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  • Victor Bolles

Okay. Now let's Negotiate.

Okay. So now Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential candidate. Where do we go from here?

Mr. Trump has made a number of outlandish policy statements during his campaign that he is refusing to back off from. Meanwhile, many Republican elected officials have declined to back him, as they fear how the public backlash might affect their own election. Both groups need each other in order to have any hope of winning the general election and any success in governing once elected.

The main segments of Mr. Trump’s platform are: build a wall to stop illegal immigration and make Mexico pay for it; slap tariffs of 45% on Mexico and China, force companies to reshore their offshore manufacturing facilities and deport eleven million illegal immigrants currently in the US.

All of these policy pronouncements are flawed, some fatally so. Mr. Trump plans to fund the wall on the border by confiscating (stealing?) the remittances that people in the United States send to their relatives in Mexico. The Pew Research Center states that there are 33.7 million people in the US with Mexican heritage (2012) of which about six million are here illegally. American citizens and legal residents of Mexican heritage have the right to send money to their relatives in Mexico if they so desire. A confiscation of these remittances would be an unprecedented use of the coercive power of the state and would be a violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

Mr. Trump’s proposal to slap huge tariffs on goods from Mexico and China would be a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the case of Mexico and of the World Trade Organization of which the US, Mexico and China are members. NAFTA is an agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico that has been ratified by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Clinton. As president, Mr. Trump must faithfully execute the law and NAFTA is the law. I would think that a willful violation of NAFTA would be an impeachable offense. Violating the WTO agreement may not reach the same level but seeing as how 123 nations around the world are members, the US’ willful abnegation of the agreement would disrupt trade worldwide (the US does have several pending cases against Chinese dumping in the WTO).

It goes on and on. Deporting eleven million people would be a costly logistical nightmare and a human tragedy. Furthermore. Most of those illegal immigrants have jobs in the US. Does deporting them automatically mean that Americans will step forward and take those jobs? Think again. These are the nastiest, poorest paying jobs in America: migrant farm labor, lawn maintenance, food server, hotel maids…..

And forcing American companies to reshore manufacturing jobs is a fool’s errand even if a way could be found to actually do it without violating the rights of millions of Americans. The heyday of good blue collar manufacturing jobs has gone the way of the family farm. In 1790 90% of the US population was engaged in agriculture according to the Story of American Agriculture. By 1850 this number was 64%. By 1890 only 43% of the population was engaged in agriculture. In 1990 the number was 2.6%. We may have lost farming jobs but we don’t have millions of unemployed farmers wandering our streets. They found other jobs.

Steel production per worker in the United States went from 260 tons per worker in 1960 to 1100 tons per worker in 2000 according to a study by Allan Collard-Wexler and Jan De Loecker. Manufacturing is goings through the same process as farming.. Forcing manufacturing back to the US won’t create good blue-collar jobs but only jobs for computer programmers and IT specialists (of which we have a shortage and need to bring in foreign labor on H1B visas).

So why all the hoopla? In order to achieve their policy goals, presidents have to reach an accommodation with the other players involved, primarily the US Congress. I believe that Mr. Trump is staking out his negotiating positions as if he were dealing with a rug dealer in the Souk. The rug dealer starts off with 10,000 denarii and you respond 500. After much haggling (and cups of coffee) the players reach a deal that they can both live with. Mr. Trump knows (or should) that he cannot implement his proposals unilaterally without violating law and the Constitution. He needs new legislation to change existing law such as NAFTA. He needs appropriations for the money to fund deportations. I don’t think a Republican Congress would go along with his original proposals especially since these policy proposals will make reelection very difficult for many Republican officials. So he would have to moderate them to make them acceptable to the legislators (of course, a Democratic Congress might go along with some of his trade proposals but nothing else).

I may just be deluding myself. Am I giving Mr. Trump too much credit by thinking that these unreasonable (and unprincipled) policies are nothing but the opening gambits of a lengthy negotiation? I have been involved in many high-stakes negotiations and I know that we always included several points that we knew that we could sacrifice if we had to. A big part of the negotiation was knowing which points the other side could give up on and which ones were essential to them. Are these proposals the easy giveaways? Mr. Trump, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, said that he knew that his tax proposals would be changed before it could be approved.

This, however, is an even scarier scenario than the one presented by his current campaign. Is all anger and violence being generated merely a ploy. What will become of his supporters once they realize they have been duped? What would the administration of such a cynical manipulator be like?

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