The right and the left seem to maybe agree on one thing. They oppose globalism. Not everyone on the right, not everyone on the left, but there is a commonality there. Do they oppose it for the same reasons?
ROBERT KUTTNER: No, they oppose it for very different reasons. The progressive critique of globalization is very simple. It is a critique of the use of a certain kind of globalization to dismantle what used to be a manage form of capitalism that delivered broad prosperity. The democratic nation-state after World War II was able to regulate markets in the broad public interest so that ordinary people would have economic security and economic prosperity. Beginning in the ’70s and ’80s, trade deals were used to undermine the ability of governments to regulate banks. They were used to put cheap labor that had no labor standards into competition with labor in the United States and in Europe that benefited from protections. And so globalization was used to return to a more primitive version of raw capitalism. That’s the progressive critique.
.. But I think if you want to get elected, you can’t ignore the plight of ordinary working people at the same time you’re asking the voters to open their hearts to immigrants and to other claimants for social justice. It’s asking too much of people whose living standards have gone down the drain to expect them to be liberal on social issues.
“In Kim, Trump has met his match,” I wrote. “The risk of two arrogant fools blundering into a nuclear exchange is more serious than at any time since October 1962.” Maybe Bannon wanted to scream at me?
.. “We’re at economic war with China,” he added. “It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.”
.. Given that China is not likely to do much more on North Korea, and that the logic of mutually assured destruction was its own source of restraint, Bannon saw no reason not to proceed with tough trade sanctions against China.
.. Contrary to Trump’s threat of fire and fury, Bannon said: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
.. “To me,” Bannon said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we‘re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”
Bannon’s plan of attack includes: a complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act against Chinese coercion of technology transfers from American corporations doing business there, and follow-up complaints against steel and aluminum dumping. “We’re going to run the tables on these guys. We’ve come to the conclusion that they’re in an economic war and they’re crushing us.”
.. “I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in. I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State.”
But can Bannon really win that fight internally?
“That’s a fight I fight every day here,” he said.
.. He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”
.. I came away from the conversation with a sense both of his savvy and his recklessness. The waters around him are rising, but he is going about his business of infighting, and attempting to cultivate improbable outside allies, to promote his China strategy.