Wisconsin is likely to hand Trump a stunning rebuke in Tuesday’s primary, but rank and file Republicans will be the big losers.
Misplaced amid disgust with Trump’s offensive personality is a compelling message the elite who run the GOP and appear in the media should heed but refuse to recognize. In the process, these tone-deaf politicians and right-leaning activists hand the national policy agenda to liberals like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who offer voters appealing, even if expensive and ineffective, policy choices.
Trump’s appeal, despite his vulgar language, is a welcome pragmatism that resonates among ordinary voters—not just white males who lack a college education: conservative policies must be tempered to acknowledge the limitations imposed by real world conditions.
For example, modern economics suggests free trade is a truly advantageous policy if certain conditions are met: trade is balanced—exports approximately equal imports; full employment is maintained; and parties to trade agreements are not permitted to cheat—either directly, by failing to remove barriers to commerce as promised, or by imposing other policies like suppressing the value of their currency against the dollar to effectively tax imports and subsidize exports.
U.S. imports exceed exports by some $500 billion a year, directly eliminating about 4 million American jobs. Factoring in negative impacts on R&D spending and lost spending by trade-displaced workers, U.S. GDP growth is sliced one to two percentage points a year, and 7 million jobs are lost overall.
No surprise, 7 million men between the ages of 25 and 54 are neither employed nor looking for work—too discouraged by the twin effects of trade and illegal immigration on the wages they could earn.
Trump is right about getting tough with China, which undervalues its currency, to rekindle growth.
After World War II, the alliances erected by American diplomats made the U.S. military essential to the security of Europe and Asia at the frontiers of Russian and Chinese power and influence.
When the U.S. economy accounted for nearly half of global GDP, it was a burden Americans could shoulder, but these days, the U.S. economy is about one-fifth of the global GDP and our allies need to do more.
Trump’s rhetoric demanding that Germany and others pay for the U.S. military presence in Europe and the Middle East—at least in its manner and tone—is shocking. But it remains Germans are willing to neither fight nor adequately pay to defend European liberty or stabilize the Middle East.
The Russians are in the Ukraine and Syria in considerable measure because Republican and Democratic presidents fail to acknowledge this stark truth in effecting American foreign policy.
These facts undergird the validity of Trump’s basic assertions but are lost in his bombastic rhetoric.
Trump has been criticized by conservative Republicans for past comments in support of a national health service. Unfortunately, during the Bush presidency, the United States spent 50 percent more on health care than Germany, just as it does now with Obamacare, but with many more Americans uninsured.
At least Trump acknowledges the federal government must champion health care reforms—perhaps like those that mirror the more successful approaches followed in places like Germany and Japan.
On trade, foreign policy, and domestic policy, Trump’s sensibilities as a businessman ring true, even if spoken by a bigoted, or at least insensitive, personality.
Trump will likely get thumped by Senator Cruz in Wisconsin, and establishment GOP leaders and talking heads, who accuse Trump of not being adequately conservative to be a Republican standard bearer, will declare an ideological victory.
Lost will be the message that so many primary voters who supported Trump have been sending the GOP establishment.
A strong America and limited government yes, but come up with policies that acknowledge reality and work.
Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist. He tweets @pmorici1.