Donald Trump, while running for president, used populists’ slogans to get elected. What are these slogans? A few examples include, “I’ll change your world!” Let me improve your life!” “I’ll destroy the existing order and make ‘Make America great again!'” Many Americans bit that hook because they felt their needs and concerns have been disregarded by the nation’s wealthy and political elites.
Though there have been significant shortcomings and disappointments by way of the Trump administration, there remain a large number of Americans dedicated in support of Trump. They’re not alone! We can readily be taken in by the impression that rich people, among whom Trump says he’s one and by all indications apparently is one, make a difference; in fact, often they’re viewed as generous. So generous until one considers that America could have avoided many a fix we’re in, were it not for those wealthy among us who are actually selling fake change.
What their form of “change” amounts to is a winners-take-all economy which moves the gains from any progress, especially when financial in nature, almost exclusively upward rather than spreading it throughout the land. Take a gander at the average pretax income of America’s top one percent: it has tripled since 1980; while that of the top 0.001 percent has risen more than seven times over. In the same time period, the average income of the bottom half of American salaries stagnated and then died near $16,000.
A co-founder of the Carlyle Group private equity firm is a well-known billionaire who deals in what he calls “patriotic philanthropy.” An example from this private equity wheeler and dealer has to do with what was a damaged Washington Monument after the 2011 earthquake there. Congress would only fix it to a $15 million repair level while private equity donations paid the difference. “The government doesn’t have the resources,” said he, private equity guy, and his colleagues, “private citizens need to pitch in.”
The pitching-in appears generous until we learn that private equity colleagues are one of the reasons the U.S. government is strapped for cash. Those Americans in private equity firms have for years used their influence to protect the carried-interest-loophole, a big time provider to Americans in the private equity field. Closing that loophole could have benefitted the federal treasury to the tune of $180 billion over the past ten years: enough to repair the monument many times over as well as other monuments in need of repair.
Another example comes from a big name employer who’s infamous for underpaying its workers. Americans for Tax Fairness accused the company of costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year because the company, while earning its heirs at least $150 billion in wealth, pays its employees so little that they must rely on food stamps, public-supported health care and other taxpayer-funded programs. That company has argued all along that their charitable donations make the difference.
Fake change and what it allows paved the way for President Trump. He used the feelings among many Americans that the system is rigged and the elites in it for themselves. He directed that anger at the nation’s most vulnerable, those willing to accept his gross exaggerations and mendacities. It has turned out in the most glaring of revelations that a President Trump is what we got when Americans are willing to trust those rich who promise a fix to everything while being complicit in the breaking of everything while giving all to himself, his family and the nation’s wealthy.
America was great before Trump. Now, America’s fractured in ways and places that need not be broken. Innovations abound but benefit the few. What we desperately need is leadership that enables progress through gains for all of us. Unfortunately, too many politicians are in office who listen only to their donors. Americans must have health insurance so their ailments are looked after and they’re able to afford the drugs to address them. They must be paid enough to live with roof overhead and food on the table. They must see that by working hard and living lawful lives -that plan for their future and the raising of their children- are forthcoming and sustainable.
Gene H. McIntyre in Keizer @503-393-8489.