November 16, 2016


Trump's Proposals Won't Help The White Working Class -- Or The Urban Poor (Ben Casselman, 11/15/16, 538)

But many of Trump's white working-class supporters did cite economic issues as a significant concern. In his campaign, Trump pledged to bring back manufacturing jobs, get tough on foreign competitors and deport undocumented immigrants who, he said, push down the wages of American workers. Many of his voters have said they plan to hold him to those promises.

They are likely to be disappointed. Many of the economic grievances of the white working class are legitimate: Manufacturing jobs really have disappeared, and those that remain often don't pay as well or offer the same benefits as the union jobs that workers remember from decades past. Economists, who said for years that trade's downsides were minimal, have more recently begun to acknowledge that foreign competition has done lasting damage to many communities (though they still say trade is good for the economy as a whole). But despite his rhetoric, Trump offered few specifics during the campaign for how he would change trade policy to benefit workers; the plan his advisers did offer was widely panned by independent economists, some of whom warned it would cause a recession.

The larger problem for Trump and his supporters is that there is very little reason to think that any set of policies could meaningfully reverse the long-term decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs. That decline has been driven by a combination of globalization and automation -- forces that aren't likely to reverse any time soon. As I've argued in the past, politicians and policymakers would be better off focusing on how to improve the wages and working conditions of the service workers who now dominate the U.S. economy -- a subject Trump barely mentioned during the campaign. Trump had little to say about education, job training, entrepreneurship or other policy areas that might help workers in rural areas. And though Trump has said that lighter regulation will help the struggling coal industry, that will do nothing to change the low natural-gas prices that are coal's biggest enemy. Indeed, Trump has also pledged to ease regulation of fracking, which will tend to boost oil and gas production, which will in turn tend to keep prices low. (

Posted by at November 16, 2016 5:22 PM