Donald trump got serious yesterday, prescribing a hardline trade policy and backing it up with references to precise passages in various agreements. It was his most dangerous campaign speech yet.
What he promised is sure to appeal to workers in such states as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. He told those workers their jobs had been frittered away by America’s leaders. And he would bring them back.
How? By harshly enforcing existing trade agreements and even renegotiating them if he had to.
By blaming America’s trading partners (as well as immigrants and other external factors), Trump is distracting Americans from the real cause of their malaise – internal income inequality. The top sliver of American society gobbles up so much of the nation’s wealth that the rest of the population is feeling the pinch. Trump would do nothing to address that inequity. Indeed, he proposes to give the rich even more by way of tax breaks.
He also chooses to ignore the jobs created in America by the expanded exports produced by global trade deals.
But there is some basis for his complaints against existing trade pacts. America has been generous to developing nations.
Trump would cut them no slack.
By any moral standard, America should be generous to poorer countries. For generations the US has hogged the world’s resources, and Americans have enjoyed a privileged lifestyle at the expense of trading partners around the world.
As a moral man, President Obama must recognize this.
But Trump is not a moral man. He sees no need to be fair or decent. Like Shakespeare’s Shylock, he asks, “On what compunction must I?”
His plan is to build such a mighty American fighting force that Americans need answer to no one. And he proposes to bully the rest of the world, taking whatever America needs – or wants.
America first, he shouts.
The slogan on his cap proclaims he will make America great again. And by great he means strong. He means tough. He means selfish.
Sadly, it’s a promise that resonates with a lot of Americans who feel cheated, who are not living the good life their parents did, who blame everybody in the world but themselves for their failures.
They don’t care that they are still much better off than millions of people in this world of ours. They think it is their right to have a full fridge, a TV in every room and two cars in the garage. They think the world owes their children an endless supply of video games and smart phones, whoppers and foot-longs, sodas and candy bars…
And they don’t care what their leaders do to the rest of the world to keep the goodies coming.
It is to these Americans that Trump tailors his message.