Donald Trump won the support of voters because he described the failures of government to meet their obvious needs. However, the solutions he proposed were the ones Democrats have supported in the past, and should support in the future.
No wonder we now have a divided and ineffective government. Trump vowed to support Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He said the federal government should come up with a health care plan that would be cheaper and better than Obamacare. Tax cuts should be for the middle class and not the wealthy. All these positions are antithetical to establishment Republicans.
Hillary Clinton took identical positions, except for Obamacare, which she said should be changed and improved instead of repealed.
The deciding difference between the Clinton and Trump campaigns was that Trump clearly said we should get out of the international free trade agreements that outsourced our industries and well-paid jobs. He also was against excessive immigration that had a depressive effect on wages. Again, these were attacks on traditional Republican positions.
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Clinton, on the other hand, admitted that outsourcing had cost American jobs, and trade agreements should be modified. Although immigrants increased the labor supply, our country needed them. But then she minimized their effects. She claimed that the economy improved under the Obama administration much better than working-class voters realized. Conditions would continue to get better with the same policies. Resentful workers in the Rust Belt bought Trump’s argument.
Trump’s vague and changing positions on issues, combined with his philosophical differences with his own party, have created a divided and ineffective government. This has led to a much more serious problem. Since Democrats are so thoroughly disgusted with Trump, they have rejected even the issues he was right about. International free market trade agreements have created “nationalist” movements among workers throughout the developed world, including the United States.
The Democrat apologists who now defend international free trade are the same ones who gave us NAFTA in the first place. They have forgotten that it turned a few of our most prosperous cities into ghost towns, and caused many others to lose their industrial well-paid jobs. Because of the threat of outsourcing, workers have lost their ability to negotiate for better wages and working conditions. Corporate America is now in control, governing our domestic labor market.
“Nationalist” is not the same as Trump’s “America First.” It doesn’t mean that America should get the better deal in agreements. It means that trade negotiators must consider the total welfare of their nations – workers as well as investors – in agreements. That hasn’t been the case in the past.
None of the negotiators from Canada, Mexico or the United States wanted protections of workers or the environment in the NAFTA agreement President George H.W. Bush signed in 1992. That was not a “nationalist” agreement. It was an agreement among three nations’ investors to enrich their top 20 percenters.
Bill Clinton became president in 1993 and decided to support NAFTA’s ratification by Congress. Although most Democrats opposed NAFTA, he convinced enough of them to vote for it by insisting that side agreements be made to protect workers and the environment. The agreements were made but were not enforceable. And Detroit, our most economically prosperous city, became a shell of its original self.
Chuck Kelly, of Charlotte, is author of “The Destructive Achiever; power and ethics in the American corporation.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org