Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Tim Duy on trade-induced structural change


I'm studying "math for economists" for a Saturday night exam. Yes, an exam on Saturday night.

FFS.

Tim Duy the Economics Guy - desperately searching for a new strategy. Quote:

Politicians, aided by economists, have long ignored the negative impacts of trade-induced structural change. Indeed, they have even cheered it on. After all, the process “releases resources” for use in other, more productive parts of the economy. Those workers are just “low-skilled” workers. The US needs more “high-skilled” workers anyway.

Fact: Workers hate being referred to as “low-skilled.”

How we respond to Trump is important. If we simply fall back on our standard numbers, we lose. If we confidently predict that TPP is a big win because it will add 0.5% to GDP by 2030, we lose. If we just use this as an opportunity to reiterate the importance of a college degree, we lose. We have been doing this for decades, and it helped deliver Trump to office.

[...]

The speed of regional labor market adjustment to shocks is agonizingly slow in any area that lacks a critical mass of population. Rural and semi-rural areas remain impacted by negative shocks for at least a decade, but often longer. Relative to life spans, in many cases the shocks might as well be permanent.

And note that this is not just about negative trade shocks. Trade is an easy punching bag for Trump, but his message carries wider because we are really talking about structural shocks in general.

[...]

Trump is speaking to all of these workers, not just the trade-impacted workers. And you can complain that they don’t matter, they aren’t high-skilled workers, that the economy is shifting away to urban areas, that they should just move. In the rural Oregon case, you can add in that the big (and labor-intensive) trees were almost gone anyway, that technology was taking over at the logging site and at the mill, that falling transportation costs meant you didn’t need to mill locally.

None of that works because all you are doing is telling people they have no value relative to the lives they knew.

We don’t have answers for these communities. Rural and semi-rural economic development is hard. Those regions have received only negative shocks for decades; the positive shocks have accrued to the urban regions. Of course, Trump doesn’t have any answers either. But he at least pretends to care.

Just pretending to care is important. At a minimum, the electoral map makes it important.

He even gets in a few kicks at Krugman, who to be truthful has been a bit of a leftie bitch since Trump won the election. I mean, he calls the Carrier deal a "descent into banana republic governance", and "government as protection racket", without understanding that the US voted precisely for a government that would destroy anyone who attacked the livelihoods of the working class.

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