This is classic dumb guy wedding speech writing: “The chorus of their dating became an earthquake of their love.” – Samantha Bee on Trump’s speech
Donald Trump just gave a fact-free, and detail-free, speech to a joint session of Congress. Early on in the evening, the president – who has loaded his cabinet with billionaires and his administration with former Goldman Sachs executives – earned audible guffaws from the assembled lawmakers when he declared, in all seriousness, “We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption…”
With illegal border crossings at the lowest level since 1972, Trump devoted a good portion of his speech to spreading fear of undocumented immigrants. But only those from the south. There are twice as many immigrant visa “overstays” by Canadians as Mexicans. Meanwhile back in the real world, net migration from Mexico is below zero – more are leaving than coming
Trump claimed our borders are “wide open… for drugs to pour in at a now unprecedented rate.” But not only are our borders more secure than ever, our country’s much-publicized opioid addiction problem is the result of pharmaceutical company marketing, not Mexican drug gangs. American physicians have legally prescribed enough painkillers – largely in Trump-voting states – to stupefy people enough to, well, elect Trump.
Trump also spoke of immigrants committing crimes, asking what would those in Congress say to an American family when immigrants take “a loved one” from them. However, the New York Times reports that “Contrary to Trump’s Claims, Immigrants Are Less Likely to Commit Crimes.” Oh well.
But rather than run the risk that facts might distract the public from his agenda of fear, Trump showcased family members of people who had been killed by immigrants, then announced that he is setting up an official Ministry of Fear, saying,
I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American Victims. The office is called VOICE — Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.
Trump stressed that immigrants take jobs and income from American families. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) took a 2014 look at this claim, “there is broad agreement among academic economists that in the long run, immigration has a small but positive impact on the labor market outcomes of native-born workers, on average.”
Then Trump went after Muslims, saying, we can’t allow “allow uncontrolled entry” to our country because – “the vast majority of individuals convicted for terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.” Pushing the fear further, he said,
“We cannot allow a beachhead of terrorism to form inside America — we cannot allow our Nation to become a sanctuary for extremists.”
Trump conveniently neglected to mention the severe vetting process refugees and immigrants from Muslim countries already face, or the fact over half of the people the Department of Homeland Security has determined were inspired by a foreign group to attempt terrorist attacks in the U.S. were born in the U.S. And he certainly wasn’t about to bring up native-born white, Christian terrorists.
Trump promised to “work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs and bring them down immediately.” This promise comes less than a month after this headline, “After meeting with pharma lobbyists, Trump drops promise to negotiate drug prices“.
On the very day that headlines read, “Trump signs executive order to roll back clean water rule“, he said, “My administration wants to work with members in both parties to… promote clean air and clear water…”.
Trump also presented environmental destruction as a jobs program, saying for example,
We have cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines — thereby creating tens of thousands of jobs — and I’ve issued a new directive that new American pipelines be made with American steel.
In fact, as DeSmogBlog points out, Like Keystone XL, Much of Dakota Access Pipeline Steel Made by Russian Company Tied to Putin. And the jobs? A few thousand construction jobs, for a few months while the pipelines are constructed, in an economy adding more than 200,000 jobs a month, and then “Operation of the proposed Project would generate 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs, primarily for routine inspections, maintenance, and repairs.
These are just a few examples of what we are dealing with when we hear Trump speak. Big whoppers, little whoppers, bamboozlements, empty promises, detail-free policy mumblings, flat-out intentional lies, trickery, and always the fear and the fear and the fear and the fear and the fear.
But this time his “tone” was supposedly easier to stomach. Did anyone fall for it?
Now that Republicans are running Congress and the executive branch, they’re planning to “reform” (cut) corporate taxes (again). This time they using the subterfuge of “this will make companies more competitive.” What does that mean? Of course, under Republicans, it really means one and only one thing: cutting taxes on the rich — rich people.
The top corporate tax rate used to be 52 percent. Under President Ronald Reagan it was 46 percent. Then Congress “reformed” corporate taxes and dropped the rate to just 35 percent. (Except for giant, multinational corporations. They were handed a “deferral” break that cut their taxes to zero.)
Corporations used to shoulder 32 percent of the total tax burden. Now they shoulder only 10 percent of the burden — a drop of two-thirds. The difference has been made up from cuts to infrastructure, schools, health care, scientific research and all the things our government does to make our lives better — and to help our economy prosper over the long term.
That’s the trade-off when taxes are cut. It means our government has to cut the things it does to make all of our lives better.
Who Gets That Money?
As corporate taxes were cut (thereby making it harder for the government to do things that make our lives better), where did that money go instead? It obviously didn’t go toward higher wages or shorter working hours or other things that might have made the tradeoff somewhat worth it for regular people, at least in the short term. No, time has shown us here it went: straight to a few at the top.
Politifact said it was true when Bernie Sanders, in Madison, claims top 0.1% of Americans have almost as much wealth as bottom 90%. Joshua Holland explains how it happened, writing at The Nation in 2015 in 20 People Now Own As Much Wealth as Half of All Americans,
The concentration of wealth at the top isn’t the result of some sort of organic process. The top one-10th of 1 percent of American households controlled about 7 percent of the nation’s wealth in the mid-1970s. By 2000, their share had grown to about 15 percent, and today it’s well over 20 percent. Those at the very top didn’t become three times as smart or lucky or good-looking in the intervening years. They’ve benefited from changes in things like trade policy, the tax code, and collective-bargaining rules — all policy changes they’ve used their wealth to champion.
That is where the money goes when corporate taxes (and rules and regulations and the bargaining power of regular people) are cut. It goes to a few actual, living people instead of toward the betterment of all of us and our economy.
Corporations Don’t “Do” Things. They Don’t “Make Decisions” or “Talk”
Over the last few decades a constant barrage of corporate/conservative propaganda has misinformed public understand of what corporations are, and why we have them. People have come to think of corporations as sentient beings that “do things,” like make decisions and speak. But corporations are things, like chairs and hammers. (Actually, they are more like wills or sales contracts.)
Corporations are things — legal contracts — that people use to get certain things done, for themselves.
These days corporations have also become things that are used to obscure or mask what certain people do. A corporation doesn’t “decide” to pollute a river or cheat a customer or hide profits in the Cayman Islands. And Bob in accounting or Alicia in marketing don’t decide to do that, either. But “the corporations” get the blame while really a few people who manage the corporation do things, and they do those things for their own, personal gain.
This is the important thing to understand. People make decisions and personally benefit; corporations do not.
When we cut taxes on corporations we are actually cutting taxes on a few people. And not just people, but very, very rich people.
The “Competitive” Argument
This time around the Republicans are trying to bamboozle everyone by claiming that we “need” to cut taxes on corporations so they will be more “competitive.” (As if our corporations are not already making the highest profits in history.)
Gayle Trotter captures the company line at the Washington Examiner, in Trump’s corporate tax plan will make America competitive again,
Lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent will help, not only to keep businesses here, but also bring jobs and innovation back home by reducing wacky incentives for United States companies to migrate offshore in tax-driven “inversion” deals.
This is legislation-by-extortion. This argument has giant corporations threatening to renounce their U.S. citizenship, and harm our country by killing American jobs, etc., unless we give them (the executives who make the decisions — and the threats) more money. This argument also threatens American entrepreneurs who want to start companies here, with its appeal to giant foreign companies to move here and serve those markets instead.
The argument also ignores what really makes a country “competitive.” That is the infrastructure, education, scientific research, court system and other things well-funded governments do to fertilize the soil from which companies can grow and prosper. Cutting corporate taxes cuts a government’s ability to nurture that soil — for the sake of a short term gain for a few executives who are making these extortion threats.
Switzerland Got Wise to the Con
A week ago Switzerland had a vote on lowering their corporate tax rate, “to attract businesses,” but the voters got wise to the con, with 60 percent of them voting to reject the extortion argument, as AFP reports,
The proposal would have leveled the tax rate for domestic and foreign firms while creating new deductions for innovation as well as research and development, tailored to attract global companies…
The left-wing Socialist Party (PS) called the government’s plan a “scam” that would have forced ordinary taxpayers to fill inevitable revenue shortfalls.
The referendum had “shown the red card to arrogance,” the party said in a statement, claiming the days of giving sweetheart deals to powerful corporations were “no longer tolerated.”
“Dollars Go to Support the Communities That Help to Make Their Businesses Thrive”
In April, 2015, the Main Street Alliance pushed back against these extortion threats, issuing a statement that SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS JOIN OTHERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY, PLEDGE TO REMAIN AMERICAN BUSINESSES,
With Tax Season in full swing, business owners and working families across the country are standing together, proud to live, work, and support the United States and their local communities. Small business owners across the country know that their tax dollars go to support the communities that help to make their businesses thrive. Investments in our schools, public infrastructure, safety, and much more depend on everyone paying their fair share of taxes.
Good for them. And good for people like the voters in Switzerland who did not fall for this “competitiveness” bamboozlement.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their OurFuture site. I am a Fellow with CAF, a project of People’s Action. Sign up here for the OurFuture daily summary and/or for People’s Action’s Progressive Breakfast.
So far President Trump has signed very few bills. One lets coal companies dump waste into streams. The other lets oil companies bribe foreign dictators in secret. And he is moving to block a Labor Department “fiduciary rule” that requires financial advisors to act in the best interests of their clients when advising on retirement accounts.
Here’s the thing: this isn’t just Trump doing this. The Republican House and Senate passed those two bills, and the Republicans have been fighting that fiduciary rule tooth and nail.
It’s not just Trump, Republicans as a party are using Trump to engage in a general assault on protections from corruption, pollution, corporate fraud and financial scams.
This is who they are.
Puzder “Fails Every Test of a Labor Secretary”
In December, Ross Eisenbrey of the Economic Policy Institute wrote of Puzder’s nomination, Andrew Puzder fails every test for a Labor Secretary
He’s opposed to the new overtime rule that gave the right to time and a half pay to millions of salaried employees earning less than $47,476 a year. Wal-Mart has already raised its managers’ pay, as did about half of all big retailers, even before the rule was supposed to take effect on December 1. But Puzder wants to kill it so he can keep working low-paid employees without paying them a dime extra for their overtime hours.
Friday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. As you may have heard, the White house marked the occasion with this statement:
It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.
Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest. As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.
In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.
Can you see what’s missing?
The business-oriented media are loudly proclaiming that president-“elect” Donald Trump’s proposed tax cuts for the rich and corporations will “boost” the economy.
● Fox Business Video: Why Trump’s tax cuts will boost the world economy
● Investors Business Daily: Here’s How Much Trump Tax Cuts Could Boost The Stock Market
The word filters down to the local media: (The exact word: “boost”…)
● Indianapolis Business Journal: Trump’s tax-cutting plan will boost economy
Really? Is THAT what happens when taxes are cut for the wealthy and their corporations?
Presidents Reagan and both Bushes cut taxes for the rich and their corporations, promising that the “benefits” would “trickle down’ to the rest of us. Kansas gave huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy to “boost” investment and jobs. For decades Puerto Rico offered tax breaks “attract businesses.” How’d that work out for them — and us?
Sam Brownback took office as Governor of Kansas in 2011. With a Republican legislature Kansas conducted a “real live experiment” and dramatically cut tax rates on the wealthy and corporations. They said it would boost investment and create jobs. They said the “boost” in the economy would actually increase tax revenues.
How did that work out? Not so great. The LA Times reports, Hard times for Kansas and its schools as economic ‘experiment’ creates gaping budget hole,
In February 2015, three years into the supply-side economics experiment that would upend a once steady Midwestern economy, a hole appeared in Kansas’ finances.
To fill it, Gov. Sam Brownback took $45 million in public education funding. By April of this year, with the hole at $290 million, Brownback took highway money to plug it. A month later, state money for Medicaid coverage went into the hole, but the gap continued to grow.
Today, the state’s budget hole is $345 million and threatens the foundation of this state, which was supposed to be the setting for a grand economic expansion but now more closely resembles a battleground, with accusations and lawsuits flying over how to get the state’s finances in order.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) took a long look at the Kansas experiment and what happened, and reported in Kansas’ Tax Cut Experience Refutes Economic Growth Predictions of Trump Tax Advisors,
In fact, the tax cut failed to boost the Kansas economy:
● Since it took effect in January 2013, total employment in Kansas has risen only 2.6 percent, compared to 6.5 percent nationally. Private sector employment in Kansas has risen 3.5 percent, compared to 7.6 percent nationally.
● The state’s economy has grown less than half as fast as the national economy; Kansas’ gross domestic product (GDP) grew 4.8 percent from the end of 2012 through the first quarter of 2016, while national GDP rose 11.9 percent.
● Kansas’ share of newly opened business establishments in the United States has actually declined slightly rather than increased.
But wait, there’s more. According to CBPP, “Moreover, the Kansas tax cut package has had a deleterious impact on the state’s financial stability and the provision of critical services.” Tax revenues did not grow as promised, they continue to decline as the state’s economy collapses. The resulting reduction in infrastructure funding is hitting roads, etc., The state’s bond rating has been downgraded — twice — so the state has to pay higher interest rates. Economic growth and job growth is slower than much of the rest of the country.
More bluntly, Mother Jones, Trickle-Down Economics Has Ruined the Kansas Economy.
Puerto Rico, Oops
Puerto Rico offered “competitive tax rates” to corporations, in an effort to boost their economy. How did that turn out?
A Reuters Special Report from December, How dependence on tax breaks corroded Puerto Rico’s economy,
In trying to be attractive to U.S. firms, Puerto Rico instead
The industrialization push, dubbed Operation Bootstrap, rested on the premise that manufacturers lured by tax breaks would spur the development of a local economy because they would need local suppliers. The federal government supported the effort, viewing Puerto Rico as a vital capitalist outpost in the Caribbean.became indentured to them, pledging tax breaks and cheap labor for ultimately transient economic benefits.
… It turned out that the manufacturers were generally locked into global supply chains, and so they had limited impact on local business creation.
… Today, the U.S. territory has nearly $70 billion in debt, an unemployment rate 2.5 times the U.S. average, a 45 percent poverty rate, nearly insolvent pension systems and a chronically underfunded Medicaid insurance program for the poor.
The economic nosedive started in 2006, at the end of a 10-year phase-out by U.S. congress of tax breaks that had brought manufacturers to the island. Plant closures and job losses followed. Puerto Rico’s commonwealth government made things worse by taking on years of debt to replace the lost revenue.
Tax cuts didn’t work out so well for Puerto Rico, either.
Studies: Tax Cuts Do Not “Boost” The Economy
Republicans always argue that tax cuts for the rich and their corporations will “boost” the economy because “taxes take money out of the economy” and the promise that by cutting taxes at the top the “job creators” have more of an “incentive” to work “harder.” They even argue that cutting taxes actually increases tax revenue as a result of that “boost” in the economy.
So what’s the record?
In September 2012 the Congressional Research Service published a report that looked at 65 years of tax cuts and the economy, Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945. From that report,
Throughout the late-1940s and 1950s, the top marginal tax rate was typically above 90%; today it is 35%. Additionally, the top capital gains tax rate was 25% in the 1950s and 1960s, 35% in the 1970s; today it is 15%. The real GDP growth rate averaged 4.2% and real per capita GDP increased annually by 2.4% in the 1950s. In the 2000s, the average real GDP growth rate was 1.7% and real per capita GDP increased annually by less than 1%. There is not conclusive evidence, however, to substantiate a clear relationship between the 65-year steady reduction in the top tax rates and economic growth. Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.
What all those words say is as tax cuts took effect the economy slowed and longer term it slowed more. They didn’t conclude this was causal, but clearly tax cuts didn’t “boost” growth. The kicker: tax cuts were associated with wealth concentrating at the top.
So no, tax cuts didn’t “boost” growth at all and possibly cut growth while making income inequality worse.
David Leonhardt in the New York Times, also September 2012, Do Tax Cuts Lead to Economic Growth?
The defining economic policy of the last decade, of course, was the Bush tax cuts. President George W. Bush and Congress, including Mr. Ryan, passed a large tax cut in 2001, sped up its implementation in 2003 and predicted that prosperity would follow.
The economic growth that actually followed — indeed, the whole history of the last 20 years — offers one of the most serious challenges to modern conservatism. Bill Clinton and the elder George Bush both raised taxes in the early 1990s, and conservatives predicted disaster. Instead, the economy boomed, and incomes grew at their fastest pace since the 1960s. Then came the younger Mr. Bush, the tax cuts, the disappointing expansion and the worst downturn since the Depression.
From my December 2010 post, Do Tax Cuts Help The Economy,
It is obvious that the Reagan and Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have hurt us in many ways.
- They hurt the economy. (See charts above) (also, just look around you.)
- They caused massive debt.
- They hurt government’s ability to do its job.
- They caused extreme concentration of wealth.
- They changed us from a democracy to a plutocracy: government of, by and for the wealthy.
- They kept us from maintaining and modernizing our infrastructure.
But this was the plan all along, wasn’t it?
The April, 2011 post, Conservative Tax Tricks – Did Tax Cuts Grow The Economy? is full of charts and figures, including this:
From my post Tax Cuts Are Theft,
A beneficial cycle: We invest in infrastructure and public structures that create the conditions for enterprise to form and prosper. We prepare the ground for business to thrive. When enterprise prospers we share the bounty, with good wages and benefits for the people who work in the businesses and taxes that provide for the general welfare and for reinvestment in the infrastructure and public structures that keep the system going.
Since the Reagan Revolution with its tax cuts for the rich, its anti-government policies, and its deregulation of the big corporations our democracy is increasingly defunded (and that was the plan), infrastructure is crumbling, our schools are falling behind, factories and supply chains are being dismantled, those still at work are working longer hours for fewer benefits and falling wages, our pensions are gone, wealth and income are increasingly concentrating at the very top, our country is declining.
Tax Cuts Hurt We the People
The record proves that tax cuts don’t “boost” the economy, they just make the rich even richer. So why do we keep getting told they will?
Tax cuts make the rich richer and hurt the rest of us because they force budget cuts in things that make our lives better and actually do grow the economy, like infrastructure and education. A prosperous economy with good businesses and good jobs and good wages result from good education and the business conditions created by good infrastructure, research, etc. These things take investment and regulation and those are the result of taxes and strong government.
If you cut taxes and wages to offer a “competitive environment” what happens is companies move from somewhere else, government there collects less in taxes, government in the new location collects less in taxes, the workers there get laid off and the new workers are always paid less — sometimes much less. If you do the math, you see that in the larger picture of an economy — one that includes the places the companies moved from and moved to — overall wages drop so the public in general is poorer, government is weakened so it can’t help and invest. In the end, the owners of the companies have a larger share of the pie.
Tax cuts are a scam to weaken democracy and our government’s ability to fight corporate power and concentrated wealth.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their OurFuture site. I am a Fellow with CAF, a project of People’s Action. Sign up here for the OurFuture daily summary and/or for People’s Action’s Progressive Breakfast.
I’m at a motel in Roseville, CA. They serve a motel “breakfast.” I got the little egg thing for us. In the room we started eating and discovered the center had ham in it. I went to the desk to complain, it wasn’t labeled, there were no non-meat offerings…
I said there are Jews, Muslims, people from India, vegetarians, all wouldn’t be able to eat this.
The look on her face was line “one more month, and we can deal with all of them.”
Donald Trump released a video announcing his agenda for his “first day in office.” One of the things he said is, “I will formulate a rule which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.” Can we count the number of ways this is absurd and dangerous?
Under Trump’s 2-for-1 idea, if we want to have a regulation that a company can’t store explosives next to an elementary school, we have to eliminate a regulation that protects us from food poisoning AND a regulation that stops companies from taking money out of your bank account for no reason? (Or how about creating fake accounts and charging them fees?)
Or how about we eliminate the regulations requiring seat belts in cars? Or requiring cars to have headlights? There’s two more! And think of all the money this would save the car companies! (Ignore the pain and suffering and loss this would cause regular Americans — that’s not money.)
Government Is We The People
In the United States government was once supposed to be about We the People organizing to accomplish things that make our lives better. We vote, our representatives impose taxes and spend and make laws and regulations toward that end.
The ongoing corporate/conservative attack on the legitimacy of government and democracy have eroded public understanding of these concepts. Education. Firefighting. Scientific research. Health care. Parks. Transportation. All are core things a government of, by and FOR the people does to make our lives better — and all are under attack, “privatized” or “eliminated” by representatives who have been “captured” by corporate/conservative money.
Government of, by and for the people by definition stops some people from doing things that hurt others. In particular for this discussion, it stops people who have businesses from defrauding others, harming others, polluting our air and water, selling dangerous products, and other destructive practices. But this means that these people make less money, so they complain, and sometimes they use their money to influence those who would regulate to stop them.
“Burdensome government regulations” all cost companies money: food inspection, clean water, fire codes, zoning rules and drug safety rules. They all “get in the way” of a company scamming, hurting, polluting or whatever makes them more money.
Regulations too often come about as a reaction to something terrible happening. Fire codes came from times when entire towns burned down. Drug-safety rules came from “snake oil” scammers selling poison and leaving town before the damage is done. Seat belt regulations came from terrible traffic injuries and deaths.
Regulations are about “how can We the People do this better?”
The Underlying Assumptions Behind Trump’s Absurd Plan
Underlying Trump’s plan to “eliminate” government regulations is the premise that “government regulation” is itself a bad thing. And underlying that is the premise that government of by and for the people itself is illegitimate. It gets in the way of business. We the People making decisions interferes with efficient decision-making done for the narrow purpose of making money.
Corporate-financed conservatives will always tell you that government and its regulations are always bad. Government just “interferes” in things it knows nothing about. They will say that government regulations hold back businesses from expanding and hiring and generally getting things done that make money. But these are self-interested complaints from people who make their money scamming or hurting or polluting. People like Donald Trump.
We should see Trump’s proposal for what it is. This is not an approach to governing, it is about dismantling what government is for so that an already-wealthy few are free to fleece, scam, harm and and pollute in the name of greed.
Over and over, Trump repeated a simple message. He repeated it and repeated it and repeated it.
Clinton is corrupt. I will bring the jobs back. I will fix Washington.
What was Clinton’s repeated message? Anyone?
It seems that lots of media/political/business people “on the coasts” don’t get how big a deal trade played in Tuesday’s election.
Sold On Free Trade
In the late 70s the country was told that “protectionism” — protecting wages and key industries and — is bad for the economy and was sold “free trade” as a way to bring prosperity and jobs. “Trade” in this usage meant one and only thing: close a factory here and lay off the workers. Open a factory “there” to make the same goods, bring those goods back here to sell in the same stores to the same customers. It’s called “trade” because now those goods cross a border. The “sell” was that all those laid-off workers would be “freed up” to get better jobs.
Well, they never got better jobs — those were also outsourced or privatized or relabeled as low-wage “contractors” with no protections or benefits. So instead they had their homes foreclosed, their local stores forced out of business and their downtowns boarded up. Local and state tax bases dwindled so schools became terrible, infrastructure crumbled, public services cut and cut and cut. Meanwhile the investor class that pushed this and executive class that managed it pocket the wages these regions used to generate for themselves. (They also got huge tax cuts.)
Entire Regions Bled Dry
In the decades since entire regions have been bled dry of ways to make a living, their cities and towns and downtowns left behind to crumble, their aging former factory workers scrambling for WalMart jobs and turning to opiates for relief.
Take a few days and drive around the regions once known for manufacturing or steel production. See what this kind of “free trade” has done to them,
As you drive from town to town in Michigan and Ohio you see one after another a ring of the “big box” stores and national chain stores around each city. You also see the “brownfields” of rusted-out, closed factories, empty, falling-down buildings. Then you go to the downtown and you see boarded up houses, empty storefronts, deteriorating and deteriorated communities, idle people standing on corners. As you drive into these towns you can just see what is happening in a nutshell.
Bled dry. First by “trade,” then by Wall Street-owned chains and banks then by the Wall Street collapse that sucked away the remaining assets. And then Wall Street got bailed out by their taxes but they didn’t. These regions never got any help from the government, even as they watched the Wall Street types and executives and coastal elites living it up — on their money.
Wall Street was bailed out. But for decades this country allowed entire regions and populations to deteriorate and die, and inequality to soar, and didn’t do a thing about it. No one fixed it.
“I Alone Can Fix It”
Tuesday a lot of righteously angry people with nowhere else to turn got fed up, took things into their own hands and voted for the lying, insulting, women-groping demagogue who promised that he and he alone can fix it. “I am your voice … I alone can fix it.”
Pick a former manufacturing area, and look at how that area voted in Tuesday’s election. Key “swing” states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin were hit hard by deindustrialization and little to nothing was done to help the people there. And they voted for Donald Trump because he promised to “fix” it.
Trade Mattered Where The Votes Mattered Most
Andrew Flowers, writing at the FiveThirtyEight polling analysis site in Might Chinese Trade Explain Trump’s Success?
Recent research has indicated that trade with China has been more disruptive than previously thought. MIT economist David Autor and co-authors have documented how rising Chinese imports wreaked havoc on competing U.S. industries. In total, their research found the surge of Chinese trade was responsible for the loss of more than 2 million jobs between 1999 and 2011. But, interestingly — and this is where Trump’s electoral map comes in — it had a concentrated geographic impact. States in the Midwest, Appalachia and the Southeast were where Chinese trade hit hardest. Take a look at these maps showing where the U.S. industries were most exposed…
Click through to see the maps. Flowers then explains, “At first look, this map sort of overlaps with Trump’s success. He has won or is currently leading in several manufacturing-heavy Midwestern states; anti-trade sentiment is rife there.”
Exit polling drives this home. CNN’s exit polls, for example, tell the story:
Rust belt states agree with Trump that trade costs jobs
Donald Trump made trade a key message in his campaign. He promised to bring back the manufacturing jobs that he said were lost to trade deals.
Large shares of voters in key rust belt states key to Hillary Clinton’s electoral map agreed with Trump’s view that trade agreements have hurt American workers. And they overwhelmingly supported the billionaire businessman at the ballot box.
Half of Michigan’s electorate feel trade takes away jobs, and these folks supported Trump by a 57% to 36% split. The 31% who think it creates jobs backed Clinton by a 65% to 31% margin.
In Ohio, 47% of voters say trade hurts workers, and they lined up for Trump by a more than 2-to-1 margin. The 46% who say it creates jobs or has no effect strongly backed Clinton.
And in Pennsylvania, 53% of the electorate agree that trade is bad for jobs. Some 62% supported Trump, while 34% backed Clinton. Among the 35% who feel trade is a job creator, Clinton was the favored candidate by more than a 2-to-1 margin.
Trump Talked Trade From The First Day To The Last
Trump saw this and used it to propel his candidacy. Trump’s very first speech, announcing his candidacy, talked about trade — a lot.
“That’s right – a lot of people up there can’t get jobs. They can’t get jobs because there are no jobs because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs. They all have our jobs.
[. . .] I’m going to tell you a couple of stories about trade, because I’m totally against the trade bill for a number of reasons.
… Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have people that are stupid. We have people that aren’t smart, and we have people that are controlled by special interests and it’s just not going to work.
He went on to tell those stories. And more. There’s much, much more about trade in that first speech. From that moment on in his campaign, he continued to talk about trade, in almost every speech, in the debates, and then in his final “closing argument.”
Trump’s final ad displays a picture of Bill Clinton and the word NAFTA as Trump says, “The political establishment that is trying to stop us is the same group responsible for our disastrous trade deals…” Then, as a deserted factory is displayed:
“The political establishment is responsible for the destruction of our factories and our jobs as they flee to Mexico, China and other countries all around the world. The global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”
There’s no question about it: Trump used trade to propel himself to power.
Not Just Trump And Not Just Here
This is going on around the world. Elite “neoliberal” economic policies are driving inequality while wiping out the middle class and entire regions. Right-wing politicians are taking advantage of the distress and offering scapegoats, using xenophobia and racism to gain political power — just like Trump did.
Trump’s surprise win echoes the surprise win of Brexit — Britain’s vote to exit from the European Union. That vote was driven largely by the economic damage that EU’s open border and free trade policies were doing to the British working-class.
Glenn Greenwald writes about this at the Intercept, in Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit,
The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino-gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.
That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population — all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction — are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded. But human beings are not going to follow and obey the exact people they most blame for their suffering. They’re going to do exactly the opposite: purposely defy them and try to impose punishment in retaliation. Their instruments for retaliation are Brexit and Trump. Those are their agents, dispatched on a mission of destruction: aimed at a system and culture that they regard, not without reason, as rife with corruption and, above all else, contempt for them and their welfare.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, You can ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to all the people some of the time, and ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to some of the people all the time, but you cannot ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to all the people all of the time.
And here we are, with Trump soon to become President of the United States. Great. Just great.