Why is Trump Still Popular, It’s Easy

June 5, 2018

Legions of liberals scratch their heads when they see polling data that show President Trump’s approval rate over 40%. Despite the stupid tweets, the lies and exaggerations, the flaunting of the rule of law, the destruction of presidential norms of behavior, blatant corruption, and the embrace of public policies that isolate the United States and pose real dangers to our future as the leader of the free world, Trump trudges on not just with his base but also with independent-minded voters who are unwilling to denounce him and push for his removal from office.

So what’s going on here with the stability of the Trump approval? It is really quite easy. Trump supporters see more money in their paychecks, and some have seen bonuses or small increases in their salaries, jobs are so plentiful that workers can now pick and choose, the stock market despite regular ups and downs is generally on the uptick, inflation is minimal, and areas of the economy once viewed as dead are no longer on life support. As the Democratic strategist James Carvelle reminded Bill Clinton’s staff, ” It’s the economy, stupid.”

Although some in his administration and certainly those among the punditry have called him a “moron” or just plain “dumb”, Trump knows the current state of American political culture – flag waving patriotism, fear of minorities, militarism, disgust with political correctness, support for small town Americana, and hatred of the eastern and California elite. Somehow the Democrats forgot that our political culture can be defined by what the working class believes is what America stands for, not what the New York Times editorializes. Trump has tapped into this working class culture and is not afraid to use it to bludgeon the left. Few people read the Times but they do listen to the President.

Of course having an approval rating in the low 40% range means that somewhere in the 60% range Americans either despise Trump or have serious questions about where he is taking the country. But if liberals are to make any serious dent in that 40% they have to admit there are now two competing political cultures in our country and begin to make efforts to understand the Trump culture and where possible make efforts to offer realistic alternatives.

What does that mean – “realistic alternatives”? In no particular order liberals must tag Trump with the inevitable increases in health care premiums, offer a better package of tax cuts that puts more money in the pockets of working class people, stop making pro-choice the signature position of the left, forget the big cities and take bus rides to rural America for listening tours, show the American public that patriotism means more than the flag,  and last but not least ask Nancy Pelosi to retire.

The challenge of the liberals as they try to compete with Trumpism is like moving a huge aircraft carrier on a different course; for years liberals have forgotten that they were originally the party of the working man and woman and that their support came from the heartland. If the Democrats hold to their old model of politics the blue wave of November 2018 just may fizzle out as the economy hums along. Trump may yet set himself up for self-destruction, but the liberals must change or face their own self-destruction.

 

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The Sources of our National Divide

May 7, 2018

As a result of responsible data collection, reasoned analysis from trusted public thinkers, and some old fashioned common sense from those with a keen historical sense it is now clear what has driven and continues to drive our terrible political polarization and unrelenting social anger. Let’s take a look at the sources of our national divide.

One of the primary foundations of our national divide is income inequality. The renowned French economist Thomas Piketty in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century  and University of Michigan social scientist Ronald Inglehart use a wealth of data to verify a twist on the old adage- the rich are getting richer the while rest of us are standing still. In the United States the top ten percent of Americans now take home nearly half of the national income. For the rest of Americans wage growth is relatively stagnant. There have been some recent small gains, but most of the working classes are pretty much where they were ten years ago. The nation’s largest employer, Wal-Mart, pays most of its workers in the $ 8-12 range. The United States is now one of the leading countries in terms of income inequality.

With that kind of pay inequality it is no wonder that people are angry as they live paycheck to paycheck and have to scrape together money in case of a family emergency, even as simple as paying the deductible for a car accident. That anger is part of the answer for Donald Trump’s base of support and the joy over the tax cut which put some money, usually a modest amount, in the pockets of the “forgotten Americans.” But a few more bucks in a paycheck is not going to ease the anger or solve our national division. That same Trump tax bill actually increased the gap between the rich and the working class and will continue widening the gap in the coming years.

Then there is the 21st Century equivalent of the industrial revolution – the information revolution. As documented by Walter Russell Mead in the Wall Street Journal and Foreign Affairs and Paul Krugman of the New York Times that smartphone or laptop may be a godsend to you and your family but it is part of a gigantic shift in how we work in this country.  Foreign trade is not putting people out of work, rather it is automation, all those mechanical robots on assembly lines, those cameras that have replaced toll takers, the swanky new garbage trucks that pick up the refuse without the help of two assistants, and computerized banking programs that have put tellers on the unemployment lines.  The list of automation destroying old line jobs is endless and will only grow in the coming years. It would be great if there was a public-private partnership to retrain workers in the new growth areas of work, but right now there is only anger and despair as the information revolution replaces the industrial revolution. The divide marches onward as more and more Americans blame somebody, anybody, usually a politician for their sad future. Of course the answer is in the willingness of people to adapt to a new age, but that is easier said than done.

Then there is the immigration/racial divide.  The history of this country has too often been defined by periods of anti-immigration nativism, racial animosity and plane old bigotry. From “No Irish Need Apply” to the Know-Nothing Party to the Neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville there has unfortunately been a strain of antipathy toward those who appear different and are not “American.” Trump used this antipathy for his benefit as he championed the wall, harshly criticized Muslim-Americans, and made clearly racially charged comments against African-Americans. He got the votes he wanted but in the process pushed this country into a national divide as too many of us forget how we became a great nation and how we often welcomed those “huddled masses longing to be free.” Sadly, it has become easier and easier to find a racial reason for our all that ails us, rather than see racial harmony as the key to building unity.

Finally, our national divide continues and even spreads because of our longing to return to the days of family, church and community of the 1950’s. Especially for those who were brought up in that era of calm and order, today with its open society of gay marriage, LGBT rights, recreational marijuana, pornography, violent video games, atheism, and a growing secular bent America is a place that is viewed as headed to hell in a hand basket unless we return to the old days when we didn’t have all these free thinking abominations. If we would only say Merry Christmas rather than Happy Holidays in order to accommodate those who make up a growing diverse nation, all would likely be better, at least that is the argument from  those who remember the Ozzie and Harriet 1950’s television show. But of course the 1950’s are not coming back – the family is in tatters, nearly 40% of young people are irreligious, and more and more people are holed up in their bunker homes afraid to become part of a vibrant community.

So what to do? Peace and unity are not around the corner. We will just have to struggle through this mess for a while, perhaps for another generation.  We just don’t have the political leaders or the political will to unify and compromise and find consensus. We very well could be headed to hell in a hand basket, but one thing to remember, this country, despite difficult times in the past, has always found a way to rebound from adversity. The American spirit may be in retreat but it is not dead and likely will re appear to bring us to a better day; it just won’t happen next year.

 


Thankful for Small Favors

February 14, 2018

It should come as no surprise to anyone with an appreciation of how President Trump and the Republican Congress played the ” forgotten American” card and advanced what some have called a “peasants revolt” that poll numbers show a small but important spike in support for The Donald and the GOP. It all comes down to the simple fact that Americans got their tax cut reward in their take home pay.

It really makes no difference whether the reward was the $ 1.50 a week praised by Speaker Ryan or the more common $ 50-$100 bump a month for many working Americans. Progressives and leftist economists can point out until they are blue in the face that the tax cut is skewed toward the wealthy and big corporations, but most Americans have never really been upset over what the rich get out of tax cuts compared to what they receive in their pay envelope.  They are just thankful for small favors.

Democrats continue to fail at understanding the “forgotten” or the “peasants” and believe that harping on the inequality of the cuts will somehow weaken the Trump base and bring about the end of Trumpism. The response of the tax cuts to many Americans is simple human nature-more in my pocket is a good thing, less for the government is even better. The amount in the pocket is not as important as the fact that it is found money, a small favor.

Of course Trump and the Republicans are by no means out of the woods; there is the huge bump in the fiscal year deficit, the burgeoning national debt, the new signs of inflation, the wild ride of the stock market, and of course more stupid tweets and White House dysfunction. But again most Americans don’t sit up nights worrying about deficits, debts, inflation and the impact on their grandchildren; that extra cash in their pockets is what matters. I rarely run into someone who is even remotely concerned about the economic and financial impact of Republican tax policies on the security and lifestyle of their grandkids. It is much like the real threat from global warming – somehow the future will take of itself, what is important is the here and now.

The Democrats continue to show that they are riding the wave of rejection of Trump and the GOP but don’t count the Republicans out of the game as Trump and the conservatives will continue to play to the base by touting the tax cut. It just might work, especially if the Democrats forget what Clinton’s campaign adviser James Carville said, ” It’s the economy stupid.”

 


Tax Cuts or Entitlement Cuts?

December 6, 2017

Americans of all ages should not only be focused on the tax cut debate currently swirling around Congress but more importantly the long term impact of those cuts on yearly deficits and the nation debt. It is estimated that the cuts will add about $ 1.4 trillion to the national debt- already over $ 20 trillion- causing migrane headaches among deficit hawks, those who are getting nervous about interest payments to cover our treasury bonds, and the AARP and millennial generations who will have to pick up the tab for the gifts to corporations and the wealthy.

Since I am part of the AARP generation and our daughters and grandchildren are a few generations behind, the real story about the Republican tax bill is what will happen down the road to the entitlement benefits for grandma and grandpa and how will the youth of America be forced to deal with a certain budget crisis in order to get the nation’s finances in order?

The reason Republicans and conservatives in general are not talking that much about the deficit and national debt is that the end game of the tax cut is a shrinking of government entitlements. The shifting of money to Wall Street, corporations and the wealthy is just the first step in dismantling Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. After the GOP gets its fiscal pound of flesh from the middle class, the next step is to take on the deficits and debts that the cuts created, and the best way to do that is to chip away at the so-called “budget busters” that so many Americans rely on.

Taking on the entitlements in the name of ” fiscal responsibility” can be accomplished in two ways- substantially reducing benefits for grandma and grandpa while selling privatization schemes to the young as replacements for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Since these next steps in the Republican plan to shrink government entitlements are years away, the current legislation is being touted as putting thousands of dollars into the pockets of Main Street Americans in the near term. The political plan of the GOP is thus a small five year bonus to the middle class followed by the inevitable attack on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

If you thought that the tax cut bill was a fierce battleground separating the two political parties, just wait until the skyrocketing deficits and debt call into question the fiscal strength of the United States requiring deep cuts in government programs to be replaced by 401K Social Security, privately funded Medicare and charity tax incentives for those poor receiving Medicaid. So for all those Americans receiving either a meager bonus or a huge cash reward with the Republican bill, enjoy your refund check. But always keep in mind that these short term gains are only the first step in dismantling the entitlements that have become an integral part of the safety net in our country.


Sexual Harassment or Tax Harassment?

November 20, 2017

There is nothing like a good ol’ sex scandal to take the American public’s attention away from what really matters in their lives. Sure sexual harassment is a plague that far too many women have had to endure as lecherous bosses and co-workers make professional relationships toxic. As many have said, we may be a moment in our national culture where women in the workplace begin to be treated as equals rather than as sex objects.

But the so-called tax reform juggernaut that is being pushed through the Congress hits at the heart of every American’s pocketbook. Sexual harassment may be a debate topic at a local watering hole, but it seems that in the real world of everyday life money trumps sex ( sorry for the terrible pun). Granted that matters of fiscal policy are often difficult to grasp as there is talk of deductions, rates, arcane rules, and loopholes. Yet tax policy is really quite simple and can be summed up in one question, ” who benefits and by how much?”

It may be good for the media bottom line to get viewers to watch as the likes of Spacey, Moore, Weinstein and Franken squirm in front of the cameras or make some lame statement from a rehab  country club. Taxes, however, affect all of us and the answers to the question of ” who benefits and by how much” are not the difficult to determine. By most accounts the big guys and gals in corporate headquarters and in the gated communities will do extremely well under the Republican plans currently being debated, while most of us, who are transfixed with sexual harassment stories, will likely get a few crumbs and only for a relatively short period of time. In fact many of us either in high tax states or with mortgages over $500,000 could take a beating.

Since the tax policy is headed for a political conclusion by the end of the year, it would be wise for Americans to stop asking each other who got outed today for being a sexual jerk and switch to discussing the ” who benefits and by how much” question, after all its about money, a lot of money, and most importantly it is our money. A word to the wise – keep your eyes on your wallet not the boorish behavior of Hollywood and Washington bad boys.