Sasse Remarks on Trump’s Mercantilism

“His Administration holds 18th-century views of trade as a zero-sum game.”-Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE).

For context, see: Trump preparing withdrawal from South Korea trade deal, a move opposed by top aides.

FILED UNDER: Quick Picks, Steven Taylor, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. MBunge says:

    Speaking of expertise…

    Mercantilism worked. It worked for a couple of centuries. An enormous amount of wealth and advancement flowed from it. A whole bunch of pretty terrible things were also intertwined with it and the fact that it did work for a certain period of time under certain physical and economic conditions doesn’t mean it would or could work forever, but that’s true of the overwhelming majority of ideas, philosophies and ideologies in human history. I mean, have you looked at economic growth, wage growth and income inequality in America over the last several decades of “Free Trade today! Free Trade tomorrow! Free Trade forever!”? Not to mention the role free Trade has played in the recurring North Korea nuclear crisis.

    Mike




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  2. michael reynolds says:

    So, it’s perfectly logical and fine that the president of the United States would adhere to a belief system no longer relevant.

    Can we lower the bar any further? Is it strictly necessary that the president be able to do his times tables? Or recite the alphabet? Or go potty like a big boy? No matter how low the bar gets, though, MBunge will manage to squirm beneath it. The cult mind on display.




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  3. Robert Prather says:

    Every thing Trump does makes my head hurt. He doesn’t understand one single thing about his job.




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  4. An Interested Party says:

    I imagine that Sasse doesn’t expect the Orange Mange to take his criticism personally…after all, what does the president know about the 18th century…




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  5. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @MBunge:

    I mean, have you looked at economic growth, wage growth and income inequality in America over the last several decades of “Free Trade today! Free Trade tomorrow! Free Trade forever!”?

    Wait a minute !!!!! A light bulb may have just gone off for Mike!

    Now unless the cognitive dissonance is overwhelmingly ingrained , Mike may have just realized that the American Conservative Party is not his friend.

    International trade is not the challenge here, Mike, as many other developed nations have both international trade AND a strong standard of living. Look at some of the EU countries, for example.

    The difference? Strong workers unions.

    The GOP has been anti-worker and anti-union for decades (if not a century, come to think of it). Weaken or eliminate collective bargaining, and you can drive down labor costs and increase profits. A strong union can negotiate for thousands of members. An individual acting alone will grovel for a raise.

    “Right to work” states means weaker (or no) unions. Want to guess which states have lower average worker salaries?

    Don’t blame international trade. That’s the point of it NOT being a zero-sum-gain issue. Our standard of living won’t get better if we try to screw another country… they will still find a market, but WE will lose it.

    If you are starting to question how you will actually retire, it isn’t foreigners, or foreign trade that’s the problem. You can thank a member of the GOP!

    For those who donate millions to the GOP to lower THEIR tax burden, you are just another one of the unwashed masses looking for a hand out. And given the opportunity, they will eliminate your Social Security and Medicare in a heartbeat

    Toll roads, private-for pay schools? SURE ! less for them to pay and MORE FOR YOU !

    I have to tell you Mike, I’m glad you are here. In 2020 we will welcome you to the other side. 🙂




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  6. Mikey says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: And now the Republicans are considering a tax reform plan that would make 401(k) contributions taxable.

    Seriously, in a country that already has a terrible savings rate and where most workers have only a few thousand dollars in their retirement accounts, they want to disincentivize saving even more?

    But the 1%, they’ll get their bloody tax cuts, you can be sure of that.




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  7. Mikey says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: Also, see this chart, which illustrates your point very well.




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  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    People wonder why profits go up and wages don’t. They wonder why productivity goes up and wages don’t. They bought Reagan’s ‘magic of the marketplace’ line clueless to the fact that business spends a fortune bribing politicians to lean on that marketplace. Who pushes back on behalf of workers? Right: no one.




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  9. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    People wonder why profits go up and wages don’t. They wonder why productivity goes up and wages don’t. They bought Reagan’s ‘magic of the marketplace’ line…

    The problem is that people who are incapable of comprehending more than a bumper sticker will never be able to grasp the complexity of what actually happened.
    It boggles the mind that trickle-down economics still has a following.
    But just watch how they sell the upcoming tax reform…which will be little more than a tax cut for rich folks.




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  10. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Bunge: feudalism worked for a couple of centuries too. Should we bring that back as well?




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  11. Kylopod says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    It boggles the mind that trickle-down economics still has a following.

    I’ve been reading a book about the Great Depression published in the 1990s, and it’s striking how similar the conservative rhetoric back then sounded to its successors in the present day. The difference is that it didn’t fall neatly on partisan lines. In the 1920s, both parties were dominated by conservatives who wanted to shift the tax burden from rich to poor. They only differed in how to go about it, with Republicans tending to favor a national sales tax and Democrats tending to favor a repeal of Prohibition so that the tax revenue from the sale of booze could be used to fund sharp reductions in the corporate tax rate. Al Smith, who was the 1928 Democratic nominee but who was for all intents and purposes an archconservative who would go on to become a bitter foe of the New Deal, said in 1932:

    “I protest against the endeavor to delude the poor people of this country to their ruin by trying to make them believe that they can get employment before the people who would ordinarily employ them are also again restored to conditions of normal prosperity.”

    Or, as Republicans today would say in the far more terse, easy-to-digest soundbite: “Job creators!”

    The Depression dealt a political death blow to this kind of rhetoric…for a few generations. It’s striking that less than a decade after the Great Recession it’s as strong as ever.




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  12. Mikey says:

    @Kylopod:

    The Depression dealt a political death blow to this kind of rhetoric…for a few generations. It’s striking that less than a decade after the Great Recession it’s as strong as ever.

    Even the Great Recession didn’t weaken it, because by then its tendrils were so deeply twisted around the Republican mythos nothing could possibly dislodge them.




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  13. DrDaveT says:

    @MBunge:

    Mercantilism worked. It worked for a couple of centuries.

    Seriously?

    Making things using only rocks and bones and antlers ‘worked’ for tens of thousands of years. Do you consider that a reason to reconsider whether we might want to reconsider whether a new Stone Age might be an improvement?

    Mercantilism only ‘worked’ compared to what came before it, and only for the powerful. Ask the Incas how well mercantilism worked.




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  14. Kylopod says:

    @Mikey:

    Even the Great Recession didn’t weaken it, because by then its tendrils were so deeply twisted around the Republican mythos nothing could possibly dislodge them.

    They don’t have any reason to give it up. They’ve won three of the last four elections, and they’ve done it while seeing a surge in support from white working-class voters. It’s the best of both worlds for them: the policies of Calvin Coolidge and the voting base of FDR. Why would they possibly want to change?




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  15. Kylopod says:

    *two of the last three elections




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  16. the Q says:

    If you want to know whats really happening with profits its simple:

    82% of all corporate profits go to either stock buybacks or dividends.

    There is virtually little re-investment back into company to make the employees more productive.

    Boy, did I enjoy the irony of klyopod reminiscing about the New Deal and how quickly we forget:

    “The Depression dealt a political death blow to this kind of rhetoric…for a few generations.”

    Yes, till the boomers under bill and hill helped destroy it. “The era of big government is OVER” remember Clinton slurpers?

    I lived through the Depression, remember FDR’s fireside chats, then watched the neolib DLC suck the marrow and soul right out of the New Deal. Glass Steagall repeal ring a bell?

    I’ve watched the neolibs lose the house, the senate, the POTUS, SCOTUS, 1100 state seats, and 37 governorships.

    And kylopod hits it square on the head when he berates those who’ve forgotten because the neolibs belong to that group..




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  17. Kylopod says:

    @the Q:

    Yes, till the boomers under bill and hill helped destroy it. “The era of big government is OVER” remember Clinton slurpers?

    Actually it was Reagan who brought this back, with “trickle down” economics. Clinton and the DLC takeover of the Democratic Party didn’t happen till more than a decade later. Furthermore, the rise of Clinton was a direct response to the landslide defeats of traditional liberals by Reagan and Bush in the 1980s.

    Personally, I think the Democrats misread the situation. The main reason Mondale and Dukakis lost was because Reagan, for better or worse, was popular. I don’t think the Dems would have been any more successful if they’d nominated a Bill Clinton type back in the ’80s. Likewise, I think a traditional liberal would have done fine in the 1990s.

    Still, it’s worth noting that since the rise of Clinton the Dems have so far not suffered a defeat anywhere near as massive as Mondale’s, McGovern’s, or even Dukakis’s. In fact, they’ve won the popular vote in all but one presidential election in this period, entirely with candidates you claim are the source of the party’s electoral troubles.

    Also, Clinton didn’t resemble a 1920s conservative Democrat like Al Smith. Recall that one of his signature achievements was a bill raising the corporate and top income tax rates. And he attempted–unsuccessfully–to pass universal health care, something even the mighty FDR nixed from his agenda due to pressure from the medical lobby. The Republican takeover of Congress in the 1990s was fueled not by a populist backlash against neoliberalism but by a conservative backlash by anti-government types who claimed Clinton had overreached.

    Additionally, in the 1930s many people–from socialist Norman Thomas to populist Huey Long–denounced FDR as a corporate sellout, in terms that sound remarkably similar to your criticisms of the modern-day Democrats. A left-wing group called the Southern Tenant Farmers Union complained that under Roosevelt “too often the progressive’s word has been the clothing for a conservative act.” The book I’ve been reading includes a very typical example of a letter sent to FDR from a worker in Ohio: “We the people voted for you, we had a world of faith in you, we loved you, we stood by you…but it is a different story now…. [T]he very rich is the only one who has benefitted from your new deal…. [I]t is common now to hear the people, everywhere you go say President Roosevelt has proven to be no different from any other President, there all for big business after they get in office.”

    Of course these critics were wrong. FDR is rightly regarded as one of the greatest presidents, and certainly the greatest in the 20th century. He did, ultimately, stand up to big business in a way that a president like Bill Clinton did not. But he did still make many compromises, and he neglected to do some of the things he needed to do to boost the economy (in fact he disastrously practiced austerity in 1937). He was, at bottom, a master politician who juggled many conflicting factions. He most certainly was not the pure liberal populist you repeatedly depict him as.




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