Trump pop­u­lar­ity a symp­tom of fall­ing US liv­ing stan­dards

Dubbo Photo News - - Opinion & Analysis. - Tony Web­ber

THE econ­omy, stupid. It was the de facto slo­gan from Bill Clin­ton’s 1992 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

But it il­lu­mi­nates the bizarre sit­u­a­tion un­fold­ing in this cam­paign – and when you read “bizarre” you al­ready thought Trump.

Pun­dits have de­fined Trump’s en­dur­ing ap­peal as one of pub­lic anger at pol­i­tics as usual.

Trump not only fires around inane ego­tis­ti­cal gib­ber­ish but he pep­pers this tor­rent of self-prais­ing hokum with the most ap­palling insults and de­mean­ing mock­ery.

He has been deeply of­fen­sive to women, the dis­abled, Lati­nos, and most re­cently said he could shoot peo­ple with­out los­ing votes.

But such out­ra­geous­ness has not only added to his pop­u­lar­ity, it has all but de­stroyed the cam­paigns of his more ex­pe­ri­enced, ar­guably more ca­pa­ble Repub­li­can ri­vals.

True, his com­peti­tors for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion are so square they should have cor­ners.

But the pub­lic mood is such that even a loath­some crank like Ted Cruz has to pre­tend he’s a political out­sider, which is like Bill Shorten pre­tend­ing he’s pop­u­lar.

What we hear about Trump’s un­likely as­cen­dency is that he re­flects middle Amer­ica’s re­jec­tion of the Wash­ing­ton political cul­ture, or the grow­ing in­flu­ence of mi­nori­ties in so­ci­ety, or Amer­ica’s loss of sta­tus in a chang­ing world.

And while there might be el­e­ments of th­ese fac­tors and more, con­sider this: av­er­age wages have not risen in the US in real terms since the pre­vi­ous cen­tury.

So the buy­ing power of the av­er­age Amer­i­can, in ar­guably one of the rich­est coun­tries in the world, has been stag­nant for nigh on two decades.

Cast your mind back to what you were earn­ing 20 years ago, and think about what a car cost com­pared to to­day, or fuel, or your power bill.

Whether they ar­tic­u­late it or not, the av­er­age US voter is right­fully pissed off that they are los­ing out as in­equal­ity po­larises liv­ing stan­dards: the rich pros­per at a phe­nom­e­nal rate while the ranks of the middle class wither as more find them­selves in poverty.

The re­sent­ment is also in­ten­si­fied by that pe­cu­liar strain of na­tional pro­pa­ganda that tells Amer­i­cans they have the best coun­try in the world, that ev­ery­one wants to be them and that their sys­tem is a model for the rest of the planet.

Peo­ple’s per­sonal cir­cum­stances say oth­er­wise.

And the glib pol­icy ide­ol­ogy that seemed to make sense at the time turned out to be toxic, not for those that spouted it, but for av­er­age tax­pay­ers in­stead.

For ex­am­ple, dereg­u­lat­ing US fi­nan­cial mar­kets was such a great idea that it brought the world’s econ­omy to its knees via the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

The sac­ri­fices in pur­suit of long-term gain never end, while the leg­isla­tive process is in­creas­ingly co-opted by the rich and pow­er­ful to serve their in­ter­ests alone.

To quote Prince­ton pro­fes­sor Martin Gilens: “The pref­er­ences of eco­nomic elites have far more in­de­pen­dent im­pact upon pol­icy change than the pref­er­ences of av­er­age cit­i­zens ... or­di­nary cit­i­zens have vir­tu­ally no in­flu­ence over what their govern­ment does in the United States.”

So pub­lic ser­vices and ameni­ties are down­graded in the name of “small govern­ment” while wildly un­jus­ti­fied tax cuts to the wealth­i­est ech­e­lons en­sure the rot con­tin­ues.

Unions at­tacked as eco­nomic dead weight turn out to be a key com­po­nent in the dy­namic that kept wages buoy­ant for or­di­nary work­ers, sus­tain­ing a broad middle class since WWII un­til re­cently.

The rage of the duped can also been seen in the shock pop­u­lar­ity on the Democrats’ side of 74-year-old Bernie San­ders, a self-de­scribed demo­cratic so­cial­ist.

He is neck-and-neck with Hil­lary Clin­ton in vy­ing for the party nom­i­na­tion de­spite be­ing a so­cial­ist in a coun­try that pi­o­neered the de­mon­i­sa­tion of that eco­nomic con­cept: so­cial­ism.

Un­for­tu­nately for this gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­cans they are losers to an eco­nomic sys­tem in as­cen­dency across the western world.

The nar­row in­ter­ests of the most pow­er­ful are in­creas­ingly pre­sented as if for the com­mon good, but have in fact cost or­di­nary Amer­i­cans their liv­ing stan­dards.

Trump won’t change that.

Un­for­tu­nately for this gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­cans they are losers to an eco­nomic sys­tem in as­cen­dency across the western world.

PHOTO: REUTERS/KEVIN LA­MAR­QUE

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