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Pinkerton – The White House Tech Summit: What It Could Mean for Americans

On Monday, the White House will hold a “tech summit,” playing host to leading executives from most—but not all—of the leading technology companies in America.
According to the Wall Street Journal, techsters will include executives from Amazon, Apple, Cisco, Google, IBM, and Oracle.  (One prominent tech company that won’t be there is Tesla; its CEO, Elon Musk, is boycotting the Trump administration over its decision to depart from the Paris climate-change deal.)

Yet for the vast majority of technology companies, the gathering is vital, because the subject itself is so obviously important.  Moreover, in addition to the general theme of American economic competitiveness—how to stay ahead of China, Japan, India, and the European Union—there’s one specific agenda item that understandably draws firms to DC: the upgrading of the federal government.  After all, Uncle Sam will spend some $4 trillion in the coming fiscal year; that’s a lot of business. 
As one early planning document declared, the Trump administration’s goal is for the federal government to “operate like a modern technology enterprise.”  And that upgrading effort ought to be bipartisan, even non-partisan.  As one of the White House upgraders, Chris Liddell—himself a former top executive at General Motors and Microsoft—told the Journal, “Modernizing government services is not politicized.” 

In fact, reform of the government is something of a hardy perennial; after all, the earnest hopes of libertarians notwithstanding, the government doesn’t seem to be about to shrink.  In fact, for the last 65 years, federal spending as a share of GDP has been remarkably stable. 
Still, the government can always use a new look, for the simple reason that it’s always falling behind.  That is, Uncle Sam is a lagging indicator; new trends tend to happen first in the private sector.  Indeed, many observers will say that entrepreneurial companies move faster because they are unburdened by civil service and Congressional oversight, and they’re right.  We might add, too, that the private sector is increasingly sloughing off labor unions, which leaves companies with an even freer hand to innovate.  
Yet this churn in the private sector is having an unintended consequence: It’s strengthening the political left, the familiar champion of the public sector.  That is, while the transformation of Corporate America may be increasing productivity and profitability, those same changes are causing civic damage, too.  It’s plain to see: For all its value, “creative destruction”  also has a way of rendering millions of employees defenseless against lower wages, stripped benefits, layoffs, and offshoring.  

In other words, it’s not a coincidence that the “turbo-capitalism” of the last few decades has been matched by the rise of powerful populist movements on the left, including those led by Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in Britain—it’s more like cause and effect.  Indeed, one could add that one of the reasons that Donald Trump is president today is that he tapped into much of that same angry populism for his right-leaning candidacy. 
For their part, Sanders and Corbyn aren’t the least bit interested in shrinking their public sectors—they want to see the state expanded, bigly.  And come to think of it, it’s not so obvious that President Trump is going to succeed in his relatively modest efforts to shrink the state. 
In fact, it appears that the United States as a whole is moving to the left: Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is now more popular than ever.  

Meanwhile, progressive governors, such as California’s Jerry Brown and New York’s Andrew Cuomo, are moving their states leftward—and enjoying great popularity as they do so.  And in Kansas, both chambers of the Jayhawk State’s Republican-controlled legislature recently voted to raise taxes; in doing so, lawmakers actually overrode a GOP governor’s veto, and the tax hikes are now law.   
So we can see: If the government isn’t going anywhere, and if the government is always lagging, then there’s really only thing to do: Make it work better.  In other words, don’t scorn the status quo—improve it.  To be sure, a strategy of incremental improvement rarely pleases radicals.  And yet it often pleases the general public; that is, the folks who just want a competent government. 
In fact, a look back at the history of government reform shows that there’s a long lineage of doing just that—namely, enacting prudential improvements.  

Back in 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt, an energetic reformer, established the Committee of Department Methods, which streamlined personnel, purchasing, and statistics-gathering.  
The next big reform effort came in 1937, when the Brownlow Committee recommending turning a hodgepodge of individuals and entities around the White House into a formal Executive Office of the President.  The EOP was established by Congressional statute two years later.  (As an aside, we can observe that reform efforts take on permanence only when they are written into law—and that requires the cooperation of Congress.  To put that point another way, any change that’s done with the stroke of a presidential pen can be undone with the stroke of a subsequent pen.) 
Then in 1947, after the enormous growth of the federal government during the New Deal and World War Two, President Harry Truman asked former President Herbert Hoover to lead the Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, known to history as the Hoover Commission.  That endeavor led to many changes, including the creation of the General Services Administration, which coordinates all federal purchasing.  (And yes, we can note the irony: Hoover, a staunch champion of small government, was brought in to ratify the enlargement of government—Truman knew what he was doing.)  
The next major stab at federal reform came in 1993 when the new Clinton administration tasked Vice President Al Gore with the job of “reinventing government,” or Rego.  
Yes, it may seem hard to believe now, but once upon a time, Gore was seen as a moderate, perhaps even something of a conservative.  And so, aided by a notably talented staff of reform-minded insiders, Gore set about revamping public services, with an eye toward introducing private-sector methods, if not outright privatization.  For instance, Gore’s group consulted with Disney to learn about how to expedite the movement of queues.  In addition, the new technology of the Internet made it possible to begin the process of digitalizing public service.  
For all these reasons, Rego was successful as a matter of both policy and politics.  Confidence in the federal government rose sharply during those years—from below 20 percent to above 40 percent—and the Clinton-Gore ticket was re-elected in a landslide.  As we all know, in the years since, Gore has gone from reinventing the government to reinventing the atmosphere, and yet the spirit of his original effort lives on at the Brooking Institution’s Center for Effective Public Management. 
In addition, today we can observe that the same sorts of reinvention, still ongoing, are also evident at the state and local level.  We can consider, for instance, the issue of K-12 education.  
In the early 1980s, the public schools, especially in the cities, hit a nadir of dysfunction and, oftentimes, outright corruption.   In response, President Reagan, aided by a young-turk reformer named Bill Bennett, established the National Commission on Educational Excellence.  In 1983, that body issued a landmark report, A Nation At Risk: The Imperative of Education Reform, which sounded a loud klaxon horn: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”
The result of the report was electric: Suddenly, educational reform went to the top of the national agenda, with Bennett as its sharp-tongued thought-leader.  
More than three decades later, it’s impossible to say that the education crisis has been solved—as we have seen, problems of governance are, by their nature, chronic—and yet at the same time, it’s obvious that educational resources have improved.  That is, a motivated student now has access to learning vastly beyond what a student a few generations ago could only have dreamed of.   
Much of this improved access is the result of school choice—that is, market-driven schooling opportunities, as first outlined by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman.  Of course, Friedman advocated vouchers, usable at any school, public or private.  And while that hasn’t happened, except in a very few cases, charter schools, which are a sort of compromise version of vouchers, have happened.  
Today, of the 50 million K-12 students attending public schools in the US, more than 2.5 million attend charter schools.  Indeed, in some cities, such as the District of Columbia, the charter-school student population is nearly as large as the traditional public-school population. 
Yet even the number of students actually enrolled in charter schools understates the true impact of the school-choice idea.  Across the country, more than 2700 magnet public schools are in operation; these typically attract students on the basis of some sort of curriculum specialty.  In other words, there aren’t many students in America today that don’t have access to some sort of educational choice.  And as Friedman—one of whose many books was entitled Free to Choose—liked to say, the only power anyone really has is the power of an alternative.  Thus we can see: students today are empowered. 
The point here isn’t to minimize the ongoing challenges facing public education.  Instead, the point is to observe that in many areas, education has greatly improved.  Thus we can see the power of structural reform, starting from the bully pulpit of the White House.  
Sadly, it’s true, of course, that severe challenges to education remain, from a worsening home environment for many students, to the appalling increase in snowflakes and of political correctness.  So without a doubt, there’s a lot more reform work to be done.  Yet still, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to slip into the slough of thinking that everything is hopeless.  
In the meantime, speaking of better ed–ucation—for students and for all of us—there’s a thing called the Internet.  As we all know, it’s made a mega-difference in learning opportunities for everyone who is eager to learn.  There’s distance learning, of course, and yet even more astonishingly, there’s the quantum leap of Wikipedia.  We might pause to note that the libertarian-leaning Foundation for Economic Education refers to Wikipedia as a “wonder of the world,” rivaling anything that humanity has ever seen—and that seems to be a fair assessment.
Thus we are reminded that the modernization of government is a natural companion to modernization, period.  So the more that we have of the latter, the more that we will have of the former.  And that’s a good thing for all Americans. 
So let’s wish the best for the tech modernizers gathered at the White House today.  They may not agree on every topic, but on the issue of improving governance, history shows a steady pattern: Despite partisan and institutional differences, Uncle Sam, always prodded by the private sector, has a way of muddling through to betterment—and sometimes, even, excellence.  
And as for the rest of us, well, we could all use some good news. 

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North Korea ‘Willing to Talk’ Moratorium on Weapons Testing ‘If Our Demands Are Met’

North Korea ‘Willing to Talk’ Moratorium on Weapons Testing ‘If Our Demands Are Met’

by John Hayward21 Jun 20170 21 Jun, 2017
21 Jun, 2017

South Korea’s Yonhap news service reported on Wednesday that North Korea made a very tentative and conditional offer to discuss a ban on nuclear and ballistic missile testing.
The offer came rather circuitously through North Korea’s ambassador to India, and there were strings attached, but given how stridently the outlaw regime normally insists on its right to develop weapons, it may foreshadow a more significant policy shift.

Yonhap renders Ambassador Kye Chun-yong’s offer as, “If our demands is met, we can negotiate in terms of the moratorium of such as weapons testing,” and notes the conditions unsurprisingly include a halt to American military drills with South Korea, a demand North Korea makes incessantly.
Australia’s News.com notes that Kye conducted his interview on Indian television in English, quoting him directly to make the strings on North Korea’s offer clearly visible:

Under certain circumstances, we are willing to talk in terms of the freezing of nuclear testing and missile testing. For instance, if the American side completely stopped big, large-scale military exercises temporarily or permanently, then we will also temporarily stop. Let’s talk about how to solve the Korean issue peacefully.
Pyongyang temporarily slowing its illegal weapons research in exchange for a permanent and total end to American military cooperation with South Korea is not exactly a tantalizing offer. It is most likely just a setup for the next round of North Korean complaints that Seoul and Washington are responsible for instability on the peninsula because they keep practicing the invasion of North Korea.
International outrage over the murder of American hostage Otto Warmbier did not slow down North Korean state media’s stream of editorials denouncing Western policy as “aggression and plunder,” or criticizing America’s human rights record. Moreover, it is hard to see Pyongyang’s ambassador to India as a pipeline to the deep thoughts of the Kim regime’s inner circle. There are other channels Pyongyang could use if it wishes to seriously resume discussions about its nuclear and missile programs.
As Yonhap News points out, even if Pyongyang did agree to a temporary moratorium, it has very elastic notions of what “temporary” means. The last freeze deal in 2012, in which the U.S. provided 240,000 tons of food aid in exchange for a halt to missile tests and uranium enrichment, lasted about two months before North Korea broke it.

Still, North Korea’s insistence on its right to develop nuclear weapons and ICBMs is normally absolute, presented as the only defense available to the noble DPRK against Western and South Korean aggression.
Optimistic observers hope the international outrage over Warmbier’s death, and President Trump’s aggressive stance toward the Kim regime, are pressuring Kim toward offering a more serious deal. Trump’s ominous tweet on Tuesday thanking China for an effort to rein in North Korea that “has not worked out” may be weighing on a few minds in Pyongyang and/or Beijing.
There is also the possibility that North Korea is having trouble with its long-rumored sixth nuclear test and is floating talk of negotiations to squeeze some concessions from the threat of a bomb it cannot actually detonate. U.S. officials on Tuesday reported seeing signs of activity at North Korea’s nuclear test site again, the latest in a string of such observations stretching back for months, without any test detonation actually occurring.

Another factor shifting against North Korea is the growing international scrutiny of dictator Kim Jong-un’s finances. North Korea relies heavily upon illegal commerce to bring in the money needed to keep the corpulent dictator and his inner circle living in unfathomable luxury, while much of the population starves. A new MIT study crunched U.N. data to determine that North Korea spends more on luxury goods than it does on legal imports from all sources.
If North Korea’s enablers grow exasperated enough or are pressured hard enough to cut off that illegal income stream and choke off the billion-dollar flow of expensive luxuries and banned weapon components to the Pyongyang elite, it could bring some real pain to the regime for the first time. Awareness of that danger might help explain the very tentative opening to negotiations North Korea’s ambassador made in India.

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Making America Insecure Again: What a Trump Presidency Really Means for National Insecurity

The defense budget will be bigger, but it won’t make us any more safe.

Donald Trump’s supporters believe that his election will end business as usual in Washington. The self-glorifying Trump agrees and indeed his has, so far, been the most unorthodox presidency of our era, if not any era. It’s a chaotic and tweet-driven administration that makes headlines daily thanks to scandals, acts of stunning incompetence, rants, accusations, wild claims, and conspiracy theories.  On one crucial issue, however, Trump has been a complete conformist. Despite the headline-grabbing uproar over Muslim bans and the like, his stance on national security couldn’t be more recognizable. His list of major threats — terrorism, Iran, North Korea, and China — features the usual suspects that Republicans, Democrats, and the foreign policy establishment have long deemed dangerous.Trump’s conception of security not only doesn’t break the mold of recent administrations, it’s a remarkably fine fit for it.  That’s because his focus is on protecting Americans from foreign groups or governments that could threaten us or destroy physical objects (buildings, bridges, and the like) in the homeland.  In doing so, he, like his predecessors, steers clear of a definition of “security” that would include the workaday difficulties that actually make Americans insecure.  These include poverty, joblessness or underemployment, wages too meager to enable even full-time workers to make ends meet, and a wealth-based public school system that hampers the economic and professional prospects, as well as futures, of startling numbers of American children. To this list must be added the radical dangers climate change poses to the health and safety of future citizens. Trump may present himself as a maverick, but on security he never wavers from an all-too-familiar externally focused and militarized narrative.Conjurer-in-ChiefBarack Obama wrote a bestselling book titled The Audacity of Hope.  Perhaps Donald Trump should write one titled The Audacity of Wealth.  During the presidential campaign of 2016 he morphed unashamedly from plutocrat to populist, assuring millions of people struggling with unemployment, debt, and inadequate incomes that he would solve their problems.  The shtick worked.  Many Americans believed him. Fifty-two percent of voters who did not have a college degree chose him.  Among whites with that same educational profile, he did even better, winning 67% of their votes. Unemployment, underemployment, stagnant wages, and the outsourcing of production (and so jobs) have hit those who lack a college degree especially hard.  Yet many of them were convinced by Trump’s populist message.  It made no difference that he belonged to the wealthiest 0.00004% of Americans, if his net worth is the widely reported $3.5 billion, and the top 0.00002% if, as he claims, it’s actually $10 billion. Former Louisiana Governor Huey Long, perhaps the country’s best-known populist historically speaking, was born and raised in Winn Parish, a poor part of Louisiana.  In the 1930s, his origins and his far-reaching ideas for redistributing wealth gave him credibility.  By contrast, Trump wasn’t cut from humble cloth; nor in his present reincarnation has he even claimed to stand for the reallocation of wealth (except possibly to his wealthy compatriots).  His father, Fred Trump, was a multimillionaire who, at the time of his death in 1999, had a net worth of $250 million, which was divided among his four surviving children.  The proportional allocations are not publicly known, though it’s safe to assume that Donald did well.  He also got his start in business — and it wasn’t even an impressive one — thanks to lavish help from Fred to the tune of millions of dollars.  When he subsequently hit rough patches, Dad’s connections and loan guarantees helped set things right.A man who himself benefited handsomely from globalization, outsourcing, and a designed-for-the-wealthy tax code nonetheless managed to convince coal miners in West Virginia and workers in Ohio that all of these were terrible things that enriched a "financial elite" that had made itself wealthy at the expense of American workers and that electing him would end the swindle.He also persuaded millions of voters that foreign enemies were the biggest threat to their security and that he’d crush them by “rebuilding” America’s military machine.  Worried about ISIS? Don’t be.  Trump would “bomb the shit out of them.”  Concerned about the nuclear arms race?  Not to worry.  “We’ll outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”Yet few if any Americans lie awake at night fearing invasion by another country or the outbreak of nuclear war.  Fifteen years after 9/11, terrorism still ranks high on the American list of concerns (especially, the polls tell us, among Republicans).  But that danger is not nearly as dire as Trump and the U.S. national security state insist it is.  A litany of statistics shows that deaths from car crashes leave death-by-terrorist in the dust, while since 2002 even bee, hornet, and wasp stings have killed more Americans annually in the United States than “Islamic terrorists.”Since 9/11, only 95 Americans — 95 too many, let it be said — have been killed in terrorist attacks in the U.S.  Not one of the perpetrators was a tourist or someone on another type of temporary visa, and several were non-Muslims.  Nor were any of them refugees, or connected to any of the countries in Trump’s two Muslim bans.  Indeed, as the journalist Nick Gillespie notes, since the adoption of the 1980 Refugee Act no refugee has been involved in a terrorist attack that killed Americans.  Still, Trump’s hyperbole has persuaded many in this country that terrorism poses a major, imminent threat to them and that measures like a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by the citizens of certain Muslim countries will protect them.  (A recent poll shows that 54% of the public supports this policy.)  As for terrorist plots, successful or not, by white far-right extremists, the president simply hasn’t felt the urge to say much about them.In other words, President Trump, like candidate Trump, embraces the standard take on national security.  He, too, is focused on war and terrorism.  Here, on the other hand, are some threats — a suggestive, not inclusive, list — that genuinely make, or threaten to make, millions of Americans insecure and vulnerable.Poverty: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015, 43 million Americans, 13.5% of the population, lived below the poverty line ($11,700 for an individual and $20,090 for a three-person household) — an increase of 1% since 2007, the year before the Great Recession.  For children under 18, the 2015 poverty rate was 19.7%.  While that was an improvement on the 21.1% of 2014, it still meant that nearly a fifth of American children were poor.The working poor: Yes, you can have a job and still be poor if your wages are low or stagnant or have fallen. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) uses a conservative definition for these individuals: “People who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force during the year — either working or looking for work — but whose incomes were below the poverty level.” Though some studies use a more expansive definition, even by the BLS’s criteria, there were 9.5 million working poor in 2014.Even if you work and bring in wages above the poverty line, you may still barely be getting by.  Oxfam reports that 58 million American workers make less than $15 an hour and 44 million make less than $12 an hour.  Congress last raised the minimum hourly wage to $7.25 in 2007 (and even then included exceptions that applied to several types of workers).  That sum has since lost nearly 10% of its purchasing power thanks to inflation.Wage stagnation and economic inequality: These two conditions explain a large part of the working-but-barely-making-it phenomenon.  Let’s start with those stagnant wages.  According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), for about three decades after World War II, hourly wage increases for workers in non-supervisory roles kept pace with productivity increases: at 91.3% and 96.7%, respectively.  Then things changed dramatically.  Between 1973 and 2013, productivity increased by 74.4% and wages by only 9.2%.  In other words, with wages adjusted for inflation, the average American worker made no more in 2013 than in 1973.  As for economic inequality, the EPI reports that from 1980 to 2013 the income of the top 1% of wage earners increased by 138% compared to 15% for the bottom 90%.  For those at the lowest end of the wage scale it was even worse. In those years, their hourly pay actually dropped by 5%.When was the last time you heard Donald Trump talk about stagnant wages or growing economic inequality, both of which make his most fervent supporters insecure? In reality, the defunding of federal programs that provide energy subsidies, employment assistance, and legal services to people with low incomes will only hurt many Trump voters who are already struggling economically.Climate change: There is a scientific consensus on this problem, which already contributes to droughts and floods that reduce food production, damages property, and threatens lives, not to speak of increasing the range of forest fires and lengthening the global fire season, as well as helping spread diseases like cholera, malaria, and dengue fever.  Trump once infamously described climate change as a Chinese-fabricated “hoax” meant to reduce the competitiveness of American companies.  No matter that, in recent years, the Chinese government has taken serious steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Now, President Trump is gearing up to take the U.S. out of the climate change sweepstakes entirely. For instance, he remains determined to withdraw the country from the 2015 Paris Agreement (signed by 197 countries and so far ratified by 134 of them) aimed at limiting the increase in global temperature to a maximum of two degrees Celsius during this century.  Scott Pruitt, his appointee to run the Environmental Protection Agency, denies that climate change is significantly connected to “human activity” and is stocking his agency with climate change deniers of like mind. Needless to say Pruitt didn’t balk at Trump’s decision to cut the EPA’s budget by 31%.Nor do Trump and his team favor promoting alternative sources of energy or reducing carbon emissions, even though the United States is second only to China in total emissions and among the globe’s largest emitters on a per-capita basis. Trump seems poised to scale back President Obama’s plan to increase the Corporate Annual Fuel Efficiency Standard — created by the government to reduce average automobile gas consumption — from the present 35.5 miles per gallon to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, end the 2015 freeze on leases for coal mining on federal land, and ease power plant emission limits. Worse yet, Trump’s America First Energy Plan calls for producing more oil and gas but contains nary a word about climate change or a green energy strategy. If you want a failsafe formula for future environment-related insecurity, this, of course, is it.Bogus RemediesCandidate Trump certainly did tap into a deepening sense of insecurity about wage stagnation, the disappearance of good working-class jobs, and increasing economic inequality.  But in the classic national security mode, he has artfully framed these problems, too, as examples of the economic hardship that foreign countries have inflicted on America. And the four remedies he offers, all rooted in a nationalistic economic outlook, won’t actually help American workers, could hurt them, or are at best cosmetic.First, he favors renegotiating multilateral trade deals like NAFTA and wasted no time withdrawing the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, accords which he believes hurt American workers.  Second, he wants to impose tariffs of 35% to 45% on imports from countries such as Mexico and China that he accuses of unfair trade practices. Third, at least on the campaign trail he pledged to punish countries like China, Japan, and Germany for supposedly devaluing their currencies in order to boost their exports unfairly at America’s expense.  Fourth, he’s high on slapping a border tax on companies that import from their branches or subcontractors abroad the components needed to make products to be sold in the United States, as well as on firms that simply import finished products and sell them locally.Some of these punitive moves, if actually pursued, will only provoke retaliation from other countries, harming American exporters and consequently the workers they employ.  Tariffs will, of course, also increase the cost of imported goods, hurting consumers with low incomes the most, just as taxing U.S. corporations for importing from their subsidiaries abroad will increase the prices of locally made goods, possibly reducing demand and so jobs.  Even the nullification of trade pacts, whatever positives might be involved, won’t bring industries like steel, textiles, and basic machine-making that once provided good jobs for the working class back to the United States.  Trump blames China for the decline in manufacturing employment, as does one of his top economists, Peter Navarro.  (Despite holding a Harvard Ph.D. in economics, Navarro evidently doesn’t grasp that trade deficits don’t have a major effect on employment and that protectionism doesn’t cut trade deficits.)What’s really required are policies that help displaced manufacturing workers to get decent jobs now, while addressing wage stagnancy, which has been significantly aided and abetted by a sharp decline in union membership in recent decades.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 1983 and 2015 membership in public-sector unions held reasonably steady.  Not so for private-sector union membership, which plunged from 12 million in 1983 to 7.6 million in 2015.  As a result, workers have been increasingly incapable of combatting wage stagnation through collective bargaining.  Tellingly enough, however, as of 2015, the median weekly paycheck of unionized workers was still 21% larger than that of workers who did not belong to a union.  Consider Trump’s business history when it comes to labor (including the hiring and stiffing of undocumented workers), as well as the make up of his immensely wealthy, Goldman Sachs-ified economic team, and the Republican Party’s attitude toward unions.  Then ask yourself: How likely is it that this administration will be well disposed toward unionization or collective bargaining?And don’t forget automation, a subject Donald Trump has essentially been mum about.  It has contributed decisively to job loss and wage stagnancy by reducing or even eliminating the need for labor in certain economic sectors.  As economists Michael Hicks and Srikant Devraj have demonstrated, increased productivity through automation has been far more crucial in reducing the need for human labor in U.S. manufacturing than outsourced jobs and imports.  Thanks to labor-displacing technologies, U.S. manufacturing output actually increased in value by 17.6% between 2006 and 2013 while the workforce continued to shrink.Another source of wage stagnancy is rising economic inequality, which stems partly from the fierce corporate focus since the 1980s on boosting quarterly earnings and paying dividends that will keep shareholders happy, even if that requires incurring debt, rather than increasing workers’ wages.  Alternative PoliciesTrump claims that he will create more jobs by lowering the corporate tax rate.  At 35% — 38.9% including the average state tax — the American corporate tax rate is significantly higher than the global average (29.5%).  Nonetheless, the familiar high-corporate-taxes-kill-jobs narrative that Trump trumpets is simplistic. More than 60% of American companies are so-called S corporations.  They pay no corporate tax: they pass their profits on to stockholders who then report the gains when filing income tax returns.  And even the corporations that do pay taxes manage to reduce the burden significantly through such steps as claiming accelerated depreciation on equipment and establishing offshore companies whose books reflect their profits.  As a result, their true tax rate isn’t anything like 38.9%.  High corporate taxes aren’t what stops companies from creating jobs or paying workers more, which means that changing that rate won’t fix any problems, not for American workers anyway.There are other solutions to low wages and unemployment, even if President Trump will never favor them.  Investing more in public education, for example.  Local property taxes and state monies still count heavily in funding public schools. (Federal support is less than 15%.)  So the quality of a school can depend greatly on the zip code in which it’s located, especially because parents in wealthy neighborhoods normally raise more money to help their schools than their non-affluent counterparts can.  School quality can also depend on how wealthy your state is.Though other factors doubtless play a role, in general, the better the quality of the school, the greater the likelihood that a child will go to college and the stronger his or her income and prospects will be.  Increasing federal funding to schools that lack adequate resources could improve matters.  But if you expect President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to consider such a proposition, think again.Raising the minimum wage significantly could also help reduce income inequality and the number of working poor. Democrats have favored raising the minimum wage to $10.10, which, it is believed, would reduce the number of people living in poverty by an estimated 4.6 million.  That’s hardly an outlandish proposal.  Some experts, like former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, have called for a minimum wage of $15 an hour, though they are in the minority.  But even certain mainstream economists, like Princeton’s Alan Krueger, support a $12 rate and reject the right-wing claim that it would kill jobs.Don’t expect the Trump administration (or the GOP) to push for any form of such a policy. Take a look at the members of the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum (SPF), whose duties include providing advice on job creation, and you’ll realize that such a relatively modest goal will be off the table for at least the next four years.  You’ll find representatives from the Blackstone Group, Walmart, IBM, General Motors, Boeing, and General Electric in the SPF, but not one labor advocate.  Case closed.  Prepare for Business as UsualThe net worth of Trump’s cabinet (the president excluded) is $5 billion, and that’s a conservative estimate (no pun intended).  By some calculations, it may be $13 billion.  According to Politifact’s Tom Kertscher, that “modest” $5 billion figure exceeds the net worth of the bottom one-third of all American families.  Now, what likelihood do you think there is that Trump would ever implement policies that threatened to transform the distribution of wealth and power in America to the detriment of the economic class from which he and his cabinet hail?  (In that spirit, remember that candidate Trump proposed a tax plan that would focus on the wealthiest Americans by cutting the top tax rate from 39.6% to 25% and eliminating the estate tax, 90% of which is paid by the country’s wealthiest 10%.)It’s much easier to scapegoat outsiders, whether China, Japan, Mexico, and Germany (whose government Trump trade adviser Navarro has also accused of currency manipulation), or undocumented workers who generally hold jobs in the U.S. that require lower skills, pay less, and that most American citizens avoid.  It’s also easier to stick with the standard militarized conception of national security and, for good measure, hype the perils posed by Islam, which for Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief political strategist, and Stephen Miller, his senior adviser on policy, amounts to a synonym for extremism and violence, even if Islamic terrorists pose the most miniscule of threats to most Americans.   Not surprisingly, Trump proposes to increase the country’s already staggering defense spending for next year by another $54 billion.  To put that increment in perspective, consider that Russia’s total defense spending in 2015 was $66 billion and Britain’s $56 billion, while the United States already spends more on defense than at least the next seven countries combined.  (In fairness to Trump, Senators John McCain and Mac Thornberry, respectively the chairmen of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, want to bulk up the defense budget even more.)Trump also seems determined to stay the course on America’s forever wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Neither he nor his generals show any sign of abandoning the Obama-era strategy of whack-a-mole drone strikes and raids by Special Operations forces against terrorist redoubts around the world (as witness a recent failed special ops raid in Yemen and 24 drone strikes — half of the maximum number that the United States launched against that country in any preceding year). Trump has already deployed 400 Marines as well as Army Rangers to fight ISIS in Raqqa, Syria, and another thousand troops may soon be heading that way.  And General John Nicholson, commander of the US-led military coalition in Afghanistan, has called for “a few thousand” additional troops for that country.So expect President Trump to dwell obsessively on threats that have a low probability of harming Americans, while offering no effective solutions for the quotidian hardships that actually do make so many citizens feel insecure. Expect, as well, that the more he proves unable to deliver on his economic promises to the working class, the more he’ll harp on the standard threats and engage in saber rattling, hoping that a continual atmosphere of emergency and vulnerability will disarm critics and divert attention from his failures.  In the end, count on one thing: voters who were drawn to Trump because they believed he would rein in interventionism abroad and deal with festering problems at home are in for a disappointment.
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