Protectionism

China Trade Isn’t Killing America’s Working Class

Government handouts maybe more responsible.

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American politics aren't exactly immune to bouts of protectionism. A Bloomberg poll has found that two-thirds of Americans, Republicans and Democrats, are four-square behind it—a sentiment that Bernie Sanders is exploiting on the left and Donald Trump on the right.

But although free trade has always been a tough sell to the general public, American economists across the political

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spectrum have long held firm that globalization and trade liberalization are, on balance, a boon for the country. But now this consensus may be fraying, with The New York Times' agent provocateur Paul Krugman recently declaring that such thinking is "fundamentally dishonest" elitist bunkum.

Krugman won a Nobel Prize back in 2008 for advancing precisely such "fundamentally dishonest" stuff. But what's partly driving him now is the much talked about work of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's David Autor, purportedly showing that the American middle class never recovered from the assault on its jobs by trade liberalization with China.

"It is fair to say," Krugman declaims, "that the case for more trade agreements—including TPP, which hasn't happened yet—is very, very weak. And if a progressive makes it to the White House, she should devote no political capital whatsoever to such things."

That is astonishingly myopic.

For starters, there is every reason to believe that even after job losses are factored in, trade with China and other developing countries has benefited even working-class Americans. A study by UCLA's Pablo D. Fajgelbaum and Columbia University's Amit Khandelwal found that the economic effects of trade are definitely skewed—but in favor of lower-income consumers, who enjoy 90 percent of trade's benefits. Why? Because trade lowers prices in areas such as food, clothing, and low-end consumer goods where these folks spend the bulk of their paychecks.

Likewise, another study by University of Chicago's Christian Broda and John Roma found that, thanks to trade, inflation for the basket of goods that poor people buy has been much lower than for those that rich people purchase. Those in the top five percentile have experienced 1.2 percent annual inflation, and the bottom 10th 0.4 percent. This means that in terms of actual buying power, poor people are not falling behind rich people as rapidly as the doomsayers would have you believe, and may in fact be closing the gap.

Shutting the door to cheap Chinese imports won't bring manufacturing jobs back to America. Why? Because American manufacturers that open shop here are far more likely to heavily automate rather than hire overpriced American labor to remain globally competitive. (Are you listening, Mr. Trump?) And for those who remain without jobs, cutting off cheap imports will mean that their unemployment checks will go less far. In short, in a world with diminished trade, Americans won't get better-paying jobs, they'll just get even poorer.

Autor estimates that about a quarter of manufacturing job losses in America between 2000 and 2007 were the result of Chinese imports. Other estimates put these losses closer to a fifth—with automation causing the rest. Either way, it's hardly news that trade would result in some job losses.

What is news is that, post trade liberalization with China, workers who lost their jobs didn't quickly bounce back and move on to higher and better things in growing industries, as standard trade theory would predict and as has historically been the case. Indeed, usually even if whole towns and cities succumb to trade or other forces of creative destruction, the vast majority of their inhabitants flee to better climes elsewhere. This time around, however, a significant number of Americans seem to have gotten stuck in a downward spiral where they are. For example, workers in Tennessee's furniture district, which was badly hit by cheap Chinese imports, never found new jobs.

What's driving the diminishing dynamism of the American workforce? Why do so many Americans seemingly prefer to drop out of the labor market or take lower paying jobs closer to home rather than seeking better opportunities elsewhere in the country?

Is it because there are no jobs? Hardly. Total non-farm job openings are at a record high, with a million positions in blue-collar fields like construction and transportation going begging. Yet the labor participation rate in the country is at a record low.

A skills gap between employer need and worker qualifications can explain some of this gap, as well as America's aging population. But the other big culprit is government policies that disincentive work.

Chief among them is Congress' relaxation of the rules for claiming Social Security disability during the Reagan years so that a worker's own subjective self assessment—rubber stamped by his own self-selected physician—would be enough to file a successful claim. What's more, it also made the payment more generous.

The upshot was that when the Great Recession hit in 2008, many able-bodied adults went on Social Security disability after their unemployment benefits ran out and never got off. Scott Lincicome of Cato Institute notes that between 1990 and 2014, the percentage of working-age adults receiving disability more than doubled.

This meant that workers had less need to uproot themselves from their families and communities for jobs far away. The aforementioned Tennessee workers have preferred to stray not too far from their original commuting zones, for example. In other words, family ties became a barrier to—as opposed to facilitator of—individual ambition. But this dampening of drive will prevent Americans not only from adapting to the gale force winds of trade but other disruptions as well. Indeed, if China, India, and—as per Donald Trump's new bugaboo—Vietnam, pose a mortal threat to Americans, what exactly will they do when robots arrive on the scene? Call for repealing the laws of physics? Deport scientists?

It is one thing for an intellectually challenged, self-aggrandizing, populist windbag like Donald Trump (or Berne Sanders, for that matter) to scapegoat trade while ignoring the broad complex of government policies responsible for the plight of the American middleclass. But what exactly is Krugman's excuse?

This column originally appeared in The Week.

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167 responses to “China Trade Isn’t Killing America’s Working Class

  1. Do you see what happens, America? Do you see what happens when you price yourself out of the labor market? Do you see what happens?

    1. Given the chorus calling for $15 minimum wage… I don’t think they do.

      1. I favor a $153 / hour min wage… ergo, I am FAR more compassionate that YE, ye troglodyte!

    2. It’s not only wages, although I’m sure that’s the biggest number. Let’s also not forget the cost burden added to companies in taxation and regulatory compliance. If you can forego those costs, why wouldn’t you?

      1. ” If you can forego those costs, why wouldn’t you?”

        Maybe you have strong reservations about how business is conducted in China.

        1. Maybe, maybe not.

    3. Do you see what happens when you price yourself out of the labor market?

      So you’re in favour of governments imposing controls which force employees to accept lower wages so as to make American goods more competitive?

      (Of course you’d probably have to increase food stamps and other social security benefits and/or impose price controls of goods and services because otherwise lower wages would mean many workers and their families would fall below the poverty line and have to choose between eating and having a place to live. Or maybe the government could encourage a different solution: have poor Americans go live in places like China where the cost of living is cheaper. If offshoring industries is a viable solution, why not offshoring people as well, eh?)

      Or perhaps governments could relax anti-pollution regulations so as to encourage polluting industries to come back to America and provide more jobs for American workers instead having them go off to places like China and pollute there. That would, of course, meaning smoggier cities and more cities with polluted drink water (aka Flint) but there would also be an upside: it would create greater opportunities for mask manufacturers and bottled wafer companies.

  2. Cue anti-free-trade comments in 3, 2…

    1. Tariffs are awesome. I like blocking things because flags and fuck yeah.

      1. FUCK YEAH FLAGS!!!

        1. You won’t be laughing when you’re dressed in cheongsam, enslaved in some opium den and forced to minister to the needs of visiting Chinese businessmen!

          You know, your average weekend gig. But still!

          1. (perks up)

            Did someone say opium?

          2. Hmm…I might be able to work with that. Are the Chinese typically circumcised?

            1. No, but with your luck, you’ll get a Hui business man.

          3. I’m pretty sure I’ll be laughing.

    2. …and look at the comment just below yours. It’s like shooting fish in a really small barrel.

      1. I’m guessing it’s a spoof.

        1. Judging from its posting track record, it’s not.

          1. Now that I’m re-reading it, “Reactionary Moment” has the distinct odor of “Mary Stack” to it. She must have slipped into the church office to sneak onto their computer during the Good Friday service this morning. Her husband will find out soon enough and drag her back home.

    3. Man, if we only had free trade.

  3. Protectionism make the US great and was the policy of the GOP from inception throughout US rise to #1 industrial power. one sided “free trade” is a disaster for US. Reason continues to push the globalist elitist position not that it matters are so called libertarians are irrelevant

    1. Don’t use Siri to post your comments.

    2. I think it’s cute that you believe the United States has ever had anything approximating free trade.

      1. The molasses, rum, and slave trade worked well.

    3. If free trade is bad, wouldn’t no trade be perfect? Would it be good for Ohio not to trade with Michigan? How about no trade between different counties or zip codes?

      1. Clearly no one would agree to an exchange unless they’re either being coerced or taking advantage of the other individual.

        (And I have to mark this as [sarc] since there are people I know who’d make that argument in earnestness)

      2. You should only be allowed to consume whatever you produce as an individual. Will billions starve? Of course, but it’s pure.

        1. +1 heal the planet

          1. Not with the methane release from that many decomposing corpses.

      3. No “free trade” from my house to my neighbor’s house! That’s why we SQRLSY ones do our own home dentistry, our own home shoe-leather tanning, iron-ore extracting, tool-making, and air-conditioner-making! AND we make our OWN home-made silicon and computers and smell phones! And we live in FABULOUS wealth!

        And now, ALL the major candidates for Prez of the USA, will take ye to where we are! HOOORAY!!!!

    4. US protectionism works well for sugar.

      For Canada.

    1. Have you ever seen a Chinese surgery? Those toys get everywhere.

        1. Damn. I didn’t read that scroll at the until now. That is awful.

  4. Yes, let us not bash China, a country where the Communist Party rule, where large parts of the economy is State Owned industries, and where others parts are thinly disguised Communist Owned, where all land is owned by the Communist Party, where anyone disputing Communist Party rule will be put in jail or executed even if its just for asking for a raise.

    And no, let us not have a broad description of ‘Free Trade’ to mean trade between free people but a narrow one where you don’t have tariffs or quotas and under that definition the Chinese government exporting prisoners body parts to Cuba would be classified as ‘free trade’.

    So let us continue the libertarians idea that people would be better off if they got less pay and lived like workers in Communist China and then wonder why nobody voted libertarian

    So let us praise China and lift up our hearts in joyous song

    Rise, we who refuse to be slaves;
    With our very flesh and blood
    let us build our new Great Wall!
    The peoples of China are at their most critical time,
    Everybody must roar defiance.
    Rise! Rise! Rise!
    Millions become one,
    Braving the enemy’s gunfire, March!
    Braving the enemy’s gunfire, March!
    March! March!, March!

    1. Yeah, the libertarian solution is to make sure people in this country are just as oppressed as people in China.

      For fairness!

      1. It’s so…progressive of him, don’t you think?

      2. It’s like “ordered” liberty, nikki. They write their own lexicon and expect reality to conform to it.

    2. Here is an even better song

      Without the Communist Party, There Will Be No New China.
      Without the Communist Party, There Will Be No New China.
      The Communist Party toiled for the nation.
      The Communist Party of one mind saved China
      It pointed to the road of liberation for the people.
      It led China towards the light.
      It supported the War of Resistance for more than eight years.
      It has improved people’s lives.
      It built a base behind enemy lines.
      It practiced democracy, bringing many advantages.
      Without the Communist Party, there will be no new China.
      Without the Communist Party, there will be no new China.

        1. Better, best song…
          Scienfoology Song? GAWD = Government Almighty’s Wrath Delivers

          Government loves me, This I know,
          For the Government tells me so,
          Little ones to GAWD belong,
          We are weak, but GAWD is strong!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          My Nannies tell me so!

          GAWD does love me, yes indeed,
          Keeps me safe, and gives me feed,
          Shelters me from bad drugs and weed,
          And gives me all that I might need!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          My Nannies tell me so!

          DEA, CIA, KGB,
          Our protectors, they will be,
          FBI, TSA, and FDA,
          With us, astride us, in every way!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          Yes, Guv-Mint loves me!
          My Nannies tell me so!

    3. This would be a slightly more compelling response if contemporary “China bashers” made the oppressive nature of the Chinese regime a primary part of their arguments. Instead, it is barely on display at all.

      1. I do it all the time but its mostly ignored here

        And I also point out that its a strange “free market” and ‘free trade” which has so many State enterprises involved.

        I can’t even get people here to talk about this nor even think about seperating out such State business when talking about free trade or free markets

        1. “I can’t even get people here to talk about this nor even think about seperating out such State business when talking about free trade or free markets”

          Plenty of people have ‘talked’ about it and pointed out that it doesn’t affect the value of trade one bit.
          You seem to think we should cut off our noses since the commies are still ion power. Here, I’ll loan you a knifwe; you first.

          1. You seem to think that dealing in stolen goods which is what communism is should not stand in the way of making a profit.

        2. You’re completely missing the point, just like all people who try to prevent me from buying things from another person of my choice. If you are saying the government should only allow me to buy stuff from countries that are “moral” and “upstanding” then who can we buy from? What is the cut off for levels of evil? And if China is so evil, then why not cut off 100% of all trade with them? Why send our goods to help them out? The truth is you don’t really give a shit about what china does, none of you do. You just tried to attach this “moral” argument because you realized your economic argument is shit. Furthermore, I don;t see how trading less with china will help the Chinese be less ruled by state enterprises. Hasn’t worked with Cuba. In fact, your argument would actually make a case for more trade with them as it is likely to erode state owned enterprises quicker.

  5. More shit from the Immigrant Pimp. I’ll readily admit to not being an economist but I think it’s reasonable to assume that there’s a middle ground between “vastly overpaid union labor” and “dispossessed Okie making 5 cents a month”.

      1. She’s proud to be an Okie From Muskogee

        1. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I can never shake the suspicion that Shikia won’t rest until there’s a firmly-established American dahlit caste.

          I have to say, though, that I agree with the guy upthread. Having the slogan “Vote Libertarian and become an itinerant worker or sharecropper today!!” is not a vote winner.

          1. How about “Vote Libertarian and take ownership of your life, be responsible for your choices and figure out how to make a living!”

              1. Is there ever a Libertarian vote winner?

                1. Butt sex ?

  6. I don’t need to bash China.

    I got plenty of material here in North America to bash.

    1. If you won’t get hysterically worked up when I point you at humans I’ve labeled “Other”, how am I supposed to assume a god-like power and fanatical control over everyone around me?

      It’s as if you don’t think these things through, Rufus.

      1. Fucken commie chinks taking my manufacturing job even though I don’t manufacture anything.

        How’s that?

        1. Manufacturing? Manufacturing? Let me tell you about manufacturing, mister! China is manufacturing genetically-modified maple trees as we speak. The viscosity of maple syrup is the only thing that will replace the blood of white Protestant children in their unspeakable Yellow Devil rites.

          Fear! Havoc! And a third thing, which I cannot recall at the moment!

        2. I know you’re clowning, but the US is the number 2 exporter in the world.

          1. Where’s Canukistan on that list?

              1. Well, since Rufus is Canukistani, his manufacturing ‘jobs’ would come from that set, not the US set.

            1. Propped up by the US.

              Food shipped by ship from the US to Hawaii has to go through Vancouver because the Jones Act which requires ships carrying goods from one US port to another to be made from at least 90% US steel and have at least 75% US citizen sailors. For some times of ships like livestock ships, no such ship exists so the cargo gets loaded in Los Angeles, goes to Vancouver, and then goes on to Hawaii.

              Alternatively, you can ship from Los Angeles to Hawaii via 747.

              And now you know why things cost so much in Hawaii.

            1. I saw they were suppose to overtake the US. I don’t know if that has happened.

              1. No, they got overtaken by rapefugees first.

  7. For example, workers in Tennessee’s furniture district, which was badly hit by cheap Chinese imports, never found new jobs.

    They could take a one day’s drive to Texas and find plenty of jobs.

    1. Making furniture? I doubt it. Also, if they want to work construction as well as some other blue collar work, they’d better learn to speak Spanish.

  8. Is it because there are no jobs? Hardly. Total non-farm job openings are at a record high, with a million positions in blue-collar fields like construction and transportation going begging. Yet the labor participation rate in the country is at a record low.

    A skills gap between employer need and worker qualifications can explain some of this gap, as well as America’s aging population.

    You can’t subtract a hand-wave from a number to get the one relevant to your point.

    1. Total non-farm job openings are at a record high, with a million positions in blue-collar fields like construction and transportation going begging.

      How many of those are real jobs, that they’re actually hiring for, instead of government required pro forma pretend jobs that are part of some government kabuki dance allowing them to import foreign labor?

      I don’t really know, but I do know that’s the way it works in IT.

      Also, you know in a free market, if you don’t have enough takers for the positions you’re offering at the terms you’re offering them, you sweeten the terms. With all those unfilled openings, it doesn’t sound like they’re too busy sweetening the terms.

      1. “Also, you know in a free market, if you don’t have enough takers for the positions you’re offering at the terms you’re offering them, you sweeten the terms.”

        Whoa whoa whoa… Are you telling me that companies actually have an incentive to provide high wages, paid vacation time, and other benefits without some government agency forcing them??

      2. Eh, labor is payed at the marginal revenue product of labor. If they raise wages then they’ll probably have to raise prices, which could result in a loss of business. If that loss is big enough it isn’t worth it for the business to offer a higher wage to attract more job seekers. Alternately they would have to expand the job description to require more productivity from the applicant to justify the higher wage.

  9. Trump says they are manipulating the currency and calls it ‘theft’. These are absurd allegations – they ‘manipulate’ the currency by buying treasuries – which are public commodities. He is trying to use Hitler’s argument that “yes the aryan race is corrupt and lazy, but that’s no excuse for the Jews to manipulate them with their financial shenanigans and international capital”. And then trying to deflect criticism of that illogic by invoking “Godwin’s Law”, which states that it is the references to Hitler that are the absurd allegations.

    1. Did Hitler claim the ayran race wa lazy? I don’t recall ever coming across that.

      1. He repeatedly called them lazy stupid corrupt vain. Pretty much everything he said about the Jews, except for the ‘evil’ part. All manifestos have the same illogic. Including Trump’s: “We must build a wall and kick them out because we are too weak to overcome our own addiction to cheap labor.”

        1. Ah. My memory is shot.

    2. I’m confused.

    3. If anybody is getting screwed in the US-China export game it’s China. They send us cheap productions and we send them paper that can be inflated away. Thanks for the free capital chumps!

      1. But it is apparently more desirable than their own paper.

      2. If anybody is getting screwed in the US-China export game it’s China.

        It’s neither the US nor China, but the peasants on both sides of the ocean.

  10. It’s sad that people most likely to support Trump are those most likely to be harmed by his tariff proposals.

    That said, I think the author exagerrates how easy it is to get SSDI benefits and how useful they are to recipients. As a good friend of someone with extreme paranoid schizophrenia (he’s had multiple stints in mental hospitals, including one lasting months), getting these benefits isn’t easy. They also don’t provide sufficient income to live pretty much anywhere (much of his food is from food banks).

    Is there abuse of the SSDI system? Most definitely, but blaming it for the struggles of America’s working class is idiotic (for example, how would it affect people who aren’t on SSDI?).

  11. Well someone should do something about China forcing people to buy their products. I don’t want to buy a set of cheap clown figurines or a talking fish but what choice do I have?

    1. You could pay the penaltax.

  12. “Krugman generally favored free trade given the enormous political costs of actively engaging in strategic trade policy and because there is no clear method for a government to discover which industries will ultimately yield positive returns. He also noted that increasing returns and strategic trade theory do not disprove the underlying truth behind comparative advantage. More recently, in 2015 Krugman noted that for future trade agreements, “whatever you may say about the benefits of free trade, most of those benefits have already been realized.”[171]

    http://tinyurl.com/hdb6dpo

    Yeah, that’s right. Donald Trump is running to the left of Paul Krugman.

    1. Was this written before or after Paul died and was replaced?

    2. “Krugman generally favored free trade given the enormous political costs of actively engaging in strategic trade policy and because there is no clear method for a government to discover which industries will ultimately yield positive returns. ”

      On the other hand, the government can totally tell which infrastructure projects will yield the best returns/multiplier effect, so right-thinkers like Krugman know stimulus is super sweet.

  13. Has there ever been a group more pandered to than the American blue-collar worker? Less than a decade ago, we saw 33 billion dollars spent to maintain the Potemkin factories that provide make-work jobs for them; a year after that the Obama(!) administration coined the term “shovel-ready” when allocating 831 billion dollars for make-work infrastructure improvement jobs. And just how much do we spend on agricultural subsides each year? Etc. etc. mutatis mutandis…. Now we are treated to their complaints that we didn’t build a barn to house all the ponies we gave them? And even worse, at least 25 percent of the commenters here regularly concern-troll over how this group is so ‘demonized’ and we need to understand the reasoning behind their ‘populist anger’ because, hey, we’re talking about their uncles and pappys now.

    Fuck them. The curious tendency of American culture to romanticize these “good, honest, salt-of-the-earth, yeomen” has been like a parasitic and malignant tumor on the economy since at least the time of William Jennings Bryan’s strident screeds against the Gold Standard. Let this frothing mass choke on its own petulant entitlement as they thrash about in impotent anger over having recognized its own death rattle.

    1. “””Has there ever been a group more pandered to than the American blue-collar worker?”””

      How about Bankers and Financiers who got billions in 0% interest loans and are still getting them today, have been declared ‘too big to fail’ , get personnel phone calls from the FED and Treasury telling them future government policy and are virtual immunity from criminal prosecution because they might threaten the economy

      1. How about Bankers and Financiers who got billions in 0% interest loans, etc., etc., etc.

        Kindly give a few examples of the political campaigns that have specifically campaigned on promises to subsidize Wall Street, much less examples of elements of American political culture that have romanticized bankers as a group.

        1. I don’t get to go to the politicans meetings with Bankers but I bet there is lots of pandering going on

          And as shown by their “Too Big To Fail” status that pandering has been followed up with results

    2. I’m going to need some citation that any of the taxpayer dollars wasted on those programs actually went towards the working class. It seems to me that they just fed the usual cronies.

      1. I’m going to need some citation that any of the taxpayer dollars wasted on those programs actually went towards the working class.

        Special pleading is the best kind of pleading.

        Regardless of that; please note I wrote “pandered to”, not “assisted”.

        1. If you’re measuring pandering, then the answer is an unequivocal “No, they’re not”.

          1. Horse ca-ca. I’ve already listed two major examples of campaign goodies that were promised and delivered during 2008-2009. When was the “Excel-ready” jobs package for the database managers and accountants of America?

            1. Two examples promised and not delivered (as mentioned above). But social issue pandering dwarfs economic issue pandering, the exception being times when the economy has crapped out.

    3. Yeah, what he said. Whenever I hear somebody self-describe as “blue collar,” it’s not long before the asshole is telling me about what he is owed by everybody around him for somehow simultaneously being the lifeblood of the country that keeps its economic engine moving while not being able to find a job because of getting screwed by evil bankers and other bogeymen. They’ve got as big an entitlement complex as the American farmer, and those clowns put any alleged welfare-queen to shame.

    4. “Has there ever been a group more pandered to than the American blue-collar worker? Less than a decade ago, we saw 33 billion dollars spent to maintain the Potemkin factories that provide make-work jobs for them; a year after that the Obama(!) administration coined the term “shovel-ready” when allocating 831 billion dollars for make-work infrastructure improvement jobs.”

      We shouldn’t confuse the UAW and pampered government employees with average blue collar workers.

      That money mostly went to the well-connected–even while the Progressives actively demonized the rest of them.

    5. Let this frothing mass choke on its own petulant entitlement as they thrash about in impotent anger over having recognized its own death rattle.

      Concern-troll I may be (while granting the obvious point that protectionism and government support for manufacturing is wrong and also counter productive)

      Is the solution to the “blue collar crisis” that these workers become addicted to painkillers and then commit suicide with a shotgun in a forest?

      1. No, that isn’t the solution at all.

        The solution is economic growth, more opportunities, and growing standards of living, and that comes from free markets, trade, productivity gains, capitalism, investment, less regulation, lower spending, and lower taxes.

        1. I was expressing pessimism that more opportunities and growing standards of living will never occur as the United States shows no likelihood of ever moving to less regulation or a smaller state.

          Not certainly that I ever want to see the increased proletarianization of the working class (and the awful “shotgun in the woods” scenario), but how can things not get worse?

      2. “Is the solution to the “blue collar crisis” that these workers become addicted to painkillers and then commit suicide with a shotgun in a forest?”

        It’s an interesting question. How to deal with excess work force in a time of economic dislocation. In Russia under Yeltsin, it was thanks to the proletariat drinking themselves to an early grave (in their millions) that did the trick. Let’s see if the Americans can handle the problem more humanely.

    6. Has there ever been a group more pandered to than the American blue-collar worker?

      To raise a meek example, perhaps professionals for whom the state has thrown up numerous barriers to entry and protect from competition (lawyers, medical professionals, beauticians, etc)

      1. Rising standards of living are not correlated with protecting beauticians from competition.

        See what’s happening to the nail salon workers in New York City as an example.

        Did you read the post earlier today about the lady who practiced law for ten years without passing the bar or graduating from law school? Apparently she was doing good work and getting well paid for it. Her customers were happy enough–for more than ten years.

        Why is she better off because the government protects lawyers from competition?

        Has it occurred to you that skilled blue collar workers are precisely the “competition” that the government is trying to protect the well connected from?

        1. Well i should have been more clear, I would hope that assorted governments open up these professions, not that the same protected class status be granted to blue collar workers.

          1. You don’t seem to be getting the point that people are not better off becasue they’re excluded from various professions by licensing and other government requirements.

            Customers aren’t better off because they have to pay more for services than they would otherwise either.

            When someone gets paid $50 an hour to screw in lug nuts all day, almost everyone is worse off because of it. Their employer is worse off because they could give that job to someone else and save money. The unemployed are worse off becasue their labor has been priced out of the market. Customers are worse off because you’ve artificially inflated the cost of building cars. And in the meantime, people are buying fewer cars than they would because the cost of building them is being artificially inflated.

            The only person who might be better off is the person who’s getting paid $50 an hour to screw in lug nuts.

            Increasing barriers to entry in more industries would not improve the lot of companies, the unemployed, or consumers, and let’s not forget that employees are consumers, too. Rising consumer costs to blue collar workers are not associated with rising standards of living for blue collar workers.

            In other words, what you’re proposing would not solve the problems you think–they would strangle the economy even further and exacerbate the problems you’re trying to address.

            1. Getting rid of licensing and other artificial barriers to entry would improve the living standards of almost everyone–except those few, well connected people who are being overpaid for their lack of productivity for no other reason than the arbitrary intrusion of government.

              1. Ken, Ken, that is exactly the same thing he just said.

                1. “I would hope that assorted governments open up these professions, not that the same protected class status be granted to blue collar workers.”

                  He’s talking about opening up these professions to more people–so that more of the people in those professions can be protected from competition.

                  What I said is not the same thing he said.

                  He isn’t getting that the pay increase resulting from excluding people will always be harmful. He’s also basically double counting those that are excluded as if they’re the ones helped by exclusion.

                  1. “I would hope that assorted governments open up these professions, not that the same protected class status be granted to blue collar workers.”

                    He’s talking about opening up these professions to more people–so that more of the people in those professions can be protected from competition.

                    That is not how it reads from where I sit, but whatever.

                    1. I am just terribly opaque

                      I don’t want the professional class to be protected from competition for jobs. I wish that the states would open up these professions and allow entry to anyone. And leave it for the consumer of these services to determine whose labor they might consume, not limit their options to an approved caste.

    7. Heroic Mulatto|3.25.16 @ 11:17AM|#
      “Has there ever been a group more pandered to than the American blue-collar worker?”

      How about those who nobly ‘work the soil’ to feed us? The farmer! The life-blood of democracy! Risking a buck-seventy-five until the next subsidy check arrives!

    8. Has there ever been a group more pandered to than the American blue-collar worker?

      The American public employee? Oh, right, they aren’t pandered to – just quietly pampered.

  14. It seems that the problem is that workers have families that they do not want to leave behind in order to work. An unattached person is the most free to up and move, but someone who has a spouse with a career is less free to move at will. Someone who is divorced with kids may not want to move far from the ex in order to maintain contact with the kids. That is not counting associations with parents and the like.

    The problem is that workers are not widgets and they have motivations and priorities beyond their careers

      1. I understand that. I was just musing that social developments are limiting worker mobility while economics and technology are demanding increased mobility. It appears to me to be a conundrum with no easy solution.

        1. that social developments are limiting worker mobility while economics and technology are demanding increased mobility.

          Which among developed countries, seems to be a unique American problem. The Schengen Agreement saw a huge increase in the robustness of intra-European trade thanks to the increase in worker mobility despite Franco-German whinging about the swarm of Polish tradesmen. When taken as a whole, the GDP of the EU is greater than even China’s.

          1. GDP includes governmnet spending, can we find a metric that actually reflects the health of the economy?

          2. That link says nothing about labor participation rates, which my understanding is, are worse in Europe.

      2. + 1 on the diagram!

        – 1 on the penmanship.

        1. I’d guess his or her response would be this.

          1. Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout?

    1. “There was no choice” is very different than “there was no convenient and easy choice”.

    2. Guaranteed, full-time, unionized manufacturing or government employment is not the solution to any of those problems either.

      1. Where did I suggest that?

        1. There seems to me that there is a strong presumption of dichotomy of opinion on this topic, where the assumption is if anyone says anything not staunchly in support of position A they must automatically therefore be advocating position B.

          1. You sound like a dirty position C’er. We don’t take kindly to that type round here!

          2. This is true on many issues, and it is what is wrong with twitter and other tl;dr discussions. Nuance is important.

            Most libertarian advocates of free trade are not actually saying screw blue collar workers; they are obsolete. They are actually saying something more like:

            If it requires the subsidy of protectionist tariffs to preserve your job, there are some issues. First, it is wrong for the rest of the society to be forced to subsidize you. Second, protectionist policies end up not working in the long term, because markets find alternatives when some good is kept artificially expensive. Third, protectionism is government interference in the market, and will inevitably end up being corrupt and benefiting the connected at the expense of the very workers it was supposed to help.

            1. “protectionism is government interference in the market,”

              Free trade is also government interference in the market. In China’s case it’s interference in the labour market. Independent trade unions and organizing is illegal in China. Workers face all manner of onerous bureaucratic regulations as to where they reside etc. Only thanks to a repressive communist regime is the workers’ work discounted so much. This is what government interference is about.

        2. I didn’t think you were suggesting that. My understanding of your post was that because of external factors (spouse, family, children, etc.) workers aren’t able to just up and move to where the worker jobs are. I guess my ooint was that those workers need to figure out a different model. In fact, stop being a “worker”. Become an “owner”, an “entrepreneur”, an “investor”. Don’t rely on legacy manufacturing or government jobs to make a living. Please stay in Tennessee close to family and friends, and use technology to transform your entire o, concept of work, pay, job security, etc.

          Also, I’m still pretty groggy from last night. Cut me some slack.

          1. Or we could just become China (among many others) where leaving your family behind for work is routine.

            1. China also restricts residency. There are millions of people who have moved to cities but don’t officially ‘live’ there, and who have to return to their official recidency location to do anything with the government. These are the ones who leave their families behind because it’s impossible to get a child into a school outside of that child’s official residency, etc.

  15. A lifetime of work in manufacturing companies or auditing manufacturing companies has enabled me to see how changes have affected the work force. Manufacturers are churning out more units than ever, using less labor to do so. Why? Automation, computer aided machinery. When I started out, manufacturers had tons of unskilled and semi-skilled jobs. Then, for instance, high speed conveyors and forklifts cut the need for strong backs in warehousing and shipping. Unless the unskilled and semi-skilled were retrained (either by employer or outside schools) to build conveyors and repair forklifts, their jobs were eventually eliminated. In “olden times” transitioning from guiding Dobbin up and down the farm fields to being a brakeman on a new railroad line was relatively easy. Jobs being eliminated though industrialization included skills and dexterity that easily translated to new jobs. Not so much anymore. I feel sorry for all those sub-cultures that put no premium, or even downplay, the need for learning.

    1. “…I feel sorry for all those sub-cultures that put no premium, or even downplay, the need for learning….”

      Yeah, if you’re not continually learning, you WILL lose your job to a machine or someone who is learning.

  16. “And for those who remain without jobs, cutting off cheap imports will mean that their unemployment checks will go less far. ”

    There you go then. We’d all be better off unemployed with cheaper crap to buy.

  17. “What’s driving the diminishing dynamism of the American workforce? Why do so many Americans seemingly prefer to drop out of the labor market or take lower paying jobs closer to home rather than seeking better opportunities elsewhere in the country?”

    Who says the American workforce suffers from lack of dynamism? There are plenty of people seeking opportunities. They are called immigrants. Some may be dangerous. But they are worth it coz they let real Americans sit back with their precious families and live like disability queens.

  18. Golly – two-thirds of Americans seem to think something is badly wrong with whatever is called ‘free trade’ in today’s world – but libertarians think that those people are just stupid because libertarian Top Men all agree that free trade is good for you. So eat your broccoli and stop your whining and get back to work you mooching serfs.

    1. “Libertarian” Free Trade

      1) Maintaining property rights in natural resources while violating the Lockean Proviso.
      2) Instituting property rights in ideas.
      3) Providing foreign slavers access to US markets in exchange for some protection of property rights in ideas in their markets.

      I see a lot of freedom for elites to rule and the peasants to take it and like it.

    2. Golly – two-thirds of Americans seem to think something is badly wrong with whatever is called ‘free trade’ in today’s world – but libertarians think that those people are just stupid because libertarian Top Men all agree

      Two thirds of Germans thought the Jews should be disowned and kicked out of the country. What two thirds of the population think is irrelevant when their desires infringe on the negative rights of others.

  19. Well that’s not explicitly true. It’s counterintuitive but weve discussed in my classes that it’s actually the uneducated that tend to be more specialized, and they find it harder to find replacement jobs, because they really only know how to do one thing. Add to that families and prohibitive expenses for moving and the uncertainty of moving to a new place for work and the pattern makes sense. It’s not that they’re lazy, it’s entirely justifiable. That said free trade has done a lot of good for this country and many others. There are frictional losses assumed, but in general it works itself out better than it was before, but blaming the people who lost because of it is counterproductive.

  20. Trade with China is probably one of the few things allowing America’s working class to survive, as it has brought to them goods at a price that they can presumably afford.

    1. Indeed. Nothing stretches a welfare check further than cheap crap from China

  21. Free trade agreements have decimated the base of American manufacturing by off-shoring jobs and factories, fueling the import of cheap foreign-made (and sometimes deadly) products. A free trade agreement is nothing more than trade heavily regulated by unaccountable regional governmental bodies that operate outside of the American judicial system. The global power elites view multilateral free trade agreements as one of their main vehicles for establishing, step by step, socialistic regional governments controlled by themselves as steppingstones toward a socialistic global government under the United Nations. Take action today to tell Congress to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
    http://www.jbs.org/issues-page…..ade-agenda

    1. Free trade agreements have decimated the base of American manufacturing by off-shoring jobs and factories, fueling the import of cheap foreign-made (and sometimes deadly) products.

      The US manufacturing sector is bigger than it has ever been. Due to automation, the number of workers in it has declined somewhat. But that has been more than made up for by the service sector.

      I really don’t see why people like you cling so much to the idea that stressful, low wage, blue collar work is something desirable to keep around, when Americans could be working in finance, computers, and other clean white collar jobs.

  22. It is fair to say,” Krugman declaims, “that the case for more trade agreements?including TPP, which hasn’t happened yet?is very, very weak.

    Trade agreements are not synonymous with “free trade”. Trade agreements frequently liberalize some forms of trade, but at the same time, they are frequently a vehicle for rent seeking, crony capitalism, and general infringements on liberty. I’d like to see more free trade agreements that live up to their name; I’m not sure the TPP does.

  23. Hokus bunk.
    The working class doesn’t have the paycheck anymore but to buy the low priced stuff. It’s a chicken or egg problem. The working class jobs available up until the mid 80-‘s that paid better and allowed the affordability of higher priced goods are gone. So of course Walmart imported stuff is more affordable. But the upward mobility is severly cut off.
    This consumer who you think is so much better off would trade those low prices for a better job and job prospects in a heartbeat. But all those middle management jobs, clerical jobs, engineering jobs, draftsman jobs, skilled trades jobs the bottom rung could aspire to are gone.
    Also, since taxation is based on income percentage, the tax base is so eroded that most government untis are in dire straights. That alone is a good reason to have kept those jobs.
    The magical, mystical consumer is royally screwed during that part of the day he or she is a producer under the present structured trade agreements. Quit calling them free trade. That’s a bald faced lie.

    1. I agree. The article presumed that being able to buy cheap consumer goods from China was somehow the end all be all of human economic existence. People don’t want to just get by by having to rely on Chinese goods via WalMart. They want to have quality goods and more importantly they want to be able to save a good portion of the earnings for retirement and/or for passing on to their family. The Free Traders essentially are saying “yeah, you might not have the jobs but at least you’ll be able to squeak by because the basics are now more affordable.”

      Having less people won’t work because you need a growing population to fuel economic growth. But you can’t support a growing population without a growing pool of decent jobs to support it.

      I personall believe that these type of problems will never be solved because human beings are more than just economic consumerbots to be manipulated in a technocratic system.

    2. para_dimz|3.25.16 @ 7:48PM|#
      “Hokus bunk.”

      Poor governments out of money?
      I’m saying sincere stupidity rather than sarc, right, dimz?

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  26. It is my understanding that when taken as a whole the U.S., Canada and Mexico’s economies are largely self sufficient in that the percentage of trade with the rest of the world is around 15%. The U.S. is the largest consumer market in the world by far. Wouldn’t this mean that they need us a lot more than we need them. With automation much of the junk we buy China so cheaply will soon be able to be made here for the same price. China needs to develop their own consumer market. But this is hard to do for them demographically because the one child policy was in place and only recently abolished. I guess there are still many other places to sell their stuff but they still need to grow their internal consumer market. Every country that is able to produce something of value needs access to the US market but the US market for the most part doesn’t need the world.

    1. Then explain why all the US companies are bitching about the stronger dollar and reporting lower revenue.

      Personally I’m in favor of the stronger dollar and free trade.

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  36. RE: China Trade Isn’t Killing America’s Working Class

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    Its funny the elitist ruling filth running both major political parties never do anything change that.
    Gee, I wonder why.
    Could it because both parties don’t want the little people to rise above their socio-economic stations so conveniently provided for them by the democrats and republicans?
    One can only speculate.

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