Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist to Vice President Biden, is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and author of the new book ‘The Reconnection Agenda: Reuniting Growth and Prosperity.’


Nothing you didn’t know if you’ve been paying attention, but it’s worth reading this piece by Ed Porter on how places where many Trump voters live have been those with subpar job growth. Using data on jobs, output, factory work and income, Porter shows that the economy is doing much better in areas where voters supported Clinton than in those where voters favored Trump.

Note this part of Porter’s rap:

The story extends back to the turn of the century — when China was allowed into the World Trade Organization, setting off a wave of investment by multinational corporations hoping to take advantage of cheap Chinese labor.

Goods-producing jobs in manufacturing and construction, which had been roughly flat since 1979, plummeted by more than three million before a building boom fueled by an inflating housing bubble clawed back many of them. When that bubble burst, the construction jobs evaporated, too. And there has been no new job-producing boom to take its place.

This is the right way to frame the trade-deficit problem on which I’ve been focusing of late, in no small part because it’s something Trump claims to want to do something about. As Dean Baker and I recently argued, economists too often dismiss the trade deficit based on the logic that sure, it’s a drag on growth, but other GDP components can offset it.

True, and that’s why we’ve at times simultaneously had low unemployment and large trade deficits. But there are three problems with that simple rap: When investment is weak, the Fed is tapped out and fiscal austerity is upon the land, there are no offsets; the offset has often invoked bubbles, inflated in part by cheap foreign-capital flows associated with the trade imbalance; and even at full employment, there are the compositional (manufacturing) and geographical (Rust Belt) effects that Porter documents.

In passing, Porter makes a point that reminded me of another timely bit of recent work by John Harwood, using some data we at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities provided. Porter wrote: “Some of [Trump’s] proposals — walling off the country with protective tariffs, for example — would make things worse for the middle and working class, while tax cuts for the wealthy will exacerbate inequality rather than lessen it.”

What would happen if Trump actually taxed imports from companies that offshore jobs

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President-elect Donald Trump has taken a hard line on American companies that move jobs to other countries, even using his Twitter feed to blast individual companies and make pronouncements on tariffs for imported goods from these companies. But could he actually levy a tax like the 35 percent tariff he tweeted about? Wonkblog’s Jim Tankersley explains. (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

Harwood had a simple, smart idea that’s a variation on Porter’s. Whereas Porter looked at the mismatch between Trump voters and job growth, Harwood looks at the mismatch between Trump voters and his proposed, highly regressive tax cut. Remember: Trump’s tax cut delivers most of its benefits to the wealthy: millionaires get a $300,000 cut; those in the middle-class get $900.

Placing voting returns alongside President-elect Donald Trump’s tax plan documents a remarkable paradox of 2016.

Trump won the presidency by rallying middle-American working-class whites against coastal elites. But his tax-cut plan directly benefits those coastal elites much more. …

Among the 30 states Trump carried against Hillary Clinton last month, 25 contain below-average numbers of the high-income households whose after-tax incomes are projected to rise most as a result of his plan. By contrast, among the 20 states plus the District of Columbia that Clinton carried, 15 have an above-average share of those most affluent households.

The metric here is the percent of a state’s households in the top or bottom fifth of the national income distribution. For example, 30 percent of Massachusetts households are in the top fifth, using the national income cutoff, compared with 11 percent in West Virginia (here are the data if you too want to play with them).

While we don’t have state distributional tables of the winners from the conservative tax plans that lavish tax breaks on the wealthiest households, this metric gives us a strong sense of where they tend to be overrepresented.

The first figure shows that states with higher-than-average shares of low- and middle income households, who will get least from his tax plan, leaned toward Trump (by the way, the outlier dot in both figures is good, old DC). The second figure shows that states with larger shares of rich people voted in higher percentages for Clinton (don’t conflate the shares with actual numbers of voters; California has a below-average share of low-income households but millions of low-income Clinton voters).


Basically, people in below-average-income states haven’t gotten the jobs, and they’re not likely to get the tax cuts. They’re also, if Trump and the congressional Republicans have their way with the Affordable Care Act, at risk of losing recently acquired health coverage. What happens then, I don’t know, but perhaps they’ll be more open to an agenda that actually meets their interests.