it’s a huge upheaval in the economy of food production and, while agriculture may not be the biggest sector in (say) the Californian economy, disruption to the food supply will affect the whole of the nation.

        While it’s easy to demonise the Republicans as being xenophobes and racists, I think the Democrats also have a romanticised view of the ‘undocumented’ that they promulgate: feisty, zesty Latinos and Hispanics with a colourful, vibrant culture setting up neighbourhood bodegas or ethnic restaurants, working in blue-collar/pink-collar jobs like nurses etc and being settled in as respectable citizens – not the reality of immigration, particularly if you’re an illegal.

        *This is not simply greedy, lazy Americans who expect huge paychecks; there’s a cost of living in being a First World country that needs a certain level of income to support. You still have to pay the same rates for water, power, etc. whether you’re a millionaire or working on an assembly line.

        EDIT: Wikipedia has figures from 2006 – agriculture is not the largest employer, illegal immigrants work in:

        (A)bout 4 percent work in farming; 21 percent have jobs in service industries; and substantial numbers can be found in construction and related occupations (19 percent), and in production, installation, and repair (15 percent), with 12% in sales, 10% in management, and 8% in transportation

        Why does it exist? (Bolding mine):

        Because the United States education system creates relatively few people who either lack a high school diploma or who hold PhDs, there is a shortage of workers needed to fulfill seasonal low-skilled jobs as well as certain high-skilled jobs. To fill these gaps, the United States immigration system attempts to compensate for these shortages by providing for temporary immigration by farm workers and seasonal low-skilled workers, and for permanent immigration by high-skilled workers. The third cause of illegal immigration — the ineffectiveness of current employer sanctions for illegal hiring — allows migrants who are in the country illegally to easily find jobs. There are three reasons for this ineffectiveness — the absence of reliable mechanisms for verifying employment eligibility, inadequate funding of interior immigration enforcement, and the absence of political will due to labor needs to the United States economy.

        • Matt M says:

          “The whole question of illegal immigration is “why is our economy based on the necessity for cheap labour that can be denied rights and deported once their seasonal work is no longer required?””

          I mean, the obvious answer is that there exists a clear market demand for such labor, that the government has made it illegal, but that it’s sufficiently easy to get around and/or penalties are not sufficiently severe to discourage people from finding the easiest work around, which is illegal immigration.

          Repeal the minimum wage, all various mandatory “workers rights” statutes, and all welfare programs, and suddenly you’d find a whole lot of white Americans working as strawberry pickers for $3/hr. But most people wouldn’t really see that as an improvement….

        • Brad says:

          What little I read about it a few years back seems to go “The apologia for this is that farm labour needs seasonal manual labour, needs it to be very cheap, therefore needs to pay less than Americans would work for*, and that’s because Americans have become used to cheap food that is in season all year round. To pay a living wage would mean hiking up the cost of food, not just in the whole-food/organic/fair trade stores, but in the chain grocery stores – and there’s a separate problem there with large chains having the power to squeeze wholesalers on prices that are set artificially low – so we can’t afford to pay wages attractive to Americans so we rely on disposable labour – people who will come over the border, work for peanuts, have no right to any benefits, and can be dismissed when we don’t need them any more”.

          That’s a big problem and one nobody is willing to tackle, because it’s a huge upheaval in the economy of food production and, while agriculture may not be the biggest sector in (say) the Californian economy, disruption to the food supply will affect the whole of the nation.

          Why is it a big problem exactly? Most Americans get access to fresh fruits and vegetables year round at prices they can afford. People that are actually picking the fruits and vegetables are happy to have the jobs and with the compensation they get. The farm owners are happy. The seed sellers are happy. The people that work transporting and selling the fruits and vegetables are happy.

          The other equilibria where many fewer fresh fruits and vegetables were sold at much higher prices, would leave almost everyone worse off. Not just anyone that wants to eat fruits and vegetables, but all the people that currently benefit from the fruit and vegetables economy.

          What’s so special about the few people (tens of thousands at most) who would be better off under that alternate scenario that their welfare should outweigh that of so many others — the overwhelming majority of which are American citizens?

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Of course a change in isolation won’t do much. You have to make major changes in the entire system. Its an issue of local maxima.

          • Brad says:

            It isn’t a matter of a local maxima. Every one of the proposals makes many more people worse off than it makes better off. Each incremental one only destroys more value. There is no shining global maxima on a hill that protectionism is climbing towards.

          • Adam says:

            I don’t see what change you can make. Fruit grows where it grows and it’s mostly not where people live. Americans who have graduated high school typically don’t want jobs that only last a few months in the middle of nowhere unless they pay the wages of a shale roughneck or king crab fisherman and fruit picking is not going to pay that. It makes perfect sense to import a migrant workforce, ideally legally but the system has to be able to legally import a sufficient number of people. This dynamic doesn’t really apply to all industries with a large illegal labor presence and migrant farm work is very far from the majority of the illegal labor force, but this really does seem like the perfect use case for temporary guest workers.

          • Matt M says:

            ” unless they pay the wages of a shale roughneck or king crab fisherman”

            And these wages are what they are because that’s basically the going rate for seasonally variable, physically demanding, low-skilled, American labor.

          • Deiseach says:

            People that are actually picking the fruits and vegetables are happy to have the jobs and with the compensation they get.

            Because it’s not sustainable. The farm owners don’t want the seasonal labourers around when the harvest is over. The seasonal labourers have to either go back home or try to find other work. What work they get is probably scab work, they have to put up with unsafe conditions and are at risk (and construction accidents do happen, for one, and people regularly get killed.) All year round cheap food relies on (for instance) things like California and its wasteful use of irrigation water.

            It’s a circle of exploitation that everyone is locked into and it is not sustainable. Maybe if you rely on a continuing source of cheap labour coming over the border because there are more people than jobs in Mexico, but that then relies on Mexico being a comparative hell-hole that people are anxious to leave for the United States, even if they will have to work for less, have no rights, and live in uncertainty. Not sending people back means you keep expanding your population year-on-year beyond natural birth replacement limits. If the idea of “the American dream” is having a better life than back in the Old Country, that works for the first generation – but then the second generation who are born in America and don’t know what it’s like to live in the Old Country look around and want that better life, and it’s not available to them – they’re supposed to be the cheap labour that drives the economic engine of the better life for everyone else.

            How temporary are temporary guest workers who stay in the country year round for the rest of their lives? Would those campaigning against anti-immigration policies compromise on a programme that allowed temporary seasonal workers or temporary stay for a limited period but not permanently, would mean you had to return to your home nation when your work was finished, and could not bring family members in with you or settle permanently?

            You’ll either end up with a permanent helot underclass, or something has to give, generally violently.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Deiseach

            So it sounds like it IS sustainable as long as Mexico sucks. Which I think Mexico can probably keep up for quite a while. If Mexico gets better, food in the US is going to get more expensive, no doubt about it.

          • Brad says:

            It looks as just about as sustainable as anything else in this world.

            Some workers go back and forth every year — both those in official guest worker programs (i.e. H2B) and those that enter illegally every year. On the other hand, some settle down and have US citizen kids. Neither of these things turn out to be the disaster you are trying to make them out to be.

            I don’t see any reason we should all suffer today because you see a “sustainability crisis” no sooner than a few decades away. At least not without far better evidence than you have provided. The system has been in place for longer than any of us have been alive (google “bracero”) and there don’t seem to be any clouds on the horizon.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I’ll second Trofim in say that, with some minor changes, this is precisely the sort of rhetoric that would convince me to switch parties.

        Well done.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          To Democrat or independent? The Democrats shit all over Bernie for a political stance that was much less extreme.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Democrat, assuming this came from a Democrat.

            I would be slightly less inclined to “cross the aisle” for an independent, but that has more to do with the weakness of 3rd parties than the content of the speech.

      • BourbonWaltz says:

        (another attempt as the candidate debating your candidate, same rules laid out by NIP)

        When you live paycheck to paycheck because Apple outsourced your factory job, having 100$ shaved off the price of an iPhone is worthless.

        Would you mind paying double for your food? Would you mind paying a heck of a lot more for your TV, washer, dryer, AC? Trade will affect how much you pay to put sneakers on your kid’s feet and whether you have a 40″ TV of a 15″ TV. If you want to keep corporate jobs in America and keep paying the same amount for your kid’s sneakers you need to reduce the costs of doing business in America, this means less regulation and less taxes. There are trillions of dollars waiting outside the country to come in that are currently stopped at the border by our robber-baron-government; this is money that could be invested here at home. If you want to keep and grow skilled-trade and small business jobs in America you need to get rid of ridiculous licensing regulations that keep hard working folks from earning an honest living. And we need to stop subsidizing degrees in psychology and allow trade high schools to flourish without the technocrat’s Common Core.

        Germany has even tighter industry restrictions than we do but somehow their manufacturing sector and construction sector are thriving. Paul Ryan says we can compete with Mexico by lowering the minimum wage and taking shortcuts with our safety. Over 20% of Germans work in manufacturing jobs. Less than 10% of Americans do. But their workers have more rights and better wages.

        Germans spend twice as much of their hard earned cash on food as Americans do. Germans live in houses 2/3rds the size. Median income in Germany is lower than in the US.

        You can’t eat money and roofs made of cash don’t last. The only purpose of the money you earn is to support you and your loved ones, which is why the cost of toys at Walmart and ACs at Sears matters.

        As president I would focus on the purchasing power of everyday Americans. I want every kid to have their own room, for Americans to be able to afford 2 cars and 2 TVs and to run their ACs. I would make sure healthcare was affordable by focusing on increasing the supply of medical professionals and allowing drugs to be imported from abroad, where pharmaceutical companies charge a fraction of the cost for the same medication.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Your first paragraph is actually pro-Germany regarding liberal arts degrees and trade schools. That’s how Germany does its education program.

          Also you likely wouldn’t be paying double for everything. That’s not how that works. For example if you double the minimum wage for instance you wouldn’t double the cost of groceries or fast food. It would get higher of course. But people would have more money from better wages. Certainly richer people would lose out since their incomes would be the least affected by raising the wage floor.

          As for your second paragraph:
          Germany has a population density of 593 people per square mile. In the USA its 85. Our country is massive. Of course they have less living space.

          Germany spends about 10.6% of their income on food. Americans spend 6.5%. That’s 63% more on food, not 200%. Plus its a relatively small difference in total income. Meanwhile the cost for college and health is drastically lower.

          Also, we are on the same page regarding drug prices. The USA literally subsidizes the drug prices of the rest of the world.

          • But people would have more money from better wages.

            Or less money because they are not worth the higher minimum wage to any employer.

            Germany has a population density of 593 people per square mile. In the USA its 85. Our country is massive. Of course they have less living space.

            That might be a reason why they have smaller yards. Do you think houses occupy a significant fraction of the land area of Germany? 593 people/square mile is a little more than an acre per person.

        • Deiseach says:

          I want every kid to have their own room, for Americans to be able to afford 2 cars and 2 TVs and to run their ACs.

          Why 2 cars and 2 TVs? How many kids – maximum 2 to a family? How about not needing a second car so your spouse can go to work because (a) there’s good public transport to take people to work (b) a single job can be a living wage?

          Whatever you do, you are going to run into the need for interventions – are you going to have seven bedroom houses for working class people with six kids? Or are you going to say “every kid should have their own room but you can only have two kids for that to work”? And every household having two cars is going to bump up carbon emissions.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Public transport is un-american, at least in the tradition those desires come from (“A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage”, from Republicans in 1928)

            No reason you can’t have a seven-bedroom house, provided you accept that they’re small bedrooms. There are several (relatively) small houses with many bedrooms in my area; usually some bedrooms are quite tiny.

            Mean number of cars in operation per household in the US is already more than two (2.1 as of 2014).

    • James Miller says:

      Members of your community with an IQ below 80 are going to be desperately needed in a future military campaign and we will pay them to train which will consist of staying off drugs and alcohol, exercising, respecting the legal authority, and, um, playing combat-based video games.

      • Deiseach says:

        Members of your community with an IQ below 80

        I don’t know if James Miller is being serious, tongue-in-cheek, or snarking with this. But if there is one thing wrong with comments on this site, it is the constant sneering about the stupid, i.e. people with IQs of 100 and below.

        We’re not all that smart. Some of the people, indeed a lot of the people, on here probably are, but that is no excuse to mock people who haven’t scored that high on a test which is probably not really measuring anything other than ‘how good are you at taking a test?’

        There is also this tendency to equate “not in the same line of work as I am”, especially anything without a college degree (Masters on upwards) with “must be really dumb, i.e. IQ 80-90”.

        First, to be a grunt in the armed forces takes more of an IQ than 80. Believe me, in the modern army, “hayfoot strawfoot” is no longer good enough. Secondly, wipe that sneer off your face about your fellow citizens because how the hell am I to believe you when you say you want to make a better world of human flourishing where every single person will be valued and have a chance to contribute, when you can’t even care about the people you deem a subclass?

        • Creutzer says:

          It’s true that people are quick to bring up low IQ populations here, but I don’t think that’s sneering. The impression I get is that everybody is supposed to know that low IQ is nobody’s fault, and so the idea is that acknowledging the problem as real and trying to seriously account for those people is more compassionate than pretending everybody is the same.

          James’s comment has interpretations that are compatible with this general attitude.

          • Deiseach says:

            The assumption too often on here is that “person not in a comparable job to mine” must be “person too dumb to get comparable job to mine, hence low IQ” and, hand in hand with that, “job not comparable to mine = job for dumb people, i.e. low IQ people”.

            There’s also way too much talk about “IQ 80 and IQ 90” people, as though they’re the human equivalent of dogs standing on their hind legs and too stupid to do more than manage to tie their shoelaces.

            If people want to plume themselves like the Pharisee that “I thank thee, Lord, that I am not as this man!”, they can do so without making remarks about IQ. I see nothing compassionate in these discussions, I see a lot of “I guess we’ll be left with these useless dumb clogs on the productive rest of us because the bleeding-heart liberals won’t let us machine-gun them by batches, so something must be done to keep them out of our way”.

        • James Miller says:

          The part about “desperately needed in a future military campaign” was a lie (as allowed by NIP’s rules). I agree that in a modern army combat troops need above average intelligence (I’ve read McNamara’s Folly: The Use of Low-IQ Troops in the Vietnam War and know how bad it turned out for the troops that were commonly known as McNamara’s Morons.) I think our economy is reaching a point where low IQ people (and as Creutzer writes “low IQ is nobody’s fault, and so the idea is that acknowledging the problem as real and trying to seriously account for those people is more compassionate than pretending everybody is the same.”) won’t be able to do useful work and if we don’t give them welfare we will have to come up with pretend jobs and I think a solution might be to have these pretend jobs be ones where the low IQ person is having inexpensive fun (video games) and not causing trouble for others.

          • antimule says:

            So you are in favor of Basic Income, then?

          • James Miller says:

            antimule,

            Not for the general population, at least not yet, but perhaps for people who through no fault of their own won’t be able to earn at least a subsistence wage.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @James Miller:

            What do you think it feels like, to have to be labeled as “not capable of earning even a subsistence wage, so we have to give you free money forever”?

          • James Miller says:

            Said Achmiz: Bad, which is why my initial proposal was to disguise this fact by pretending that the people are in training for something important.

          • Brad says:

            @Said Achmiz
            Can we permanently exclude anyone that ever made snarked about “obama phones” from the welfare system that is exquisitely tailored to fluff special snowflake egos?

            I can’t be the only person that’s noticed that there is a demand for programs that paper over the difference between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor from some of the very same people that insist the distinction is crucial.

          • the anonymouse says:

            @Said Achmiz

            Pretty good–at least, not too terrible–considering the number of people applying for disability.

            ETA for—no pun intended—charity: There is a substantial number of people for whom being labelled economically unproductive, in return for a stable if not generous check every month, is not cripplingly demeaning. At least not enough as to prevent them from taking that check. I know—and have known—many of them, and you probably do too. I’ll hazard to presume you won’t find many of them discussing policy on places like SSC, but they exist, and in not-inconsiderable numbers. Just because you or I would find such a determination incredibly insulting doesn’t mean everyone does.

            Some genuinely can’t trade their skills on the marketplace for an amount of money sufficient to live on. Some, for whatever reason, prefer not to. And some will go to herculean efforts to never undertake gainful employment. (The numbers of each are certainly not equal.) But my point being, there are people for whom receiving payments from the government is a net benefit even if those payments come with an explicit determination of “your skills are not worthwhile in this economy, and we don’t think you have the ability to ever gain such skills.”

          • antimule says:

            Thanks for clarification. Makes sense.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @Brad:

            It would seem that I’m unusually dense tonight, because I can’t quite grasp your point. Would you mind elaborating?

            @the anonymouse:

            There are two distinct classes of people here, between whom we must carefully distinguish.

            One sort of person is quite happy to take free money from society, give nothing in return, and live an indolent and work-free life indefinitely. We need not argue about how many such people there are, but clearly they exist. That many of them receive their free money under the guise of “disability” is not for their benefit—it’s for the benefit of those employed members of society whose taxes support them. Theodore Dalrymple has written about this phenomenon, as has The Last Psychiatrist. To such people, it will never matter what you call the money they get or the reason they get it.

            Another sort of person is not, fundamentally, interested in being a moocher or burden, but has been unfortunate enough to suffer some turn of fate that leaves them unable to do enough useful work to support themselves. They acknowledge this fact, and the fact that they must now get free money in order to survive. Bound up in their identity are these facts: that they would work if they could (and indeed do work to the extent that they can, generally—possibly including volunteering, etc.); that (in applicable cases) they indeed did work when they could (prior to the onset of their disability); and that they are part of a category of people who do useful work if possible, unless betrayed by fate.

            To this second kind of person, we (it would seem) propose to say: “The world has changed. Now, you and all those like you cannot be useful—ever. You have, in some sense, a disability; this disability is only and simply the fact of being who and what you are. This disability is no twist of fickle fate; it is certain, it is inescapable, it begins at birth and is incurable, it will be passed on to your children and your children’s children. You cannot do useful work. The world doesn’t need you. There is no possible world, no what-could-have-been life where you might’ve, by luck, avoided this fate; it’s inextricable from you. And not you alone, but all (or near enough) those whom you consider ‘people like you’: you are all useless. But we, the useful ones, the able ones, take pity on you. We could leave you to die, but we are gracious and high-minded; and thus—although there really is no sense in which you (unlike the useful worker who has been struck by an unfortunate disability) deserve any support—still we give it. Take it, live, and do whatever you like with your useless lives.”

            I do not think that this is likely to be well-received.

          • Brad says:

            @Said Achmiz
            We are being asked to create special welfare programs for those too proud to take welfare, wherein we all collectively pretend it isn’t welfare.

            It’s not a prospect I’m super thrilled about, but I can deal with it. However, if the recipients are going to continue to spew ignorant rants about welfare queens vs hard working ‘mericans while being on welfare — well that’s just a bridge too far.

            I’m not down with separate and highly unequal programs for the inner city poor and the rust belt poor.

          • Matt M says:

            “However, if the recipients are going to continue to spew ignorant rants about welfare queens vs hard working ‘mericans while being on welfare — well that’s just a bridge too far.”

            I think a lot of this has to do with (the perception of) whether or not someone has “paid in” to the system.

            Someone who worked blue collar jobs from age 18 – 40 fairly continuously, suffers an injury, and spends the rest of his life on disability is categorically different from someone who becomes a single mom at age 18, immediately starts collecting welfare from that, only gets occasional minimum wage jobs just long enough to qualify for unemployment again, etc.

            We distinguish between “someone who has never been productive at all and has given us zero reason to think they could be absent welfare” and “someone who has, at one point, proven capable of contributing to society in a net positive way” and that’s probably reasonable.

          • Adam says:

            Someone who works productively from 18-40 and suffers an injury that prevents them from ever working again is already covered by existing disability programs. This doesn’t seem to be what is being discussed when asking what to do about future unskilled labor that is displaced by automation and how to not make them feel like welfare queens.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @Brad:

            I think a key point is: who is asking us to create these alleged welfare programs? Is it the people who are opposed to them, who’re doing the asking?

            If so, then indeed that’s hypocritical. If instead it’s third parties, saying “give these people welfare; oh, but be careful not to make it seem like welfare, since they don’t like that”, then that’s… something, surely, but not hypocrisy, at least. I think it’s useful to distinguish between these two things.

          • tscharf says:

            The defense department is the biggest engineering welfare program in the world by far. Lots of good paying hi tech government supported jobs.

            Is it useful? Almost certainly. Could we live with spending half the same budget? Probably.

            So all they need to do is make sure the new fighter planes and manned space programs run on coal, everyone wins, ha ha.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Alternately, we could laterally transfer the coal miners to Uranium, Thorium, and concrete manufacture production and then commit to making the US power grid 100% nuclear by 2030.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think our economy is reaching a point where low IQ people …won’t be able to do useful work and if we don’t give them welfare we will have to come up with pretend jobs and I think a solution might be to have these pretend jobs be ones where the low IQ person is having inexpensive fun (video games) and not causing trouble for others.

            Why don’t you contemplate that in such a future, “low IQ” might pan out to mean “below IQ 120” or “130”, then?

            These hypotheticals always assume that I’m all right Jack and will continue to be in the future because I’m at least one standard deviation above average. Nothing says that will hold true, as white collar jobs increasingly become automated, higher level white collar jobs become automated, AI gets off the ground (not God-Emperor AI, smart as a human AI) and unless you are very specialised talent and/or very very smart, you’ll be in the position of someone who knows twenty ways to turn out buggy whips in the age of automobiles.

            It’s entirely possible IQ 95-100 athletes will still be millionaires (because people will still watch sports and entertainment) and IQ 115-120 former software writers will be scrabbling by on whatever part-time temp work they can pick up while the company is transitioning from partly-human to fully automated.

          • psmith says:

            Why don’t you contemplate that in such a future, “low IQ” might pan out to mean “below IQ 120” or “130”, then?

            Can’t speak for Miller, but this is a huge worry of mine.

            The broadest goal is a society in which people throughout the functional range of intelligence can find, and feel they have found, a valued place for themselves. For “valued place,” I will give you a pragmatic definition: you occupy a valued place if other people would miss you if you were gone. The fact that you would be missed means that you were valued. Both the quality and quantity of valued places are important. A beloved spouse is that someone who would “miss you” in the widest and most intense way. But to have many different people who would miss you, in many different parts of your life and at many levels of intensity, is also a hallmark of a person whose “place” is well and thoroughly valued. One way of thinking about policy options is to ask whether they aid or obstruct this goal of creating valued places.

            It used to be a lot easier than it is now.

            The specific policy failings that Murray was talking about here applied mostly to low-IQ populations, but these issues are also worth thinking about because sooner or later they may well affect everyone.

          • Brad says:

            @Said Achmiz
            How do you we account for the nebulous gray area consisting of ignorance, fantasy, and lying to oneself?

            People realize there’s something not quite above board about jobs that only exist because of protectionism. That’s why you so often see the notion that other countries are somehow “cheating” and tariffs just “leveling the playing field”.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          “hayfoot strawfoot”

          Off-topic, but – whoa! I just googled, and – you guys had this in Ireland too?! I knew this as a Russian thing…! (It’s mentioned in one of Aleksei Tolstoi’s works, in fact…)

          • Deiseach says:

            Learned it from my mother, she told me it in a joke, not from my father who actually was in the army – but yeah, the Irish Army was a bit… behind the times when he was in 😉

            Peasants is peasants the world over, it would seem.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Obligatory opening sentence to demonstrate that I’m aware the comment I’m responding to was condescending snark and not a serious proposal.

        The overwhelming majority (~91%) of non-hispanic white Americans have an IQ above 80. And of the tenth who do fall below that cutoff, I’d bet good money most of them are still more than capable of doing jobs like custodial work or landscaping that produce real value for people.

        The meme that working class whites are economically useless and need some sort of covert hillbilly welfare to keep them alive and distracted is bizarre because it’s so obviously wrong. Do you think the factory workers in Guadalajara are all a bunch of geniuses? I hate to burst your bubble but the people doing those jobs overseas or illegally aren’t any brighter or more productive, often it’s quite the opposite, just a whole hell of a lot cheaper.

        If we had put in just a fraction of the effort that northern European countries like Germany did into keeping manufacturing in the country and training skilled tradesman, we wouldn’t have Trump today. A massive chunk of that blame rightly falls on the R’s but the D’s haven’t moved us any closer to that either.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Its almost like people don’t understand that globalization could have gone many different ways and the USA picked one of the dumbest choices…

        • James Miller says:

          Yes, I didn’t mean to imply that a large number of people in the relevant class had an IQ below 80. My bet is that in the United States each year the minimum IQ you need to earn a subsistence living is going to continually go up so figuring out now what to do with low IQ people will help us a lot in the long-run.

          I voted for Trump and am extremely grateful to the U.S. white working class for saving us from Hillary.

          “Do you think the factory workers in Guadalajara are all a bunch of geniuses? I hate to burst your bubble but the people doing those jobs overseas or illegally aren’t any brighter or more productive, often it’s quite the opposite, just a whole hell of a lot cheaper.” Most of these workers’ marginal product is well below the subsistence level wage in the United States.

          • My bet is that in the United States each year the minimum IQ you need to earn a subsistence living is going to continually go up so figuring out now what to do with low IQ people will help us a lot in the long-run.

            Does that assume that the definition of a subsistence living keeps going up?

            To first approximation, stupid people can do the same things today they could do a century ago, hence can live as well.

            The second approximation takes account of the fact that most things people do involve a mix of inputs. If every ten stupid people needed a smart person making ten dollars an hour to work with them producing thirty dollars an hour worth of goods, giving the stupid people a wage of two dollars an hour, but now the smart person can make a thousand dollar an hour programming robots and the stupid people still need an hour of his time, they have a problem.

            On the other hand, what they really needed wasn’t one smart person, it was the services produced by one smart person, and smart people now produce about a hundred times as much per hour, which is why they get paid a thousand dollars an hour, so with luck they can continue to pay ten dollars to the smart person, and use it to buy .6 minutes of his time instead.

            That’s a very rough sketch of a very complicated system, but I think it is enough to show why I don’t think you can take it for granted that technological progress means people who were moderately poor in the past will be desperately poor in the future, unless you are scaling up your definition of poverty to match how much richer everyone else is getting. If anything, my guess is the other way around–that in a much richer society there will be enough things relatively stupid people can still do so that they will be better off, not worse off, in absolute although not relative terms.

          • BourbonWaltz says:

            “If anything, my guess is the other way around–that in a much richer society there will be enough things relatively stupid people can still do so that they will be better off, not worse off, in absolute although not relative terms.”

            I agree with you. Unfortunately, as you point out stupid people will not be better off in relative terms. Increasing inequality should be unimportant if it happens concurrently with (and perhaps as a result of) being absolutely better off.

            Should, unfortunately, doesn’t always pan out especially given human nature (status seeking)…. so practically speaking “subsistence living” does keep going up. Now it includes a washer/dryer and AC, 200 years ago it did not.

    • q-tip says:

      My fellow Americans —

      Aw, fuck it.

      I mean, I do have some pride and integrity, and am also actually interested in making America better – so, all due respect, Mr. & Mrs. Sizable Fraction Of The White Working Class*, I think I’ll try to win without jumping through your dumb-ass hoops.

      My sister-in-arms came pretty darn close this year, don’t forget!

      * And show me your tax returns before you claim salt-of-the-earth status – I have a sneaking suspicion you live closer to Newport Beach than Santa Ana.

      • NIP says:

        …are you talking to me, the person-behind-the-keyboard, or me, the hypothetical Joe/Jill Sixpack?

        Because in either case, lady, let’s get one fuckin’ thing straight:

        I appreciate you sharing your opinion, and hope you have a very good night <3

        • q-tip says:

          If the answer doesn’t matter, why ask?

          But yes, I was talking to your hypothetical voter with all those ridiculous deal-breakers. I am, indeed, challenging their claims of working-class credibility. I doubt they’re as poor, relative to the population as a whole, as they think they are. (Since they’re hypothetical, we’ll never know!)

          My point was: your voter is asking for a surrender on things that matter very deeply to much of the Democratic Party. Why, in the aftermath of a very close election, would the DP agree to such concessions? Chances are good that their votes will not be necessary next time around.

          PS: I’m not a lady – men have sisters too, as do all people, metaphorically – but rest easy: I won’t be contacting your employer to get you fired for misidentifying me. #notalldemocrats

          • nyccine says:

            Absolutely nothing was ridiculous about the criteria presented.

            That you think so, and are offended by the very suggestion, is likely the best summation as to why Clinton lost.

    • Clabber Branch says:

      You are a white working class person. Here is how I want to help you, your family, and your community.

      Currently, you probably work for a company, doing some thing. The details don’t matter right now, the point is that you doing that thing creates more money than it uses up. Some of that money is paid to you as wages. Another portion is kept by the company, as profit.

      There are ways to change that portion to be more favorable to you. They are proven, quick, and easy to implement. They involve higher taxes on rich people, lower taxes on you, and unionization. This is the way things were done back when America was great. It can be great again.

      First, I’ll cut your taxes- income, FICA, everything federal. Maybe state and local too. Instant boost to you, your family, and your community.

      Second, I’ll raise taxes on rich people- income, capital gains, estate, everything federal.

      Third, I’ll make it easier to unionize. With a union looking out for you, the company you work for will pay you higher wages, give you better benefits, be unable to fire you, and the union will do all the negotiating for you. From time to time, you may have to participate in various picket lines, walkouts, sit down strikes, mob violence, and/or full scale battles with private security forces, the police, or the national guard.

      My plan will change lots of things. The key thing to keep in mind is that you will be paid more of the surplus that your work creates. This will come out of what used to be the bosses’ share. They won’t be happy about that and it will take some effort to get them to accept it, but accept it they will. Its been like this before and it will be like this again.

      Benefits to you: Higher wages, better job security, strong sense of working class solidarity and community, joy at seeing your so-called betters taken down several notches.

      Note: A lot of people, including me, would doubt the objective correctness of some or all of this plan. Nevertheless, it is plausible, and the sort of things that some the Democratic party stood for in the past and stand for today.

      • NIP says:

        7/10, would probably vote for. Had to dock three points, one for this –

        >From time to time, you may have to participate in various picket lines, walkouts, sit down strikes, mob violence, and/or full scale battles with private security forces, the police, or the national guard

        – which frankly doesn’t sound very enticing, one for this –

        >Its been like this before and it will be like this again

        – which while straightforward and confident, has less of the impact it used to since the old unions have a reputation of being corrupt and ineffective; and one point for the fact that a lot of people don’t even have any industries in their town anymore big enough to unionize.

        But overall, pretty good. Short, concise, and on-target. I myself can’t say anything about the feasability of your plan or its effectiveness, but that wasn’t part of the test anyway.

        • Clabber Branch says:

          That’s better than I expected, thanks!

          Industrial violence and corrupt and ineffective unions are clearly drawbacks of my plan. There are others- for instance the need for industries to exist which you raised- but your post didn’t call for them to be acknowledged, so it was probably a mistake even to mention the few I did.

          In other words, I’d never make it as a politician.

      • Deiseach says:

        Third, I’ll make it easier to unionize.

        But isn’t that the point of the “right to work” laws – that they deliberately acted to weaken the power of unions? How do you get around those? If a company is saying “we don’t want unions” (and a lot of American multinationals coming into Ireland in the 80s and 90s had explicit anti-union policies) and a state has passed “right to work” laws, how do you tell the state it has to junk those laws?

        • Iain says:

          You work to repeal the laws? This does not seem complicated. With a sufficiently pro-union Supreme Court, I’m sure you could pass a federal law eliminating right-to-work everywhere and have it upheld under the Commerce Clause.

          • Rob K says:

            State-level right to work is actually specifically permitted by Taft-Hartley, which suggests that it’s not particularly controversial that it’s a matter where the federal government has jurisdiction.

            Over the past 6 years Republicans have passed Right to Work laws in a variety of northern states, which could be vulnerable to state-level repeal efforts.

            A broader revival of the labor movement, though, I think would require federal action. It seems completely conceivable to me that you could have a world where the service industry has the kind of unionization rates that manufacturing did in the immediate postwar period – but only in an environment where unionization has the kind of federal support that it had under FDR.

      • multiheaded says:

        Pretty good, that’s a 19th century classic for a reason.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I want to take a stab at this, but it may end up being a new top-level comment in a subsequent open thread. Figuring out the right way to sell NIT/UBI to the public in terms other than “welfare” is tricky. Profit-sharing on the American economy (connect to American Exceptionalism, Alaskan oil payments, universality. Profit-sharing in companies is actually something that’s popular with a lot of front line employees and isn’t thought of as creeping socialism)…something like that.

    • Tekhno says:

      How about welfare cleverly and persuasively disguised as infrastructure jobs? Some value would probably get put back in then. Build loads of bridges, monuments, to glorify the country and make it great.

    • Murphy says:

      hmm.

      So, instrumental goal: get into power. That has to be dealt with before I can enact any other plan.
      Since a large fraction of my target are going to be hostile to arguments presented in a coherent way like graphs, math etc I could try explaining that at length and simply but if that worked it would have worked already.

      So, if I was really power hungry and a bit evil with a fair bit of cash resources to amplify my message I’d probably go with something like this:

      1: Wait until there’s some terrorist attack, some kind of incident with a foreign nation or some kind of internal instability related to a minority group like riots or excessive crime. Something notable enough will happen sooner or later on the scale of hundreds of millions of people. I just have to wait for it.

      2: Tell the people they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger. Stir up lots of ingroup-outgroup animosity, make sure that my target voters consider themselves on “my” side against the out-group.

      3: Accuse my opponents of being soft and risking the lives of your children to the outside threat.

      4: Promise to keep the out-group OUT and to inspect/survive/expel those already here to keep you and your children safe.

      5: Blame the out-group for why you and your kids can’t get jobs, promise that everything will be better when I’m in charge and can prevent them from screwing up your life.

      As a bonus this also works on people who aren’t white males too, no need to lose voters I don’t need to lose.

      The out-group can be any convenient group, to minimize problems it works best if I pick a group who are already unlikely to support me anyway and are aligned with another political faction.

      Of course this is a fairly classic set of steps, Trump followed it with Muslim immigrants and a vague barely defined “the elite” as the out-groups so it would be a tough battle since I’m not using intrinsically more effective tactics.

      Downside: After achieving the instrumental goal of getting into power I’m still stuck with the animosity I’ve stirred up against the out-group and it’s hard to avoid treating them like crap without appearing weak and I then have to apply myself to the second instrumental goal: remaining in power. Which is likely to take a lot of my time and resources as well.

    • 1soru1 says:

      To save time, I’ve just copied someone else’s answer:

      Launch our country’s boldest investments in infrastructure since we built the Interstate highway system

      Make audacious advancement in research and technology, creating the industries and jobs of the future

      Establish the U.S. as the clean energy superpower of the world—with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of the first term and enough clean renewable energy to power every home in American within ten years

      Strengthen American manufacturing with a $10 billion “Make it in America” plan

      Cut red tape, provide tax relief and expand access to capital so small businesses can grow, hire and thrive

      Ensure that the jobs of the future in caregiving and services are good-paying jobs, recognize their fundamental contributions to families and to America

      Pursue smarter, fairer, tougher trade policies that put U.S. job creation first and that get tough on nations like China that seek to prosper at the expense of our workers – including opposing trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that do not meet a high bar of creating good-paying jobs and raising pay

      Commit to a full employment, full-potential economy and break down barriers so that growth, jobs, and prosperity are shared in every community in America, no matter where you live and no matter your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability

      Appoint Fed governors who share the belief that maximum employment is an essential prong of the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate

      https://www.hillaryclinton.com/briefing/factsheets/2016/06/22/stronger-together-hillary-clintons-plan-for-an-economy-that-works-for-everyone-not-just-those-at-the-top/

      Pretty sure it meets at least points 1 to 4; it no doubt contains lies and bullshit too, but I’m not in a position to confirm. I rather suspect if the author had campaigned along those lines, rather than burying the details two links deep in a web-site, then things might well have turned out different.