Joseph Stiglitz: the Right’s China Policy was Designed to Raise Profits by Weakening Wages (Labor)

Joseph Eugene Stiglitz (/ˈstɪɡlɪts/; born February 9, 1943) is an American economist, public policy analyst, and a professor at Columbia University. He is a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2001) and the John Bates Clark Medal (1979).[2][3] He is a former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank and is a former member and chairman of the (US president’s) Council of Economic Advisers.[4][5]
some ways I one has to recognize that
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China may have been lucky they began the
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development strategy just at the moment
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when the West was very open to importing
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manufacturing goods it was a moment
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where because there were a large profit
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opportunities in the West that sustained
42:58
the opening with wrong without regard to
43:01
the effects and workers over the over
43:04
the effects and the overall economy so
43:09
in a way China’s success is testimony to
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the failures of democratic politics in
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the United States in Western Europe
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because the rules the game were designed
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worked to advantage American
43:29
corporations Western European
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corporations with no attention paid to
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the consequences to the workers as the
43:41
United States d industrialized now some
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countries in Europe did pay attention
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and they did have active labor market
43:49
policies that shifted workers from the
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old sectors that were dying into the new
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sectors and Scandinavia has been very
43:58
good in these active labor market
44:00
policies which I think are really
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important in the United States we didn’t
44:06
do that even though economic theory said
44:11
opening up of trade between an
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banks country like the United States and
44:16
China West events would result in lower
44:21
real incomes for unskilled workers
44:24
there’s a missing Stover theorem and it
44:28
was unambiguously clear even though we
44:31
were getting cheaper goods real incomes
44:34
of unskilled workers would go down and
44:36
it’s only if you had a mystical belief
44:39
in trickle-down economics would you
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think otherwise but our politicians did
44:44
have a mystical belief in trickle-down
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economics and they asserted this over
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and over again and so even when you know
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in the Democratic Party we tried to get
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Trade Adjustment Assistance we try to
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have some active labor market policies
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when we couldn’t because of concerns
45:04
about austerity and not enough budget
45:07
concerns they wouldn’t work we went
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ahead anyway there is a growing sense
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the United States though that actually
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the agenda on the right was to increase
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unemployment and suffering you say why
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would they anybody you know why do
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people want suffering well it was part
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of a concerted agenda if you look at to
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weaken the bargaining power of workers
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and drive down the wages which increases
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profits so if you look at this from a
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conservative point of view the reforms
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and our labor laws and reforms in the
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way antitrust policy was enforced that
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reform is a not the right word but
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changes in those laws changes in
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corporate governance and implicit
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understandings the legal frameworks and
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in the investment agreements in the
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trade agreements the investment
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agreements they gave more secure
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property rights if American firms
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invested abroad than if they vested at
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home which meant that they were
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encouraged to invest abroad which also
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meant that if the firm if workers came
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to affirming
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we want higher wages and the firms know
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if you we give you if you continue to
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demand higher wages we’re going to leave
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that was more credible so I think it was
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a deliberate strategy to drive down the
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wages of workers and it worked in terms
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of the economics that I described before
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it did drive down the wages but it has
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now led to these this political backlash
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with which we are dealing so there is a
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relationship between China’s success and
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some of the problems that we’re facing
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it wasn’t inevitable we could have
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managed it better we should have managed
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it better but we didn’t but just as a
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footnote the point I’m making is that
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that was a particularly
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Africa won’t be able to follow the
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manufacturing export-led growth model
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that led to the success of East Asian
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countries including China in fact now
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globally manufacturing employment is in
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decline in any country that believes
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that manufacturing should be at the
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center of their economic policy is
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misguided it can be part of it it can’t
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be at the center well let me just
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conclude by SEP some let me just
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conclude by a set of remarks about that
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in a way that pertain to all countries
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but we’re we’re china realized this in a
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way more forcefully than many others
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have and that is that reform is a
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never-ending process that societies are
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always changing technology’s changing
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and therefore the policies that are
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going to make a society successful have
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to change in a corresponding way
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for China China’s entering a new stage
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of development it’s facing critical
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problems of inequality health
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environment livable cities markets won’t
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solve those problems in fact many of
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those problems have been created by the
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fact that they had markets that were too
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unfettered to under-regulated
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they’re going to have to regulate them
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better there are further questions posed
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by changing globalization the
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recognition of the risks of excessive
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financialization the West
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I believe hasn’t succeeded in adequately
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taming financial markets as you know
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this is this week is the 10th
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anniversary Lehman Brothers and and a
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lot of people are talking about have we
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done enough I think it’s absolutely
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clear no and what’s particularly
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disturbing is the Trump administration
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is trying to undo the inadequate things
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that we’ve already done again I was at a
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dinner right before the inauguration of
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Trump where one of his chief economic
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advisors was there
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I don’t normally associate with his
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people might make it clearer but it was
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an embassy dinner so I and I didn’t know
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he was going to be there anyway
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and he was talking about how he was
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going to deregulate the financial sector
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within weeks after taking office and the
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first thing that struck me is he clearly
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had no idea of our democratic processes
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yeah he really thought you know Trump is
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the dictator he gets to write rewrite
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all the rules no no none of these
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processes that we put in place as
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democratic checks against authoritarian
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leaders no knowledge of that was just so
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clear but the second point I was going
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to ask what somebody who asked it before
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I did quizzically
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didn’t we have a crisis in 2008 and the
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implicit answer was that was ancient
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history and we have to move on but it’s
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not ancient history and I think the
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risks are very much with us one of the
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concerns that I increasingly seeing in
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China is that as China grows the
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influence of vested interest will grow
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and you can feel it already
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another just a little anecdote every
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year when I go to China I often talked
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to the finance minister and I’ve been
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pushing them to move away from their
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debt finance growth model to more tax
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financed in particular I’m telling them
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they need a carbon tax and it would
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raise a lot of revenue it would help
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clean up their air pollution exceed me
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an obvious idea and the finance minister
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every year says great idea and he says
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we have some political problems which he
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means the auto industry the coal
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industry this you know steel industry
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and so forth we’re gonna work on it next
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year we go through the same conversation
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as China has grown and it has taken on
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many of the features of a modern vested
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interest economy we’re getting change is
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becoming more difficult and that of
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course is is very worrisome but the
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principles that guided China in the
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first 40 years are likely to continue to
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be relevant and that by that I mean the
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pragmatism crossing the river by feeling
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this still stone they’re going to be new
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problems not fully foreseen would that
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appear it will have to address these
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problems
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using insights from theory and past
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experience and the second critical point
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is openness there is much to be learned
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from experiences of others and from the
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ink sykes of non-ideological economic
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analysis and again we’re in a particular
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moment where I hate to keep coming back
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to the United States but we’re a little
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bit obsessed with with our problems one
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can’t help but reflect on the closed
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mindedness of our current administration
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of not looking around you know if you
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think you’re number one and you think
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that you’re the there’s nothing to learn
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from anybody else that is part of the
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beginning of the end so we hope that
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this is just a temporary interlude but
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as we reflect on what makes I know
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successful in the ways it is I think
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there are a lot of lessons for all of us
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to think about how we can make our own
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economy successful for all of us thank
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you
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The Era of Fed Power is Over. Prepare for a More Perilous Road Ahead.

Central banks have long exercised influence over booms and busts, but their ability is shrinking.

The Federal Reserve and other central banks have long been the unchallenged drivers of financial markets and the business cycle. “Don’t fight the Fed,” goes one Wall Street adage.

That era is drawing to a close. In many countries, interest rates are so low, even negative, that central banks can’t lower them further. Tepid economic growth and low inflation mean they can’t raise rates, either.

Since World War II, every recovery was ushered in with lower rates as the Fed moved to stimulate growth. Every recession was preceded by higher interest rates as the Fed sought to contain inflation.

But with interest rates now stuck around zero, central banks are left without their principal lever over the business cycle. The Eurozone economy is stalling, but the European Central Bank, having cut rates below zero, can’t or won’t do more. Since 2008, Japan has had three recessions with the Bank of Japan, having set rates around zero, largely confined to the sidelines.

The U.S. may not be far behind. “We are one recession away from joining Europe and Japan in the monetary black hole of zero rates and no prospect of escape,” said Harvard University economist Larry Summers. The Fed typically cuts short-term interest rates by 5 percentage points in a recession, he said, yet that is impossible now with rates below 2%.

Workers, companies, investors and politicians may need to prepare for a world where the business cycle rises and falls largely without the influence of central banks.

 

The business cycle we’re used to is a bad guide to business cycles going forward,” said Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates LP, the world’s biggest hedge fund.

In November, Fed chairman Jerome Powell warned Congress that “the new normal now is lower interest rates, lower inflation, probably lower growth…all over the world.” As a result, he said, the Fed is studying ways to alter its strategy and develop tools that can work when interest rates approach zero.

Fed chairman Jerome Powell on Capitol Hill in November. PHOTO: SAM CORUM/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Central banks are calling on elected officials to employ taxes, spending and deficits to combat recessions. “It’s high time I think for fiscal policy to take charge,” Mario Draghi said in September, shortly before stepping down as ECB president.

There are considerable doubts that any new tools can restore the influence of central banks, or that countries can overcome obstacles to more robust fiscal policy, particularly political opposition and steep debt.

Business cycles in the future may resemble those of the 19th century, when monetary policy didn’t exist. From 1854 to 1913, the U.S. had 15 recessions, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the academic research group that dates business cycles. Many were severe. One slump lasted from 1873 to 1879, and some historians argue it lingered until 1896.

Fed’s Fading Influence

U.S. recessions were more frequent before the Federal Reserve took control over interest rates, using them as a lever to slow inflation or boost the economy. Low rates have weakened the central bank by giving it little room to reduce rates further.

The Fed’s sway over the economy has also been weakened by a decline in durable manufacturing and construction, which are sensitive to rates, and the growth in services, which aren’t.

Sources: National Bureau of Economic Research (recessions); Sidney Homer and Richard Sylla (interest rates 1854-1933); Federal Reserve (interest rates 1934-present); U.S. Commerce Department (value-added shares of GDP)
Kathryn Tam/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The causes of business cycles were diverse, Wesley Claire Mitchell, an NBER founder, wrote in 1927. They included “the weather, the uncertainty which beclouds all plans that stretch into the future, the emotional aberrations to which business decisions are subject, the innovations characteristic of modern society, the ‘progressive’ character of our age, the magnitude of savings, the construction of industrial equipment, ‘generalized overproduction,’ the operations of banks, the flow of money incomes, and the conduct of business for profits.”

He didn’t mention monetary or fiscal policy because, for all practical purposes, they didn’t exist. Until 1913, the U.S. hadn’t had a central bank, except for two brief periods. As for fiscal policy, U.S. federal spending and taxation were too small to matter.

When central banks were established, they didn’t engage in monetary policy, which means adjusting interest rates to counter recession or rein in inflation. Many countries were on the gold standard which, by tying the supply of currency to the stock of gold, prevented sustained inflation.

The Fed was established in 1913 to act as lender of last resort, supplying funds to commercial banks that were short of cash, not to manage inflation or unemployment. Not until the Great Depression did that change.

In 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt took the U.S. off the gold standard, giving the Fed much more discretion over interest rates and the money supply. Two years later, Congress centralized Fed decision-making in Washington, better equipping it to manage the broader economy.

Modern times

Macroeconomics, the study of the economy as a whole instead of individuals and firms, was born from the work of British economist John Maynard Keynes. He showed how individuals and firms, acting rationally, could together spend too little to keep everyone employed.

In those circumstances, monetary or fiscal policy could generate more demand for a nation’s goods and services, Mr. Keynes argued. Just as a dam regulates the flow of a river to counter flooding and drought, monetary and fiscal-policy makers must try to regulate the flow of aggregate demand to counter inflation and recession.

The Employment Act of 1946 committed the U.S. to the idea of using fiscal and monetary policy to maintain full employment and low rates of inflation.

The next quarter-century followed a textbook script. In postwar America, rapid economic growth and falling unemployment yielded rising inflation. The Fed responded by raising interest rates, reducing investment in buildings, equipment and houses.

  • The economy would slide into recession, and inflation would fall.
  • The Fed then lowered interest rates, investment would recover, and growth would resume.

The textbook model began to fray at the end of the 1960s. Economists thought low interest rates and budget deficits could permanently reduce unemployment in exchange for only a modest uptick in inflation. Instead, inflation accelerated, and the Fed induced several deep and painful recessions to get it back down.

By the late 1990s, new challenges emerged. One was at first a good thing. Inflation became both low and unusually stable, barely fluctuating in response to economic growth and unemployment.

The second change was less beneficial. Regular prices were more stable, but asset prices became less so. The recessions of 2001 and 2008 weren’t caused by the Fed raising rates. They resulted from a boom and bust in asset prices, first in technology stocks, then in house prices and mortgage debt.

After the last bust, the Fed kept interest rates near zero from 2008 until 2015. The central bank also purchased government bonds with newly created money—a new monetary tool dubbed quantitative easing—to push down long-term interest rates.

Despite such aggressive stimulus, economic growth has been slow. Unemployment has fallen to a 50-year low, but inflation has persistently run below the 2% target the Fed set. A similar situation prevails abroad.

In Japan, Britain and Germany, unemployment is down to historic lows. But despite short-and long-term interest rates near and sometimes below zero, growth has been muted. Since 2009, inflation has averaged 0.3% in Japan and 1.3% in the Eurozone.

The textbook model of monetary policy is barely operating, and economists have spent the last decade puzzling why.

One explanation focuses on investment, the main driver of long-term economic growth. Investment is financed out of saving. When investment is high relative to saving, that pushes interest rates up because more people and businesses want to borrow. If saving is high relative to investment, that pushes rates down. That means structurally low investment coupled with high saving by businesses and aging households can explain both slow growth and low interest rates.

Richard Clarida, the Fed’s vice chairman, cited another reason during a speech in November. Investors in the past, he said, demanded an interest rate premium for the risk that inflation would turn out higher than they expected. Investors are now so confident central banks will keep inflation low that they don’t need that premium. Thus, central banks’ success at eradicating fear of inflation is partly responsible for the low rates that currently limit their power.

While the Fed’s grip on growth and inflation may be slipping, it can still sway markets. Indeed, Mr. Dalio said, the central bank’s principal lever for sustaining demand has been its ability to drive up asset prices as well as the debt to finance assets, called leverage. Since the 2008 crisis, low rates and quantitative easing have elevated prices of stocks, private equity, corporate debt and real estate in many cities. As prices rise, their returns, such a bond or dividend yield, decline.

That dynamic, he said, has reached its limit. Once returns have fallen close to the return on cash or its equivalent, such as Treasury bills, “there is no incentive to lend, or invest in these assets.” At that point, the Fed is no longer able to stimulate spending.

Less than zero

A central bank can always raise rates enough to slow growth in pursuit of lower inflation; but it can’t always lower them enough to ensure faster growth and higher inflation.

The European Central Bank has tried—cutting interest rates to below zero, in effect charging savers. Its key rate went to minus 0.5% from minus 0.4% in September. At that meeting and since, resistance has grown inside the ECB to even more negative rates for fear that would reduce bank lending or have other side effects.

In December, Sweden’s central bank, which implemented negative rates in 2015, ended the experiment and returned its key policy rate to zero. Fed officials have all but ruled out ever implementing negative rates.

In a new research paper, Mr. Summers, who served as President Clinton’s Treasury secretary and President Obama’s top economic adviser, and Anna Stansbury, a Ph.D. student in economics at Harvard, say very low or negative rates are “at best only weakly effective…and at worst counterproductive.”

They cited several reasons why. Some households earn interest from bonds, money-market funds and bank deposits. If rates go negative, that source of purchasing power shrinks. Some people nearing retirement may save more to make up for the erosion of their principal by very low or negative rates.

Moreover, the economy has changed in ways that weaken its response to interest-rate cuts, they wrote. The economy’s two most interest-sensitive sectors, durable goods manufacturing, such as autos, and construction, fell to 10% of national output in 2018 from 20% in 1967, in part because America’s aging population spends less on houses and cars. Over the same period, financial and professional services, education and health care, all far less interest sensitive, grew to 47% from 26%.

They concluded the response of employment to interest rates has fallen by a third, meaning it is harder for the Fed to generate a boom.

The U.S. isn’t likely to plunge into another financial crisis like 2008, Mr. Dalio said, as long as interest rates remain near zero. Such low rates allow households and companies to easily refinance their debts.

More likely, he said, are shallow recessions and sluggish growth, similar to what Japan has experienced—what he called a “big sag.”

Former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke this month estimated that through quantitative easing and “forward guidance,” committing to keep interest rates low until certain conditions are met, the Fed could deliver the equivalent of 3 percentage points of rate cuts, enough, in addition to two to three points of regular rate cuts, to counteract most recessions.

Mr. Clarida warned, however, that quantitative easing may suffer from diminishing returns in the next recession. Moreover, the next recession is likely to be global, he said this month, and if all major countries weaken at the same time, it will push rates everywhere toward zero. That would make it harder for the Fed or any other central bank to support its own economy than if only one country were in trouble.

Fiscal fix

With central banks so constrained, economists say fiscal policy must become the primary remedy to recessions.

History shows that aggressive fiscal policy can raise growth, inflation and interest rates. The U.S. borrowed heavily in World War II. With help from the Fed, which bought some of the debt and kept rates low, the economy vaulted out of the Great Depression. Once wartime controls on prices and interest rates were lifted, both rose.

Today, mainstream academic economists are again recommending higher inflation and deficits to escape the low-growth, low-rate trap.

Advocates of what is called modern monetary theory say the Fed should create unlimited money to finance government deficits until full employment is reached. Some economists call for dialing up “automatic stabilizers,” the boost that federal spending gets during downturns, via payments to individuals and state governments as well as infrastructure investment.

Yet fiscal policy is decided not by economists but by elected officials who are more likely to be motivated by political priorities that conflict with the economy’s needs. In 2011, when unemployment was 9%, a Republican-controlled Congress forced Mr. Obama to agree to deficit cuts. In 2018, when unemployment had fallen to 4%, President Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress slashed taxes and boosted spending, sharply raising the budget deficit. Mr. Trump has pressured Mr. Powell to cut rates more and resume quantitative easing, which the Fed chairman has resisted.

Fiscal policy in the Eurozone is hampered by rules that limit the debt and deficits of its member countries. It is also hamstrung by divergent interests: Germany, the country that can most easily borrow, needs it least. In recent years it has refused to open the taps to help out its neighbors.

Still, Mr. Dalio predicted that a weakened Fed will eventually join hands with the federal government to stimulate demand by directly financing deficits.

Once central banks have agreed to finance whatever deficits politicians wish to run, however, they may have trouble saying no when the need has passed.

The experience abroad and in the U.S.’s past suggests that once politicians are in charge of monetary policy, inflation often follows. In the 1960s and 1970s, presidents Johnson and Nixon pressured the Fed against raising rates, setting the stage for the surge in inflation in the 1970s. Such a scenario seems remote today, but it may not always be.

Why Is Trump a Tariff Man?

It’s all about the power — and the cronyism.

Almost exactly one year has passed since Donald Trump declared, “I am a Tariff Man.” Uncharacteristically, he was telling the truth.

At this point I’ve lost count of how many times markets have rallied in the belief that Trump was winding down his trade war, only to face announcements that a much-anticipated deal wasn’t happening or that tariffs were being slapped on a new set of products or countries. Over the past week it happened again: Markets bet on an outbreak of trade peace between the U.S. and China, only to get body slammed by Trump’s declaration that there might be no deal before the election and by his new tariffs on Brazil and Argentina.

So Trump really is a Tariff Man. But why? After all, the results of his trade war have been consistently bad, both economically and politically.

I’ll offer an answer shortly. First, however, let’s talk about what the Trump trade war has actually accomplished.

A peculiar aspect of the Trump economy is that while overall growth has been solid, the areas of weakness have come precisely in those things Trump tried to stimulate.

Remember, Trump’s only major legislative accomplishment was a huge tax cut for corporations that was supposed to lead to a surge in investment. Instead, corporations pocketed the money, and business investment has been falling.

At the same time, his trade war was supposed to shrink the trade deficit and revive U.S. manufacturing. But the trade deficit has widened, and manufacturing output is shrinking.

The truth is that even economists who opposed Trump’s tax cuts and tariffs are surprised by how badly they’re working out. The most commonly given explanation for these bad results is that Trumpian tariff policy is creating a lot of uncertainty, which is giving businesses a strong incentive to postpone any plans they might have for building new factories and adding jobs.

It’s important to realize that Trumpian protectionism wasn’t a response to a groundswell of public opinion. As best as I can tell from the endless series of interviews with white guys in diners — who are, we all know, the only Americans who matter — these voters are driven more by animosity toward immigrants and the sense that snooty liberals look down on them than by trade policy.

And public opinion seems to have become far less protectionist even as Trump has raised tariffs, with the percentage of Americans saying that free trade agreements are a good thing as high as it’s ever been.

So Trump’s trade war is losing, not gaining, support. And one recent analysis finds that it was a factor hurting Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections, accounting for a significant number of lost congressional seats.

Nevertheless, Trump persists. Why?

One answer is that Trump has long had a fixation on the idea that tariffs are the answer to America’s problems, and he’s not the kind of man who reconsiders his prejudices in the light of evidence. But there’s also something else: U.S. trade law offers Trump more freedom of action — more ability to do whatever he wants — than any other policy area.

The basic story is that long ago — in fact, in the aftermath of the disastrous Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930 — Congress deliberately limited its own role in trade policy. Instead, it gave the president the power to negotiate trade deals with other countries, which would then face up-or-down votes without amendments.

It was always clear, however, that this system needed some flexibility to respond to events. So the executive branch was given the power to impose temporary tariffs under certain conditions: import surges, threats to national security, unfair practices by foreign governments. The idea was that nonpartisan experts would determine whether and when these conditions existed, and the president would then decide whether to act.

This system worked well for many years. It turned out, however, to be extremely vulnerable to someone like Trump, for whom everything is partisan and expertise is a four-letter word. Trump’s tariff justifications have often been self-evidently absurd — seriously, who imagines that imports of Canadian steel threaten U.S. national security? But there’s no obvious way to stop him from imposing tariffs whenever he feels like it.

And there’s also no obvious way to stop his officials from granting individual businesses tariff exemptions, supposedly based on economic criteria but in fact as a reward for political support. Tariff policy isn’t the only arena in which Trump can practice crony capitalism — federal contracting is looking increasingly scandalous — but tariffs are especially ripe for exploitation.

So that’s why Trump is a Tariff Man: Tariffs let him exercise unconstrained power, rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies. Anyone imagining that he’s going to change his ways and start behaving responsibly is living in a fantasy world.

Business Groups Warn of Peril as Trump’s Trade War Spirals

The latest whipsawing escalations in the United States’ trade war with China prompted a wide array of business organizations to warn over the weekend that American consumers and workers would soon be caught in the crossfire.

It is now looking increasingly likely that few large American companies will be able to sidestep the toll exacted by the new tit-for-tat tariffs that China and President Trump rolled out on Friday.

Many business leaders have kept a low profile as the trade war intensified, for fear of attracting President Trump’s ire, and in the hope that the threats of tariffs could be negotiating tactics that will lead to some sort of trade agreement.

But with several tariffs already in place, and President Trump staking out an even more aggressive stance on Friday, many industries are reckoning with just how serious the situation has become.

Joshua Bolten, the president and chief executive of the Business Roundtable, an organization representing the leaders of the largest American companies, said on Sunday that many C.E.O.s were already “poised right on top of the brake.”

“The risk is that everybody’s going to slam on the brake, and that would be a disaster,” Mr. Bolten said on “Face the Nation” on CBS.

President Trump’s latest moves, Mr. Bolten said, could “disrupt trade and commerce in a way that would cause huge damage — not just to the Chinese economy, but to the global economy and the U.S. economy.”

The American manufacturing sector shrank in August for the first time since 2009.
CreditRoss Mantle for The New York Times

The American economy has so far been relatively resilient as the two sides battle. But several recent signs suggest that the tit-for-tat is beginning to broadly hit American businesses.

The American manufacturing sector, for instance, shrank in August for the first time since 2009, according to data released last week from the research group IHS Markit.

“America’s manufacturing workers will bear the brunt of these retaliatory tariffs, which will make it even harder to sell the products they make to customers in China,” the president and chief executive of the National Association of Manufacturers, Jay Timmons, wrote on Twitter on Friday.

While corporate earnings have held strong, several companies said last week that they were trimming their profit expectations as a result of the trade war.

On Friday, after China announced new tariffs and Mr. Trump ordered American companies out of China, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index slid 2.6 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 3 percent. After the markets closed, the president announced more tariff increases.

China said on Friday morning that it would impose new tariffs on $75 billion of American imports. A few hours later, President Trump announced on Twitter that he would be raising tariffs further on $550 billion of goods coming from China.

The biggest shock was from Mr. Trump’s statement that he was ordering American companies to “immediately start looking for an alternative to China.”

The president said he had the power to do so as a result of a 1977 law that has traditionally been used to deal with security and military threats.

President Trump on Sunday at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France.
CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

Over the weekend, some of Mr. Trump’s advisers tried to somewhat soften the blow of the president’s words.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said that Mr. Trump had the authority to make such a demand if he declared a national emergency but that he had not yet done so.

“I think what he was saying is he’s ordering companies to start looking because he wants to make sure — to the extent we are in an extended trade war — that companies don’t have these issues and move out of China,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “And we want them to be in places where they are trading partners that respect us and trade with us fairly.”

There is still significant uncertainty on how many of the steps that China and Mr. Trump have announced will come into effect. The president has stepped back or delayed previous tariffs. And on Sunday the president said he was having “second thoughts” about the threats he made last week. But shortly thereafter, the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said that the president’s regret was that he had not raised tariffs even further.

American businesses have already begun taking steps to respond. The toymaker Hasbro said last month that it was planning to shift a significant portion of its manufacturing from China to other Asian countries by 2020.

The American toy industry is particularly reliant on Chinese factories, which account for 88 percent of its production, according to the National Retail Federation. But the figures are also large for other major portions of the retail industry.

David French, the senior vice president for government relations at the retail federation, said this weekend that companies were facing a difficult road because it could take years to make the kind of moves that the president has demanded.

It’s impossible for businesses to plan for the future in this type of environment,” Mr. French said in a statement. “The administration’s approach clearly isn’t working, and the answer isn’t more taxes on American businesses and consumers. Where does this end?”

Hasbro toys at a Target store in Manhattan. The toy company said last month that it was planning to shift a significant portion of its manufacturing from China to other Asian countries by 2020.
CreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times

President Trump has said that he expects China to pay the costs of the tariffs he has imposed. But the direct costs of the tariffs are generally paid by the companies importing goods from China, who can then pass them along to consumers.

The Consumer Technology Association, which represents the largest electronics companies, has said that the tariffs are already costing the American tech sector $1.3 billion a month, and could raise the price of cellphones by $70 and the price of

The latest whipsawing escalations in the United States’ trade war with China prompted a wide array of business organizations to warn over the weekend that American consumers and workers would soon be caught in the crossfire.

It is now looking increasingly likely that few large American companies will be able to sidestep the toll exacted by the new tit-for-tat tariffs that China and President Trump rolled out on Friday.

Many business leaders have kept a low profile as the trade war intensified, for fear of attracting President Trump’s ire, and in the hope that the threats of tariffs could be negotiating tactics that will lead to some sort of trade agreement.

But with several tariffs already in place, and President Trump staking out an even more aggressive stance on Friday, many industries are reckoning with just how serious the situation has become.

Joshua Bolten, the president and chief executive of the Business Roundtable, an organization representing the leaders of the largest American companies, said on Sunday that many C.E.O.s were already “poised right on top of the brake.”

“The risk is that everybody’s going to slam on the brake, and that would be a disaster,” Mr. Bolten said on “Face the Nation” on CBS.

President Trump’s latest moves, Mr. Bolten said, could “disrupt trade and commerce in a way that would cause huge damage — not just to the Chinese economy, but to the global economy and the U.S. economy.”

The American manufacturing sector shrank in August for the first time since 2009.
CreditRoss Mantle for The New York Times

The American economy has so far been relatively resilient as the two sides battle. But several recent signs suggest that the tit-for-tat is beginning to broadly hit American businesses.

The American manufacturing sector, for instance, shrank in August for the first time since 2009, according to data released last week from the research group IHS Markit.

“America’s manufacturing workers will bear the brunt of these retaliatory tariffs, which will make it even harder to sell the products they make to customers in China,” the president and chief executive of the National Association of Manufacturers, Jay Timmons, wrote on Twitter on Friday.

While corporate earnings have held strong, several companies said last week that they were trimming their profit expectations as a result of the trade war.

On Friday, after China announced new tariffs and Mr. Trump ordered American companies out of China, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index slid 2.6 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 3 percent. After the markets closed, the president announced more tariff increases.

China said on Friday morning that it would impose new tariffs on $75 billion of American imports. A few hours later, President Trump announced on Twitter that he would be raising tariffs further on $550 billion of goods coming from China.

The biggest shock was from Mr. Trump’s statement that he was ordering American companies to “immediately start looking for an alternative to China.”

The president said he had the power to do so as a result of a 1977 law that has traditionally been used to deal with security and military threats.

President Trump on Sunday at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France.
CreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

Over the weekend, some of Mr. Trump’s advisers tried to somewhat soften the blow of the president’s words.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” said that Mr. Trump had the authority to make such a demand if he declared a national emergency but that he had not yet done so.

“I think what he was saying is he’s ordering companies to start looking because he wants to make sure — to the extent we are in an extended trade war — that companies don’t have these issues and move out of China,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “And we want them to be in places where they are trading partners that respect us and trade with us fairly.”

There is still significant uncertainty on how many of the steps that China and Mr. Trump have announced will come into effect. The president has stepped back or delayed previous tariffs. And on Sunday the president said he was having “second thoughts” about the threats he made last week. But shortly thereafter, the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said that the president’s regret was that he had not raised tariffs even further.

American businesses have already begun taking steps to respond. The toymaker Hasbro said last month that it was planning to shift a significant portion of its manufacturing from China to other Asian countries by 2020.

The American toy industry is particularly reliant on Chinese factories, which account for 88 percent of its production, according to the National Retail Federation. But the figures are also large for other major portions of the retail industry.

David French, the senior vice president for government relations at the retail federation, said this weekend that companies were facing a difficult road because it could take years to make the kind of moves that the president has demanded.

“It’s impossible for businesses to plan for the future in this type of environment,” Mr. French said in a statement. “The administration’s approach clearly isn’t working, and the answer isn’t more taxes on American businesses and consumers. Where does this end?”

Hasbro toys at a Target store in Manhattan. The toy company said last month that it was planning to shift a significant portion of its manufacturing from China to other Asian countries by 2020.
CreditJeenah Moon for The New York Times

President Trump has said that he expects China to pay the costs of the tariffs he has imposed. But the direct costs of the tariffs are generally paid by the companies importing goods from China, who can then pass them along to consumers.

The Consumer Technology Association, which represents the largest electronics companies, has said that the tariffs are already costing the American tech sector $1.3 billion a month, and could raise the price of cellphones by $70 and the price of laptops by $120, on average.

JPMorgan Chase analysts recently predicted that the overall costs to American families of the tariffs were likely to be between $1,000 and $1,500 a year.

“Tariffs are taxes on Americans, putting us on the wrong economic path and compromising our global leadership,” the president and chief executive of the technology association, Gary Shapiro, said on Friday. “How much longer will our families, companies and economy be forced to bear the financial burden of this misguided trade policy?”

China appears to be aiming its tariffs at parts of America where support for President Trump is particularly strong, like farm country in the Midwest. China’s actions on Friday, for instance, add 5 percentage points to the 25 percent tariff already paid on American soybeans.

The president of the American Farm Bureau, Zippy Duvall, said after the latest announcements that “continued retaliation only adds to the difficulties farm and ranch families are facing and takes the situation in the exact wrong direction.”

China also added new tariffs to cars made in America. Tesla, as well as the Germany carmakers Daimler and BMW, are the most vulnerable to the additional levies. Six of the top 10 vehicle models exported from the United States to China, the world’s biggest car market, are from the two German brands, according to the forecaster LMC Automotive.

In private, auto executives say that, for now, the uncertainty is a greater concern than the potential material impact of the tariffs. One auto executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the industry was more worried that it cannot predict what might happen next or how bad it might get.

JPMorgan Chase analysts recently predicted that the overall costs to American families of the tariffs were likely to be between $1,000 and $1,500 a year.

“Tariffs are taxes on Americans, putting us on the wrong economic path and compromising our global leadership,” the president and chief executive of the technology association, Gary Shapiro, said on Friday. “How much longer will our families, companies and economy be forced to bear the financial burden of this misguided trade policy?”

Trump’s economic record is one big con

President Trump came into office promising some fabulous yet unspecified health-care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. No plan existed; every plan Republicans came up with managed to reduce the number of insured. Trump promised never to cut entitlements; his fiscal 2020 budget proposal would have done just that.

Trump said he’d bring back manufacturing. In fact, it slowed and now has slumped. (“Manufacturing has slowed amid global uncertainty,” NPR reported earlier this month. “That’s one of the reasons the Federal Reserve gave for cutting interest rates this week.”)

Trump said he’d

  1. get tough on drug companies. He hasn’t. He said his
  2. tax cut would be aimed at the middle class,
  3.  deliver $4,000 a year to the average American family and
  4. permanently boost business investment, pushing growth above 3 percent. Nope, nope and nope.

The tax cut greatly favored the rich and corporationsno $4,000 raise materialized, business investment tapered offgrowth is below 3 percent, and the deficit ballooned. Trump is incapable of being embarrassed, but you’d think all those conservative think tanks, saner White House advisers (e.g. former adviser Gary Cohn) and supply-side theorists who pushed all this would be just a little sheepish.

John Harwood of CNBC writes, “Benefits from what President Donald Trump called ‘the biggest reform of all time’ to the tax code have dwindled to a faint breeze just 20 months after its enactment. Half of corporate chief financial officers surveyed by Duke University expect the economy to shrink by the second quarter of 2020. Two-thirds expect a recession by the end of next year.” Harwood found:

After an uptick in the second quarter of 2018, growth declined in the next two quarters to end up at 2.9% for the year.

Goldman Sachs economist Jan Hatzius says that second-quarter surge – initially measured at 4.2% but later revised down to 3.5% – represented the tax law’s peak impact. He expects it to vanish altogether by late this year or early 2020, as the economy returns to the same 2% growth levels Trump inherited from President Barack Obama.

As for workers’ pay, real wages increased by 1.2 percent in 2018. (“Ordinary workers had very little growth in wage rates,” Harwood quotes from the Congressional Research Service.)

The biggest economic lie was Trump’s declaration that trade wars are quickly and easily won, American consumers and farmers wouldn’t be hurt and we somehow would get richer by making Americans pay more at stores. Actually, they are paying a lot.

The conservative American Action Forum’s recent study found, “Altogether, the president’s tariffs could increase nationwide consumer costs by nearly $100 billion annually.” Moreover, other countries have not taken the tariffs lying down. “In addition to raising costs for American consumers, tariffs have also resulted in significant retaliation by other countries against U.S. exports. … To date, eight nations have levied retaliatory tariffs of 5 percent to 50 percent on approximately $131 billion of U.S. exports.”

To cushion the blow to farmers who are losing markets, the Trump administration has now put them on welfare, otherwise known as farm subsidies. Another low point in “conservative” economics.

Why this is all not front and center in the Democratic candidates’ campaigns is a bit of a mystery. Certainly, events such as the Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso shootings shift attention. But so far the Democrats are mostly arguing about what new things they are going to do (green energy, improvements to or a do-over on the ACA). They need to remember that a president’s reelection effort is a referendum on his performance. The Democrats would do well to point out that Trump has not fulfilled the promise of his economic populist message — hence the need to distract everyone with outrageous conduct, racism and xenophobia.

U.S.-China Trade Standoff May Be Initial Skirmish in Broader Economic War

The United States is increasingly wary of China’s emerging role in the global economy and the tactics it uses to get ahead, including state-sponsored hacking, acquisitions of high-tech companies in the United States and Europe, subsidies to crucial industries and discrimination against foreign companies.

The Trump administration has begun trying to limit China’s economic influence in the United States and abroad, warning about China’s ambitions in increasingly stark terms. Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, compared China’s ambitions to Russia and Iran in a speech in London last Wednesday, saying Beijing poses “a new kind of challenge; an authoritarian regime that’s integrated economically into the West in ways that the Soviet Union never was.”

China, whose ambition is to dominate industries of the future, is pushing back. A column on Saturday in the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper stated, “The United States is again waving the club of tariffs after misjudging China’s strength, capacity and will, further escalating trade friction between our two countries.”

The piece was written under the pen name Zhong Sheng — the “voice of China” — a name used when the paper publishes comments on foreign affairs that are authoritative.

Restraining China’s ambitions and methods is a tricky task — and there is concern that the Trump administration’s effort is creating a new red scare, fueling discrimination against China and its citizens that could ultimately hurt the United States. As many as 30 Chinese professors have had their visas to the United States canceled in the past year, or been put on administrative review, according to Chinese academics and their American counterparts.

“We’ve got decades of painful negotiating with China ahead,” said David Lampton, a China scholar at Stanford University. Mr. Lampton said a trade deal, if reached, would do little to resolve the bigger conflict. “It’s just a skirmish in an ongoing battle.”

.. While a trade deal could calm some tensions and establish more good will between the two nations, it is unlikely to achieve many of the ambitious goals that the administration has set for itself. Mr. Trump’s advisers, in particular the United States trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, have been focused on what the administration calls China’s practices of “economic aggression.”

But the administration has struggled to address the immensity of the problems in the text of a trade deal. People close to the talks say that the negotiators appear powerless to force any changes that aren’t in China’s interest.

Mr. Liu, who is leading China’s team in the trade negotiations, hinted at that uphill battle in a video statement released by the official Xinhua news agency.

Instead, a trade deal between the two countries seems more likely to bring change around the margins — tens of billions of dollars of soybean purchases, some tariffs lifted and changes to the text of Chinese laws or regulations that the country might ultimately disregard, particularly once another administration occupies the White House.

This is a decades-long endeavor,” said Robert Daly, the director of the Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the United States. “This can’t be waved away over cake at Mar-a-Lago.”

The notion that the United States has one last shot to change China’s behavior is held by an array of people on both sides of the political spectrum. But it is an aggressive notion of American power to upend a rival system that has delivered prosperity for its people and put China on course to be the world’s largest economy.

Many in China see the United States as a declining power bent on enforcing its will on a world that no longer cowers before its hegemonic might. The troubles in American democracy and the long economic slump after 2008 persuaded many in China that its instincts to chart its own course were correct. In the eyes of many Chinese, their country is simply reclaiming its historic status as a dominant regional power in Asia.

It has also projected power across Asia, Africa and elsewhere while the United States has, on many fronts, retreated from its post-World War II commitment to the global order. But it has done so with little application of military force, in sharp contrast to what many in China see as American militarism.

Many in China have sought to avoid a trade conflict, which could have a larger impact on their economy than the United States’. But they have long thought the United States would have a difficult time accepting a true peer in economic, technology and military power, so consider the management of conflict with the United States to be an inevitable result of their own rise.

While the Trump administration accused China of breaking a trade deal, China’s resistance to the emerging terms stemmed from its belief that the United States was asking too much and offering too little in return. Many of the changes the United States seeks would limit what Chinese officials regard as a tried-and-true approach of using tens of billions of dollars from state-owned banks and government investment funds to turn previously small industries like car production or solar panel manufacturing into the largest industries of their kind in the world.

And the Chinese view some of the Trump administration’s demands as infringing on their sovereignty and giving America too much power over their economy — including requiring the country to codify changes through legislation in the National People’s Congress. To the increasingly nationalistic public in China, the American requests are reminiscent of 19th century history of unequal treaties forced on the country by foreign powers.

Mr. Trump on Saturday suggested China was simply delaying a deal in the hopes that a Democrat would win election in 2020 and continued his pugilistic approach, saying “the deal will become far worse for them if it has to be negotiated in my second term. Would be wise for them to act now, but love collecting BIG TARIFFS!”

In the United States, China’s unwillingness to bow to America’s demands is uniting lawmakers like the Democratic Senate leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, and Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida.

That is a significant shift from the prevailing view in the United States since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 that close economic engagement with China would produce an increasingly democratic country that would be closely tied to an international economic order founded mainly on Western liberal ideals.

That has not happened.

China has indeed grown in prosperity, leaping into the ranks of what the World Bank defines as upper-middle income countries. Its economy is now bigger than any other country except the United States. Its manufacturing sector is now bigger than those of the United States, Germany and South Korea combined.

But in the last five years, China has veered toward increasingly repressive authoritarianism at home and a rapid military buildup. The State Department estimates that Beijing has put 800,000 to two million Muslims in hastily built internment camps ringed with barbed wire in northwestern China. The Chinese government has built an archipelago of air bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea in between Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. And China now has the world’s largest navy and has conducted

China has indeed grown in prosperity, leaping into the ranks of what the World Bank defines as upper-middle income countries. Its economy is now bigger than any other country except the United States. Its manufacturing sector is now bigger than those of the United States, Germany and South Korea combined.

But in the last five years, China has veered toward increasingly repressive authoritarianism at home and a rapid military buildup. The State Department estimates that Beijing has put 800,000 to two million Muslims in hastily built internment camps ringed with barbed wire in northwestern China. The Chinese government has built an archipelago of air bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea in between Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. And China now has the world’s largest navy and has conducted military exercises as far away as East Africa and the Baltic Sea.

On the economic front, the competition is even fiercer. Trump administration officials warn that China is trying to dominate the global 5G infrastructure that will be the basis for future mobile communications and is competing to set other technological standards that will determine which global companies win.

China is extending low-cost loans and building infrastructure around the globe through its One Belt, One Road program, which critics warn is making poorer countries beholden to China. It is out-investing the United States in some high-tech industries, and is gaining dominance in certain segments, like mobile payment, new energy vehicles and areas of artificial intelligence.

While American companies have long hankered for access to China’s growing market, their position has begun to shift as they see China’s practices and treatment of foreign companies. A survey released by the American Chamber of Commerce in China in February showed that the majority of its members favored retaining tariffs on Chinese goods while trade negotiations continued.

China’s own experts say that the Beijing leadership has been caught off guard by the pace of change in American perceptions of Sino-American relations.

“Even if there is some kind of agreement between Xi and Trump, in the long run the strategic bilateral relationship is already in trouble,” said Zhang Jian, a professor in the School of Government at Peking University. “There is no coming back, even if there is a deal.”

Foxconn Deal… Or No Deal?

Early in his presidency, Donald Trump said the Foxconn plant in Wisconsin would be “the eighth wonder of the world” because it would spectacularly revitalize American manufacturing. After billions of dollars in tax incentives, the Taiwanese tech company now seems to be reneging on some of what it promised. Sruthi Pinnamaneni is a reporter at the Reply All podcast who made an episode about the deal called  ‘Negative Mount Pleasant’. She talks about how the residents of the Wisconsin village of Mount Pleasant see the deal, and what they’ve been through in the spotlight.