Thomas Frank writes: Trade is an issue that polarizes Americans by socio-economic status. To the professional class, which encompasses the vast majority of our media figures, economists, Washington officials and Democratic power brokers, what they call “free trade” is something so obviously good and noble it doesn’t require explanation or inquiry or even thought. Republican and Democratic leaders alike agree on this, and no amount of facts can move them from their Econ 101 dream.
To the remaining 80 or 90% of America, trade means something very different. There’s a video going around on the internet these days that shows a room full of workers at a Carrier air conditioning plant in Indiana being told by an officer of the company that the factory is being moved to Monterrey, Mexico and that they’re all going to lose their jobs.
As I watched it, I thought of all the arguments over trade that we’ve had in this country since the early 1990s, all the sweet words from our economists about the scientifically proven benevolence of free trade, all the ways in which our newspapers mock people who say that treaties like the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement allow companies to move jobs to Mexico.
Well, here is a video of a company moving its jobs to Mexico, courtesy of Nafta. This is what it looks like. The Carrier executive talks in that familiar and highly professional HR language about the need to “stay competitive” and “the extremely price-sensitive marketplace.” A worker shouts “Fuck you!” at the executive. The executive asks people to please be quiet so he can “share” his “information”. His information about all of them losing their jobs.
Now, I have no special reason to doubt the suspicion that Donald Trump is a racist. Either he is one, or (as the comedian John Oliver puts it) he is pretending to be one, which amounts to the same thing.
But there is another way to interpret the Trump phenomenon. A map of his support may coordinate with racist Google searches, but it coordinates even better with deindustrialization and despair, with the zones of economic misery that 30 years of Washington’s free-market consensus have brought the rest of America. [Continue reading…]