Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Media Loves Economic Nationalism When It Happens In Mexico

In my occasional surrender to self-abuse marked by tuning in to National Public Radio, I heard a story by correspondent Carrie Kahn on location in Mexico where construction on a new Ford plant was abruptly halted in response to, at least in part, the threat by President-Elect Trump to levy stiff fees on products produced in foreign countries subsequently shipped to America. The news headlines were fairly clumsy but the gist was that instead of a $1.6 billion dollar investment in Mexico, Ford would instead invest $700 million in Michigan which would create around 700 jobs in a state that desperately could use them. Like the Carrier announcement right after the election, the news was met with enthusiasm by Trump supporters and bitterness from Trump detractors. Here is a sample from the NPR piece:
CORNISH: And rather than build the plant in Mexico, Ford says it's going to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in facilities in Michigan. That's going to add about 700 jobs there. But how are people in Mexico taking the news?
 KAHN: They're very upset, not taking it well at all. Like I said, the plant was already under construction, so that work has stopped, and those people are out of jobs. Once the plant was built, it was going to employ 2,800 people, so those are jobs that are not going to be here anymore.
 I stood outside the plant, trying to talk to some of the people that were leaving. Nobody really wanted to talk to an American reporter. But one of the guards there did tell me that the situation is very tense. People just got news of this, and they're just very upset.
 CORNISH: Do you get the sense that blame is falling directly on President-elect Donald Trump?
 KAHN: Overwhelmingly people are placing blame on President-elect Trump. They are very upset with him. I talked to about four or five people - all said the same thing. He hasn't even taken power yet, and he's already doing damage to us. I'll say it nicer than they said it to me. They feel like they're being blamed for a lot of situations that are going on in the United States that is not their fault, and they squarely place that blame on Donald Trump.
 They're also mad at their own officials who haven't - they say haven't done enough to stand up to Donald Trump and defend the working Mexicans here and the Mexicans that are living in the United States. They're as angry with their own officials as they are with Donald Trump.
So apparently NPR is deeply concerned about 2800 jobs not being created in Mexico but they really don't seem to care at all that 700 American jobs are being created, jobs that will presumably pay well and go to skilled workers who will pay a bunch of money in taxes and spend their legally earned wages in America. Of course those 700 workers are likely not going to donate to NPR so who needs 'em? This is par for the course and especially since those dastardly workers in Michigan delivered that state and in large part the Presidency to Donad Trump. I wonder when those 700 workers go to the polls in 2020, will they vote again for the guy who gets the credit for helping to create those jobs? After Trump won I had no expectation that he would ever win re-election but a few weeks before he even takes office I am starting to wonder if re-election is more likely than I thought.

Notice some of what Kahn says. The Mexicans were super angry and didn't even want to talk to an American reporter, even one from NPR doing a sympathetic story. A guard even described the situation as tense. What happens when a few more plants don't get built or even existing plants get shuttered? Also they want their government to "stand up to Donald Trump" both for Mexican workers in Mexico as well as Mexican workers in the U.S. and that is pretty telling. They see themselves as Mexicans who just happen to be working in the U.S. It isn't their country, it isn't their home, it is just a place to live while they work at better jobs than they could get at home. In contrast, I am an American who works in America because this is my home. I care about the long-term healthy of this country and I am concerned about where it is headed because I want America to be around and be what it ought to be for me, for my kids, my grand-kids, etc. 

Mexicans care about the economic future of Mexico and they should. The New York Times in a similar story talks more about the anger of Mexicans at their government
"Mexico loses thousands of jobs with no word on a clear strategy for confronting the next U.S. government which has presented itself as protectionist and, especially, anti-Mexican," the paper wrote. "Trump will try to recover as many U.S. companies that have set up in Mexico as possible. He will try to make them return at whatever cost, through threats or using public resources." 
"Ford's decision is indicative of what awaits the economies of both countries," the daily La Jornada said. "For ours a severe decrease in investment from our neighboring country, and for the U.S. a notable increase in their production costs."
Americans ought to care about the economic future of Americans in the same way but we are shouted down and shamed as xenophobic, isolationists, protectionists, etc. when American interests are given higher standing than the interests of other countries. It is a slow economic suicide, aided and abetted by the elites in this country who will retain their jobs as investment bankers, political officials, government technocrats, journalists, etc. regardless of what happens to Joe Six-Pack who loses his job because American policy makers and executives are more concerned about globalism than economic nationalism.

Globalism makes lots of promises that include the idea that Americans can just get new training and find great jobs in the knowledge economy even though we already push way too many kids into college that have no business being there and who don't benefit from a college degree except by having the student loan Gestapo banging on their door to recover tens of thousands in student loan debt that they had no business giving out in the first place. Labor unions bear a lot of blame here as well, as does the general degradation of the American work ethic, but the simple reality is that not every or even most high school graduate should go to college and we need jobs in this country for people without a B.A. in Women's Studies that can pay the bills.

The reality of economic nationalism is one of the glaring weaknesses in libertarianism, a political philosophy I have a lot of affinity for in many respects. The idea that globalism and free trade is always good for the average American worker is the libertarian article of faith equivalent of the liberal, statist articles of faith like the gender wage gap, "hands up, don't shoot" and the magical impact of the $15 minimum wage. The big problems with libertarian, no-border, "free trade" globalism is that it doesn't take into account human nature. American libertarians might be willing to sacrifice our workers on the altar of globalism but the rest of the world is often not willing to do the same to their workers. China doesn't have any qualms about screwing over American workers to favor their own economy, neither does Mexico or most other non-flaccid European style states. Our economic policies often look like the economic equivalent of Neville Chamberlain, a unilateral surrender in the hope of fair treatment from people who see that is laughable weakness. Mexicans don't care about globalism and the fate of American workers, they are just irate that jobs will be created in Michigan instead of Mexico and that reaction is a perfectly rational and reasonable one.

It will be interesting to see the struggle between the old guard establishment Republicans in Congress, many who are bought and paid for by foreign lobbyists as well as domestic corporations who profit from globalism at the expense of Americans and the new Trump administration. I have a ton of qualms about Trump but this is one area where he can really make an impact that benefits America and helps set the stage for his own re-election campaign.

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