I’m not someone who harkens back to the past, so I simply don’t get the longing on the part of Trump and his voters to go back to the 1950’s. By taking a wrecking ball to President Obama’s climate change initiatives, Trump promises the coal miners that they are going back to work and the country is going back to the economic dominance it had in the post-World War II era. Not likely. I don’t think even the coal miners believe their industry is coming back, although they stood behind Trump’s desk and cheered as he signed the executive order.
Tom Friedman, writing for the New York Times, has a succinct take on what Trump’s executive actions are doing: clearing the way for China to dominate in clean energy jobs.
“That means that clean power, clean water, clean air, clean transportation and energy-efficient buildings will have to be the next great global industry, whether or not there is climate change. The demand will be huge.
So what is China doing? Its new five-year plan is a rush to electric cars, batteries, nuclear, wind, solar and energy efficiency — and a cap-and-trade system for carbon. Trump’s plan? More coal and oil. Hello? How can America be great if we don’t dominate the next great global industry — clean power?
The U.S. state leading in clean energy innovations is California, which also has the highest vehicle emissions standards and the strictest building efficiency codes. Result: California alone has far more advanced energy jobs than there are coal miners in America, and the pay is better and the work is healthier. In January 2016, CNNMoney reported that nationally the U.S. “solar industry work force is bigger than that of oil and gas construction, and nearly three times the size of the entire coal mining work force.”
Trump apparently has some deeply held convictions about the economy, most of which are wrong. He’s good at selling things to voters, like the return of coal country jobs, no matter how unmoored from reality such a scenario might be.
China has a planned economy and a more authoritarian system of governance, so it doesn’t much matter if the average Chinese citizen understands how the world works. Their leaders do. Democracy, as we are now seeing, is especially vulnerable to the volatile mix of a great showman and gullible, uninformed voters.
How does the path down which Trump is taking us end well?