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Birth of a Hashtag

I recently started using the hashtag #youwonbutyoudidntgetanything for specific kinds of Facebook posts that highlight policy areas that will be challenging for the new administration to turn into a benefit for its most ardent supporters in the Rust Belt region and rural areas of the country. Of all the campaign promises that appear to have captured that specific sub-set of Republican voters, it is the promise to bring a lot of high-paying manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Time and again, supporters say that the new President must deliver on his promise, or they will not vote him in for a second term.

It truly would be wonderful if those workers left behind by the high-tech economy and globalization could be given a fair shot at jobs that deliver on the promise to lift them up while simultaneously preparing them for the jobs of the future (and by future, I mean now). Unfortunately, banking on scuttling NAFTA and TPP multilateral trade deals in favor of bilateral negotiations with countries will almost certainly lead to the following end results: 1) A relatively few jobs that pay significantly lower wages than those paid out 5-20 years ago for the same work; 2) An acceleration of the implementation of automation in factories that do end up back in the U.S.; 3) An acceleration of 3D printing implementation (a.k.a., additive manufacturing) by entrepreneurs, which has the potential to replace some traditional manufacturing methods; 4) A workforce that is encouraged to embrace the past (e.g., fossil fuel production) instead of mastering the skills and acquiring the knowledge necessary to catapult the U.S. to the next level; and 5) Higher prices for food and goods that will burden the middle-class and the poor on account of taxes, tariffs, and the increased cost of materials, etc., that go along with trade wars.

And while the U.S. is busy trying to wall itself off from globalization with restrictive immigration and trade policies, the rest of the world will continue to innovate in science and technology with diminished participation and influence from the U.S. After the U.S. election, China’s president was on a 40-country tour of Latin America discussing trade deals. Personally, I wonder how long it will take for China to ink trade deals with Mexico or Canada that will disadvantage the U.S. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, but I do wonder how disrespect shown to countries who have been our allies is going to work in our favor when it comes time to renegotiate any kind of trade deal.

The diminished participation on the part of the U.S. as a true force for global trade will set our country on a downward spiral—other countries will be cooperating to develop the new technologies that will drive their economies to new heights. And yes—some of the technologies developed external to the U.S. will undoubtedly find their way into weapons systems. If those technologies are developed by our enemies, we will be behind the curve in terms of being able to develop countermeasures. Scientific discoveries tend to be made within a global environment where information is often openly shared—at least in pre-competitive research consortia activities. The disrespect shown by the new administration for scientists engaged in renewable energy and climate change studies, as well as immigrant scientists and researchers, has resulted in France issuing an invitation to those who feel abandoned to come to France to do their research. I’m sure other countries will also roll out the welcome mat and the brain drain will further weaken our competitiveness.

And while I’m on the topic of renewable energy technologies, even if one doesn’t believe in climate change, alternative energy sources are being used by our military to mitigate the inherent costs and logistic risks associated with using fossil fuels at forward operating bases. Innovation that serves military applications can be directly applied to civilian uses. In particular, I am interested in how such technologies can be deployed among the civilian population to help cope with natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, cyber terror attacks on infrastructure, etc.) when the traditional grid is not available.

I could go on, but let’s get back to the hashtag. When I was a kid, sometimes I would act like a smarty pants (hard to believe!)—basically arguing with my father about some trifle that I thought was so important, and thinking I was right. Now whether I was right or wrong in my arguments was beside the point when it came to my dad. I knew I had pushed the wrong button when he’d utter the words, “You won, but you didn’t get anything.” Flash forward to the situation as I see it with respect to the new administration. I fully realize that supporters of the new President believe that better days are on the horizon. For all the reasons I cited above, and more, all I can think is, you won, but you didn’t get anything. And neither will the rest of us.

And now comes the call to action. Please consider posting a news item at least several times a week using this hashtag. You can check out my use of the hashtag on Facebook (just do a search for #youwonbutyoudidntgetanything and you’ll find my posts). Each of the posts is a news article discussing how some campaign promise or policy decision by the new administration will more than likely lead to an unintended outcome—one not desired by grass-roots supporters of the administration. For example, there is an article about trade policy that could cause problems for U.S. cotton farmers. Another article focuses on how the proposed immigration ban – if implemented – will imperil doctor/patient relationships. I have kept the postings very simple—no preaching, just the hashtag, which says it all.

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