Rethinking America

Trump Supporters Have Good Reason to Be Mad

To men who have seen their economic opportunities fade, Trump sounds like he is making a good deal of sense.

Credit: Luna Vandoorne Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • There are real reasons for Trump supporters to be angry and they deserve to be addressed sincerely.
  • To men who have seen their opportunities fade, Trump sounds like he is making a good deal of sense.
  • Many US men feel not only left behind but actively disadvantaged in the new economy.

Men supporting Donald Trump have reason to be mad as hell. The economy has turned against them, and policies advocated by Democrats and tolerated by mainstream Republicans make their circumstances worse.

Trump does best with voters having less education, and the shift away from manufacturing toward service activities decidedly disadvantages them.

At the turn of the century, factories employed more workers than education and health care combined or than professional and business services. Nowadays the latter two groups of industries both employ millions more Americans than those making things.

While many positions in education, health care and professional and business services pay well, those often require a college or advanced degree or expensive specialized training beyond high school. Women now dominate that academic level.

While Obama and Hillary Clinton indignantly speak about a gender gap in pay – a phenomenon that today is generally more complicated in origin than purely discriminatory pay practices – more boys are dropping out of high school than girls and colleges grant about 60% of their degrees to women.

Unemployed men

We never hear a word from Democrats about fixing the gender gap in education. Instead, they champion programs that would push males out of service jobs where they do well and stand by idly while liberal high-tech executives engineer programs to retrain unemployed women, programs which are closed to men.

Hence it is no surprise that the fortunes of women have been improving along with a rise in female labor force participation, whereas the nation now confronts a crisis of despondent men.

Nearly 7 million men between the ages of 25 and 54 are neither employed nor looking for work.

Manufacturing has been a victim of its own success. Productivity growth in manufacturing has outstripped other sectors of the economy, creating a natural migration of job opportunities from factories to service.

But international and domestic policies pursued by presidents dating back to Kennedy have exacerbated the plight of men without a college degree.

Free trade agreements have been advertised as job creators, but the facts simply belie that claim. Whereas exports create jobs, imports destroy even more of them.

The United States has a trade deficit on goods and services combined exceeding $500 billion. That kills 4 million jobs directly and at least another 2 million, including from lost spending of workers initially displaced.

Ever increasing trade deficit

Manufacturing accounts for the lion’s share of the trade gap — especially goods from China and elsewhere in Asia that are often subsidized by national governments and benefit from artificially undervalued currencies.

Presidents Bush and Obama have talked about fixing those practices, but the trade agreements they bring home make matters worse.

The South Korea Free Trade Agreement implemented on Obama’s watch has increased the trade deficit by more than $15 billion dollars and killed about 120,000 jobs—mostly in manufacturing.

Similarly, Washington has largely left manufacturing assistance to the states. They have fewer resources than the federal government and struggle with strong opposition from local politicians opposed to almost any government spending, regardless of need.

Meanwhile Washington has ramped up subsidies and shifted job opportunities – to education and health care.

Mainstream Republicans may be leaning against activist Democratic prescriptions to intervene directly in the jobs market and wage setting. But they have said little about the crisis facing men. They are, however, only too happy to exploit the rage.

Justified anger

Trump rails against political correctness and barks misogynic slurs. To men without a college education who have seen their economic opportunities fade, even as – though not because – women’s opportunities improved, Trump sounds like he is making a good deal of sense.

Nobody else, including many Republican governors ever-eager to network overseas with trade partners – has come close to acknowledging the raw deal they got. It is probably why so many of those governors ran for president and failed this cycle.

Hillary Clinton’s endless chanting about gender – or some of her supporters’ pure dismissiveness of less-educated white men as a relic that can’t lose power fast enough – are like a red flag to a bull to a group that still retains a good deal of numerical power when someone like Trump fires them up.

Whether or not they have channeled this anger in a healthy or productive direction lately is irrelevant. There are real reasons to be angry and they deserve to be addressed sincerely.

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About Peter Morici

Peter Morici is a professor of international business at the University of Maryland in College Park. [United States]

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