Today’s News & Commentary — July 7, 2016

Ever wonder what goes into making your smartphone?  The Wall Street Journal examined the work of Fairphone, a Dutch company dedicated to transparently producing smartphones using fair-trade minerals and responsible labor practices.  Roughly 40 minerals are involved in the production of a smartphone.  Of these minerals, tin, tungsten, tantalum, and gold are all found in conflict areas.  Last year, a requirement of the Dodd-Frank Act went into effect compelling companies to disclose whether any of their products contain minerals that support militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Forced labor can also play a role in the supply chain.  According to one U.S. backed study, a third of migrant workers in Malaysia’s electronics sector are thought to be forced laborers.

Trade policy continues to be in the news following Donald Trump’s focus on the issue in his campaign.  Jordan Weissmann of Slate wrote that Donald Trump “sort of gets right” one aspect of our economy that “[t]hese days, America’s trade deficit is a job killer.”  While theoretically trade should affect the kind of employment available but not the number of jobs, Weissmann suggested low-interest rates together with the trade deficit have created a drag on employment.  Usually, trading partners buy U.S. Treasury bonds resulting in low-interest rates that American business can take advantage of to invest and create new jobs. The Federal Reserve can also use its authority to slash interest rates to push the labor market toward full employment.  However, with interest rates already so low, the usual means of blunting the effect of the trade deficit have lost their efficacy.

Amid the speculation about white workers support for Donald Trump, Adam Davidson, writing for the New York Times Magazine, went to Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County, PA to ask them about it.  Trump voters tend to be predominately white, older, and less educated than the country as a whole.  Sitting in Dukey’s bar, Davidson talked to voters about their attraction to Donald Trump and their support for Trump’s trade and immigration positions.  Read more here.