by Frank Thomas
BACK TO REBUILDING OUR ECONOMY “BOTTOM-UP”
Will Donald Trump steer us to the apocalypse so many are fearful of. Trump’s win is a dichotomy of deeply felt horror and heavenly enthusiasm! Can he shed his racist, xenophobic campaign persona mirroring the characteristics of a disordered demagogue:
The man who won the presidency and the woman who lost were by far not my ideal choices. But the man who won the presidency portraying himself as the true champion of the common man and woman who work so hard and have no voice , said repeatedly “I am your voice.” For me, this tone evokes a thin sliver of hope that Trump will rise to the opportunity of being “a president of all Americans,” as he has promised. The question is: Who is the real Trump?
That leads to another question, shouldn’t we Americans be talking much more about what we have in common that binds us and tempers the divisive tribalism tearing our nation apart? Or is our penetrating social divide destined to become a long-term cultural schism? I may be wrong, but I think Trump deserves a chance to show us he will reach across the aisle and listen closely and will do same about what’s being said outside Washington in rural and urban America. The “Forgotten” ordinary folk epithet is the feeling of most Americans – and both parties have contributed to it.
The election outcome was very close. If +-16,000 voters in Michigan and +-127,000 voters in Florida of 120 million voters nationally had voted for Hillary Clinton, she would have been the first woman president of the U.S. Unfortunately, Hillary's out-of-touch image of entitlement, establishment and elite money-alliances led to her undoing largely by white working class Americans. Trump, the consummate opportunist who is not an ideologue, ruthlessly played upon the negative public perceptions of Hillary held by so many – whether true or not.
Trump's stunning upset was due to an impressive voter turnout for him by the poor, the struggling middle class and white non-university working class. Over 65% of his winning voter support came from the middle, upper, and higher educated classes.
By education, white university educated voters were 45% for Trump and 50% for Clinton; the white non-university educated voters were 67% for Trump and 28% for Clinton; the non-white university educated voters were 70% for Trump and 23% for Clinton; the non-white non-university educated voters were 76% for Trump and 20% for Clinton.
By age group, Trump's total votes were 37% to 42% from age groups 18-29 and 30-44, respectively; Clinton got 55% to 50%, respectively. For age groups 45-64 and 65+, Trump got 53%; Clinton got 44%.
By color, Trump got 58% of the white vote, Clinton 37%; Trump got 8% of the black vote, Clinton 88%; Trump got 29% of the Latino/Asian vote, Clinton 65%; Trump got 37% from others, Clinton 56%. (Even in Florida, Trump performed unexpectedly well winning 31% of Latino vote).
By gender, Trump won 53% of the male vote and 42% of the female vote; Clinton won 41% of the male vote and 54% of the women vote.
What does all this mean? Trump has received a broad Republican voter mandate in 65% of 50 states. Trump laid naked the illusion our economic system and trade pacts work just wonderfully for ordinary working and middle class people. The challenge is to find a way to make global capitalism work for much larger numbers of working class people as technology, robotization and digitalization destroy jobs forever and at a rate ten times faster than decent jobs can be created. Unquestionably, this development puts real pressure on Trump and his administration to achieve his promise of vastly improving the well-being of ordinary Americans.
In this regard, there are some ominous trouble spots in Trump's policy plans and presidency:
Each of our Constitution's three branches of government – legislative, executive, and judicial – “checks and balances” the power of the other branches. Seldom in our history have all three branches been majority controlled by representatives possessing the same, or leaning towards the same, political philosophy/ideology, i.e., far liberal or conservative.
The Trump presidency raises the real possibility our Constitution’s normal ‘checks and balances' will not apply. Today, the legislative (House and Senate), executive (presidential) and judicial (Supreme Court) branches are now controlled by moderate to extreme conservative Republican representatives. The Supreme Court has 4 conservative leaning and 4 liberal/moderate leaning judges after the passing away of conservative judge Scalia. Obama's nomination of the moderate judge Merrick Garland (to replace Scalia) has been held up (over 250 days) by the Republicans.
Trump will be working with a Republican majority in the Senate and House. With a Republican Senate majority, Trump will likely nominate a conservative judge to fill Scalia’s vacancy, leading to a conservative Supreme Court majority. Making matters worse, two or three more Supreme Court vacancies are arising in next few years. So, Trump can potentially load the Court with conservative leaning judges, thus moving the Court far to the right.
This means Trump’s presidency poses the possibility of a potential breakdown in the equitable application of our Constitution's “checks and balances” to deter misuse of power by any one branch ... thus empowering further Trump's inherent “authoritarian” tendencies.
Trump claims human-induced climate change is a HOAX. He’s seems dangerously hell-bent on a path of significantly weakening, slowing down or undoing Obama’s climate change policies and regulations. He calls U.S. participation in the expensive limitation of earth warming 'foolishness'. He says he will not observe any U.S. climate change obligations entered into in the Paris Climate Agreement - although it’s NOT legally possible to block, undo or withdraw from the agreement before Trump’s first term ends, but that’s no consolation!
Obama promised a 28% reduction in CO2 emissions from 2005 levels by 2025. With a conservative Supreme Court, Trump could get a rewrite or slowdown of the rules Environmental Protection Agency has set to achieve these minimal CO2 reductions. He could weaken rules controlling greenhouse gas emissions for new cars and trucks. Obama’s initiative to reduce CO2 ultra-dirty coal production by 30% will be cancelled. Trump intends to cancel Obama's agreement with China to reduce CO2 emissions. The two countries combined are responsible for 40% of global CO2 emissions with China’s 1.3 billion people at a consumption stage where we were at least 60 years ago and closing the gap FAST with the HUMUNGOUS greenhouse gas pollution that brings.
Knowing what I know about the scientific facts of human induced climate change, it’s clearly a 21st century threat to planet Earth’s living species … thus the urgency to rapidly transition to renewables and efficient energy use. Trump’s refusal to accept scientific facts is shocking and morally bankrupt. Climate change has become the existential threat to this planet – a slow and insidious death. Is that the tragic future we want to pass on to our children, their children and their children’s children to suffer through? (link: "Is Global Warming A Meaningless Alarmist Crusade," by Frank Thomas, April 17, 2014)
Trump’s financial plan to regenerate the economy by sharply lowering taxes for the rich and corporations while simultaneously investing $trillions desperately needed in infrastructure (no mention of investing in education, reducing college student debt and tuition costs) and simultaneously increasing existing HUGE defense expenditures is financial suicide on a scale topping the last Great Recession. It's the “trickle down” economic myth, or better said con game, that falsely says that benefits accruing to the rich from big tax cuts will “trickle down” to the middle class.
It’s a proven math fiscal fact that lower taxes plus more spending equal deficits. Trump doesn’t offer any defense spending cuts or new taxes (e.g., a financial transactions tax) to mitigate inevitable deficits of trickle down economics. Trump blindly thinks (as did Reagan and Bush Jr.) that faster GDP growth will offset deficits. WRONG! The conservative Tax Foundation estimates that Trump’s fiscal plan of tax cuts would reduce federal tax revenues by $12 trillion over the next decade. Faster GDP growth would offset only $2 trillion of that loss. But Facts and Truth are enemies in Trump’s narrow world.
Government studies have clearly shown again and again that large tax decreases, as for example occurred in Reagan's first term, do NOT result in net tax revenue increases. They cause significant DEFICITS and DEBT expansion; they end up accelerating the income/wealth inequality gap. This all happened in Reagan's second term. In late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they were a decade before, and national debt soared.
The International Monetary Fund found in a study in 2015 that as more money is pushed towards high income earners, economic growth actually slows down. As one economist explained in Plain English, “How many jobs and how much wealth is created by one rich person paying another rich person $30 million for his family's harbor side home? It's simple. If you give money to the rich, they become richer. The same part of that wealth they devote to discretionary spending adds an infinitesimal amount to the economy than the economy loses from the ongoing rise in wealth concentration.”
Trump wants to end the agreement with Iran on nuclear weapons which parties worked on for over ten years ... in his words, "one of the worst deals I have ever seen." I've studied this agreement in vast detail. It’s an excellent agreement with tremendous protections and control measures to pro-actively detect any Iranian violations of the agreement.(link: "Foreign Interventions in the Middle East: More Havoc, Nuclear Weapons, Less Order," by Frank Thomas, Oct. 9, 2015).
Trump plans to confront China with 40% tariffs on Chinese products to protect American jobs; same for Mexican products to help pay for the ‘WALL’ and protect jobs. Of course, China and Mexico will strike back with trade sanctions. He intends to throw NAFTA, TPP, TTIP trade agreements into the waste paper basket UNLESS rigorously, transparently redesigned on favorable terms that protect American jobs and do not allow firms to sue governments. Dismissing these trade pacts outright is an option that will surely result in a wave of protectionism, a tightening of the world economy and thus more austerity measures.
Regarding the destruction of the Terrorist group ISIL, Trump makes one exception with his noble wish to withdraw from Middle East military adventures. Like his friend Putin, he intends to destroy ISIL but keep Assad in power as Syria's president. But without ground troops the first goal is more complicated than realized. So, to not lose face, Trump has said he's thinking of something "extreme" to do. Just recently, he even used the term “bomb ISIL” to hell. As the first American president since WWII, he is threatening to install nuclear weapons in the Middle East to be used against ISIL if they provoke the U.S. or its allies.
Trump is right that ObamaCare - a fabulous breakthrough for 20 million Americans uninsured with 20 million still not covered, fought to the bare bone by Republicans – is in the intensive care unit. It needs surgery or replacement with a better plan. We have the costliest basic health care system in the world while being blessed with the best trained doctors and medical researchers. The base costs of premiums are growing at unsustainable rates as they did BEFORE the Affordable Health Care Act was passed despite cost curbing measures.
ObamaCare gave some flexibility to the insurance firms to raise premiums to include the cost of covering pre-existing conditions. This has encouraged insurance firms to sharply raise premiums. Making matters worse, the hospitals, drug and medical device manufacturers continue to raise prices to be competitive in the ‘for-profit’ market.
The outrageously high prices of prescription drugs and health insurance premiums, extremely high deductibles/co-pays are an abomination. Trump correctly favors giving the federal government responsibility for negotiating prescription drug prices and allowing import of drugs from other countries. Our military know how is exceptional, we could learn much from Europe’s exceptional know how in running excellent basic health care systems for all citizens at premiums and drug cost levels one-third to one-half those in U.S.
Are we going to see a different Trump who has promised to unite everyone around the theme of improving the economic lot of “Forgotten” Americans? Or are we going to experience a regime emboldened by a right-wing Congress and an increasingly reactionary Supreme Court? Is there no hope that Trump and his band of associates will operate within the bounds of fairness, decency, constructive compromise, and inclusiveness as Trump seems to be saying that that is exactly what he wants? Can he and his team wisely carry out significant stimulus investment spending for infrastructure, defense, and education while sharply cutting personal taxes and corporate taxes (that effectively total less than 10% of all federal tax revenues vs. 50% a few decades ago) without throwing our country into another financial crisis of all crises?
Will Trump stick to the “Bottom-Up” economic and social revitalization of our nation he’s advocating? He’s a big unknown, but he’s also our new president. People want constructive, balanced, fair, socially and financially responsible change that merges the best ideas of both parties by wise compromise and working together. If his administration can’t achieve that, then our nation will indeed become a “house of cards”... but he's also our new president. Italy survived a Berlusconi, our democracy can survive a Trump - IF he sticks to his promise to revert to rebuilding our society to the benefit of all Americans, moves away from lecturing the world on what is good government, and stops engaging in the intervention 'military killing machine' of foreign regime-change adventures.
In these troublesome times and alarming transitions, the words of John Kennedy are spot on:
“Let us not seek the Republican answer, or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future."
November 11, 2016