For the White Mob (that would be Trump supporters) this election is about economics, theirs. A real and serious discussion about economics would be totally lost on them. Donald Trump is a poor example of a snake oil salesman as Timothy Egan pointed out this morning, and yet the rubes are buying everything he has. People who sound normal explain that they are Trump supporters because he is a businessman and he will get things done. Of course the media doesn’t follow-up with asking any questions about how and apparently the White Mob thinks that he proclaiming himself a very smart person is going to solve everything. Even a cursory look at his business dealings shows you he cares little for workers, is detached from reality, and makes a snake appear as a noble creature.
Hopefully during the general election, maybe our media will do its job since they’re down to two candidates and personality politics can only go so far in filling up 24/7 babbling until you actually have to examine what they are proposing. And here is the problem, economics are not intuitive. In fact they can be counter intuitive because what we might do as a family or a business would be exactly wrong for the whole country. But I get ahead of myself.
First of all we can do a quick examination of Republican ideas. Keep wages as low as possible, remove impediments to business like health and safety rules, and cut all safety nets so we can lower taxes on “job creators”. Worked wonderfully so far, right? Trade policy gets a little more complicated, but Republicans are for more and more trade with fewer and fewer restrictions. If you want to put all this into one neat little bundle, their policies are focused like a laser beam on maximizing corporation profits and stock prices.
They are also focused like a laser beam on increasing economic inequality. And to rule the masses they tell them what is good for business is good for them (flow down) when the data markedly shows it is not. And finally there is the fear factor, be afraid of the debt. The Peterson Group is at it again (even Obama fell for it) and I will just remind you that the debt is a non issue. Where again are interest rates and inflation?
Trump enters the fray and uses slight of hand to blame everything on someone else and he, trust him, he is a very smart person, will fix it. But as Timothy pointed out this money, where is the beef?
With Trump, you can be sure of one thing: He will betray those people. We know this because he already has. Wage stagnation is the most glaring symptom of a declining middle class. Trump’s solution? He believes that “wages are too high.”
So what have we got on the Democratic side. Well they sort of get it but this is where a lot of us are really afraid of the Democratic Establishment. They don’t get it. While they want to see wages increase, see more equality for women, maintain the safety net, they are really still in the camp of what is good for business is good for America and firmly in the grasp of Wall Street and corporations. As one writer who is worried about Hillary wrote:
The most devastating attack Bernie could have made against Hillary, would have been to start painting an accurate picture of the President Hillary Clinton economic team – whose members will obviously be picked from the ranks of those who crafted and believe in the economic policies that got us exactly where we are – as does Hillary.
Bernie’s mistake, was to focus *only* on inequality, and not on economic competence – and not focusing closely on Hillary’s likely picks for key economic posts.
It was Barack Obama’s mistake too, although in his case the economy was crumbling around him in a world he did not understand and he turned to the boys who best understood it to fix, yet caused it in the first place. He restored the economy, but what was restored was what ceased working for most of us 50 years earlier and started the great wealth transfer. It is the assumption that what is good for GDP, Wall Street, and corporations is good for America without looking at how it impacts economic inequality. Basically you have the 1% advising us on what makes the economy work, and assuming they are not just looking out for their own interests because from their point of view, it is working just fine.
I have written in this blog long explanations of why microeconomic thinking applied to a macroeconomy is a disaster (the home budget analogy applied to government spending), why spending and debt are not the bogey man that is used to generate fear in the White Mob, why our system is rigged to transfer wealth to the few and how to fix it, and why we need a whole other metric for evaluating trade policy besides impact to GDP (economic inequality). It is not really my great thinking, but thinking of others summarized here*.
Changes to our economic system to make it work for all of us go to the heart of the status quo in conservative Republican and moderate Democratic thinking. And in general they represent Wall Street, the corporations, and big business in general. It is where the money is and where the power is. It is why change is so hard and why little gets done. The Donald is all about smoke and mirrors with no changes. Hillary may want to make changes at the margins, but if her economic team is the same club of good old boys, nothing really changes. That is what Bernie was trying to wake us up to. That is what corporate media kept telling us was impractical.
The changes to make the economy work for all of us are fundamental and it starts with getting money out of politics. Then it is a focus on business as a means to advance all of us while not forgetting that maximizing profits may do nothing to increase the standard of living or quality of life for the workers, and that raising stock prices at the expense of our planet is not a deal we are going to take. If we made economic inequality, welfare of everyone, and health of our planet the metric for all business deals, it really would be a new day. There would be some near term pain, but we could look our children in the eye.
The Economy Part 1 – The fallacy of the Home Budget Analogy
The Economy Part II – Debt and a reasonable level of debt
More of that Project Management Thing – The Economy – A comprehensive plan to restructure the economy
Free Trade, Maybe – An approach to fixing trade agreements