Capitalism and Its Current Respectability

Lately the reports from The New York Times and The Washington Post and the rest of the respectable press have a strange new respect for the old-fashioned Republican sort of free markets economics, which we attribute entirely to president-elect Donald Trump.
Although Trump won’t take office for another five weeks or so, he’s already made news by cajoling the Carrier heating and air conditioning company into keeping 800 jobs that were slated for Mexico in Indiana, “tweeted” the cancellation of an order with Boeing for a new Air Force One fleet over alleged cost overruns, and once again threatened any company that’s considering a foreign work force with a 35 percent tariff. All of which is news that poses a dilemma for the respectable press.
The current operational definition of a respectable press is its instinctive opposition to anything that any Republican might do, and especially Trump, but the president-elect’s unorthodox style of Republicanism is not susceptible to the usual criticisms. Trump’s meddling in Carrier’s affairs is precisely the sort of industrial policy that Democrats have long championed, and although they usually prefer the stick of punitive tax hikes to such carrots as the $7 million in tax abatements that the state of Indiana will offer it’s not enough to hang a scathing critique on. Boeing and the rest of the military-industrial complex are usually cast as the villains, and any attempt to shortchange them is usually cheered. All the tough protectionist talk that got Trump elected isn’t much different from what self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders eventually forced Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to embrace.
Compelling arguments against Trump’s policies can only be found on the right, in the free market theories that until recently defined the Republican party’s economic platform, and in its desperation the respectable is suddenly willing to go there. All the stories now feature lengthy explanations of Trump’s inefficient market distortions by economists from such capitalist think-tanks as the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute or the University of Chicago or some similarly red-in-tooth-and-claw economics department, and without the usual characterization’s of “right wing” or mention of any funding they might be receiving from the Koch brothers. They’re the same names that have been in the respectable press’ rolodex the past eight years, quoted briefly in the tenth or eleventh paragraph for the sake of balance, but suddenly they’re showing up right after the lead and getting a chance to rebut the Trumponomics that is now being added for the sake of balance somewhere in the ten or the eleventh paragraph.
We’re glad to see it, being red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalists and no fans of Trump ourselves, but it seems a case of much too little and far too late. The respectable press wasn’t making such a fuss about Trump’s Republican heresies back during the Republican primary, when it might have done some good, and these days the respectable press doesn’t seem to have much influence even with with Democrats. Such disreputable Democrats as the party’s newest congressional leader, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, have long been the beneficiaries of Trump’s political donations, and they’ve always come through for him in the past, it’s hard to see how they’re suddenly going to be swayed the think-tank theories of a suddenly swept away Republican party to oppose the same sort of tax-abatement-dealing and corporate strong-arming and old-fashioned protectionism they’ve always wanted, and the respectable press will also have a hard time with that news.
The old tried-and-true ideas will surely stick around to denouement, with all the variations from those think tanks and economic departments and the help of such respectably anti-Trump conservative presses as National Review and The Weekly Standard and The Central Standard Times, even if it is eventually relegated to the tenth and eleventh paragraphs. Eventually they’ll get another try. In the meantime we’re glad to see the likes of The New York Times and The Washington Post helping out, however begrudgingly.

— Bud Norman

Wishing You a Happily Apolitical Thanksgiving

Perhaps the most peculiar tradition that has been added to Thanksgiving in recent years is the annual spate of essays advising readers how to deal with any political discussions that might arise during a family get-together. Mostly it’s liberal writers¬†and the Democratic Party itself offering debating tips for like-minded readers about how to deal with any crazed right-wing uncle’s or cousin’s objections to Obamacare or a few hundred more thousand immigrants from the Middle East, but occasionally even conservatives will weigh in on how to deal with the left-wing kinfolk’s irrational support for an obviously failed Obamacare system or a flood of refugees from the most insane part of the world, and in every case we think it’s all bosh.
As perhaps the most crazed right-wing cousins of our mostly Republican extended family, one of our favorite dinnertime rants is about how those darn leftists want to politicize even the most personal aspects of our lives. “The personal is the political,” according to the wisdom that feminists passed down to the rest of liberalism, and thus the movie theater and the concert hall and the art gallery that once addressed themselves to the broader human condition are now more narrowly concerned with the latest diktats, those beery sexual encounters between libidinous college students now require consent forms, the well-intentioned opening of a door for a differently-abled person of another color and indeterminate gender is now fraught with potential for some micro-aggression or another, the jokes the guy at the next bar stool tells must now be carefully scrutinized before being laughed at, and even the family gathering for Thanksgiving dinner is seized as an opportunity to harangue that dissenting Uncle into submission.
Well, we’ll have none of that, and an extra helping of the white meat turkey slathered in gravy instead. As much as we appreciate the efforts of the fine folks at the American Enterprise Institute, we’ll ignore their well-considered points to rebut those buttinsky liberal relatives and instead endeavor to steer the conversation toward local sports teams and a piece of that tempting pumpkin pie. We’ll focus on family, food, and football, and all the rest of those still somewhat apolitical things we have to be thankful for. There’s little talk about the politics that will yield any thankfulness at the moment, so we’ll stubbornly insist on at least one day of the year to gratefully contemplate the many blessings that stubbornly persist elsewhere in this mostly wonderful life.

— Bud Norman