Analistas 15/11/2016

This is no time to give up: Paul Krugman

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It’s only natural to engage in recriminations, some of which are surely deserved. But while a post-mortem is going to be necessary, lashing out doesn’t seem helpful - or good for the lashers-out themselves. Eventually those of us on the center-left will have to talk about political strategy. For now, however, I want to share some thoughts on how we should deal with this personally.

First of all, it’s always important to remember that elections determine who has the power, not who has the truth. The stunning upset doesn’t mean that the alt-right is correct to view nonwhites as inferior or that voodoo economics works. And you have to hold to the truth as best as you can, even if it suffers political defeat.

That said, does it make sense on a personal level to keep struggling after this kind of blow? Why not give up on trying to save the world, and just look out for yourself and those close to you? Quietism does have its appeal. Admission: I spent a lot of the day after the election listening to music, working out, reading a novel - basically taking a vacation in my head. You can’t help feeling tired and frustrated after this kind of setback.

But eventually you have to go back to standing up for what you believe in. It’s going to be a much harder, longer road than I imagined, and maybe it ends in irreversible defeat, if nothing else from runaway climate change. But I couldn’t live with myself if I just gave up. And I hope others feel the same.

Ending the American Romance

What hits me and other people so hard about the election of Donald Trump as president isn’t just the immense damage that he will surely do, to climate policy above all. There’s also a vast disillusionment that I think of as the end of the romantic vision of America (which I still love).

What I mean is the notion of American history as a sort of novel in which there may be great tragedy, but there’s always a happy ending. That is, we tell a story in which during times of crisis we always find the leader - Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt - and the moral courage we need.

It’s a particular kind of American exceptionalism. Other countries don’t tell that kind of story about themselves. But I, like others, believed it.

Now it doesn’t look very good, does it? But giving up is not an option. The world needs a decent, democratic America, or we’re all lost. And there’s still a lot of decency in the nation - it’s just not as dominant as I imagined. It’s time to rethink, for sure - but not to surrender.

The Economic Fallout

When might we expect the markets to fully recover?

Frankly, I find dit hard to care much, even though this is my specialty. The disaster for America and the world has so many aspects that the economic ramifications are way down my list of things to fear.

Still, I guess people want an answer: If the question is when markets will fully recover, a first-pass answer is: never.

Under any circumstances, putting an irresponsible, ignorant man who takes his advice from all the wrong people in charge of the nation with the world’s most important economy would be very bad news. What makes it especially bad right now, however, is the fundamentally fragile state that much of the world is still in, eight years after the financial crisis.

It’s true that the United States has been adding jobs at a pretty good pace, and the economy is quite close to full employment. But we’ve been doing O.K. thanks only to extremely low interest rates. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but what if something bad happens and the economy needs a boost? The Federal Reserve and its counterparts abroad have very little room for further rate cuts, and therefore they have very little ability to respond to adverse events.

Now comes a Trump presidency, the mother of all adverse events - and what he brings with him is a regime that will be ignorant of economic policies and hostile to any effort to make them work. Effective fiscal support for the Fed? Not a chance. In fact, you can bet that the Fed will lose its independence and be bullied by cranks.

So we are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight. I suppose we could get lucky somehow. But for economics, as for everything else, a terrible thing has just happened.

Our Unknown Country

After this election, what we now know is that people like me, and probably like most readers of The New York Times, truly didn’t understand the country we live in. We thought that our fellow citizens would not, in the end, vote for a candidate so manifestly unqualified for high office, so temperamentally unsound, so scary yet ludicrous.

We thought that the nation, while far from having transcended racial prejudice and misogyny, had become vastly more open and tolerant over time.

We thought that the great majority of Americans valued democratic norms and the rule of law.

We were wrong. There turned out to be a huge number of people - white people, living mainly in rural areas - who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy. And there were many other people who might not share those anti-democratic values, but who nonetheless were willing to vote for anyone bearing the Republican label.

I don’t know how we go forward from here. Is America a failed state and society? It looks truly possible.

I guess we have to pick ourselves up and try to find a way forward, but this has been a night of terrible revelations, and I don’t think it’s self-indulgent to feel quite a lot of despair.

Fear and resentment in America
Most comments are condensed versions of longer texts.

This presidential election has laid bare the weakness of America’s entire concept.

I have so much more in common with someone from Spain or China than I do with half of the people in this country. Pushing the notion of “America” is just another way to manipulate people into wars, xenophobia and racism.

- Dave, Illinois

I feel like America’s 1960s-style liberalism is dead, along with the notion that we are all brothers and sisters.

- Dave, location withheld

It certainly seems brave not to despair, but that would not have been helpful advice for people who lived under the regimes of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania or Augusto Pinochet in Chile.

Believing that the political system will never descend to such depths can have serious consequences, as was the case for many Jews in Germany in the 1930s. President Donald Trump will be given carte blanche to carry out his paranoid, opportunistic, depraved vision, and many people share the guilt for this outcome.

- Terence, Canada

This is a tragedy for our nation. I was a keen supporter of Hillary Clinton since the beginning of her campaign, and I think she would have made an excellent president.

We will now see setbacks on legislation related to climate change, health care, campaign finance, gay rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights and many other domestic issues.

However, we must continue to fight for what we believe in. This is not the end, and we will one day push our country to a better place. I’m not going anywhere.

- Matthew, Washington State

Mr. Trump was elected because American voters resent being patronized and manipulated by the media.

We members of the great unwashed would rather deal with boorish behavior than bow down and accept the coronation of a corrupt woman such as Mrs. Clinton.

- Tom R., Maryland

I highly respect your economic views, Mr. Krugman, but I am disappointed with your characterization of white, rural Americans. You’re saying the same things that we hear in Europe whenever unexpected election results happen.

I would be curious to know how many urban, college-educated people voted for Mr. Trump. The numbers may be higher than you expect.

- Thomas Dallinger, Austria

Mr. Krugman, you write that you thought that your fellow citizens would never vote for a candidate “so manifestly unqualified” and “so scary yet ludicrous.” 

In the end, they didn’t, which is why Mrs. Clinton lost. You also thought that the great majority of Americans valued democratic norms and the rule of law. They do, which is why the Republicans now control the House and Senate.

Eight years of unlawful, unilateral action by President Obama was enough. They didn’t want four more years of Mrs. Clinton doing the same thing.

- Name withheld, Massachusetts

Mr. Krugman, your dark vision of the future will prove to be as incorrect as your understanding of where the American people stood before this election.

Americans will rise under Mr. Trump’s leadership to reverse the malaise that has festered since the late 1990s. The American economy will grow again at rates that will bring prosperity to everyone who is willing to work hard.

- Name withheld, Massachusetts

As is the case with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s continued political success in Turkey and Brexit in Britain, this election demonstrates that the United States is pedaling toward protectionism, nationalism and unilateral policies. Bad days are ahead for free markets and labor.

- Hasan Kaplan, Britain

We lost our way as a nation, and earlier this month we lost our soul.

Mr. Trump’s victory exposed the lie about America being different. We used to say that we were a great people because we managed to take care of each other as a way of taking care of ourselves. I no longer believe that.

- Charley James, Minnesota

I am a longtime fan of yours, Mr. Krugman, and I am shocked by this outcome as well. But I don’t think that spewing gloom is necessary. We have to find a way to squeeze the positive out of this dire situation.

The first thing that Mr. Trump mentioned in his victory speech was a willingness to pursue infrastructure spending, which is a priority for both Democrats and Republicans. I think that everyone, even you, would agree that this is the perfect time for such a venture.

Let’s not lower our swords, but let’s also find common ground to move forward.

- Jack, New York

Shocking victory
Earlier this month, after a long and hostile election cycle, Donald Trump defeated his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and will become the 45th president of the United States. American voters also elected Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, giving Mr. Trump’s party unified control of the government, and a free hand to enact policy.

The result was a profound shock to much of the nation, including its political class and media establishment. On the eve of the vote, most polls had predicted that Mrs. Clinton would have a comfortable lead on Election Day, and news reports suggested that the candidate had already started making arrangements for her transition to power. However, Mrs. Clinton underperformed in several of the nation’s former industrial states, which wield a disproportionate influence on the nation’s Electoral College system.

In the American system, the president is not directly elected by popular vote, but instead by a small number of electors who are bound to support the winner of their state. According to the latest nationwide tally, Mrs. Clinton actually received more votes than Mr. Trump. However, since many of her supporters were concentrated in coastal states that are already highly Democratic, her large margins of victory in these areas were superfluous.

Instead, the presidential campaign revolves around a small number of states with roughly equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats. Several of these states (including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin) are located along America’s Rust Belt - a once-prosperous manufacturing base that has been hit hard by globalization. In these states, Mr. Trump was propelled by a huge turnout, allowing him to pull off stunning upsets in former Democratic strongholds.

Mr. Trump’s victory carries enormous implications for the direction of the country. In his campaign, Mr. Trump pledged to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, repeal President Obama’s major expansion of health insurance and “cancel” the Paris climate accords.

Mr. Trump will also be able to appoint a judge to the nation’s Supreme Court - filling a vacancy that was to be filled by Mr. Obama, but which was blocked by Republicans. A newly secured conservative majority on the high court would likely continue to allow the unchecked flow of money into the nation’s political system, as well as the implementation of abortion restrictions across much of the country.

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