United States Senator Ben Sasse on Thursday said the Republican Party is missing the mark in its economic analysis, putting too much emphasis on immigration and free trade, and not enough on rapidly evolving atomization technologies that threaten the very idea of work.
In his economic critique, Mr. Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, did not mention presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, whose platform is pillared by skepticism of free trade and the deleterious economic effects of illegal immigration.
In fact, during his 30-minute remarks at the Family Research Council’s Watchmen on the Wall convention at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, the outspoken critic of Mr. Trump explicitly said he had “zero to say about the presidential race today.”
But Mr. Sasse did comment on two policies implicitly associated with Mr. Trump, calling the idea that the disruptive economic climate is chiefly due to immigration and free trade “simply not true.”
“There’s a lot we should talk about about why certain immigration policies are bad and should be fixed,” Mr. Sasse said. “There’s a lot to talk about about trade – and I admit, too, that I am self-consciously a zealous free-trader – but there’s a lot about free trade that I still think we should talk about in a more ordered way.”
The biggest problem, he continued, is “the atomization and the elimination of tasks that can be done repetitively,” which he said threatens to disrupt work “unlike anything in recorded human history.”
Charting a course through economic history, Mr. Sasse said humanity has entered a fourth type of economy – following hunter-gatherer, agrarian and industrial models – to which there is not yet a name.
He said both political parties face a “crisis of vision” for dealing with the economic moment, terming the Democratic Party’s agenda “Make America Europe Again,” and the Republican Party’s “Make America 1950 Again” – both ribs on Mr. Trump’s slogan to “Make America Great Again.”
“The Republican Party is trying to Make America 1950 Again, and there is no economic path by which America is going to become 1950 again,” Mr. Sasse said.
He added that Democrats believe they’re “three magical tweaks” from making Great Society “entitlement programs the solution to all the disruption our people are feeling in their local communities.”
“Making America Europe Again is a really shoddy product,” he said.
The senator called on both political parties to put aside partisanship in order to craft a vision which adequately captures the pressures and strains being put on the American economy by labor-replacing technologies.
“The future of work is going to be disrupted unlike anything in recorded human history, and we’re trying way too hard at the national level to make this a political fight between two political opponents that both have a crisis of vision,” he said.