Friday, November 11, 2016
Angry and Vulnerable Elect Angrier Strongman
The rust belt joined up with the rural traditionalists in the Bible belt and voted against changes they did not want and could not understand. They bought into promises, most of which cannot be kept, and created an economic plunge that will make those who voted for Brexit seem to have simply made a small “wrong” assumption. Sure the markets will rise and fall as investors look for short term gains, but instability in the markets will be here for longer than any of us care to believe. But most of all, these voters may well have created the beginning of the end for the United States as we know it.
They did not believe that a Wall Street favorite, one proven untrustworthy with her major email security lapses and well paid and support by the financial community, understood their cries. They blamed minorities for crimes, terrorism and job loss and foreigners for robbing them of their economic well-being, their very future. And so many Millennials, unsophisticated and wrapped up in a social media-driven world, stayed away from the polls in droves or threw their votes away on marginal candidates. Those minorities who overcame the many successful attempts to keep them from voting did not come out in numbers sufficient to make a difference.
We’ve had some strange candidates before, Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor come to mind, but the United States was not a world power then with the largest economy on earth, impacting everybody. Electing Donald Trump in modern times, supported with control of both houses of Congress, is a global catastrophe, reflected in the crash of global markets (many hitting the automated “stop loss” floors), the drop in the dollar and the hasty meetings atop countries deeply concerned about this “new” strongman-led America. Let’s look at some, but not all, of his major platforms… and their viability:
Tax Reform: Seizing on a tax code that requires specialist to help file an ordinary return and loopholes that supported income inequality, Trump promised revisions with fewer layers of tax, a steep cut in the rates (96% of which benefits would go to the rich), and the elimination of some loopholes (like allowing fund managers to be taxed as very lower “investor” rates – the “carried interest” rule) and a corporate rate so low that American companies would no longer need to shelter overseas earnings. His notion of lower taxes based on the clearly-disproven “trickle down” economic theory that those at the top who have lower taxes instantly hire lots more people into good jobs without any reference to a business plan or the relevant economic conditions. In short, income inequality gets much worse and the deficit created by tax cuts to the wealthy is a massive addition to the deficit we already have.
Repeal and Replace Obamacare: One of the reasons universal healthcare is part of every developed nation today (except the US) is that each such program was built from a then-current healthcare pricing structure that reflected a less expensive system, mostly from countries damaged from WWII who did not raise prices at the rate we, without such damage, engaged in. The promise a new healthcare system with lower prices, better and seemingly more competitive, would require massive governmental support for most people (read: grow our deficit even more)… or the prices would simply go up and up. Cost containment, putting caps on doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical manufacturers, etc., is the precursor to a less expensive American system, which would require the GOP to fight an industry that is responsible for 20% of our entire economy. To implement a fair and reasonable system will take a lot of time, something Obamacare anticipated but could not move to the next stage because of gridlock, and tearing down a system to install a new one will just add years and years to the process. There is no easy button, no free lunch.
Build a Wall and Throw Immigrants Out and Keep Muslims Away. For this policy, the United States will lose the level of prestige it needs to act as a credible global leader. China will step into this void. Scholars will debate for years how such actions are even possible under our Constitution, which document – except for an horrific misreading of the Second Amendment that encourages even greater gun availability – is otherwise a legal “inconvenience” for Trump’s policies. Think about how much more expensive ordinary low-level services will become as we deport those who perform them now… and replace them with workers at three or four times higher wages. Who pays for that? We all do.
Abrogate Trade Agreements, Financial and Environmental Regulations to Bring Jobs Back to America. Climate change has cost this country hundreds of billions of dollars from damage generated by floods, storms, land-mass loss, fires and droughts, so pulling back on environmental measures may be the most expensive possible decision we can make. It is not a hoax. The financial biggies never disappoint in proving time and again (recently, it was Wells Fargo) that they incapable of the self-regulation that Donald Trump would like to restore. For those in obsolete industries, the removal of regulations won’t make a dent in restoring jobs that don’t fit the United States in the 21st century. Sorry, coal miners, unless the government hires you directly, you are not getting your old jobs back! Oh and killing those trade deals and not expecting retaliation that will either raise consumer prices to untenable levels or create reciprocal trade barriers to us in silly. And as for those manufacturing jobs that we are able to retain or recover, they will go almost exclusively to those rich folks who out the automated equipment that has long-since replaced the underlying labor.
There is so much more. A criminal justice system that applies an entirely different set of policies and standards to poor racial minorities. A public educational system that is no longer globally competitive with soaring and unaffordable tuition for college. A crumbling infrastructure that will cost trillions to repair and upgrade. A military that has not won a major war since WWII with out-of-control expensive weapons now being ordered to defeat ISIS in short order, a whack-a-mole approach that has taken well-over a century to develop with infections everywhere.
Trump may find some opposition from his own party, but they are now quivering in their boots over this populist uprising. And while they know that within the next couple of elections, cultural/racial/gender minorities will overwhelm the electorate, they have been handed decades of control of their voice with the ability to pick young ultra-rights wing Supreme Court justices to sustain gerrymandering, voter suppression and laws that empower rich constituencies.
Will Donald Trump’s inability to effect his promises come back to haunt the GOP by the 2018 mid-terms? Or will it take a few more election cycles? Will younger voters wake up and take responsibility for their voting patterns? Will the United States be placed on a downwards spiral from which there is no recovery? Unifying America? Can this country remain as a single, democratic nation with a peaceful government of the people and by the people… or will we break apart into our polarized components?
I’m Peter Dekom, sitting in a hotel room in southern Mexico and watching the panic all around me, and I think that Lincoln was right in saying, “A house divided cannot stand.”