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New York Times journalist addresses the role of economics in the presidential election

| Thursday, October 13, 2016

In national discussions surrounding the 2016 election, Washington correspondent Binyamin Appelbaum said, one issue is conspicuously missing: economics.

“There are a lot of very smart people who want to downplay the role that economics is playing in this election,” Appelbaum, who writes for the New York Times, said Wednesday night in DeBartolo Hall. “They want to say — and there is evidence — that the anger that we are hearing, the discontent, is based on hate, on racism, sexism and xenophobia.

“It’s not an either-or choice … when people are struggling economically, they are more likely to voice these concerns.”

Throughout his address, sponsored by student government, Appelbaum discussed several economic issues which he believed to be key to the 2016 election.

Appelbaum said a “dominant narrative” about trade is that other countries are cheating the United States. 

“The standard story you hear is that this is our problem, and that this can be reversed,” he said. “It is really to easy to tell voters that someone else is screwing us, that if we could just get one over on them, and [if] they could feel the pain that we are feeling … [then] we could feel the prosperity that they are feeling.”

Appelbaum said the United States’ domestic economic output is better than what is commonly perceived. 

“A statistic that surprises many people is that America’s manufacturing output is at the highest in history.” he said. “We are making more stuff in the United States of America than we ever have before.”

Despite this growth in manufacturing, many have been left behind by technological advancement, leading to a decrease in overall employment in these sectors, Appelbaum said.

Appelbaum cited the case of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, a town situated between Philadelphia and New York, as a key example of the effects of the loss of industrial jobs.

“Half the population of Hazleton feels economically disenfranchised, lacks future prospects and is increasingly spinning downward,” he said. “These are the economic problems that we have.” 

Appelbaum said the key to revival in these towns is turning their attention to new, high-tech sectors in order to bring back some degree of economic growth.

Another major problem facing the economy is that the labor movement had failed to recognize the changing nature of the working class, Appelbaum said.

“Our working class is no longer primarily composed of white men,” he said. “It is primarily made up by minority women doing jobs like home health care aid. The union system in our country is still dominated by these white male workers, so it remains their voice primarily.”

Appelbaum argued that all these factors have contributed to economic stagnation among the working class, motivating its anger. He said no matter which candidate wins the election, due to institutional problems, he has little faith that economic conditions will improve.

“We have an institution that you may have heard of called Congress that’s very gridlocked and dysfunctional,” he said. “Whoever wins … very little will change.”

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About Lucas Masin-Moyer

Lucas Masin-Moyer is a senior at Notre Dame majoring in Political Science and American Studies. He serves as Assistant Managing Editor, lived in Morrissey Manor and hails from Telford, Pennsylvania.

Contact Lucas