News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Globalization has been killing America's economy for years now. Solution is to reassert original US tradition of running its economy explicitly in its national interest, not in deference to supposed benevolence of free markets-Ian Fletcher, 11/7/2012

Nov. 2012 article

11/7/2012, "Romney Lost Because He Failed to Embrace Economic Nationalism," Ian Fletcher, Huffington Post

"If Romney had won, I'd be saying it was because Americans have a long, long history of booting incumbents who preside over high unemployment and economic weakness

This much is true. In fact, I think Romney counted on it all too much. In the end, his case against Obama came down to "Your economy sucks."

I guess he figured it worked for Reagan.

But no, actually, it didn't. Reagan's case against Jimmy Carter in 1980 wasn't merely a negative one, but backed up by a well-developed and then-new alternative philosophy of economics.

You can disagree with that philosophy, in whole or in part, and question how new under the sun it was, but there's no question that there was a "there" there. Tax cuts, deregulation, laissez-faire, supply side economics, and the Laffer curve amounted to something substantial.

Reagan had a positive vision, and that makes all the difference. What matters in politics isn't what you're against, it's what you're for.

What did Romney have? A thin "five point plan" with less substance than Ronald Reagan's offhand remarks. The same old Republican orthodoxy, only of interest to orthodox Republicans. Tax cuts that weren't irresponsible because tax increases would make up for them -- so they weren't really tax cuts, just changes. 

None of this was inevitable. The political space exists for a new rightist vision of the economy. It's called economic nationalism

This position says that America's economy has been getting sick from uncontrolled globalization for years now, and that the answer is to reassert our original economic tradition, which goes back to Hamilton, of running our economy explicitly in the national interest, not in mere deference to the supposed benevolence of free markets.

Its first big policy would be repudiating free trade. (Which I support.)

Its second big policy would be cutting mass immigration. (I take no position here, but it's part of the package.)

If Romney had been serious about these policies, he could have offered the American people a real alternative to Obama. Both these policies are popular with the voting public, and even more so with the rightist and centrist voters Romney needed to win.

Romney did make some noise about cracking down on China's abusive trade relationship with the United States. He did take positions on immigration (especially illegal) that were more opposed than Obama. I even thought for a while that he was really going to ride these issues. 

But he didn't. He took the positions best for him, but never really used them. His campaign was all "Your economy sucks."

I don't know why he did this. Perhaps he didn't understand his need to offer a serious alternative and a positive agenda. Perhaps he thought he could win without them. Perhaps his shadowy backers waved him off. 
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Al Gore is no longer America's only "nearly man.""

"Ian Fletcher, Author, 'Free Trade Doesn't Work: What Should Replace It and Why'"

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Sept. 2015 article:

"The Republican party has essentially exhausted the two ideological themes it has ridden on since about 1980-- free markets and social conservatism -- and needs new ones to survive."

9/30/15, "Donald Trump Is Trying to Save the Republican Party From Itself," Ian Fletcher, Huffington Post
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"I'm neither endorsing nor condemning Mr. Trump, but I do think he's trying to save the Republican party from itself in a very rational way. The last thing he is is a clown or dilettante. (OK, maybe a clown.)
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Why? Because the Republican party has essentially exhausted the two ideological themes it has ridden on since about 1980-- free markets and social conservatism -- and needs new ones to survive.
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Any ideologues out there, I'm sorry: American history makes quite clear that partisan ideological themes don't last forever, in either party. They're good for a few decades, then they evolve or get dumped....
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First, consider the exhaustion of free-market ideology. This doesn't mean that free markets per se, which obviously have enormous validity, are dead as an idea. But it does mean that pushing even further in the direction of free markets is dead as an idea.
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Why? Most obviously, the 2008 financial crisis, whose effects we're still dealing with, was an effect of markets allowed to run amok, not of markets being insufficiently free. (Yes, I know you can blame it all on the government, but that's a tendentious "reality is the opposite of what you see" argument.) 
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There's a happy medium between too much and too little regulation, and we've basically reached the limit of our ability to improve our economy by deregulating further. 
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In public perception, this wasn't always the case. It certainly wasn't in 1980, when Ronald Reagan rode this theme to victory. And argue the timing if you like, but surely the reader recalls the romanticism about markets of the late 1990s? Remember California deregulating its electricity market in 1996? (Which handed control over to Enron, by the way, and led to blackouts in Silicon Valley.)
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So "Even freer markets!" has lost its credibility as an ideological theme. If you disagree, then what industries would you now propose to deregulate, and how do you think that would improve things?
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The increased public interest in economic equality is also playing a role here. There are conservative policies that reduce inequality, but they're old-school paternalist conservative policies, not free-market conservative policies. (Some people will tell you that "conservative" simply equals "free market," but this is simply ignorant of history, though I don't have the space to elaborate here.)
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Social conservatism is a more complicated topic, but in a country where both public opinion and the Supreme Court support, to take the obvious example, gay marriage, it doesn't look like a net electoral winner from now on....
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So what's the Republican party to do? Luckily, there are other right-wing themes out there to be had, though not an infinite number of truly big ones, substantial enough and popular enough to float a national political party on.
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Enter nationalism. Specifically, economic nationalism, because the economy is what voters care about most. Mr. Trump's protectionism is a form of economic nationalism. So is his stance against immigration. (Again, I take no position on the merits, but anti-immigrationism is definitely a form of economic nationalism.) 
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Trump is not the first person to come up with this strategy: as I noted in an article during the 2012 election, Mitt Romney was going in this direction already, albeit much less aggressively than Trump.

Romney pledged to crack down on China's currency manipulation. He threatened the use of countervailing duties if necessary, a serious and previously ideologically taboo attempt to blunt America's trade deficit. He said illegal immigrants should "self deport."

Why was Romney less aggressive? For one thing, that was several years ago, and the causative trends hadn't yet gone so far. Two, he wasn't a billionaire, only a humble multi-millionaire, so he had to cater to the Republican donor class. Which, while not sincerely socially conservative, very much adores free-market ideology as the perfect rationalization for their crony-capitalist reality. (Their interpretation of "free" markets is "government won't interfere with private distortions of markets in my favor.")
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Come to think of it, even Patrick Buchanan got there first, in the sense of taking economic-nationalist positions (anti-free-trade, anti-immigration) as a Republican primary candidate in 1992. 
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But Buchanan, of course, never attracted more than a fringe following. It's no mystery why. One, he wasn't a billionaire who could finance an entire campaign while defying the donor class and cowing the Republican establishment with the tacit threat of a third-party run tipping the election to the Democrats. Two, the credibility of "even freer markets are always the solution" economics hadn't exhausted itself in 1992. (As noted above, it didn't even peak until the late 1990s.) Three, there was not yet a collapse of social conservatism forcing a search for new ideological themes.
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Even poor old H. Ross Perot fits perfectly into this picture. He was a trade hawk, anti-immigration, and relatively socially liberal. But he tried to do it without the legitimacy and infrastructure of an established party, and his political inexperience led to him getting spooked out of the race by, among other things, Republican dirty tricks. Still, astonishingly popular with the voters for a while.
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So economic nationalism is a rich theme that's been waiting to be exploited for a long time. Like, say, civil rights in the early 1960s. Mr. Trump's comically blustering persona, which seems to confuse a lot of commentators, fits perfectly into this picture. Why? Because it enables him to seem much more right-wing than he really is, which is essential to retreating from obsolete rightist positions without incurring the wrath of primary voters. (Trump's the most experienced show-biz politician since Reagan; of course he figured this out.) Every time some liberal yaps about his being a dangerous crypto-fascist menace, it re-glues this mask, though one of his biggest vulnerabilities is that it will fall off.
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The bigger joke is that the Republican establishment is fighting so hard against being saved. They may be the last to figure this all out."
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I'm the daughter of an Eagle Scout (fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and Mets) and a Beauty Queen.