Monthly Archives: November 2016

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free trade

Free Trade is a Benevolent Force Whose Discontents Can Be Managed

Donald Trump’s economic populism and nationalism helped propel him to an unlikely victory on November 8. But like most populist appeals, Trump’s attacks on economic cornerstones such as free trade fall well short of facts and reality and offered few — if any — actual solutions to globalization’s discontents. Democrats have increasingly become the party of free trade; however, as the party begins its trek through the wilderness, resurgent leftist populism risks following Trump down the path of ignorance.

Free trade is, by all accounts, a benevolent force. I write this on a Macbook (not domestically produced), glancing occasionally at my Samsung phone (imported), wearing clothes made abroad, and sitting in a non-American chair. Thanks to trade, I can afford all of these items. Returning production to America would price me out of these consumer goods on which I rely to do my job. Anyone railing against free trade and speaking solely of its evils is a hypocrite if they do so from a machine not made in America.

Utilitarianism also demands that we embrace free trade. If policy seeks the greatest good for the greatest number, then we should strive for free trade when and wherever possible. Yes, there are downsides to free trade and it is their concentration that helped elect a demagogic president, but the dispersed cost-saving benefits far outweigh income losses. There’s irony in watching individuals on the one hand decry the influence of special interests in politics while on the other demanding national policy be changed to hurt the nation and benefit those upset about special interests. They forget that they themselves are a special interest group with outsized electoral sway.

Anger at a changing economy no longer understood by many pushed Rust Belt voters into the hands of Trump, whose grand promises of resurgent manufacturing are but the fantastic tales of an old man reminiscing of how things used to be. Today, the microchip is the primary culprit in a low-labor intensive manufacturing sector. All the tariffs in the world and renunciations of free trade agreements will not rollback machinery. Trump’s plans offer false promises that will likely plunge the country into recession without ever having a realistic chance of returning to our shores factories that moved abroad.

Those disaffected by trade need real help, not fables. Democrats need to give them solutions. A very simple and yet quite effective policy is job retraining. Empowering local nonprofits to assist displaced workers in acquiring the skills sought by new producers results in higher employment and higher wages. Workers are also decreasingly mobile. This creates problems as economic theory dictates that when jobs leave one region, workers will move to areas experiencing economic growth. Part of the setback stems from the high cost of living in booming areas — few low-skilled workers can afford to move to San Francisco. Encouraging housing growth in those areas will drive down rent. Similarly, investments in public transport such as commuter rails will decrease commute time and allow individuals to live far from expensive cities while still being able to work where the economy is hot. A simple trade displacement voucher would allow workers to choose job retraining or mobility.

Trade’s discontents are not a death knell. They’re an opportunity to help transition the economy into the 21st Century. Democrats would do well to embrace the competition and innovation spurred by free trade. Cowering in electoral fear and chasing Trump down the rabbit’s hole of ignorance hurts workers and the country as whole. The party ought to embrace globalization and deliver a strong message of how to deal with its repercussions. To do otherwise would be to follow Trump’s playbook: Lie to Americans with impunity.

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trump kleptocracy

Vengeance from the Oval Office

“When someone intentionally harms you or your reputation, how do you react? I strike back, doing the same thing to them only ten times worse.”

So Donald Trump wrote in Think Big and Kick Ass. This single sentence best describes the biggest threat a Trump presidency poses: Retribution.

And we’ve already seen him begin to do this. After a dozen women accused him of sexual assault, Trump, during a closing-stretch rally, vowed to sue them after the election. His campaign said they would sue the New York Times after its publication of stories alleging sexual assault (no such suit has materialized). Trump has verbally attacked reporters and even increased the risk of someone assassinating Hillary Clinton with his “Second Amendment people” statement, a form of stochastic terrorism.

Undoubtedly, his baseless and childish attacks on perceived insulters discourage forthcoming behavior. What women would want to accuse Trump (or someone in his administration, inner circle, etc) of sexual assault when Trump would threaten legal action and rally millions into hatred?

He did all that as a candidate. Now, Trump can pursue his vengeance with the full force of the United States government. It really isn’t difficult to see a Trump administration upset at a newspaper’s coverage ban that outlet from White House briefings or other presidential events. They could even go a step further and bring frivolous legal action against the source. Though any such lawsuit would surely be tossed, many small outlets, already pressured by falling subscription rates, might be bankrupted by legal action. They would naturally become less inclined to write negative stories about Trump, even when warranted and necessary to inform the public.

Organizations such as Planned Parenthood might be punished by Trump for their opposition. Congressional Republican, acting on behalf of Trump could silence such criticisms by cutting off federal funding. Universities whose professors in any way oppose Trump — be it through research, op-eds, or signing letters warning of Trump’s risk to democratic institutions — could see their federal grants dry up. Any form of criticism or opposition could be muzzled by threatening the livelihood of those who stand up to Trump.

Moreover, as Vox’s Matt Yglesias pointed out, Trump’s administration might be rent-creating. It could reward loyalists throughout the business community while directing puppet administrative appointees to harass dissidents through regulations and investigations. Supporters continue business as normal while opponents tangle with the federal government — de facto rent creation.

It’s incredibly dangerous to have a think-skinned president. He could respond to any slight by foreign leaders with military power or political sanctions while rewarding complimenters (he’s already been smitten by Putin and seems ready to appease his expansionist desires). How easy it could become to manipulate the leader of the free world! Such manipulation will only benefit our enemies.

Trump’s vindictiveness is not a presidential trait. It risks corruption and the end of a small-l liberal society in which opposition and peaceful dissidence ought to be hailed as a democratic strength. It risks rent-creation and foreign policy blunders. It risks creating the very type of systemically oppressive regime against which we rebelled some 240 years ago.

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oppose donald trump

November 9: The Way Forward

Tuesday delivered unto our democracy a stunning blow. A divided nation somehow elected the very type of man our Founders feared would undermine and potentially destroy our cherished institutions. Donald J. Trump, a man of near infinite ignorance, somehow will be president despite his utter cluelessness about policies, his constant flip-flopping on every imaginable issue, his mocking the disabled, his attacks on veterans and Gold Star veterans, his sexual assault allegations, and his unconstitutional proposals.

I know many of you feel disheartened and devastated. I certainly do. But we must channel what now feels like despair into productive activity to ensure that Trump’s bigotry is defeated and that the next demagogue who runs a tribal campaign is retired to the dustbin of history.

Progressives for Prosperity is committed to restoring American values across the country. We will fight day and night for unity and love and for policies that will better the country for one and for all. In two years, we will have a crucial midterm election; in four years, the chance to right the executive branch. Organizing for those events starts now.

Our grand goal is to move online the traditional campaign elements of voter outreach and engagement. We seek to create a digital machine that offers sound, research-backed policy arguments and then mobilizes voters in support of candidates who subscribe to those beliefs. To accomplish this, we need to build a strong social network across a variety of platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Reddit. The voter today lives online and if we become a part of his or her life, we can advance our arguments and encourage political participation.

This can only be accomplished with help from all of our followers. Now is a time of activism. Your likes, shares, and retweets spread our message to thousands of people. Your generous contributions allow us to target advertisements across the nation and acquire the data necessary to forming and mobilizing winning coalitions. We need each of you to continue sharing, interacting, and giving so we continue building our organization.

Here are some of our immediate goals:
1. Build a robust email list to share new articles and thoughts
2. Expand our Facebook reach
3. Expand our Twitter base
4. Raise $1,000 to purchase voter data from select swing states
5. Prioritize web development to advance arguments

Down the road, here are some nice-to-haves:
1. Create a podcast
2. Routinely post videos on YouTube
3. Develop a thriving Reddit community
4. Host phone and text banking events to spread issue awareness
5. Establish local meetups across the country

We are also looking for help in these fields:
• Writing
• Web development
• Online organizing
• Fundraising
• Miscellaneous coding projects

If any of those areas pique your interest, please send an email to or shoot us a message on Twitter. Should you wish to participate in another way or if you have ideas about how can expand, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Yesterday, we experienced a significant setback in the search for equality and justice. Tomorrow, we can reverse that. Let’s channel our disappointment and anxiety into productive activities. Please join us in recapturing the soul of America and ensuring that its dream continues for generations to come.

Thank you.

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