WHY A DEEP, LONG WORLD WIDE DEPRESSION IS BOTH INEVITABLE AND NEEDED
THE ELECTION OF DONALD TRUMP PROVES THAT FOLKS JUST DON’T GET IT
In assessing Donald Trump’s surprising victory in this year’s presidential election, one of the most common themes of his supporters is that he promised to bring back jobs – hundreds of thousands of them - to areas of the country where good paying jobs have been draining like water from a leaking swimming pool since the 1970’s and 1980’s. In post election interviews, Trump’s supporters give him six months to a year to pull this off or at least see signs that those old jobs are coming back to West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. This in itself would be an undeniable miracle, but I’m betting that the Trumpettes will relent and give him more time. Maybe even four years.
But at the end of four years, there won’t be thousands of new high paying, benefit rich manufacturing jobs. There might be thousands more minimum wage, fast food and service jobs given an expanding economy but those old timey jobs that we’ve lost to overseas industrial and manufacturing workers will not be among them. In China, Bangladesh, Viet Nam, The Philippines, when you see row upon row of workers plugging some chip into an electronic board over and over again or the endless threading fabric through a sewing machine at an ungodly clip, what you are seeing is the equivalent of flipping burgers at McDonald’s. Now, there is one possibility for actually recreating the industrial and manufacturing base we’ve lost: a huge government run, multi-year (actually multi-decade), multi trillion dollar program to build a new manufacturing base from scratch. But given Republican anathema towards government intervention of any sort, the prospects for this are dim. In fact, it’s not going to happen most assuredly not in the short term, if ever in our lifetimes.
But it could happen. It could happen just like the major Federal Programs that FDR instituted after the Great Depression. Of course, this would require another worldwide smackdown like the Great Depression, only worse. Me? I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time now. I think it will come. When? Not sure, but I do believe that we actually need a huuuge world depression in order to straighten out our economic, social and political systems. Sounds scary? Yup, it sure is. But now I think it’s the only way.
The election of Donald Trump, whose promises of good times and prosperity to come without much in the way of actually detailing how this was to be accomplished save for a huuuge tax cut, is, I think, the final chapter in the continuing saga of that part of the American populace who continues to vote for the cheap tax cut again and again and again rather than supporting the longer term requirements of patience and delayed gratification to actually transform an economy so that working and middle class families can actually thrive as they once did back before the cheap, short term tax cut solution became the only economic policy we have. Not, of course, that we’ve had a whole bunch of politicians proposing long term solutions. But this time around, both Bernie and Hillary did. Not a single one of the 17 Republican candidates had a single word to say about this needed transformation except for “cutting taxes creates jobs.” One more time. Again.
When the top personal tax rate was 70% back in 1980, it made sense to cut personal tax rates. But 35 years later, continual tax cuts no longer have the same economic impact but only tend to increase the national debt while providing a brief “feel good” kick rather than actually attacking the underlying problem which is the tax code itself and its too favorable treatment of the wealthy and corporations. But you didn’t hear Trump say a word about corporate taxes save he would allow companies with assets parked offshore to return them to the U.S. for a lower (30%) tax. Sounds good, right? But this is just another promise of Trump’s that will never happen. No corporation is going to repatriate money at a lower tax rate when they can park it overseas for nothing. Corporations and their CEO’s may be devious but they are not stupid.
The Trump supporter’s “hunger for change” is what keeps them voting for politicians and their policies – mainly Republicans – who year after year after year simply ignore their needs and problems – save for a tax cut or two – and have no prescription for turning their fortunes around. In fact, Republicans much more so then Democrats, actually injure the well being of working and middle class families with their union busting, corporate favoring, pro wealthy economic policies and programs. And this has been going on since at least 1980.
Despite the dismal fortunes of working and middle class families over the past decades (and their plight has nothing to do with Barack Obama) they seem unable to discern that they are being conned. Otherwise, why would they have put the biggest con man of all time in the White House?
This is why I predict that only if we are plunged into the worst world wide depression ever, will the Rust Belt folks turn to politicians who offer practical, effective and long term solutions to their problems rather than empty promises and short term “feel good” ones. Trump’s promise to being back manufacturing jobs is just not feasible. It’s not going to happen. It’s an impossibility. But I doubt that even then will the Rust Belt voters blame him. It will be someone else – Democrats, liberals, international cartels, what and whomever – they will blame when in fact they only have themselves to blame for not being able to figure out that Donald J. Trump is simply a rich elitist who ran around the country masquerading as the workers friend dressed in populist rhetoric that even he doesn’t believe in.
The bottom line for me is that I don’t think these folks are stupid but rather they hopelessly non-future oriented. (This is what Social Psychologist B.F. Skinner used to call African Americans. He neglected to consider, however, that Black folks’ choices in future orientation were severely limited – no home mortgages so a three year car loan instead – unlike whites who did not suffer from the same restrictions). They are cynical and maybe that’s why short term “solutions” appeal to them thinking that no one is ever going to have their best interests at heart so get what you can while you can. But after decade after decade of refusing to see that a single payer health care system would serve all of us better, including the Rust Belters, that government regulations really do matter especially in preventing the despoliation of the earth or in preventing another economic collapse, that personal responsibility and individual initiative will only take you so far when public officials keep on changing the goalposts, or making it easier for the rich to succeed but making it harder for ordinary workers to achieve the American Dream.
I really have given up. With the election of Trump, (sure, I know, not by the popular vote), someone who was clearly so unsuitable for the Presidency but who held out several bright, shiny objects (The Wall, Tariffs, Muslim Ban, etc.) that he dangled over the heads of his supporters, he was able to win them over based on nothing more than that he would be a “change agent.” That was his ultimate appeal, according to the post election data. Well, as I’ve noted before, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes are “change agents” too but not exactly the kind you would invite to your house for a visit. But this is what the Rust Belt voters have done.
So as I posited in the title to this piece, I think that only a great, worldwide depression is going to change their minds. Thirty years of being conned hasn’t seemed to have made any inroads into their thinking. But once they have been stripped of virtually everything (Trump, of course, will be fine) then perhaps they will understand that slogans and empty promises and glittering baubles like tax cuts are not the tough, long term reform measures that are needed to actually change the direction of their lives.
And make no mistake about it: I too will lose everything and I have no idea how I will live so my prediction affects me directly. If I live that long.
Too bad. Too sad.
NOTE: Before this disaster of an election, I had posited that “the deplorables” had to be crushed by us voting in massive numbers since no mild rebuke would turn them from their bigoted, divisive, racist ways. Now it’s too late. They have prevailed and we are stuck with it.