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Detoxifying the Trade Debate

Posted October 26, 2016

Under Economic Issues, International Trade Issues

(Will Marshall – Real Clear Policy)

The 2016 election seems destined to go down as the least edifying presidential contest in U.S. history. Facts, evidence, and rational argument have been routed by the visceral power of populist “narratives” drenched in cultural resentment, economic demagoguery, and tinfoil-hat paranoia.

Donald Trump’s slurs, compulsive lying, and ignorance of public issues make him by far the worst offender. Yet the other populist in the race, Sen. Bernie Sanders, did little to lift the level of debate. In a strident, one-note performance, he caricatured a visibly improving economy as a nightmare of predatory capitalism, falsely claimed the rich were hogging all the gains from growth, and indulged in old-timey socialist moralizing against profits — leaving practical voters to wonder how working Americans would be better off if their employers lost money.

The issue on which Trump and Sanders have done most to confound public understanding is the one where today’s right- and left-wing populism intersect: trade. In their telling, bad trade agreements are to blame for America’s eroding industrial might, shrinking middle-class jobs, and growing inequality. It’s all part of a conspiracy by Wall Street and corporations to globalize markets and thereby amplify their profits, even if that means allowing other countries to “steal” U.S. factory jobs. Click here to read more.