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(Illustration by Michael Daley)

The outcome of America’s presidential election is perhaps less surprising in light of one salient fact: in 2015 less than 57 per cent of adult Americans turned up on the Labor Department’s payroll survey, against 78 per cent in 1969, and 66 per cent in 1939, at the end of the Great Depression. Less than half of adult Americans have full-time jobs. A sixth of adult American men are idle, living on disability or other government support, sponging off family, or eking out a bare living in the informal economy. In light of the economic facts, the nature of Donald Trump’s campaign as well as the response it received from American voters both seem rational, in contrast to the portrayal of both by the establishment punditklatura.

Something very big is wrong with the United States. Americans do not know exactly what it is. Illegal immigration and job loss due to imports are emotional issues in themselves, but they also stand in for a range of concerns: the federal debt, unsustainable retirement and medical benefits, and growing dependency. America decided on November 8 that the problem requires a dramatic solution of some kind, and chose the candidate who promised to do big things, even if he is not yet sure just what these things should be.

Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” recalls Ronald Reagan and “Morning in America,” but his message is more redolent of Franklin Roosevelt. Not since Roosevelt has such a large proportion of the American population found itself on the economic sidelines, and not since Roosevelt has economic malaise proven so resistant to conventional therapy. In fact, Trump gave a nod to Roosevelt’s appeal to “the forgotten man”, promising in his acceptance speech to stand by “the forgotten men and women of our country”.

Broadly speaking, these are the same people whom Hillary Clinton called the “deplorables”: un-hip, and un-urban, and unsocialised through America’s overwhelmingly left-wing university system. The Democratic message to the “deplorables” resonated in 2012 when memory of the 2008 crash was still fresh. Vice President Joe Biden summed it up well in that year’s vice-presidential debate: the Democrats would not rest until “they have peace of mind and can turn to their kid and say with a degree of confidence, ‘Honey, it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be OK’.”

In 2012 the “deplorables” voted for the party that pledged to subsidise them, and the Democrats were as good as their word. In 2012 the economist Nicholas Eberstadt estimated that in a third of American households at least one member received means-tested government assistance of some kind. The number of Americans receiving food assistance (“food stamps”) rose from 27 million in 2008 to 47 million in 2012. Government transfer payments rose from 14 per cent of total personal income in 2009 to 18 per cent in 2012. The most important lesson to be drawn from Trump’s victory is that Americans do not want to be a nation of layabouts. “Make America great again” means earn a living rather than draw a subsidy.

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ancient briton
January 29th, 2017
2:01 AM
Bearing in mind the distribution of IQ along a normal bell curve, there will always be a substantial group of people who can't cope with IT, indeed who may be functionally illiterate.Such people always had manual jobs in factories, farms, and local government cleaning the streets and so on. It is a very callous and foolish society that casts such people, many of whom have estimable qualities, aside, to survive on handouts. They form a part of the group who feel themselves displaced or worse forgotten by an establishment obsessing over BLM and LGBTQ rights and so on. Other better qualified people see their factories being transferred to low-wage countries, and know through every trip to Walmart that manufactured goods which could well be made in the States, are coming in from overseas. These conditions didn't exist under Roosevelt who governed an almost completely insulated economy and who had no thought of black rights, never mind LGBTQ etc. Reagan presided for the most part over a prosperous manufacturing country, although the rust belt was beginning to emerge. Many of those residents became Reagan Democrats. I see the Trump effect as being not dissimilar but now nationwide as the famous red map shows. Voters want a lot less by way of political correctness, and a lot more by way of making America the home of mass production once again. It's a tall order, but Trump is the only one who has it in him to recognize the problem, talk openly about it, and at least try to get things done. Scepticim at this early stage is just a little premature.

January 23rd, 2017
11:01 PM
Reaganomics, that which started the US economy on the current slippery slope. The figures say it all, taking the USA from a creditor to a debtor nation. In 1981, shortly after taking office, Reagan complained of "runaway deficits" that were then approaching US$80 billion, or about 2.5%GDP Within only two years, however, his policies had succeeded in enlarging the deficit to more than US$200 billion, or 6 % At the end of the Reagan/Bush era it had was down to US$150 billion, still almost double what it had been under Carter. However the National Debt had climbed from US$995 billion, when Reagan took office, to $4 trillion by the end of Bush1's presidency, Under Reagan and Bush Republican Administrations it climbed as a % of GDP from 26% to 42%. Clinton managed hold/wind back both of them in returning the budget to a surplus of some US$280 billion and reducing the National Debt to 35% of GDP. But George, The Faux Texan and late encumbrance in the White House even managed to outdo "The Gipper" and his own Dad. He has set another unenviable record. The deficit was to be $482 billion in the 2009 budget moving from black to red ink in the order of US$750 billion from the end of Clinton's term. Lest We Forget The Faux Texan Folly of the Three Trillion Dollar Wars, The Iraq Fiasco and the Afghanistan Imbroglio followed now by the resultant wide spread conflict with Daesh. It is interesting to note that from 1978-2005 under Democratic Presidents, Federal Spending went up by 9.9%. Federal Debt by 4.2%, GDP by 12.6%. Under Republican Presidents Federal Spending was up 12.1%, Federal Debt by 36.4% , GDP by 10.7% So which is the big spending, big debt and drag on the economy party?

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