Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Robert Reich comments on the absurdity of Donald Trump's plan to shovel yet more money toward a military-industrial complex and corporate profiteers who already have more than they know what to do with.

- Sara Fraser and Laura Chapin write that food insecurity is primarily an issue of insufficient income. And Psychologists for Social Change studies (PDF) the anticipated benefits of a basic income in reducing avoidable stressors.

- Carter Sherman discusses the detrimental health effects of climate change, while Benjamin Israel highlights the health damage caused by coal in particular. And CBC reports on Kirsten Zickfeld's warning that we're rapidly running out of time to limit global warming to manageable levels.

- Gloria Galloway reports on the Libs' new "you can't make me!" position on ending discrimination against indigenous people. And Doug Cuthand questions why Saskatchewan's First Nations are suddenly being deprived of their usual right of first refusal on Crown lands up for sale.

- Finally, Noah Smith examines David Autor's work in showing that "free trade" has failed to up to its billing:
Autor, like most top economists, was once an orthodox thinker on the trade issue. He had expected American workers would adjust well to the shock of Chinese imports, finding other jobs for similar wages after a short period of dislocation. That was largely what happened in the 1980s and 1990s in response to Japanese and European competition. Instead, he and his co-authors found that trade with China in the 2000s left huge swathes of the U.S. workforce permanently without good jobs -- or, in many cases, jobs at all.

This sort of concentrated economic devastation sounds like it would hurt not just people’s pocketbooks, but the social fabric. In a series of follow-up papers, Autor and his team link Chinese import competition to declining marriage rates and political polarization. Autor told me that these social ills make the need for new thinking about trade policy even more urgent...

So, I asked, how should trade policy be changed? Autor’s answers again surprised me. He suggested that the process of admitting China to the World Trade Organization back in 2000 should have been slowed down significantly. That would have given American workers and industries time to prepare for, and adjust to, China’s competitive onslaught. He also endorsed the border adjustment tax now being considered by Congress. That tax would probably benefit U.S. exporters at the expense of importers.

But Autor went quite a bit further. He told me that the U.S. government should focus attention on manufacturing industries, and even use industrial policy to bolster the sector.

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