It’s Too Late to Compensate Free Trade’s Losers

Dani Rodrik: “Today’s consensus concerning the need to compensate globalization’s losers presumes that the winners are motivated by enlightened self-interest – that they believe buy-in from the losers is essential to maintain economic openness. Trump’s presidency has revealed an alternative perspective: globalization, at least as currently construed, tilts the balance of political power toward those with the skills and assets to benefit from openness, undermining whatever organized influence the losers might have had in the first place. Inchoate discontent about globalization, Trump has shown, can easily be channeled to serve an altogether different agenda, more in line with elites’ interests.”

“The time for compensation has come and gone. Even if compensation was a viable approach two decades ago, it no longer serves as a practical response to globalization’s adverse effects. To bring the losers along, we will need to consider changing the rules of globalization itself.”

The Handbook That Can Help Americans Rig the Government

“In this season of civic ferment, one of the most remarkable phenomena has been the success of the ‘Indivisible’ guide. Crafted by four current and former Democratic congressional staffers after the election, this 26-page manual uses inside knowledge of Congress to teach everyday Americans how to resist the Trump agenda,” Eric Liu reports for Politico.

“Drawing unabashedly on the successful Tea Party strategies of 2009–2010, ‘Indivisible’ methodically describes how citizens can pressure our representatives and their staffs both in open arenas and behind closed doors. (At congressional town halls, ‘sit by yourself or in groups of two, and spread out throughout the room’ goes one bit of advice. ‘This will help reinforce the impression of broad consensus.’) It is a step-by-step guide to making a member of Congress cave.”

“On one level, ‘Indivisible’ is a massive success story of citizen power. But on another level, it’s a tantalizing template for how knowledgeable midlevel staffers can upend the status quo and empower citizens who have been left in the dark.”

How Left and Right Media Models Perpetuate Partisan Politics

Mark Jamison: “…how the media conducts its business in this country should also be partly blamed for the political rift. I don’t mean that we should blame CNN or MSNBC for being too liberal, or blame FOX News for being too conservative. The problem isn’t that journalists have opinions, but rather that the standard media business models – daily news for traditional media and talk radio like Rush Limbaugh’s and Sean Hannity’s programs – drive some media to the left and others to the right, leading large segments of their respective audiences to become caught in media bubbles.”

“Why do traditional media lean left? As historian John Summerville points out in his book ‘How the News Makes Us Dumb,’ the daily news business model relies on convincing viewers and readers that they have to consume news every day; that the news is urgent, that today’s news is bigger and scarier than yesterday’s news and that people who don’t watch or read today will suffer as a result. Stories are often couched in terms of groups – mostly race, gender and sexual preference – which accentuates the drama. A media mindset that focuses on urgent problems often concludes that someone in authority, namely the government, should fix them… Why don’t these same economic forces press talk radio to the left? Talk radio by its nature puts greater emphasis on the individual, which aligns with the conservative mindset.”

AI and the Robot Uprising: With So Many Jobs at Risk, Why Isn’t the World More Prepared?

Steve LeVine: “…the world has looked at the potential for a robot onslaught, and decided not to resist. In interviews, American technologists and a long list of historians, ethicists, and philosophers focused on science and technology told me in a seemingly unified voice that they had yet to come across a serious proposal for an outright ban on job-stealing robots, and that if they had, they would have thought it a bad idea, undoable, or outright absurd. A prohibition on robots ‘will impoverish everyone,’ said MIT’s Andrew McAfee, co-author of The Second Industrial Revolution.”

“But wait. In much of the world, we negotiate climate and nuclear arms deals; we regulate the spread of disease and firearms; we take diplomatic or even military action against dictators; and build defenses against cyber attacks by rogue nations. In all these cases, we are seeking a rational de-escalation of a perceived existential threat. Do the robots and their makers—in Silicon Valley, Japan, and China—place our way of life in less jeopardy? And if they are as dangerous, are they truly unstoppable, akin to a force of nature? Given the political havoc already wreaked in part by working-class discontent, can we do nothing to stop or even slow what seems a mechanized approximation of an army of marching Huns?”

Why the First 100 Days Concept Is Bogus

Jeff Greenfield: “The Trump White House is treating April 29 as if an asteroid were headed straight to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Why? Because it marks the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency. And, according to one White House official, ‘One hundred days is the marker, and we’ve got essentially 2½ weeks to turn everything around.'”

“Well, maybe you can’t blame the White House for panicking; what they really are responding to is the massive media exercise in premature evaluation that has become as inevitable as it is asinine. Take two steps back from the ritual, and it’s clear that making any solid judgment about a new president based on the first 14 weeks is like … well, you choose the metaphor; predicting a basketball game’s outcome three minutes in? Calling a presidential election 18 months out?”

America’s Dangerous Amnesia About World Order

Francis Gavin: “Americans regularly make three curious – and contestable – claims about peace, world order and their country’s role in achieving both. First, they often assume that they are a peace-loving people, and that our republic has been a force to promote amity and stability in the world. Second, they assume that peace is an unalloyed good, both a tool and product of progress, providing incontrovertible benefits; war and conflict, meanwhile, have brought nothing but misery and disaster. Third, they see peace and order as the natural state of the world, and view any actor or force that disturbs this harmony as both anomalous and deviant, to be identified, isolated and eliminated.”

“An honest portrayal of our own history, and that of world politics over the past few centuries, casts doubt on all three assumptions.”

3 Big Ways Trump Is Starting to Sound Like Obama on the Economy

On the Export-Import Bank, China policy, and attitude toward Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, “President Trump’s economic policy appears to be moving closer to former president Barack Obama’s,” Max Ehrenfreund writes for The Washington Post.

“In an interview Wednesday with the Wall Street Journal, Trump reversed his stance on three economic issues, moving closer to the policies of his predecessor.”

“Trump has continually changed his policies since launching his presidential campaign in 2015, and whether his latest statements represent a shift or a one-off set of comments remains to be seen. But if Trump follows through on his latest promises, he’ll have adopted a large segment of Obama’s economic platform.”

The Air Force Turned an F-16 Fighter Into a Drone

Popular Mechanics: “The U.S. Air Force turned an F-16 fighter into an autonomous combat drone capable of flying combat missions on its own and then returning to fly alongside a manned aircraft. The program, known as ‘Have Raider II,’ could lead to older U.S. fighters acting as semi-disposable wingmen for more modern planes, conducting missions too dangerous for manned aircraft to carry out.”

“The program is broadly part of the Pentagon’s Third Offset Strategy, which plans to use existing equipment in new ways to maintain a technological and numerical edge over countries such as China and Russia. The U.S. Air Force will shed more than a thousand F-16s as the F-35A enters service. While older, the F-16s have the advantage of being cheaper to fly and semi-disposable.”

Are Living Standards Truly Stagnant?

“It may turn out that the widespread belief that most Americans’ incomes have stagnated for years is, well, false or at least overstated,” Robert Samuelson argues for The Washington Post.

“In a provocative new study, economist Bruce Sacerdote of Dartmouth College reviewed the material well-being of the poorest 50 percent and 25 percent of Americans. What he concluded was that even these families had achieved a ‘meaningful growth in consumption . . . [despite] a prolonged period of increasing income inequality . . . and a decreasing share of national income accruing to labor.'”

“If true, the result is not a pervasive stagnation of living standards — or even declines — but what Sacerdote calls a ‘slow and steady’ advance that, to varying degrees, has permeated the income spectrum. Of course, that conclusion is likely to be challenged, because it rests heavily on controversial technical issues in estimating inflation. In addition, many political leaders and economic commentators, of both parties, have a vested interest in criticizing government economic policy.”