The beating death of Tyre Nichols has renewed calls for reforming the police. But can anything really change?
Guest Host: Frank Sesno
It’s official. Donald Trump is the Republican Party’s nominee for president. The theme of the second night of the convention was billed as “Make America Work Again.” But jobs and the economy were far from front and center. Instead, speakers such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie blasted Hillary Clinton. And Donald Trump’s children told stories portraying him as a caring father and steadfast businessman. Guest host Frank Sesno and his panel discuss the Republican National Convention – and how Trump’s campaign messaging resonates with voters.
- Josh Kraushaar Political editor, National Journal
- Nell Henderson Global central banks editor, The Wall Street Journal
- Peter Navarro Business and economics professor at the University of California-Irvine; policy adviser to the Trump campaign
- Dante Chinni Director, American Communities Project, Michigan State University; he also writes for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal
MR. FRANK SESNOThanks for joining us. I'm Frank Sesno, director of the school of media and public affairs at the George Washington University sitting in for Diane Rehm today. She's on vacation. Republican delegates formally nominated Donald Trump to lead the party in the race for president. Last night's convention speakers included Republican leaders, such as Chris Christie and Paul Ryan, as well as several Trump children.
MR. FRANK SESNOThe theme yesterday was supposed to have been "make America work again," but that them was largely overshadowed by continuous attacks on Hillary Clinton and these family portraits. Well, joining me in the studio to talk about yesterday, day two of the GOP convention and Trump's ideas on jobs and the economy and what lies ahead, what's ahead in Cleveland, Nell Henderson of The Wall Street Journal.
MR. FRANK SESNOBy phone from Cleveland, Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal. From NPR studio in Cleveland, Peter Navarro, a policy advisor for the Trump campaign and by phone, reporting from the ground from Woodsfield, Ohio, journalist Dante Chinni. So welcome to you all.
MR. DANTE CHINNIGood morning.
MS. NELL HENDERSONHappy to be here.
MR. JOSH KRAUSHAARHey, Frank.
SESNOJosh, let me start with you since you are sort of right there and right in the middle of things. Give us a summary, your take of last night's convention and who you thought were the top speakers and the main takeaways.
KRAUSHAARWell, Frank, you really hit the nail on the head in that the night was supposed to be about the economy, but in reality, it was an indictment of Hillary Clinton and focused, again, mostly on foreign policy and national security and not the economy, with the notable exception of Donald Trump, Jr.'s speech which did focus on those issues significantly. But, you know, it really was a convention that is focused against Hillary Clinton so far more than being supportive of Donald Trump.
SESNOJosh, were you surprised and was that a missed opportunity not to focus on the economy and make America work again? I mean, when they came into the convention, it really seemed quite logical, make American safe again, make America work again, make America great again, really nice way to build on the themes and kind of put the policy pieces together. I was surprised that there wasn't more on that yesterday.
KRAUSHAARIt was surprising, though they didn't have a speaker list that was consistent with the message, that was consistent with the theme of the night. And I think it's really telling that by a 2:1 ratio, more of the speeches were against Clinton and barely even mentioned Donald Trump's name. House Speaker Paul Ryan gave a very well-received speech in the hall, but barely even mentioned Donald Trump. And this is the challenge from this convention.
KRAUSHAARTrump certainly wanted to play heavy-handed in choreographing it, but this is more of a Republican -- still more of a Republican party convention and except for the Trump family members who have given very strong speeches on behalf of their dad or their, you know, the family, but you haven't heard a lot of specific examples really making the case that Trump is ready to be commander in chief.
SESNOAnd let me just say to our guest and to our audience that we are going to spend a considerable amount of time here on how Donald Trump would make America work again, what his economic plan would be. That's his claim anyway. And we'll get to that, although I do want to go a little bit more into the convention from last night and today. I do want to, also, remind you that you can join our conversation, our listeners, at 1-800-433-8850. You can send us your question via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or get to us through Twitter or our Facebook page.
SESNONell Henderson, what about the family? That make the sale, that the economic conversation that didn't happen, perhaps, yesterday?
HENDERSONWell, I was surprised as well because if you look back over how Trump won the nomination, it seemed it was really because he had tapped a lot of the economic insecurities and frustration out there. And I would've thought that he would want to highlight those points, you know. As we've discussed, you know, he really has broken from traditional Republican party orthodoxy in a bunch of big ways, you know. On trade, budget and immigration. We can go into more detail on that.
HENDERSONAnd so I guess I was very surprised that they didn't want to highlight those issues, which seemed to be resonating so much with the public now.
SESNOWhich is exactly what we'll do. And Dante Chinni, I want to come to you because -- to set the groundwork a little bit for this economic conversation, that's really what you've been looking at as you've been using your data analysis and your -- and looking at the different demographics out there and it's what you're doing on your reporting trip now, as I understand it. You're covering the convention, but from well outside the convention hall.
CHINNIYeah, I'll tell you one thing that's really interesting about -- so I'm driving to different communities in the Ohio that are really demographically different, economically very different, in very different places and the one thing that's really interesting when you get out here is you realize how much -- what we're all talking about here, the convention, at least at the start here, it does not really weigh on anybody's mind when you get out here. It's, you know, you go to the bars and restaurants here at night and you have dinner, you have a beer and the convention is not what's on the television.
CHINNIAnd you talk to people out here, it's not even what they're watching. It's just -- it's interesting how little -- now, I'm going to a different place this afternoon. It might be different when I get there, but out here -- and this is really Trump country where I'm at right now. People really aren't paying very much attention to this.
SESNOI mean, I think, Dante, we have seen -- and this is, in many ways, the big takeaway, this disconnect that you're talking about, not just between parts of America, but also between the political parties and the media and what America's really experiencing. So what are you hearing and seeing in terms of if they're not hanging on every word of the convention, what's driving this part of the public that you're talking to.
CHINNIWell, I mean, exactly what Nell was just saying. Look, this is, you know, this is Trump because I'm out in Monroe County, Ohio. You know, the unemployment rate here is double digits. And they've never really recovered wholly from the aluminum plant that closed here, taking away more than 1,000 jobs. There's coal mining that goes on around here. And what I'm hearing from people around here is, look, there is some unease about Donald Trump, but I think I've talked to -- out of all the people I've talked to, like, 10, 11, 12 people that I've talked to in, like, in depth in the last couple days, I found one that was going to support Hillary Clinton.
CHINNIAnd what I hear from them is, you know, look, I don't know if Trump's gonna be able -- this stuff he's talking about is great -- that Trump's talking about is great. I don't even know if he really can do it, but at least he's listening to us and he cares about us. And he's not talking about going in here and getting rid of Johnson Coal, which is what's -- people have mentioned to me several times.
SESNODante, to plagiarize a line from a previous campaign, does this boil down and is this the -- this discontent springing from it's the economy, stupid? Are people's concerns mostly about their stagnant wages, their jobs, their insecurities or is there something larger and more cultural here?
CHINNIWell, I mean, there's a cultural thing going on here, too. Look, this is -- the area I'm in right now, this is gun country. People here like to hunt and you see why when you're out here. There's a lot of land in which to hunt. It's beautiful out here. And there is some talk about Pro-Choice and you hear Pro-Choice versus Pro-Life, in terms of stances of the parties. But what you hear from people is, you know, the Democratic party left me. The Democratic party is no longer my party anymore for some of these cultural reasons you're talking about.
CHINNIBut economics plays a role as well, but it's the economics and the culture tie together pretty deep around here.
SESNOJosh, how big an issue is the economy for voters right now in your view?
KRAUSHAARA very big issue. Though, as Dante was saying, culture issues are intertwined with the economy and, you know, immigration is a top issue among a lot of these voters, but it's also -- it's a big issue because a lot of people fear immigration is driving down wages. They feel free trade is shipping jobs overseas and the people that are in Washington running the show are disconnected from their daily reality. So you have -- I mean, if you look at the top issues and in the polling in these types of communities, the economy is usually at the top of the list.
KRAUSHAARBut in reality, the types of issue that they're voting on and that really drives their anger and dissatisfaction are the cultural issues. And you can add guns to the mix as well. They feel like the elites in Washington are trying to challenge the old way of doing things and they're feeling profoundly anxious and disaffected from what these trends are.
SESNOLet us focus then, for a few minutes now, on what the Trump economic platform and policy really looks like. And Peter Navarro, let me pull you in. You're a business and economics professor at the University of California Irvine. You're a policy advisor with the Trump campaign. As Nell said a moment ago, the Trump platform pretty well boils down to immigration, tax and trade reform to get jobs going. But if you were to encapsulate this for us, what would you say is the Donald Trump formula and what are some particulars that will address this job issue?
MR. PETER NAVARROSure. And all three of those issues are inter-related to what I believe will be the determining factor in this election. This election is going to be determined in the swing states and most of those swing states are right about where we are now throughout the Midwest. And, you know, I followed in Dante's shoes in 2012 with my "Death By China" film, which was about how China uses its unfair trade practices to cheat America out of jobs, take our factories.
MR. PETER NAVARROThat's going to be the message that resonates, ultimately, during this election. Now, the math of this...
SESNOSo Peter, but is -- but Trump's policy is more than China or is it built mostly on the grievance against...
NAVARROYeah. Here's the message, really. And what's different from Donald Trump is this. The previous presidents we've had, going back to Bush as well, have viewed our economic problems as a short run, cyclical phenomenon. You just use a bunch of fiscal stimulus and a bunch of monetary stimulus in a Keynesian fashion and everything's going to be all right. Well, the fact of the matter is everything's not all right and the Obama White House has doubled our deficit from 10 to $20 trillion in eight years.
NAVARROThe Federal Reserve balance sheet is all screwed up because of all the quantitative easy -- what Donald Trump understands, and this is the important point here, Frank, Donald Trump understands that we have a structural problem that's related exactly to the trade deficit. In economics, it's a simple equation. The GDP growth is driven by consumption and government spending, business investment and the trade deficit. And when you have our factories offshoring to Mexico or China, that reduces our business investment, therefore it reduces our GDP.
NAVARROWhen you run basically a $2 billion a day deficit in trade, which is approaching the $800 billion a year, we are losing half of our normal GDP growth and about a million and a half jobs we don't create. So...
SESNOPeter, Peter, let me just jump in for a moment here and I'm gonna have to take a break in just a moment. But just to be clear, is Trump saying that the central problem here revolves around trade and the trade deficit, that that is what...
SESNO...all of our economic ills stem from?
NAVARRONot all, but yes. And the problem -- you got to do two things. One, you got to make sure that any trade deal is a good one for America. You got to make sure, number two, that our trading partners don't cheat. The biggest cheater is China. It's half of our trade deficit and the worst cheater on the planet. Donald Trump has made that very, very clear. And you have to have tax policies that don't push our factories offshore. So if you deal with that...
SESNOOkay. And we'll come back to all of those -- I'm sorry to cut you off, but we'll come back to all of those in just a minute. Have to take a quick break. When we come back, more of our conversation on the Donald Trump economic plan.
SESNOWelcome to the Diane Rehm Show. I'm Frank Sesno, sitting in for Diane today. We're talking about the economic policies of Donald Trump, now the official nominee of the Republican Party for president of the United States. Talking with us this hour, Nell Henderson, she's global central banks editor of The Wall Street Journal. On the phone from Cleveland with us is Josh Kraushaar, political editor of National Journal, Peter Navarro, he's a business and economics professor at University of California-Irvine and a policy adviser with the Trump campaign, and Dante Chinni, he's director of the American Communities Project. He's with Michigan State University, also writes for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal.
SESNOPeter, back to you for a moment. You were making a point there. We were talking about trade before we had to take that break. What I'd like to ask you is this. I mean, one of the things that Donald Trump proposes to address trade is to declare China a currency manipulator, to slap on a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports, by the way a 35 percent tariff on Mexican imports if they don't quit this. Now some, including the Chamber of Commerce, have said this is bad business, this would actually cost American jobs. What is Donald Trump's response to that? What is your analysis?
NAVARROSure. You said something really important, you said if they don't quit this. The whole idea of using tariffs goes back to George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Ronald Reagan. Trump is a free trader. What he wants to do is use defensive tariffs if necessary against any country that cheats. And the tariffs are not an endgame. That's not the goal. The goal is to have tariffs on the table as part of a negotiating tool to basically get a good deal for America.
NAVARRONow we've had three bad trade deals that have devastated this country. All of them have Hillary and Bill's signature on them. 1993 NAFTA, it was supposed to create 200,000 jobs according to Bill Clinton. We've lost over 700,000 jobs. Clinton in 2000 lobbied for China into the World Trade Organization. Since that time, Frank, we've lost over 70,000 factories, many here in Ohio. We've seen our average median household income stagnate. We've got over 20 million Americans who can't find jobs at a decent wage. And that's all about the tools that China uses in a mercantilist way.
NAVARROCurrency manipulation you mentioned, but it's also illegal export subsidies, stealing our intellectual property, and that's what Trump wants to do. Bottom line, Trump wants to trade, but he's not going to trade with anybody who cheats. He wants a level playing field and a fair deal for the American people.
SESNONell Henderson, your response and your analysis on this?
HENDERSONWell I'm not speaking, you know, for or against Trump, but I would say this, that he definitely has touched a nerve on China that there has been a lot of economic research, as you know, about all these different trade agreements that were just cited. And some of the recent research shows that indeed trade with China has caused greater disruptions to the U.S. labor market than trade with Japan or Canada or Mexico.
HENDERSONYou know, he mentioned -- NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement, U.S., Canada and Mexico. Basically those agreements didn't do a lot -- as much damage as you've seen since China joined the WTO, and it's really interesting that of the 100 counties with industries most exposed to Chinese imports, 89 voted for Trump in the Republican primaries. So that point, you know, that China has done more damage has really resonated in those areas.
SESNOJosh, let me bring you into the conversation here and ask you about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is a reliable, pro-business, Republican ally, generally speaking. When Mr. Trump has been laying out his policies, Thomas Donahue, the chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce, he's tweeted Donald Trump has very little idea about what trade really is. This is back when he gave a speech some time ago. Another tweet from the Chamber said that the Chamber's analysis showed that Trump's proposed tariffs would, quote, strip us of at least three and a half million jobs.
SESNOHow does the Republican Party institutionally respond to Donald Trump's very untraditional Republican positions on trade?
KRAUSHAARVery anxiously, and it's not just untraditional, it's against party dogma for at least a couple generations. And what's really striking about the political element of this debate is that when you look at the national polls, most recently the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll that came out this week, solid majorities generally support the principles of free trade. They generally are sounding more of free-market approach on the issue than they do with Trump's rhetoric.
KRAUSHAARBut when you really talk about the people who have been displaced, who have been disaffected, the voters in the communities that Nell was just talking about, that's where that intensity is. The people that really are angry about trade are the ones that have had a personal connection. They've lost their job, they've been displaced from all these changes taking place in their communities. So it's really an issue where I think the majority of the public is with the Chamber of Commerce is with the -- certainly Republicans, rank-and-file Republicans, are much more supportive of the free trade side of the argument, but the more intense feelings are on the populist side of the debate, and that's what's driving Trump's level of support.
SESNODante Chinni, you're out listening to people, and you've been pulling apart the public opinion polling and all the rest. How does the public feel about this? Is it confined to those who have lost their jobs? Are there people who feel they are winners as a result of trade?
CHINNIYeah, there really are. In fact, the polling data is fascinating on this. The latest NBC-WSJ poll, you know, Trump is losing white, college-educated voters by a point, okay. That's really significant. That doesn't happen. Republicans win white by large margins, they win white, college-educated voters by large margins. I think Romney won them by 12 points in 2012. Right now he's trailing among them by one point.
CHINNIAnd look, there's all sorts of reasons. We could talk about that. Some of it may be, you know, Trump's persona, and some of it may be stances on other issues. But I think clearly -- look, I'm leaving here this afternoon from Monroe County, I'm going to Delaware County in Ohio. Delaware County is a radically different place, and you could argue these are places that really won in trade. I mean, the median household income in Delaware County is $40,000 above the national average.
SESNOYeah, but do they connect their increase in wages to trade? Do they actually credit trade?
CHINNII think they do. I think they try to -- I think they credit trade, and the other thing about them is I think they are much less likely, this is a problem Donald Trump's going to have in some of these communities, to want to rock the boat. If the idea is -- let's shake up Washington is one thing, but the idea of let's shake up the economy, there are some people in some places that have done really quite well in the economy, even post-recession. There has been -- the divide has been very stark on it. Some places have done very well. Some places have done very poorly. But, you know, there are -- you know, I think we forget sometimes that there are -- we used to think of the Republicans, and I think there's still a large chunk of Republicans, really, that have done quite well, you know.
CHINNIIt used to be the party of the moneyed class.
SESNONell, go ahead.
HENDERSONI was going to say including Mike Pence of Indiana, Mr. Trump's running mate. You know, he is very pro-free trade and has even come out in favor of Obama's Trans-Pacific Partnership.
NAVARROCan I make a point on that, Frank?
SESNOSure, go ahead, Peter.
NAVARROI wrote an article actually about that when Trump was doing the Indiana primary, and I call it the great tragedy of trade politics. And Dante's absolutely right. Nell's right that we have, for example, corn and soybean farmers in America who made out like bandits selling corn and soybeans to the Chinese and the Mexicans. And I'll tell you what, Nell, here's a thing -- here's where immigration ties into things. I mean, Nell says, well, NAFTA didn't do that much.
NAVARROWell, what NAFTA did was put the peasants in the Mexican corn belt out of business, and that's why we had this huge wave of immigration. So just as, you know, Americans were promised manufacturing jobs in the wake of NAFTA that they didn't get, the Mexicans were promised jobs, and they didn't get them, either. So all this is tied. And then the other thing to say here, Frank, is look, the Chamber of Commerce lobbied against worker health and safety regulations in Beijing. They have a chapter there.
NAVARROThis is the chamber of off-shoring. You know, whatever they say is tainted by the fact that the members of the Chamber of Commerce are precisely the multinational corporations like GE, GM, Boeing, Apple, Intel. These are the people who have been offshoring our jobs to China. They're the very same people that lobbied Bill Clinton to get China into the World Trade Organization to begin with.
HENDERSONWait, can I just -- can I just jump in, though?
NAVARROPeople understand that. You can't tell me that the Chamber is an honest broker in this. They're just, they're nothing but a special interest pushing our jobs offshore.
SESNOLet me let Nell Henderson in.
HENDERSONJust to back up, I mean, you made a bunch of different points, but one is, I am pretty sure, correct me if I'm wrong, that net migration from Mexico is now negative. I mean, there are more people -- more people migrated from the U.S. to Mexico because the economy is doing so much better there.
NAVARROAt this point in time, but that's after millions and millions of people have come in, and this gets into also politics of race because no group -- African-Americans have been hit harder by illegal immigration into this country -- than African-Americans. And you're going to see more of them vote Republican for Trump this time than any time in the last 20 years.
CHINNII would (unintelligible)
NAVARROYeah, you can be skeptical about that, I'm not saying a landslide, but if it's 80 percent instead of 90...
SESNOLet Dante respond.
CHINNIThe polling data on that, I mean, Trump is really hurting among African-Americans right now. He's taking a beating. He's taking a beating among -- I mean, of course he's got problems with Hispanics, we know that, but in the polls, it's not just the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, the polls consistently show, you know, he's taking a beating. Look, there were polls out of Marist last week in Ohio and Pennsylvania, interestingly enough. Look, I'm not sure how much I believe this, this is a very charged atmosphere right now, but after everything that's happened in the -- with the shootings and what's gone on in terms of just the conversation in America, but he was getting zero percent of the African-American vote in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
CHINNIDo I think he's going to stay at zero percent? No, but that is -- that's just a remarkably low figure.
SESNOOkay, I'd like to bring the conversation back to the Trump economic platform and move to another part of it, and that is the tax cuts, Peter, that Trump wants to pursue, believing that those will be, as in Reagan tax cut days, a big stimulus to the economy. Could you very briefly tick through what are the principal tax cuts he's talking about?
NAVARROThe one that matters the most to the American people is the reduction in the corporate tax rate, and that's for two reasons. One, we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. So that pushes offshore our companies who basically, when they go take their factories offshore, it's like a tax break. The other thing, and this is a little inside baseball, but it's actually huge, the World Trade Organization does not allow rebates on income taxes, whereas it allows export tax rebates on value added taxes.
NAVARROSo you have an America which is competing with an income tax system against the rest of the world with a VAT tax system, and we just get hammered. So the Donald Trump tax plan is really designed to address that and bring our companies back onshore.
SESNOJosh, from the convention floor and in your reporting, how does the Donald Trump tax plan measure up? And is that a rallying point for the delegates and those who have been supporting him.
KRAUSHAARNo, I mean, specifics in policy isn't something that Trump is known for, to be honest, and while he has advisors that are able to articulately -- may make the case for him, you're not going to hear on the convention floor a detailed exposition of, you know, the tax brackets and cuts and so on. So, you know, this is the challenge politically for Donald Trump. He's not -- he's had trouble sort of offering specifics for his policies, for offering detail in what he is going to do as president, and that goes all the way when it comes to tax policy, and it also -- from an instinctive point of view, you know, when you're someone who is as wealthy as Trump is, he has to make the political case that he's able to look out for the working class and the middle class, and you're going to see a lot of conversation at the Democratic convention next week in Philadelphia that -- basically replaying the Romney playbook from 2012 that Trump's business practices are antithetical to what the values of a lot of working-class and middle-class voters are.
SESNONell Henderson -- Nell Henderson, is there a consensus as to what the economic impact would be of the tax cuts that Donald Trump proposes? And let me just point out that in terms of the individual tax cut, he proposes lowering the top tax bracket from 39.6 percent to 25 percent, the corporate tax rate from 35 percent down to 15 percent.
HENDERSONWell, one of the interesting ways he's broken with sort of Republican Party orthodoxy is that while the Republicans in Congress are also very much in favor of large tax cuts, most of them, particularly Speaker Paul Ryan, want to pair tax cuts with greatly reduced federal spending, particularly on programs like Social Security and Medicare, which Trump has said he will not pursue. So if you don't cut spending, and you cut taxes, a lot of experts say that you'd see big deficits.
HENDERSONNow he has said he thinks that -- Trump has said that he thinks he can reduce some of the spending on these programs by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse, but I think there are a lot of researchers who are skeptical of that.
SESNOWell, in fact some -- some estimates I've seen have suggested some of these tax cuts, if not addressed elsewhere, could cut federal revenue by over $9 trillion over 10 years. I'm Frank Sesno, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. And if you'd like to join the conversation, please call us at 1-800-433-8850, send us an email to email@example.com, find us on Facebook or send us a tweet. We're speaking about the convention yesterday and today and tomorrow and about the Trump economic plans and the impact that they might have.
SESNOI want to start and go to a call from a place that knows something about this. Bruce is on the phone from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Hi, Bruce.
BRUCEHey, how are you guys doing?
SESNOJust great. Go ahead, thanks for calling.
BRUCEI was just curious as to the fact that you, well a little while ago, one of your guests was talking about Trump's I guess war on China, for lack of a better term, with trade and taking jobs from the United States. And no one ever calls Trump out on the fact that much of his clothing line is manufactured in China. And I was just curious as to why that is. And also one more thing, I just heard your guest mention saving money by getting out of fraud and waste, and I don't think there's any politician who hasn't stated that, and I don't think any of them has actually gotten it done, as well. Thanks for letting me call.
SESNOOkay, Bruce, thanks very much. Josh, you're the -- you're the political editor. This sounds like where economics meets politics. Do you want to talk about this?
KRAUSHAARAbsolutely, Frank. I mean, this is what I was saying earlier, where, you know, the policies and the list of experts talking about Trump's policies are one thing, but when Democrats are able to point to hypocrisy and point to the fact that a lot of Trump's good -- the products he manufactures are done with fairly cheap labor overseas, it's a political problem, and you can be sure that Democrats are going to focus on that at their own convention next week. It's going to be a major line of attack from the opposition.
SESNODante Chinni, I'm holding a picture of a piece of Donald Trump -- Donald J. Trump Signature Collection clothing, and the label that I'm looking at says made in Mexico, 100 percent wool. Any of those folks you're talking to out there care about this?
CHINNISo that's a really interesting point. I was wondering, as I've been watching the convention this week, too, how much we're going to hear about this next week from the Democrats because I do think this is a point they're going to hit him on. I will say the one thing that's fascinating talking to his -- talking to the people out here because they know that they've had a hard time economically, I asked them, you know, look, things have been bad here, I know everybody wants to talk about the last eight years or whatever, look, things have been getting bad here for decades, okay, they've been losing jobs.
CHINNIAnd I asked them, how much do you expect Trump to actually change any of this stuff? You know, and there's -- there are, like, knowing smiles, and you know, like smirks that, like, look, we don't think he's going to be able to fix everything, we're just glad that he's talking about it. So the question to me is can Trump ride this thing out by talking about -- because I'm sure the Democrats are going to bring this up, to say, like, well, you know, I'm allowed to do that now, but soon I won't be allowed to do that, and that'll bring jobs back here.
CHINNIThat may be enough for some of these voters, and again it's the tie of the economic and the cultural stuff that has really swung them to Donald Trump. So I think we'll hear about it. I think there may be some people here who -- with whom that resonates. But I don't expect it to be a huge issue with the voters, here in particular, one way or the other.
SESNOPeter, very briefly, how many jobs can this tough on trade policy actually bring back to America when some of the issues are so deeply structural? If a worker is making $15, $18, $22 an hour in the United States of America, and they're making $1, $2, $3 an hour someplace else, how do you compete with that?
NAVARROVery easily. All you need is a level playing field, Frank, stop the cheating. Here's what you're missing, productivity. The American worker is the most highly productive in the world. So if a worker is producing 50 times greater than somebody else in a different country, that equalizes the wage problem. So that's not an issue. Yeah, there's a couple point here on this hypocrisy issue.
SESNOHold your -- hold your couple points. I'm going to take another quick break. We'll come back to them after. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." When we come back, more of your calls and questions. Stay tuned.
SESNOWelcome back, I'm Frank Sesno of the George Washington University, sitting in for Diane Rehm today. Our discussion revolving around the Donald Trump economic plank. And for that conversation, we're joined by Nell Henderson of the - Wall Street Journal, she's the global central banks editor there. From Cleveland, John (sic) Kraushaar, political editor of National Journal. Peter Navarro, business and economics professor at University of California Irvine and a policy advisor with the Trump campaign. And on the road, Dante Chinni, director of the American Communities Project, Michigan State University, and with NBC News and The Wall Street Journal, where he provides some terrific analysis.
SESNOFolks, let me bring in some of the questions and emails we're getting from the audience, 'cause we're getting a lot now, and I'll try to move quickly through them and ask you to quickly respond to them, because we've got a lot, and many people on the phone. An email from David raises a very interesting point. "I'm so confused," he says, "when I hear Trump advisors talk about using trade policy to bring back jobs. Most of the jobs we've lost are factory jobs that have not been lost to China, but to automation and technological advancement. Those jobs are not coming back. Rather than telling former coalminers we're bringing your jobs back, we should be encouraging new job training and new skills development to be relative in the modern economy." Nell, how much of the job loss that we have experienced is to, as David suggests, automation technology and productivity efficiency?
HENDERSONI wish I'd brought the number with me, but he makes an excellent point, so I'm not gonna give you the number, how much, but a large amount. And I think it really speaks to this interesting rethink that's going on within economics, and within the parties right now about globalization. And I think that, you know, we talk about these trade deals. Most normal people don't really want to know the details of trade deals. They hear Trump, and he said this in his big trade speech last week, blaming a lot of US economic problems on a, quote, "leadership class that worships globalism over Americanism," and that becomes this shorthand for all these big changes going on.
HENDERSONAbout 20 years or so ago, the consensus was that globalization and trade and technology in general will lift people. And what we've seen is millions of people lifted from poverty in the developing world, in Asia and Africa and Latin America, but in the developed world, more stagnating incomes. And I think that the problem policy-wise is that we thought we could manage it better. We thought that we could mitigate the harm to us done to certain groups of people, and apparently what you're seeing in this election season is that that didn't work out that well.
SESNOJosh Kraushaar, what does Donald Trump say about this issue, the automation technology issue?
KRAUSHAARHe's someone who is looking at the past. I mean, a lot of his political messaging on the economy is looking back to the glory days of decades ago when there was less automation, when there was more labor when it came to the lower skill types of jobs. And when it comes to coal, I mean, one of the -- just looking at the politics of coal, and the politics of energy in some of the states where the levels of coal production are the highest, it's remarkable the political shift in such a short amount of time. You look at eastern Kentucky, Appalachian Ohio, West Virginia as an entire state, there are areas of those three states that were heavily Democratic, just a decade ago. Eastern Kentucky voted 60, 70% for Al Gore, and by huge margins in that presidential election.
KRAUSHAARNow they're overwhelmingly Republicans and voted for Romney by similar margins in 2012. So the economics are one thing, but the politics of coal has shifted some of the most Democratic parts of the country into safe Republican havens.
SESNOOkay, let me bring in a caller on this. Rick joins us from Advance, Missouri. Hi, Rick.
SESNOGo ahead with your question.
RICKMy question, yeah, this concerns this issue of productivity. What I see as the real problem is that in the past, we were able to compete against foreign production by this modernization and productivity of American workers, but the machines that have enabled that are now being sent overseas by our same American companies. The productivity advantage that we used to have just doesn't seem to exist anymore.
SESNOAll right, let me, Peter Navarro, let me bring you in first to respond to that as our professor here, and then very briefly to tell us, if anything, what Donald Trump would say about that.
NAVARROWell, I'd say bingo. The guy's got it exactly right. The problem is, China steals our intellectual property. We lose $300 billion a year to China's intellectual property theft, but the idea that these jobs ain't coming back, I mean, that's defeatist. All you got to do is go over to a place like China, biotech, nanotech, autos, aircraft, semiconductors, sure, we're doing it more efficiently with more robots, but as the economy grows globally, there's still plenty of those manufacturing jobs and America knows they're not here and they're over there. And the reason they're over there, Donald Trump knows this, is 'cause this country's cheap.
HENDERSONBut one problem -- if you think about the jobs you just ticked off, is that a lot of what's happening with productivity increasing with greater technology is those jobs being created are for very high skilled workers, very highly educated. You've got to be writing computer code, you know, nanotechnology and biotechnology, etcetera, and that part of what you're seeing among Trump supporters is this anxiety that that kind of trade and productivity gains are not necessarily benefitting people with a lot less education and fewer skills.
SESNOAnd Dante Chinni, isn't that exactly what you're seeing and studying and seeing in the numbers as well?
CHINNIYeah, exactly. I mean, look, these numbers -- the numbers tell a tale that Nell is exactly right. I will say just really quickly, a personal note, look, I grew up outside Detroit. There's a huge auto plant there, the River Rouge Plant, I toured it as a kid when they used to make Mustangs, and then I went back with my kids two years ago, and I toured the same plant. And there were docents along there. They used to work on the assembly line. And I told them that there looked like there were way fewer people in the plant. He asked when I had come through, and I say, hey, I came through in the mid '70s. He said, oh, half that. There's half that number working here now. We just don't need that many people.
CHINNIAnd then I said, that's really alarming. He said, that's nothing. He said if you go see the really new plants, the ones over in Scandinavia, it's half this number.
CHINNIWe just don't need the people anymore.
SESNOYeah, no, it's very interesting. Some years ago, I did a documentary on the plight and the rebirth of Pittsburgh. And I looked at the steel industry there. And in the Monongahela Valley not too far away, there were these gigantic steel mills that used to employ tens of thousands of people, and they were largely shuttered. Pittsburgh, one, tried to reinvent itself around robotics and pharmaceuticals and the technology industry, but secondly, there were these mini mills, micro mills, that were popping up, that were being run by a handful of people because of all the automation. So there were a lot of forces at work there, and I think candidates -- that doesn't always fit in a speech, but it certainly tracks reality and what you're seeing.
NAVARROSmall point here, Frank?
NAVARROI think there's an element of elitism here that's missing a key point. I mean, you can be a blue collar worker working in a ship building industry, and you can have an enormous amount of skills and craft. And ship building, for example, has virtually disappeared in this country because of all this cheating. And that's not just affecting our economy, it's also affecting our national security, our military, our naval ships are down to the smallest number in the 1920s. So I just would urge you not to underestimate the power of being able to manufacture with robots and high productivity, to generate a lot of jobs, 'cause if there's half the people in an auto factory, we're still building a lot more cars globally, and that offsets.
SESNOI completely agree with you, all I'm saying, in trying to point out these examples, is that it's a very complicated thing with...
SESNO...many forces at work in a changing world. Let's go back to the phones. Kathy joins us from Detroit. Hi, Kathy.
KATHYHi. It's my understanding that it's the interest on the debt that's mushrooming, and new debt under the Obama administration has actually decreased. But the interest is what's phenomenally huge. And under Reagan, under Bush, with a war that's trillions of dollars, the Republicans have added so much to our national debt. I don't know why they keep blaming the Obama administration and saying that he's been so terrible as far as the national debt is concerned. It's not true.
SESNOLet me turn that question over to Nell Henderson. Nell, go ahead.
HENDERSONWell, the debt's risen a lot for a lot of different reasons over the last 20 years. As Hillary Clinton likes to remind people, there was an annual budget surplus when her husband left office, and then we had the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we had tax cuts during the Bush administration. We then had the financial crisis and the recession, and of course, during the recession, spending increased on safety net programs, on unemployment, on food stamps, on, you know, all those sort of, you know, -- kind of the automatic spending the government does to help people during a crisis.
HENDERSONAnd then there was also the stimulus efforts, and of course, as you mentioned, the Fed lowered interest rates to try and support the economy, so actually, the government is paying very low interest on debt it's issuing now.
SESNOBecause interest rates are so low.
HENDERSONAnd, though, after the stimulus, after Obama took office, the Republicans were really tough on enforcing what they considered fiscal discipline and the annual deficit has dropped since Obama took office.
NAVARROWait, please, let's do the numbers.
SESNOPeter, Peter, I don't want to get into a discussion about the numbers...
SESNOI want to ask you, Peter, Peter, I want to ask you one very specific question, because what we're trying to focus on is what does Donald Trump do about these things? What would Donald Trump do to reduce the deficit dramatically?
NAVARROThat's easy. We've grown, at one point, eight percent, Frank, from 2002 to 2015, after China joined the World Trade Organization, ran enormous deficits. We used to grow at three and a half when the playing field was level. You grow at three and a half percent, Frank, you have budget surpluses, every year, you do not have political fights about how to fund Social Security or Medicare or infrastructure, and life is good again in America. That's what's missing here. The trade deficit, simple arithmetic, drags us down, and just factually, ten trillion was what we had when Obama started. Eight years later, it's 20 trillion. That's just real.
SESNOJosh, Josh Kraushaar, how can anybody argue with those numbers? How will the Democrats argue with those numbers?
KRAUSHAARWell, perception is often reality, and the reality is, like, the public is not happy with the state of the economy, and they feel like we're losing ground. That's a very, very powerful message, but like what we opened the show with, that wasn't the message (unintelligible) last night. I mean, this should have been an opportunity for the Trump surrogates and supporters of this ticket to indict the administration's record on the economy, the growth levels over the last seven years. We haven't heard it yet, and I don't think we're going to be hearing that tonight as well.
SESNOWe've got a call from Charles in Louisville, Kentucky. Hi, Charles, go ahead.
CHARLESYes, thank you for taking my call. I'm enjoying your conversation about Trump's possible tax policy, but I'm wondering if your guests have any comment about why he is so resistant in making public his own tax returns, and what a disclosure of those tax returns might reveal to us about him.
KRAUSHAARMy guess would be that he -- he says it's because he's being audited, but I think the real reason has more to do with, he doesn't want to show how much he's worth, doesn't want to show his true amount of wealth. And that's something that's been a very sensitive subject. I believe he sued an author of a book about him that was largely complimentary, but made the case that he wasn't as wealthy as he claimed to be. And you know, if I had to guess, one of the main reasons why he doesn't want to open up his records is -- he doesn't want to puncture the belief that he's this extremely wealthy billionaire.
HENDERSONCan I just say, I think we're all just speculating about what his real reason is, and that ultimately, it's really up to the voters to decide whether they care or not.
SESNOExactly. Let's go to the phone. Robert from Minneapolis joins us. Hi, Robert.
ROBERTHi. Good morning, everyone.
SESNOThanks for calling. Go ahead with your question.
ROBERTYou know, I'd like to touch up on the...
SESNOActually, I'm gonna ask you to be brief if you could, because we're gonna have to take another quick break, but go ahead.
ROBERTOh, I just want to touch on the young, undecided vote. Me as a 24 year old, you know, how are our candidates, you know, Donald Trump and or Hillary, going to help gear their campaigns for the younger vote, because you know, there's not much going on for us out there.
SESNOJosh, as the political editor of the National Journal, how do the candidates address the younger voters?
KRAUSHAARIt's difficult because you have two nominees that are hard sells, to put it mildly, for younger voters. I was struck -- there was a Pew research poll that came out two weeks ago that actually showed Gary Johnson in second place, ahead of Donald Trump, among 18 to 29 year olds, with Trump lagging behind in third place.
SESNOWhat do you make of that?
KRAUSHAARIt shows how much of a struggle, I mean, young Republicans don't -- you go to an college campus, Trump is a very tough sell, even among the college Republican groups at universities. And you just look at the primaries, and Hillary Clinton was losing to Bernie Sanders 80 to 20 in many, many states, big states, among the youth vote. So these are two candidates that are profoundly distasteful to younger voters, millennials, and it's gonna -- Clinton has an advantage because of the demographics of the younger voters, but you're not gonna see a lot of enthusiastic support for young people towards Hillary Clinton as well.
SESNOI'm Frank Sesno, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. In our final few minutes here, let's take a look at what's on the docket for tonight, and what the convention is serving up. Josh, back to you, briefly. Very interesting speech that we're gonna hear tonight. I think it's guaranteed to be interesting, from a guy by the name of Ted Cruz, who I think the nominee once referred to as Lyin' Ted. Not much love lost between these two, and we don't even know yet whether Cruz will formally and fully and enthusiastically endorse the candidate.
KRAUSHAARThis is the most interesting speech to me of the entire convention, and I'm hearing from the Cruz camp that it's unlikely that he's going to actually endorse Trump...
SESNOUnlikely that he'll endorse the nominee?
KRAUSHAARUnlikely. So I don't think -- you may not even hear Donald Trump's name from the podium when Ted Cruz comes to speak tonight, which is remarkable. I mean, even Ronald Reagan in his famed 1976 speech endorsed Gerald Ford in his address. So you know, things could change, but this is not going to be a speech about Donald Trump, this is going to be a speech for Ted Cruz, about preparing himself for the 2020 presidential election, and a deal that Cruz and Trump struck in Cruz's agreeing to be speaking at this convention, I think is gonna turn out to be quite a bad deal for Donald Trump. He claims to be the expert in striking deals, but this is one that could embarrass the Republican presidential (unintelligible) ...
SESNODante, Dante Chinni, you said earlier when you were traveling around and having dinner and in the bars and stuff, the convention isn't on, this is not what people are talking about.
SESNOBut as we hear Josh laying some of this stuff out, how does this, do you think, ripple through as this convention wraps up? Because it's supposed to be about unifying and galvanizing.
CHINNIWell, it's interesting, I think, because I was noticing the same thing last night. Obviously there was no real talk about economic policy, and there hasn't been a lot of talk about Trump in particular. And I think it's because the one thing that really does unify the party right now, is dislike of Hillary Clinton, and I think that that's why we're hearing so much about her at this convention, because, look, there is a lot of disagreement. You see it here in Ohio big time. I'm telling you, I'm in Delaware County later on today, they do not like Donald Trump there. A lot of Republicans there don't like him. But the one thing they can all agree on is they don't like Hillary Clinton more.
CHINNISo I think that it's -- the unifying theme that's coming out of this convention is, let's talk about how much we all -- we don't all agree on Donald Trump, but we all know that we don't like Hillary Clinton. Let's talk more about that. And that's gonna be, the goal is gonna be to knock her down as far as they possibly can, and, hey, I get that. That's what unifies the party right now. And so maybe, that's what Ted Cruz's speech is probably, I assume, gonna be about. He's gonna talk a lot about -- he doesn't have to talk about Donald Trump to talk about how bad Hillary Clinton is.
SESNOPeter Navarro, briefly, if I could ask you, because we're almost out of time, we'll also be hearing from the vice presidential nominee, Mike Pence, this evening. What do you expect to hear from him?
NAVARROUnity, party unity. That's what that speech about. I'm looking forward to the acceptance speech tomorrow night. That's gonna be focused a lot on the economy and jobs. I think the Republican base is secure. What Donald Trump is doing is he's expanding dramatically the Republican party, and that's who he's talking to. He's talking to swing voters right now, and we'll see a lot of that tomorrow night.
SESNOOkay, well, I'm gonna give the last word to Josh here, because you wrote, and I'm holding it in my hands now, an opinion piece for the New York Times back in May. And you wrote, "The Republican party is now at war with itself." Here we are in July, halfway through the convention, is that war being settled? Do you see unity returning to the party, from what you're viewing and thinking?
KRAUSHAARThe war is raging as loudly and strongly as it ever has, and all you have to do is look on the convention floor and talk to the delegates, many of whom, many, not everyone, but I'd say a good 30 to 40 percent are not enthused about Trump as the Republican nominee, and just look at tonight, the speakers tonight. You have Mike Pence, you have Marco Rubio, you have Ted Cruz, you have Scott Walker. These are going to be future presidential candidates, in all likelihood. They may be positioning themselves for political office.
SESNOAnd we will be listening. Nell Henderson, Josh Kraushaar, Peter Navarro and Dante Chinni, thank you all for joining the conversation today. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."
Most Recent Shows
Veteran diplomat Richard Haass turns from foreign affairs to threats from within. He argues Americans focus so much on rights we forget our obligations as citizens -- and the country is suffering because of it.
Behind the lies of Congressman George Santos. Diane talks to the owner of the small weekly paper that first broke the story, and a Washington Post journalist who is following the money to see who financed Santos's political rise.
House GOP members launched a new committee this week to investigate the “weaponization” of the U.S. government. These lawmakers claim federal law enforcement and national security agencies have targeted and…