‘Europeans Can’t Think of Building a Future Without the Americans’ — You Won’t Have To, But We Do All Have to Think Differently

Politico has a great article, with the self-explanatory title, itself a quote from the French Ambassador to the US – ‘Europeans Can’t Think of Building a Future Without the Americans’

Nor can I imagine a US without Europe deeply engaged with us.  (I am coming to be able to understand a Europe without the UK, or rather parts of it, but that is a much simpler matter, more related to Britain’s 150 year decline.)

What North Americans and Europeans have to do is understand that together we are one political  system, although not one nation.  Politics in one of these two mega nations (lumping Canada in with the US for now) are already deeply intertwined, and will get more so.  That is much more the case than any other large countries dyad.

As recent elections have shown, political events in one of the mega-nations trigger and influence those in the other — and not always in fully predictable ways.  Skilled demagogues, well actually all demagogues, will try to use events in one as a source of fear or reactionary possibility in the other, and building a positive “liberal system” vision will always require more nuance and time.

In short, in order to leverage each other, ideas have to flow between the two groupings as easily as capital already does.  We in the US have so much to learn about managing technology to limit the forces of inequality, and our friends in Europe have so much to ,learn about building greater flexibility into their economic system.

In the end, however, we have to learn to think about the impact on the European system of all that we do, and they have to do the same about us.  Think about how Trump’s failure to understand the nuances of this have enhanced European integration, and perhaps even saved Europe from disintegration.  The more Trump embraces Putin, the more the rest of Europe fears him, or rather both of them. I personally will not get tired of these kinds of winning.

 

 

 

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Are We Headed For a 2018 Veto Proof Budget?

Two events in the last couple of days suggest that Democrats and Republicans may have to combine to pass a veto-proof budget for next year.

Trump has announced that a shut down would be a good thing.  That might be good for Republicans fearing a primary, but not for those fearing the Democrats, as many will be  by the fall.

The 2017 budget appears to be relying on a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, put together over Trump’s at least apparent disapproval, to get over the top.  Moreover, the budget contains a surprising number of “up your’s Donald” provisions, and almost nothing of what he wants.

So, a veto proof budget may be the only way to keep the country functioning, and that may align with congressional and Senate interests in both parties.

What a year!

P.S.  The used to be a joke that new Congressman of both parties were told by thee seniors – “always remember who the real enemy is.” The newbie would name the opposing party and the elder statesman would reply: “No, the Senate.”  Maybe the answer in both parties, and now both chambers, is becoming “the President.”

Hard not to see why.

 

Job Projections Terrible for Trump Voters, and He Will Make Them Worse

An article by Ed Hess in the Washington Post highlights just how bad are the economic prospects of the Trump demographic.

What [Trump] hasn’t yet addressed — but should — is the looming technology tsunami that will hit the U.S. job market over the next five to 15 years and likely destroy tens of millions of jobs due to automation by artificial intelligence, 3-D manufacturing, advanced robotics and driverless vehicles — among other emerging technologies. The best research to date indicates that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs are likely to be replaced by technology over the next 10 to 15 years, more than 80 million in all, according to the Bank of England.

.  .  .  .

Jobs at risk include a diverse range of service and professional positions. Retail and fast-food jobs will be almost entirely automated. Manual laborers and construction workers will be replaced by robots; long-haul truck drivers by self-driving trucks; accountants, clerks, paralegals, telemarketers and customer-service reps by artificial intelligence; and security guards by robots and drones. Even professionals in the fields of accounting, law, finance, consulting, journalism and medicine are at risk of losing their jobs to smart machines.

What jobs will be secure? Well, that will change as technology advances. For now, the consensus is that humans will be needed to perform those tasks that require higher-order critical thinking, innovation, creativity, high emotional engagement with other humans and trade skills requiring real-time problem-solving and manual dexterity. Humans will need to excel at doing those things that are, for now, uniquely human. Good will no longer be good enough.

The paper points out that the idea that there will be replacement jobs, particularly that are doable by those displaced, is simply unrealistic.

Now, that is bad enough by the total numbers..  But think about who does the jobs that will disappear.  They are held by the Trump demographic, less educated, less mobile, and more comfortable with a doing what you are told point of view.

So, those doing well in the job market, or at least some of them, will do better and better.  But those who are already scared will be dead-ended at the very best.

There is moreover, a gender and race component that lines up with future unemployability.  The long-term secure jobs require either creativity or high emotional engagement.  I think that the white male demographic tends more to have less capacity for emotional engagement, perhaps because those not in that demographic have needed in the past to be more flexible and better people connectors to survive.  Let’s assume that there will continue to be personal care jobs that involve a lot of human sympathy.  Do you think that the Typical male Trump voter is going to be well at that job interview?

If our economic policy focuses on trade as the problem, we are likely to accelerate the disappearance of the doomed jobs.  Companies will simply automate faster to keep costs down if they are not allowed to important labor intensive components. Once committed to, that automation will move up the skill level, removing even more jobs, and US jobs at that.

So economic policy has to go beyond protectionism, and even beyond helping blue collar workers, to re envisioning the whole labor structure of the economy and educational systems, and perhaps our conception of “maleness.”

 

 

GNP Rose Less in the Last Quarter. What Was Different About the Last Three Months?

So, the GNP rose less than recently in the last quarter.

What, pray, was different about it.

Well, not noticed in the media, is that 60% of the last quarter fell in a time when we knew that we were about to enter a Trump presidency.

Now I realize that these things lag, but that actually it would make sense that lots of people would hold back to see what is going to happen with an unpredictable, to put it kindly, president.  Uncertainty about health care alone could produce this kinds of effect.  Remember, Trump has claimed that mere optimism generated by his election would help the economy.

Something to think about, particularly if the trend continues, and the Republicans insist that things were going south before Trump took over.

What Does Really Big Business Think About Trump?

The answer to this question may appear in this apparent memo written within the US Chamber of Commerce, but not yet on Wikileaks.

To:        Leading Members, Chamber

From:  Policy Council

Re:        Analysis

Our long term view is that not only the coming Trump Presidency but the voting behavior that made it possible represents a fundamental threat to the interests of our members.

The election not only throws into doubt many short term aspects of the decision-making environment in which our members operate, but also casts into doubt whether American voters can be relied up for consistent support for the international stabilization predictability, integration and standardization that is essential for out members, and indeed similar organizations in other economic zones, to operate effectively.

In that sense, any short term policy changes are much less harmful (and some may even be beneficial to many of our members in the short term) than the lack of confidence in the future existence of the American umbrella that is no longer reliably avoidable for our members.

The question therefore for leadership is whether we need to shift our long term focus from our current reliance on the US political system and the power of the US, to the strengthening of a network of international quasi and supra governmental organizations that can provide the guaranteed predictable environment that our members require.

An even more difficult question is how much we are willing to accept international enforcement of human rights guarantees in return for the international groups having sufficient power to provide that guarantee.  Of course, such agreement by the states to the US Bill of Rights was essential to obtaining ratification of the US Constitution.

Such a major change for the Chamber will be the result of a long process of assessment and planning, but it is our view that that process must begin now.

 

 

Now Trump Owns Every Job Loss — Even Before He Is Sworn In.

Initially, I was worried by the report that Trump’s Carrier intervention is earning high approval.  But even setting aside the fact that the set up of answer choices suggests that the result is more rejection of traditional Republic orthodoxy about non-intervention in the economy, the long-term expectations set up huge problems for Trump.

Because from now on, every job loss leads to the question to the President-elect, and then the President — did you try to intervene on this one, did you succeed, if not why not, what did you offer/threaten?  Also, why did you do this for Carrier workers in Indiana, but not for me?

Given that these are long term economic forces, it’s the King Canute story but the other way around.

It also reminds me of the story of how Bill Clinton always wanted to go to Wall Street and ring the stock market opening bell.  And his staff would say, “but what if the market goes down that day?”

 

 

Focusing Research To Support an “Appropriate Unrigging” Agenda By Getting Beyond Symptoms

If I am right that our change strategy has to be based on understanding how Trump voters and potential Trump voters think about the term “rigging,” then we need to be doing research that shows how and why the system is rigged, and for whom.

My own personal feeling that much of the problem is that research, after currently being mediated through the media, ends up reporting on symptoms, but not on causes and dynamics.  For example, the recent numbers on suicide, health and life expectancy in declining counties did get widely reported, but I bet they made it through as just that, leaving the impacted population to fill in their own “low information” explanations, that probably focused on external threats, (drugs and foreign competition), rather than lack of opportunity caused by American corporate decisions, lack of health care caused by Republican de-funding, etc. (That hypothesis in itself would make a fascinating research project)

While we can not reshape the media, at least in the shot term, I fear, we can start to do research that focuses not so much on the symptoms, but on government and corporate behavior, with symptoms as only the afterthought, and with analysis of the mechanisms of the impact that causes those symptoms.

We should be conducting focus groups and testing messages that are specifically not about getting short term support for specific changes, but getting insight into people’s understanding of underlying dynamics and finding what would disrupt or replace those understandings.

For example, this paper from the FTC on big data raises many questions about the possible discriminatory and exclusionary impacts of big data.  I would suggest that these impacts might include pricing policies that have discriminatory impact on the declining county areas, others that make it harder for people from those areas to apply for jobs, or even get health care assistance online.

So the research needs to be about the direct line from the corporate behavior, in this case the use of big data, to the impacts that the population of those areas feel.

An economist would say these big data techniques help make markets even more perfect.  Others might experience them differently.  The point is for research to provide the information and does not allow victims to be set against each other.