Sunday, October 2, 2016

White Protestant Traditionalists vs The Majority

There’s a reason why support for Donald Trump is often inversely proportionate to a voter’s highest level of education. The less-educated, less-skilled a worker is (in terms of the contemporary job market), the less likely they are to hold or find jobs that have meaningful levels of pay… if they can find work at all. Pretty obvious. They want a candidate who will get them their old jobs back, let them keep jobs in industries that are no longer competitive or find them comparable-pay work. Right. Uh huh. Not so easy… especially when you look at the consequences for everyone else.
As the above chart, based on U.S. Census data (in Wikipedia), suggests, American educational standards are rendering the uneducated less relevant. We’re already at an 85% high school graduation rate (expected to be 90% by 2020). For practical purposes, job-seekers have to have “more-than-just-high-school” to compete for the better-paying jobs. So for those watching the world pass them by, requiring increasing skills for meaningful pay, life is just plain scary. They want to turn the clock back and “make America great again”… for them.
If we were to raise the levels of protectionism to keep products made by “cheap” semi-and unskilled workers from overseas with tariffs, the price of everyday products – from electronics and appliances to simple utensils, clothing and other durables – would skyrocket. The vast majority of Americans would have to pay a lot more for common items, resulting in a measurable reduction of their remaining disposable income. And then there’s getting south-of-border immigrants back on the other side of a very expensive wall. That would also increase costs for all of us if we really remove all those agricultural (from stoop labor to slaughterhouse) and construction workers from the United States, jobs Americans just won’t take at any reasonable level of pay. It’s a de facto tax on our disposable income.
All this to keep employment of a relatively small coterie of pretty lowly-paid American workers with marginal jobs, with lots of jobs U.S. citizens will never do anyway? And as for manufacturing jobs, we are assuming that these goods would be made by people here, but if recent events are any measure, when that level of manufacturing returns to the United States, it ordinarily goes into an automated/robotic factory, where those making the money are those who own the machines (the 1%) and not to rehire that bottom-end work force.
If we were to raise the price on natural gas and solar/wind energy, again by adding taxes, we might just reopen the many coal mines that have gone bankrupt because their product is uncompetitively expensive and mercilessly polluting. Mine workers might buy a couple of additional years in what has become the “horse and buggy” of the energy industry – obsolete by modern standards – but the rest of us would wind up paying higher energy costs and, at least in cities, breathing increasingly intolerable air. That’s without even considering the growing impact on that “Chinese conspiracy,” that “hoax” (Trump’s actual words) we refer to as “global climate change.”
There is no way to bring back old world jobs without forcing those products and services on the American public and without economic distortions that effectively tax the many to benefit the few. We’ve been doing that in spades in supporting the wealthiest class with regulatory and tax loopholes, resulting in the worst economic polarization in our nation’s history. But tax reform would, under our constitution, have to begin in the House of Representatives… but that body is squarely controlled by the GOP. Close big business loopholes? Yeah, right.
Gallop tells us that 31% of Americans are affiliated with the Democratic Party, 27% as Republicans and 38% call themselves independents. As the lowest rung in this demographic mix, the GOP has focused its message by embracing Evangelical values, pushing back against educated elites, selling questionable “trickle-down” tax and regulatory policies (really continuing special treatment for their traditional business supporters) and embracing disenfranchised under-educated white workers and white “we were here first” traditionalists. Funny how today, so many traditional GOP business adherents don’t believe these policies will work either.
To accomplish these goals in a world where those under-educated white traditionalists – particularly males – are now a distinct minority, the GOP has to adopt policies that give such voters disproportionate voting power and to minimize the voting power of those who are likely to oppose the Republican platform. Currently, through gerrymandering, rolling attempts to forge restrictive voter ID laws (most quickly rejected by the courts) and inconvenient voting venues located only in white communities, the GOP has managed to make one “rural values” vote have the same impact as 1.8 “urban” votes. But there is a tsunami of demographic change that will really become apparent in the 2020 Census, one that is definitely drifting strongly towards that non-white, non-traditional constituency. Thus getting as many of those former “minorities” away from the ballot box is mission critical for those Trump-values voters.
The latest battleground is over letting convicted felons who have served their sentences vote at all. Now except for Bernie Madoff and his ilk, you know that the likelihood of a felon voting Republican is nil. So while it looks “law and order” consistent to insist that convicted wrong doers must face a permanent loss of voting rights as part of their punishment, that concept really goes against the notion of rehabilitation and having “paid your debt to society.” Needless to say, these “keep felons from voting” laws are pretty much exclusive to states solidly under GOP control… like Alabama.
“Constance Todd, 70 years old and a diligent voter in elections local and national, did not know what to make of the letter she got from the local registrar this month… ‘You have been convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude,’ it read, apparently referring to a conviction for a series of bad checks from 20 years ago, ‘which disqualifies you from voting under Amendment 579 of the Constitution of Alabama.’
“A puzzled Ms. Todd gathered the official documents she keeps on hand, including the photo ID she had been required to obtain for voting in Alabama, and called her son, Timothy Lanier. He knew exactly what this was about. He knew, from a similar letter he had received himself. He also knew from his long days at the prison library learning about state laws by poring over the State Constitution.
“And, as it just so happened, Mr. Lanier is one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed on [September 26th] in federal court in Alabama, claiming that the state law stripping the vote from any person ‘convicted of a felony involving moral turpitude’ — a law that has left more than 250,000 adults in the state ineligible to vote — is racially discriminatory, indefensibly vague and flagrantly unconstitutional.
“Such a law, the suit alleges, is racist in its origins and is biased in its effect, disenfranchising roughly 15 percent of Alabama’s black voting age population, compared with fewer than 5 percent of whites. The suit argues that bias lies in the crimes generally chosen as involving moral turpitude — there are multiple interpretations of the crimes in that category — and in the requirement that fines and restitution be paid before the right to vote can be granted again, a condition that falls harder on the poor.
“As the country’s incarceration rate grew over the past three decades, according to the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based nonprofit group, laws like the one in Alabama left nearly six million people ineligible to vote by 2010. But over the past 15 years, said Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, there has been a broad and largely successful movement against these laws.” New York Times, September 26th. Those traditional white rural voters cannot, in their minds, afford to let these minority voters get in the way of their candidate’s effective pledge to turn back time… to go back to the law and order days, where under-educated white traditionalists could make real money and when people of color knew their place. The rural traditionalist view of making America great again.
If you watched the September 26th Trump-Clinton debate, it’s no secret that Mr. Trump’s platform is heavily based on his announced opposition to most of our nation’s trade agreements. It’s his out-and-out “belief” that if there were no or very limited environmental regulations (he’s all for dismantling regulations, he states), the coal industry would suddenly reverse a negative hiring trend that reaches back to the 1920s. Trump is deeply focused on that seemingly abandoned under-educated white traditional constituency. He is promising to restore a world that has long-since passed, never to return. His expertise at placing blame creates statements that make these treaties rather consistently, “the worst trade agreement in the history of trade agreements…” His constituency smiles.
Mr. Trump believes that we have so much economic and political power that, despite the fact that a trade agreement requires at least two parties to negotiate it – and one party almost never gets to dictate terms – he will force global powers like China, the European Union and all of the rest of the Western Hemisphere to do what he wants… “believe me…” Having dealt with global transactions for most of my life, having faced really powerful governmental forces with clear requirements, I listen to Mr. Trump knowing one party cannot force the other side of negotiation to do what he wants.
Drop the treaty, impose tariffs and watch those “other countries” retaliate. And that retaliation, a virtual certainly if we unilaterally walk from existing treat commitments and insist on one-sided new treaties, has most American CEOs of companies that do business around the world quivering in fear and embracing Hillary Clinton in record numbers.
But the Donald’s constituents believe him, and if they can just diminish the voting power of that majority of non-white non-traditionalists, they can make sure that Donald gets the chance to try… “believe me…” Putin is smiling too. Nations angry at one-sided American efforts, Putin also believes, will flock into his arms and perhaps into the arms of China’s Xi Jinping. Anything that dilutes American influence… well, Donald’s bromance partner truly enjoys that vision.
I’m Peter Dekom, and it is very strange to watch a businessman believe that he can badger entire countries to do his bidding… when logic tells you that will never, never, never happen.

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