I am going to take you down a historical path that begins when George W. Bush oversees the worst economic collapse in our nation’s existence.
2008. The year it began.
The collapse was nearly complete. The term “too big to fail” became the big bank mantra. Our government under Obama was forced to bail out bank after bank and after that, the entire auto industry. Government was the last resort to keep the private sector afloat and it worked. But at a terrible cost.
Out in the rest of the country, our citizens were floundering. Mortgage foreclosures were rampant and credit was tightened into a stranglehold death grip. Millions lost their homes and were forced into bankruptcy. Month after month, the economy hemorrhaged jobs.
And when the carnage began to subside, Wall Street came back via the taxpayer while the rest of us began to pick up the pieces. Income inequality became the norm and the income gap widened into a chasm.
And while the Obama administration attempted to right the ship with the average American, Republicans in Congress saved their concern for the wealthiest in America. Slowly, corporations rose above water via huge government bailouts, but any attempt to help out the average citizen was met with obstruction and piecemeal capitalism.
Soon, Wall Street and corporate America was humming along again – the economy came back for the favored few – but still the fix was in to make the 1% the highest priority for Republicans in Congress.
During the crisis, banking laws were changed. But once the crisis appeased, the banking laws were attacked and retrograded as much as possible. And instead of listening to the Obama administration, the Republicans went their own way to once again protect the 1% and made their ultimate goal to be electing a Republican President (as well as changing the Supreme Court).
So, they changed the narrative. Rather than making the banks the obvious bad guy, it became health care. Repeal and replace followed too big to fail. And even though affordable health care would have been a boon to non-banking America, Republicans tried to blame it as the ultimate problem. The socialist threat after a capitalist failure.
After the economic collapse, a wave of populism arose which realized that only the wealthiest of America were recovering properly while the rest of us were being left behind. Taxpayer dollars funneled into the banking system were staying in the financial sector making more millionaires out of hedge fund managers and CEOs of bailed out banks. But unlimited corporate money managed to change the normal populist narrative and make health care via the ACA as the one thing to be angry about. The populist wave was diverted as the average American hit hardest by that failing economy bought into the multi-million dollar campaign to blame “something else” for the greed and corruption that brought us to our knees.
As the attacks on health care gained traction, other wealthy groups began to subvert the populism into another area to blame our problems on – immigration. It was important to not allow all the growing populism to focus on the natural enemy of income disparity, but rather subvert it into another false assumption that immigrants were stealing the potential wealth of the average citizen and posed the most dangerous threat to our way of life.
This particular campaign of xenophobia found its champion in Donald Trump who already was establishing a base with white supremacists and nativist ideas. With America’s wealth concentrated into less than 1% of the population, that 1% could, via weak campaign finance laws, donate unlimited cash into protecting that income disparity and blame an influx of immigrants as their idea of the “real” problem.
So, Trump, taking advantage of subverted populism and an opportune influx of Russian interference focused on a Trump win, managed to squeeze out a Presidential victory via the electoral college.
And his first major accomplishment was to reward his 1% benefactors with a huge tax cut that has pushed income disparity to incredible new levels.
Populism is a movement that normally is meant to equalize the playing field. To give those with less of a voice a chance for change by voting in overwhelming numbers. But this subverted populism has changed the normal emphasis via Madison Avenue monetary persuasion and cultivating our natural fears.
I don’t know if we can fix this any time soon. But one thing is certain, if Trump is re-elected, the 1% will make sure things continue as they are now and that the voice of populism will continue to be subverted away from its need to balance out the extremes.