So Trump is President, Now What?

image of donald_trumpI woke up Wednesday morning to a big surprise, and I wasn’t the only one. Donald Trump the next president of the United States? Who’d have thought? Certainly not me.

But nonetheless, here we are….

I was asked if I’m upset. No, not upset… disappointed would be a better word. The thought that this is the person our country chose to represent itself to the rest of the world….

I thought our country was better than this, better than to fall for the blatant and obvious false promises of a flim-flam artist who stirred up and then rode a wave of white and poor rural anger into the White House.

Now I’m going to talk about Trump’s main promise, that being to put Americans back to work. It was a promise that resonated with poor, rural, forgotten white America, who’ve been feeling left behind for decades, ever since their skilled labor jobs first began disappearing.

Let’s get one thing straight: the lose of skilled labor in the United States is not the fault of the Democrats or the Republicans, it’s the result of corporations driven to achieve the highest levels of profitability. As long as it’s more profitable to produce goods somewhere else and ship them in, that’s what they are going to do, no matter who’s president.

But Trump says he is going to bring those jobs back!

No gonna happen, and here’s why.

After WWII ended, the U.S. was a manufacturing powerhouse. One, it had geared up to meet wartime production, and two, it was the only country left that hadn’t been bombed into oblivion.

This gave the U.S. an insurmountable economic advantage over the rest of the world, since all other nations had to buy manufactured goods from the U.S., using their cheap natural resources as payment. This meant U.S. businesses had to rely on America’s relatively small — on a global scale — and highly skilled work force, since there was no one else to work in the factories.

This is the source of the prosperity of the late 1940s through the late 1970s. There were good, well-paying, skilled labor manufacturing jobs in the U.S. because it was the only place with the infrastructure, factories and labor force left. When you run the only game in town, it’s easy to be the winner. The entire world was the market and the U.S. was the was the only major seller.

This meant the working class had the leverage to claim a good share of the high profits of the American industrial complex. They had industry over a barrel — there was no where else to go and no one else to hire. This is what allowed for the unprecedented growth of the U.S. middle class; the lack of competition.

Fast forward 30 years to the late 1970s and early 1980s and the rest of the world has started catching up. They’re extracting their own resources and beginning to build their own things. U.S. companies started crunching the numbers and discovered they could make more money by building their stuff somewhere else, and that was the death knell of American manufacturing.

There are now (and have been for a while) industrial powers in Europe and Asia that can compete with the US. And countries like Brazil, South Africa, Argentina, India, China, Mexico, Thailand, Turkey, South Korea, Vietnam and more also became industrialized.

Now it’s cheaper for U.S. companies to produce elsewhere because:

  • Less environmental and labor rules and regulations
    1. this also makes it cheaper to extract and process natural resources
  • Lower (much much lower) cost of living that means low wages
  • No unions or pensions or health care to worry about (or OSHA, or vacation, or other employee benefits)
  • Desperate people willing to work for not much more than a tin shack and basic food

So rather than pay a living wage, deal with labor unions, and be on the hook for health care and pensions and insurance, companies shipped production out of the U.S. and got their stuff made for cheaper.

And that’s why manufacturing collapsed. And no President, regardless of party, is going to bring it back.

What will bring it back is that as global living standards continue to increase, and workers the world over begin to demand more rights and pay, it might one day reach the point where it’s just as expensive to build somewhere else as it is to build in the U.S., When that starts to happen, guess what? We’ll begin to see skilled labor manufacturing jobs return.

This is all part of a natural economic progression. You can see it in our own country.

  • Phase 1: agriculture and resource extraction
  • Phase 2: manufacturing
  • Phase 3: service and finance

Many countries in the rest rest of the world have moved into Phase 2 over the last couple of decades, while much of the “first” world is now in Phase 3. The unfortunate downstream of this progression is:

  • Much fewer skilled labor jobs that pay well (I don’t consider most service jobs to be either skilled or well paying)
  • More education and advanced skills required for the jobs remaining (Science Technology Engineering Math)

Much of America is now a work desert, places where there simply are no well paying jobs and likely never will be. These people have seen their communities collapse around them. There’s the main street, a few stores, the local doc, maybe a lawyer or two, a police force, the Dairy Queen, and that’s about it. Oh, and the Walmart and maybe a regional hospital an hour away.

That’s the reality of middle America and it’s not going to change. Rural USA doesn’t need web designers or software engineers or mechanical engineers, or scientists, or more than a handful of medical people. Maybe a lawyer or two. A general store. Anyone with education and skills will need to move to a more urban area for job opportunity. Bottom line: there’s just not much left to do in rural America.

It doesn’t matter what Trump does — or any other president — this is the natural progression of economies.

Nevertheless, a desperate person will grasp at whatever rope is tossed their way, and that’s precisely what Trump did.

What’s especially strange to me is that this group of disenfranchised people continue to vote for Republicans. Republicans who are (and have been) against a social safety net, would never support Universal Basic Income, and who have been proven not to support less expensive college, want to keep health care privatized, and in no way, shape or form support programs that make it easier for people to gain the skills, education and experience they need to climb out of poverty.

Things will never be “like they were” but that’s what Republicans keep promising and what poor, rural Americans keeps believing.

And that’s where we’re at without even considering the loss of jobs due to automation and robotics.

The U.S. middle class will continue to get get poorer, while the rest of the world will continue to emerge from poverty into their own middle class. Somewhere, down the line, the two will meet in the middle, but while it will be a middle that’s much higher for the most of the rest of the world, it will be much lower for middle class Americans.

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