Friday, November 4, 2016

Will Donald Trump Make America Great Again?

Almost half of our voters believe that Donald Trump's policies will "Make America Great Again".  Economists have a very different view about Trump's economic policies.  They believe that his policies would make America much poorer.  The following quote from 17 Nobel Laureates expresses the views of most economists quite succinctly:

Donald Trump…offers an incoherent economic agenda. His reckless threats to start trade wars with several of our largest trading partners, his plan to deport millions of immigrants, his trillions of dollars of unfunded tax cuts, his casual suggestion that the United States could threaten default on its debt in order to renegotiate with our creditors as if Treasuries were a junk bond—each of these proposals could jeopardize the foundations of American prosperity and the global economy.

The disparity between the views of economists and the general public is described in this article which also summarized a letter signed by 370 economists who were highly critical of Trump's economic policies.  It attempts to explain why Trump's supporters believe that his policies will "Make America Great Again" even when most economists believe that they would be chaotic.  It explores some of the factors that might explain the distance between the views of views of economists and the general public on economic policies.  However, that is not the real problem that Trump has made visible in this election cycle.  His success raises fundamental questions about democracy which are more general than the impotence of economists versus Trump's propaganda.  I have listed just a couple of examples below which are disturbing.

Donald Trump has been extensively criticized in the press for lying about almost everything.  Some journalists have even stated that Trump makes no distinction between between truth and falsehood; he easily changes his mind about any issue because nothing is true or false.  Only his most recent claim is true and that can easily be modified as circumstances change.  Unfortunately, the efforts made by journalists to hold Trump accountable for any position that he has taken has had little impact on his supporters.  In a recent poll Trump got a higher score on truthfulness than Hillary Clinton.  Of course, Hillary Clinton is not a paragon of virtue.  Like most politicians she does not always tell the truth.  However, there is a vast difference between Trump who has no regard for the truth and Clinton who shades the truth on occasion. Several conservative newspapers, which have always endorsed Republicans for the presidency, have endorsed Clinton, because among other things, she is more honest than Trump.  That has had no impact on Trump's supporters. Some have cancelled their subscriptions and some have even threatened violence.

Most of Trump's supporters also reject the the conclusions of climate scientists about the relationship between global warming and human behavior.  They make no distinction between the evidence provided by scientists and the claims made by science deniers.  Climate scientists share that distinction with economists and other scientists who make an effort to support their conclusions with facts.  We live in a world where far too many voters have little regard for facts.  They prefer to select facts that support their views and they reject facts which raise questions about their positions.

My final point on this topic is the democratization of information has been harmful to democracy.  Most of our information used to come from sources which made an effort to support any positions that they took with reliable information.  It wasn't perfect but it was much better than in is today when there are so many sources of information that have little regard for reliable facts.  They make up the facts to confirm the biases of their audience.  Propaganda has replaced responsible journalism which they criticize by referring to it as "mainstream media".  Only the propagandists tell the truth.

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