2016 Democratic Convention

Clinton, Trump Embrace Zero-Sum Thinking While Regular Dems & Reps Do Not

Protectionism is popular only with party elites, not regular Americans.

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Wall Street Journal

One of the most unfortunate turns of this election cycle is a bipartisan embrace of trade protectionism and, on the part of the Republicans at least, a rejection of pro-immigration policies. Donald Trump thunders again trade deficits with the same brio he displays when talking about illegal immigrants, at one point declaring that we should only have military obligations with countries with which we have trade surpluses. "Why would we spend the money on troops if we are running trade deficits with these kind of countries," he told The New York Times. Hillary Clinton may be slightly less bombastic but is equally against free trade deals these days. Despite a history of supporting free-trade deals such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, she now opposes the latter and has been trashing the former for almost 10 years.

Odder still is the fact that most voters support free trade. According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, for instance, 55 percent of Americans believe that "free trade with other countries is good," compared with just 38 percent who do not. The same survey finds that nearly 60 percent of us believe immigration "helps more than it hurts," or nearly twice as many think immigration is a drain on the economy.

Gage Skidmor, Flickr

Writing in the Journal, Greg Ip argues that the success of Bernie Sanders' insurgency caused the shift to anti-trade rhetoric for the Democrats, especially after years of slow or no economic growth.

Democrats have always been preoccupied with income distribution and poverty. Nonetheless, under President Bill Clinton they came to accept that growth was the most effective stimulant for middle-class incomes. "Only a thriving economy, a strong manufacturing base, and growth in creative new enterprise can … meet the nation's pressing human and social needs," its 1992 platform declared.

Maybe, but the fact that Clinton called NAFTA "a mistake" back in 2007 suggests something longer-term is driving the focus on splitting up a shrinking pie rather than growing it. On the Republican side, it seems as if the party's anti-immigrant animus has infected its general acceptance of trade too. Trump, writes Ip, has brought a Democratic-style belief in zero-sum economics from the way he does business:

Mr. Trump, however, brings a perspective forged by a business career in which success often came at the expense of suppliers, lenders or partners. Mr. Trump sees economics much the same way: If you're not winning, you're losing. Last month he said of trade expansion with other countries: "They get the expansion, we get the joblessness."

Whatever the actual origins of zero-sum economic thinking, it's nothing short of amazing that both parties now are led by trade protectionists who are at odds with the majority of regular Americans. As Ip notes, less trade and immigration will ultimately hurt economic growth, but Clinton and Trump aren't on board. "In a year when both parties are rallying their partisans by portraying the economy as a win-lose proposition," he argues, "most Americans still think it's win-win."

Full story here.

Steve Chapman recently pointed out how much richer we've become due to NAFTA and other trade deals. Read all about it here.

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45 responses to “Clinton, Trump Embrace Zero-Sum Thinking While Regular Dems & Reps Do Not

  1. The left has always known there’s a finite amount of pie, but until Trump shows us on the doll where free trade touched him, we’ll not know his reasons.

    1. He was expecting the Japanese to keep growing and buy his over-leveraged hotels at ridiculous price forever?

  2. That picture, it’s frightening

    1. Reminds me of someone

      http://funkymbtifiction.tumblr…..ridge-estj

    2. Imagine that finger on the red button.

      1. Her clitoris?

        1. What is wrong with you?

          1. No one actually knows. The tests all come back “The technician killed himself.”

  3. Did the wall street poll ask about illegal immigration and NAFTA or just immigration and free trade in general?

  4. The thing that this article, and many Trump-related articles forget when discussing his particular policy predilections is that the vast majority of his supporters don’t care what his policies are, they are vicariously living through Trump’s disdain and braggadocio. As long as it’s a subject that Trump is willing to say mean things about someone on, they are all for…whatever it is that Trump is for. All the better if it tickles the portions of their brains shouting “MURICA”, regardless of whether it hurts the US or not.

    1. I think you’re confused. What’s different about this election cycle is that the Republicans under Trump are running to the left of the Democrats. Trump’s followers know this and they do care. Trump’s detractors, like the editors of Reason, also know this and are upset.

      1. I would agree that Repubs are running to the left of their historical positions, but to the left of Democrats, don’t buy it. Even with them, okay, maybe. But hard to swallow more leftist, especially after they came a few percentage points from nominating a democratic socialist.

        Also, I would say that for Trump supporters, the “I care about his policy positions” train left the station about 6 months ago. For any of them to currently look at his trade policy with their mouths agape seems either completely disingenuous or show a large lack of attention being paid. For those who have lived with reservations the entire time and still support the guy, I would just ask what type of cognitive dissonance keeps you in this guys camp day after day.

  5. “Despite a history of supporting free-trade deals such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership”

    Is NAFTA a free trade deal? Is TPP?

    1. Is NAFTA a free trade deal?

      THE WORD ‘FREE’ IS RIGHT THERE IN THE TITLE!!11!

    2. Seems like a free trade deal should require no more than a paragraph. Better yet not even that, just unilaterally drop tariffs to zero. The only question is do you pull the bandaid off all at once or not.

    3. Actually, I have heard the term “managed trade” applied to these deals.

      Which seems a much more accurate term than “free trade” for a large permanent bureaucracy implementing thousands of pages of rules and regulations.

      Managed trade may be an improvement over what came before, but I like euphemisms masturbatory, not political, if you don’t mind.

  6. Odder still is the fact that most voters support free trade. According to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, for instance, 55 percent of Americans believe that “free trade with other countries is good,” compared with just 38 percent who do not.

    I hope that’s true, but I hear a lot of “buy local” idiots who apparently believe free trade with other American states is bad, much less global free trade. Most of them are too dumb to process the fact that oranges (among many other tasty treats) don’t grow in Montana.

  7. “Steve Chapman recently pointed out…”

    If you are trying to win people over, to convince them, maybe this is something you want to leave out.

    1. Oh, sure, just plagiarize away. What difference, at this point, etc.?

  8. Writing in the Journal, Greg Ip argues that the success of Bernie Sanders’ insurgency caused the shift to anti-trade rhetoric for the Democrats, especially after years of slow or no economic growth.

    To be fair, if I were personally responsible for the anemic cow our economy has become, I’d try to deflect blame towards vague externalities like trade deals.

    1. It is not even possible to convince the advocates of central planning that central planning itself is to blame for the problems that inevitably drawn in its wake. It is always because capitalism somewhere else is to blame. Either it’s internal agents provocateur of filthy capitalist persuasion using black markets to undermine the glorious state’s efforts, or external trade doing the dirty work of capitalist nations to collapse the economy from without.

  9. Last week reason published about five anti Trump rants a day. That is fine of course. Reason doesn’t support Trump. None of those rants ever mentioned Hillary or adopted the usual reason pox on both houses stances. They were all about Trump

    Now we get to the Dem convention and Reason publishes a two rants on Monday about how Hillary and Trump are terrible. We can’t talk about Hillary without mentioning Trump. Talk about having no balls. Come on reason, how about we just talk about Hillary this week like we just talked about Trump last week

    1. You should listen to Trump’s acceptance speech. How many times do you think Clinton will denounce ‘big business’ in her acceptance speech? Reason has very sound reasons to prefer Clinton over Trump.

      1. They also have sound reasons to prefer Trump over Clinton.

        They have sound reasons to hate both/denounce both with equal passion. The point is that they don’t.

        1. “They also have sound reasons to prefer Trump over Clinton.”

          Like what? His promise to build a wall on the Mexican border?

          “The point is that they don’t.”

          Because they prefer Clinton to Trump. When has Reason ever supported the candidate of the Left over that of the Right?

          1. “They also have sound reasons to prefer Trump over Clinton.”

            Like what?

            Well, he didn’t thoroughly screw the pooch on foreign policy for several years, nor is he running a money laundering/influence peddling operation that was beta tested while he was in public office.

            He also hasn’t promised to push for a Constitutional amendment gutting free speech.

            1. “he didn’t thoroughly screw the pooch on foreign policy for several years”

              Yes, you have a point, but listening to his speech, it’s clear from the amount of time devoted to them, his main topics were trade and immigration. On both of these issues, Trump is to the left of Clinton.

      2. They can prefer whomever they like. They should just be honest about it. I am quite sure the staff prefers Hillary to Trump. I doubt however their reason for that are particularly sound or the result of much thought

        And if you don’t think Hillary is going to talk about the evil corporations Thursday you live in some alternative universe to the one I live

        1. “And if you don’t think Hillary is going to talk about the evil corporations”

          We’ll see. What surprised me was to hear the Republican candidate denigrating big business several times and being applauded for it. I’m pretty sure Romney or McCain, (or even Obama) didn’t go there.

  10. Clinton, Trump Embrace Zero-Sum Thinking While Regular Dems & Reps Do Not
    Protectionism is popular only with party elites, not regular Americans.

    It strikes me as very similar to attitudes about immigration circa ~2006 or so

    “doing something” about immigration polled very well at the time, but it was not the sort of frothing outrage we’ve come to see in the ensuing years. It was more of a “low boil” issue that resonated with general feelings of victimization re: terror, class economic-stagnation

    Certain GOPers decided that they should rabble rouse people about it. It become the big theme to stemwind people over. Nativism seemed a very easy small-fire to stoke into something that would create major political-heat & support.

    Then, when their attempt at immigration reform legislation finally made it to the floor of congress…. the now-animated angry-nativists completely over-reacted and considered the bill “covert amnesty”, and turned on the GOP insiders who had previously used the issue as their own pet-cause, and began to screech for *their* heads.

    In short – i personally think a lot of the populist anti-immigration and anti-trade stuff? was really only smouldering until Pols threw rhetorical gasoline on it, and it turned into a wildfire they couldn’t control

    mostly just my impression

  11. Trump sounds vague to me on trade. I don’t like the idea of restricting trade at all. But if you listen to him, he seems to be talking in particular about what he considers ‘bad’ trade deals with China. Since he never goes into detail about what constitutes ‘bad’, I don’t really know what he’s talking about.

    The scariest thing I’ve ever heard him say is when starts talking about not letting companies ship jobs overseas. Ok, but we’re either going to let Apple making iThingies in China sweatshops, or we’re going to automate most of those jobs. The model doesn’t work any other way. Americans want things for prices they can afford. No one is paying $5000 for a phone because it’s made in Murika.

    I’m not even going into the immigration stuff. It’s nearly as bad as talking about abortion.

    1. But if you don’t go into the immigration stuff, how will I know if you’re racist or not?

      1. I think if you don’t talk about immigration you’re a racist, much in the same way that if you don’t talk about abortion you’re a sexist.

      2. I’m in this internetz chatroom, so no check needed.

    2. “he seems to be talking in particular about what he considers ‘bad’ trade deals with China”

      Are you referring to TPP? Many countries are involved, and China is not one of them. It’s conspicuous by its absence.

      “The scariest thing I’ve ever heard him say is when starts talking about not letting companies ship jobs overseas. Ok, but we’re either going to let Apple making iThingies in China sweatshops, or we’re going to automate most of those jobs. ”

      I don’t find either of these prospects scary.

      1. The way I understood it is that he was NOT talking about TPP. But really, with Trump, how do you know?

        I don’t find either of these prospects scary.

        Not those prospects that I’m talking about as being scary. I’m saying that it’s scary Trump doesn’t already know that without much thought. It’s basic economics.

  12. Greg Ip argues that the success of Bernie Sanders’ insurgency caused the shift to anti-trade rhetoric for the Democrats, especially after years of slow or no economic growth.

    so…. egg, then chicken, not chicken-then-egg?

    following from my above point = i think people tend to be genuinely dissatisfied with the status quo, but will often latch on to the “causes” of their dissatisfaction when fed something by political figures. They’ll just go with whatever someone they like suggests.

    And i’m not sure that anybody really thinks about it too hard. it just becomes accepted-wisdom. This whole idea that the “Chinese be takin ar jobs” might have been more-accurate…. maybe in 1995…. but people screech it now mostly as just a symbolic thing.

    The anti-globalist rhetorical bullshit is really just a basket into which everyone throws their angst. Its a blend of culture-war shit with economic-perceptions. But they don’t really have any economic argument that ‘less-free-trade is supposed to improve the lot of the average moe’. I also doubt many trumpers are really die-hard unionites who want to re-open the local steel mill. I suspect its mostly just a fuzzy ‘idea’ than it is a belief in any actual real economic issue.

    1. Remember when “globalization” was demonized as hurting other people?

      Yeah, so do I.

      1. Yeah, that was the big bitch of the 1990s.

        It was before “Montsanto” was the locus of all evil, and Nike’s “exploiting workers in Malaysia” was all the rage.

        Or how “Nestle” selling baby-formula to Africans was cause of so many deaths, because (insert patronizing lefty rationale) “they should keep breastfeeding as they always have!” *(despite it being a prime cause of AIDS transfer, or something which just generally tends to decrease in developing nations as female enter the workforce)

    2. The anti-globalist rhetorical bullshit is really just a basket into which everyone throws their angst. Its a blend of culture-war shit with economic-perceptions.

      Exactly, protectionism is popular based on how you sell it. If you wrap yourself in a flag and have your heart bleed sufficiently enough about the working class it sells. It’s about emotional appeals to nationalism and ‘being for the little guy’, not a well-founded conclusion based off of policy outcomes.

    3. “They’ll just go with whatever someone they like suggests.”

      This is a cheap and lazy insult, and it ignores the fact that Trump, according to polls and pundits, is about the least liked presidential candidate ever to run.

      “I also doubt many trumpers are really die-hard unionites…”

      What makes you say that? Was it all the nasty things he said about unions in his acceptance speech? I suggest you listen again.

      “I suspect its mostly just a fuzzy ‘idea’ than it is a belief in any actual real economic issue.”

      Again with the lazy insults.

  13. RE: Clinton, Trump Embrace Zero-Sum Thinking While Regular Dems & Reps Do Not
    Protectionism is popular only with party elites, not regular Americans.

    Protectionism is a wise economic policy that have benefited the politically connected for decades. One would be more than foolish to eliminate this sound idea. Otherwise real competition among companies and corporations would break out, weeding out those who are incompetent, have no business acumen and are just plain stupid in the private sector. This way, under protectionism, these clueless business unfortunates will be protected by those in power have taken an unbelievable amount of “campaign contributions” and will not go the way of the dodo. Now, thanks to protectionism, companies like Chrysler and GM will get not only their bailouts, but possibly also be rewarded by having tariffs placed on their competition. What a wonderful concept protectionism is! Protecting the companies that produce an inferior product at an inflated price from those evil and vicious companies that want to give the consumers a better product at a cheaper price.
    One can’t help but smile knowing we all have such a benevolent policy working for us all.

  14. I remember back when we only had USA made cars. They were pretty much all shit that would fall apart on you shortly after 50k miles. Competition is good.

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