Look at trends in income distribution in the US. Headlines have screamed about stagnation in wages for the labor segment of the population. Meanwhile, those on the capital side of the equation have made out like bandits, as measured by the share of national income and national wealth earned and owned by the top 10% and 1% and 0.1% of the nation. Those measures have grown exponentially over the past generation. And I am speaking as one of the recipients of this change in income distribution.
It has taken decades for these changes to have entered into the consciousness of the American public, but it does seem as if now, there is a general awareness of how screwed up things have become. Since we live in a society with beliefs split across the political spectrum, it is not surprising that there was a response in the last election cycle from both the left and right. Bernie Sanders reflected this impulse on the left, with his straight-forward declaration of the necessity to permanently alter the income distribution of this nation to be more equitable.
The emergence of Donald Trump as the champion of the comparable movement on the right is not as straight-forward. As his failed experience in trying to convert his electoral victory into legislative success has shown, he is not aligned with the Republican power structure. Yet there is no doubt that he was elected as part of a general movement of revulsion against the elites that rule this country. In fact, he represents the rejection of financial elites, and intellectual elitism. Witness his proposals for decimation of the research budgets for most Federal agencies. Look at the reduction in the budget proposals for the State Department, one of the departments where experience should be most valued. The proposal to reduce this budget by 30% shows a complete lack of respect for the knowledge and experience found within this department.
Donald Trump is the Trojan Horse of populism. He has gained entry into the office of President by playing on the desires of the laboring class to improve their economic status. Meanwhile, he has populated his cabinet with what would once have been called the plutocratic class. The proposals that have emanated from this cabinet are what would be expected from a government of the 0.1% for the 0.1%.
- Eliminate the estate tax so as to perpetuate the class divisions across generations
- Attack consumer protection measures by hamstringing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with a vision to eliminate it completely
- Roll back environmental protections so as to enable corporations to continue operations without concern for the environmental impact
- Actively deny any link between scientific consensus with global warming, and strip any measurement capabilities from the Federal budget that could detect increased global warming.
- Removing the incremental taxes supporting the Affordable Care Act that only affected those who are the winners in the national economic lottery, earning over $250,000/year.
- Eliminate the alternative minimum tax to eliminate the possibility that the truly wealthy could avoid a minimal tax liability.
- Removing the tax subsidies for the Affordable Care act that enable many to have health care insurance for the first time.
Donald Trump represents the triumph of the Bread and Circuses wing of American culture over the rest of the electorate. Someone who gained overwhelming fame through his portrayal of a business leader on reality TV was able to parlay that notoriety into front-runner status in the Republican primary process. His supporters believe him to have super-human capabilities to “fix” the system, based solely upon his statements that he alone was capable of applying the fixes. That obviously was enough to overcome any semblance of reality in the 2016 Presidential election. The question is when will his steadfast supporters recognize the disconnect between the rhetoric of the campaign trail (continued with ongoing campaign events), and the reality of Trump legislative action? Given the typical attention span and analytical capability of the American voter, it may take an apocalyptic event before they give up on the capabilities of our President.
Now the nakedness of our Emperor is becoming apparent to more people. There were those of us who were decrying the pale wrinkled skin of our would-be emperor last fall prior to the election. Obviously we were not heard by enough people to sway the decision. I can only hope that the trail of tears being generated by our current leader causes a disruption in business as usual, and leads us to a cumulative coming to our senses before the vagaries of the current administration cause irreparable harm.