Trumped-up Economics?

This past semester has been particularly interesting not only because I decided to challenge myself by taking my first and only writing intensive journalism class, but also because of the outside influence of the 2016 presidential elections on my understanding of the course content.

Typically, globalization is something that’s very hard to grasp as a whole. Students usually have issues tackling the subject because it’s not easily applicable to the small scope of our daily lives. Between the classroom, the library, and the occasional night out with friends, it’s very difficult for the average college student to connect the effects of an international trade agreement, like the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP), on the price of a Chipotle burrito, or the effect of the Syrian Civil War on the U.S. job market.

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I, on the other hand, have always had a thing for economics. My multi-cultural background—combined with the opportunity to travel from a very young age as a result of this background—has made me very conscious of how nations interact with one another. I have always soaked up any sort of information about international relations and especially the economics and trade between foreign states. So, as one could imagine, the 2016 presidential election not only fostered my interest in better understanding globalization, but also sparked the interest of my peers as well.

Everyone loves to talk politics around election time—and in an election with two polar-opposite candidates, the debates can get intense. What I found very interesting about these debates is that despite how heavily some of my peers supported a candidate, very few of them had much to say about their candidate’s policies. The typical conversation between my friends would go something like this; “…but Hillary is a crook, plus Trump will finally mix things up—he’s not a career politician,” or, “Trump is an idiot and a bigot. He doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

I’ll admit that at first I had my biases as well. I generally see myself as a Republican because I believe in supporting small businesses and I think that a socialized economy doesn’t fit with American values that are deep-rooted in capitalism (plus, I don’t think it’s fiscally responsible given our slow-growing economy and national debt).  That said, I held these views going into the semester and I can honestly say that because of this class I changed my mind walking into the election booth on November 8th.

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The arguments that I give for my stance above are primarily domestic. The general nature of this course focusing on media and globalization got the ball rolling for me, but the lecture that really had me questioning who I wanted to support was in week 4 when Peter Mueser from the Department of Economics came to speak to our class.  Professor Mueser brought up a topic that I thought I already knew much better than my peers: economics on a global scale.  Mueser specifically focused on how globalization had fueled outsourcing of manufacturing jobs and how sweatshops had actually influenced a net positive result on closing the wealth gap on a global scale. This was something that I was already aware of, but to no surprise many of my classmates were just now learning that sweatshops actually help third-world countries by providing jobs that would otherwise not be there and help American consumers by keeping costs lower. My eyes were finally opened, though, when Professor Mueser brought up international trade agreements and each candidate’s view on them.  To my surprise, Donald Trump, a Republican, was completely against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would open up free trade between the United States and 11 other Pacific countries (excluding China, which Trump has the biggest issue with), increasing American exports.  Not only is Trump against the TPP, but he’d also like to take it one step further and abolish existing free trade agreements and even force some U.S. corporations to shut down manufacturing make products in the United States—most notably the company that I work for, Apple.

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In my research of Costa Rica throughout the semester, I found that they had been hurt by conservative parties trying to raise taxes on foreign corporations in favor of domestic manufacturing. The biggest example is the void that Intel left when it decided to pull R&D out of Costa Rica. Now Costa Rica has a new administration which is focused both on setting an example for the world environmentally, and economically with its free trade agreements.

As a supporter of free trade and, above all, American capitalism, I was shocked to hear that Trump was so opposed to international free trade. Not only are their practical economic benefits for businesses (higher profit margins) and consumers (lower prices on goods), but there are ethical benefits such as closing the wealth gap between first and third-world countries. Another fact to take into consideration is the that the jobs which are being outsourced are not really the most coveted jobs—they’re low wage, factory jobs.

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The election results were interesting, to say the least.  I’m not upset like most of my peers—that’s how democracy works—but I can’t help but feel that the American public was misinformed in thinking that voting for Trump was voting for a revitalized economy, when in fact a vote for Trump was a vote against increasing American economic prowess globally.  Above all, this class has taught me that globalization is something that is obviously inevitable. If the United States continues to try and wall off itself from the rest of the world while it continues to globalize, it could soon find itself in a deeper economic hole.  If the United States wants to maintain its position as the number one world power, it needs to look outward to globalization instead of inward and closed-off nationalism.

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