By Marcellus Andrews
Donald Trump’s elevation to the American Presidency is a curious mix of a threat that also fascinates me, not least because one of the courses I teach is an advanced undergraduate course about race, law and economics. I tell my students that economics helps us all think clearly about racial matters by putting distance between ourselves and what we fear or favour.
Reason and resistance
The Trump regime’s aggressive antipathy towards immigrants, especially represented by the US-Mexico border wall and the Muslim ban, both rooted in deep racial and religious animus, is a test of the power of reason to inform resistance.
Trump’s regime has been very clear about its intentions to limit immigration in the interest of the American white working class. The theory is that limiting immigration will restore the wages of white workers by reducing the supply of immigrant labor, especially Latino workers.
Yet the Latino population in the US is growing by virtue of childbirth among Latino citizens, not immigrants.
I ask my students to use basic economics to assess the likelihood that restrictions on Latino immigrants will improve the well-being of poorly schooled white workers.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]We learn that globalisation has created a unified labour market, and white workers in the US are very high wage workers.[/su_pullquote]
My students return with a powerful verdict: poorly educated white workers are doomed so long as the American rich refuse to support income redistribution and investment in schools for lower income populations. We learn that globalisation has created a unified labour market, and white workers in the US are very high wage workers. Poorly-schooled American labour is simply too expensive and will be displaced by low wage labour from other nations, or by machines and computer code if immigration is restricted.
Second War on Terror?
Of course, the Trump regime seeks to close down immigration for another reason — terrorism. The regime’s focus on security against Islamic terrorism is a constant refrain, despite the fact that the vast majority of attacks in the US since 9/11 have been the work of US citizens, the vast bulk of them white men. This is an inconvenient fact that is ignored because, well, it can be.Trump’s fulfillment of his promise to ban immigrants has proved to be an act of unparalleled disruption. | Photo Courtesy: Al Jazeera
The Trump government’s measure of racial hatred will have lousy consequences for the future of the United States. This country imports talent from around the world, not least scientific and intellectual talent because, well, Americans do not do math or science and do not have all that much respect for the life of the mind. But this complex republic rewards smart people anyway because intelligence is what makes us rich, even if we do not really like scientifically and culturally literate people.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]The Trump government’s measure of racial hatred will have lousy consequences for the future of the United States. [/su_pullquote]
The Trump government’s animus toward Latinos and Muslims, among others, will dry up this source of talent. This hostility combined with American conservatives’ commitment to defunding education, limiting the voting rights of racial minorities, especially black and Latino citizens, and ending social democracy threatens the future of a nation where the white majority will become a minority in less than 30 years. Most children under the age of eight in this country are not white. Refusing to invest in these kids because they are the wrong colour, or because they and their parents are not citizens, is a deeply stupid policy choice.
The price of hate
Will the Trump regime’s racial animus harm the world? Maybe, maybe not. American decline will accelerate under this regime, largely because the mixture of racism and greed exemplified by this government will deprive future generations of the schooling, health care and other resources required for competence in a competitive world. The rest of the world may have to be very wary of the United States as its internal racial fight plays out. There may be situations where the internal failure of failing conservative and nationalist fantasies married to an ever-greater government-guided racial animosity spills outward into aggressive military action, with the government putting troops in harm’s way as a substitute for clear thinking. I can only hope that there is not a military coup in the US as the armed services attempt to protect themselves from madness.
The world will survive the Trump regime, and so will the United States. This country will be a smaller, poorer place after Trump. But we are smart, strong and tough. We will learn from this mistake, and rise again.
Marcellus Andrews is Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Economic and Policy Research, USA.
Featured Image Credit: UPI
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