How the Trump era can damage the USA

This is a series of quick takes on the ways in which I think a Trump presidency has the ability to negatively impact the USA in terms of how it changes the openness of the USA to it’s citizens and immigrants.
I am leaving out other possible impacts such as Trump deciding to start World War III. If that happens, most of what is listed below won’t matter.

1. Balkanization within the USA
If the new administration pushes decisions on issues like lesbian and gay protections back to the states, as it is threatening to do, the states will have to live with the consequences of whatever changes are made at state level.
Based on recent history, states that repeal protected class extensions can expect pushback from large businesses, who are fundamentally egalitarian most of the time on hiring. The fate of Gov. Pat McCrory, who may have lost his job in North Carolina, is a cautionary tale.
However, if some states decide to enact discrimination in law, I expect that many creative and technical class people will simply move to other states that still have protections. For example, if Texas decides to implement punitive legislation against minorities or others based on sexual orientation, you can kiss goodbye to the Austin-San Antonio tech corridor, and to a lot of IT business work in Dallas. Corporations and people will vote with their feet.
It is likely that inland enclaves will empty out as people move towards the coasts. This will further exacerbate the existing divisions in the USA. It will also have a severe impact on a number of cities. Creative and knowledge workers raise property values and create tax revenues.

2. Cessation of skilled immigration
If the Trump administration stuffs its committees with fringe scientists and anti-science dogmatists, and enacts legislative changes to override environmental protections, it is likely that scientific researchers and top flight scientists will not be interested in living and working in the USA. As a rule, scientists know how their work can be abused and undermined by unfriendly governments, and historically they have been mobile, willing to work where their work is properly funded and respected.
Remember that the Manhattan Project in World War II became possible in large part by the presence of numerous leading atomic scientists and physicists, who settled in the USA due to persecution in Europe.

3. Expulsion of non-resident visa holders
The H1-B visa program and similar non-permanent resident visa programs could be abolished or scaled back. That could result in a lot of people leaving the USA.
I regard this as unlikely, for two reasons:

– big business likes these sorts of immigrants. Because they are beholden to their employers for residence, they have limited leverage (I know, I was one of them once). If they are not available, businesses will have to employ US citizens who do have job options and mobility, which will drive up salaries for technical and other skilled resources
– many of the US visa programs are part of bilateral agreements between the USA and other countries. If the USA starts unilaterally modifying visa rules, other countries can cancel the bilateral agreements, forcing US workers and visitors to other countries to obtain visas. Once again, business leaders will not like this.

4. Mass deportations
I regard this as a less likely scenario. In order to deport people from a country, you have to have an agreed destination for them. If the Trump administration decides that it wants to deport 3 million illegals, it will have to get other countries to agree to accept them. This is just not going to happen. In order to get countries to agree to those kinds of actions, the USA would have to more or less threaten to nuke them. Of course, with a narcissist in the Oval Office, this might just happen…

5. Flight of non-citizens
A more likely scenario is that many people pre-emptively decide to leave the USA. This will, once again, result in an increase in US wages and salaries in the industry areas most affected. It may also be very disruptive to some key sectors such as farming, food services and yard care. Those restaurants that people like to visit in cities are often staffed by temporary immigrant labor.
Alternatively, if they can do so, corporations will simply send the work to wherever the non-citizens move to. More IT work may disappear overseas, and not be retained in the USA.

6. Flight of citizens and renunciation of citizenship
If the civil climate deteriorates in the USA, many creative class and knowledge class workers, mainly younger people or older experts with options, will leave the USA. There are other English speaking countries that they can move to, many of which will be a lot more lifestyle tolerant.
They may also decide to renounce their citizenship. This trend has already started. The article makes it clear that there is currently mostly happening for high net worth individuals who do not wish to have the IRS asserting jurisdiction over all of their assets worldwide, particularly if those assets were accumulated outside of the United States. However, this small trickle could increase dramatically if people determine that they are no longer safe or welcome in the USA. Unless protectionism shuts down migration (and if that happens we will be in the middle of a far bigger crisis), the option to leave will always exist for the skilled and mobile.

Most of the outcomes listed above will negatively impact the USA. Whether they will improve the position of poorer and less educated Americans is debatable. If prices rise overall due to the inflationary impact of wage and salary increases, then many poorer people may well still end up worse off. At the end of the day, the Law Of Unintended Consequences will almost certainly come into play, and any poorly considered policy changes will backfire and probably cause more problems than they solve.


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