Monday, April 16, 2018
Ryan made his decision to leave for all the obvious reasons. His position as Speaker was imperiled by the widely anticipated "blue wave," and there was no guarantee that even his seat in the House was safe. It was a lot easier being Speaker under Obama, when all he had to do was lead a chorus of Republicans chanting "no." Most important, though, he must despise having to defer to the whims of a buffoon like Tr*mp.
Quite possibly, he does want to spend more time with his teenage children, who are just the right age to start reading Ayn Rand novels. He'll also have opportunities to start making some serious money on the lecture circuit and as the leader of some Koch-funded superPAC. I don't expect him to become a lobbyist, but doors certainly will be open.
What Ryan seems to enjoy most of all is playing the role of "smartest person in the room," so we can expect to see his teddy bear ears flapping regularly on cable news. In the meanwhile, he remains Speaker; and it will be interesting to see if his lame-duck status frees him up to be just a little bit more critical of the Administration. Personally, I don't believe his "courage" is up to the task.
Sunday, April 8, 2018
To avoid US tariffs on automobiles produced in Mexico, manufacturers there would be obliged to pay their assembly line workers $15 an hour. That is twice the US federal minimum wage, and considerably more than starting salaries at non-union assembly lines in the southern United States. The $15 figure is just an opening gambit, of course: nobody really wants to see underpaid Alabamians sneaking across the border for better-paying jobs in Mexico. Nevertheless, demanding better pay for foreign workers could be a more intelligent approach to both balance-of-trade and unauthorized immigration concerns.
Labor standards have been a part of trade negotiations for many decades, but usually receive short shrift when agreements are finalized, and seldom are enforced. Negotiated by and for multinational corporations, they rarely go beyond banning slave or convict labor — not an especially high bar. (The TPP would have included somewhat higher standards, had it been ratified, but that ship has sailed.)
Globalization has lifted tens of millions out of abject poverty in the developing world — at least in countries like China, where not all the newly generated wealth was co-opted by plutocrats. If the Tr*mp administration advances a new paradigm that benefits the working poor around the world, it will be ironic — but also very welcome.