NEW YORK – Donald Trump’s astonishing victory in the United States presidential election has made one thing abundantly clear: too many Americans – particularly white male Americans – feel left behind. It is not just a feeling; many Americans really have been left behind. It can be seen in the data no less clearly than in their anger. And, as I have argued repeatedly, an economic system that doesn’t “deliver” for large parts of the population is a failed economic system. So what should President-elect Trump do about it?
Over the last third of a century, the rules of America’s economic system have been rewritten in ways that serve a few at the top, while harming the economy as a whole, and especially the bottom 80%. The irony of Trump’s victory is that it was the Republican Party he now leads that pushed for extreme globalization and against the policy frameworks that would have mitigated the trauma associated it. But history matters: China and India are now integrated into the global economy. Besides, technology has been advancing so fast that the number of jobs globally in manufacturing is declining.
The implication is that there is no way Trump can bring a significant number of well-paying manufacturing jobs back to the US. He can bring manufacturing back, through advanced manufacturing, but there will be few jobs. And he can bring jobs back, but they will be low-wage jobs, not the high-paying jobs of the 1950’s.
If Trump is serious about tackling inequality, he must rewrite the rules yet again, in a way that serves all of society, not just people like him.
The first order of business is to boost investment, thereby restoring robust long-term growth. Specifically, Trump should emphasize spending on infrastructure and research. Shockingly for a country whose economic success is based on technological innovation, the GDP share of investment in basic research is lower today than it was a half-century ago.
Improved infrastructure would enhance the returns from private investment, which has been lagging as well. Ensuring greater financial access for small and medium-size enterprises, including those headed by women, would also stimulate private investment. A carbon tax would provide a welfare trifecta: higher growth as firms retrofit to reflect the increased costs of carbon dioxide emissions; a cleaner environment; and revenue that could be used to finance infrastructure and direct efforts to narrow America’s economic divide. But, given Trump’s position as a climate change denier, he is unlikely to take advantage of this (which could also induce the world to start imposing tariffs against US products made in ways that violate global climate-change rules).
© Project Syndicate
To continue reading, go here.