Trump may be right about free trade

When large numbers seize on the thought that the purveyors of global free trade have lied to them, somebody will eventually have to pay

RED DEER, Alta. Aug. 9, 2016/ Troy Media/ – Day by day, more of the world’s pundits, politicos and pop stars line up against a Donald Trump presidency. The idea that a person like Trump could end up being leader of the world’s largest economy and its largest military power is frightening, to say the least.

But ideas always have a basis in something. For Trump, that something is a widespread suspicion among the beleaguered working class that they’ve been lied to. Not just the lies that we cynically think politicians and business elites tell us all the time, but lied to in the very promise of co-operative well-being that holds society together.

The army of the working class has looked at the past 30 years and decided the future ain’t what was sold to us – and it’s time for a reckoning.

By no means does Trump have any workable answers for the problems of huge income inequality and long-term wage stagnation that act like sticky mud on our economy. But when large numbers of people seize on the thought that the purveyors of global free trade and the so-called New Economy have lied to them, somebody will eventually have to pay.

That’s what could make the thought of a Trump presidency thinkable.

Has free trade really worked for you? Have all the myriad agreements Canada signed to create the free movement of goods and services around the world made your future or your children’s future any more secure?

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That’s hypothetical. We can’t test outcomes against what might have happened if the North American Free Trade Agreement had never evolved, for instance. But I’m willing to suggest that a whole lot of people in the United States (or Canada) don’t feel the same love that the top 10 per cent of income-earners feel for free trade.

So when Trump says he’ll tear up NAFTA and sandbag the Trans-Pacific Partnership immediately upon taking the oath of office next January (that is, right after banning Muslim immigration, crushing IS and getting that wall along the Mexican border started), who are we to say that’s such a bad idea?

Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz is a heavy hitter in the field of analyzing global trade. And he’s no fan of how free trade has played out.

Free-trade agreements are not the only reason the top strata of income earners have become so fabulously rich while the rest of us have been stuck or sliding backwards in real income. But Stiglitz says they are a major contributor to the problem.

He [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1000″ scrollbars=”1″]wrote[/popup] in the Globe and Mail this week that he warned about this 15 years ago. And by the way, he has another book out suggesting that free trade needs to include a social contract for the 90 per cent of us in developed countries – or we’ll get more of people like Trump.

The agreements that allowed big corporations to move jobs and livelihoods out of developed countries into countries with the lowest wages have indeed contributed to the race to the bottom – at the expense of the masses of people who now think Trump could turn things around.

Trump has not offered even one concrete plan that could possibly “make America great again.” But the promise to do so has been enough to gain him the Republican Party’s nomination for presidency.

From all evidence, it’s safe to say that Trump doesn’t have even one concrete plan to restore lost manufacturing jobs to his nation. Nor has he any details that could restore hope to the masses who are working ever longer hours for less reward, while the moneyed class gets ever richer.

Here’s irony for you: Trump may actually be right that global free trade has not worked in favour of that huge demographic of ordinary Americans (it might not be working for Canada, either – not if you ask the struggling middle class).

But the fact that his proposed solutions are either hare-brained, unconstitutional or non-existent does not deter the belief among his followers that they’ve been lied to by the current political and business elite.

And his army of voters seems willing to swallow even bigger lies, just to get their time of reckoning.

Greg Neiman is a freelance editor, columnist and blogger living in Red Deer, Alta. Greg is also included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.

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