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Donald Trump and the Revolt of the Proles
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“For the past 25 years, the center-left has told the bottom 60% of the income distribution in their countries the following story: “Globalization is good for you. It’s awesome. It’s really great. We’re going to sign these trade agreements. Don’t worry, there will be compensation. You’ll be fine. You’ll all end up as computer programmers. It’ll be fantastic. And, by the way, we don’t really care because we’re all going to move to the middle because that’s where the voters are, and they’re the ones with the money, and they’re the only ones we really care about…and you basically take the bottom 30% of the income distribution and you say, “We don’t care what happens to you. You’re now something to be policed. You’re now something that has to have its behavior changed. We’re going to nudge you into better parts…

It’s a very paternal, patronizing relationship. This is no longer the warm embrace of social democracy, arm in arm in solidarity with the working classes. They are to policed and excluded in their housing estates, so you can feel safe in your neighborhoods and private schools.

So once this has evolved over 20 years, you have this revolt, not just against Brexit. It’s not about the EU. It’s about the elites. It’s about the 1%. It’s about the fact that your parties, have sold you down the river.” (Excerpt from Mark Blyth’s “Brexit” on YouTube)

Liberals and progressives love to point across the aisle and accuse their opponents of racism, misogyny and xenophobia, but that’s not what the Trump campaign is all about. And that’s not what Brexit was about. While it’s true that anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise in Europe and the US, the hostility has less to do with race than it does jobs and wages. In other words, Brexit is a revolt against a free trade regime in which all the benefits have accrued to the uber-rich while everyone else has seen their incomes slide, their future’s dim and their standard of living plunge. As Vincent Bevins of the Los Angeles Times said:

“Both Brexit and Trumpism are the very, very wrong answers to legitimate questions that urban elites have refused to ask for thirty years”…“since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt.”

Fake liberals like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton have been big proponents of free trade and thus contributed greatly to this groundswell revolution against condescending elites and technocrats whose ultimate goal is to level the playing field so that workers in the developed countries compete nose to nose with underpaid wage slaves in China, Vietnam and across Asia. As Blyth says in the YouTube piece:

“Because the long run effect of the euro is going to be to drive western European wages down to eastern European levels.”

Bingo. More and more people know that this this is the real objective of free trade, to lower wages and crush organized labor in order to boost profits. And this is why the media has been unable to undermine public support from Brexit or Trump, because the issues impact working people and their standard of living DIRECTLY. The majority of voters now believe that these elite-backed policies are destructive to their interests and a threat to their survival. That’s why they remain indifferent to the media’s charges of racism.

Elites understand what’s going on. They know they got too greedy and went overboard. They also know the public is mad as hell and want blood which is why the markets have gone crazy. Investors have driven “safe haven” bonds into record territory which signals the big money guys are terrified of the changes that the election could bring. What does that tell you? Check this out from Fortune magazine:

“Wealthy US investors are hoarding record cash balances out of fear that US presidential election will wreak havoc on their retirement accounts a senior USB Group AG executive said … Although the US stock market hit a new high this week, many clients would rather sit on the sidelines than risk the kind of losses they faced in 2008, he said…

A UBS survey of 2,200 high net worth investors found that 84% of them think the election will have a significant impact on their financial health, McCann said, citing a report to be released later in July.” (“Wealthy are hoarding cash out of fear of what the election will bring”, Fortune)

So moneybags investors think that there’s going to be a day of reckoning and that all the anti-free trade, protectionist rhetoric emerging from the various campaigns is going to weigh on the markets?

It sure looks that way, and some would say that that day has already arrived. This is from the World Socialist Web Site:

“A report issued by the GTA on Wednesday said the term “slowdown” created the impression that, while it is losing momentum, world trade is still growing and one country’s exports do not come at the expense of others. These “rosy impressions” should be set aside because its analysis revealed that world export volume reached a plateau at the beginning of 2015. World trade was not only slowing down, but not growing at all….

The report warned that a “negative feedback loop” could develop where zero trade growth fuelled the resort to ever-more protectionist measures, leading to a further decline in trade. While the report did not draw out the implications of its warning, they are clear. It was such a feedback loop that developed in the 1930s, intensifying the Great Depression and ultimately leading to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.”
(“Global trade stagnates amid wave of protectionism”, Nick Beams, World Socialist Web Site)

Global trade has already been hammered by misguided central bank policies that merely try to steal export-share by weakening the currency. (The race to the bottom) But now we are embarking a period of strong economic nationalism which threatens to break up the Eurozone, intensify the call for protective tariffs on foreign-manufactured goods, and launch a full-blown trade war on China. And it’s all a reaction to the way that free trade was rigged to benefit the 1 percent alone. Elites can only blame themselves. Here’s how Glenn Greenwald summed it up in a recent article at The Intercept:

“Brexit….could have been a positive development. But that would require that elites…react to the shock of this repudiation by spending some time reflecting on their own flaws, analyzing what they have done to contribute to such mass outrage and deprivation, in order to engage in course correction…

Instead of acknowledging and addressing the fundamental flaws within themselves, they are devoting their energies to demonizing the victims of their corruption, all in order to de-legitimize those grievances and thus relieve themselves of responsibility to meaningfully address them. That reaction only serves to bolster, if not vindicate, the animating perceptions that these elite institutions are hopelessly self-interested, toxic, and destructive and thus cannot be reformed but rather must be destroyed. That, in turn, only ensures that there will be many more Brexits, and Trumps, in our collective future.” (“Brexit is only the latest proof of the insularity and failure of western establishment institutions”, Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept)

Western elites were shocked by Brexit, shocked that all their fear mongering and finger-wagging amounted to nothing. The same is true in the US, where the media’s daily attacks on Trump have failed to erode his base of support at all, in fact, they may have added to it.

Why is that? Why has the media’s repudiation of Trump only increased his popularity and strengthened the resolve of his supporters? Has the media lost its power to influence or is something else going on?

The media hasn’t lost its power, it’s just that personal experience is more powerful than propaganda.

What personal experience are we talking about?

Economic insecurity. Brexit was about economic insecurity. The Trump phenom is about economic insecurity. The rise of left and right-wing groups across Europe and the US is about economic insecurity. This isn’t about ideology, it’s about reality; the reality of not knowing if you’re ever going to be able to retire or put your kids through school or make your house payment or scrape by until payday. The reality of muddling by in an economy where the prospects for survival look worse with every passing day. That’s the reality that made Trump possible, and that’s what this election is about, economic insecurity.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Economics, Ideology • Tags: Brexit, Donald Trump 
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  1. You’ll all end up as computer programmers.

    Thanks for the first sheer laugh of my day.
    They are rare, and healthful.

    • Replies: @mtn cur
    , @TomSchmidt
  2. mtn cur says:

    Indeed, all the kids now want to strike it rich designing new apps, which is not as stupid as wanting to be a rock star or jock star but the math is not in their favor.

  3. Renoman says:

    One day soon you’re gonna realize
    That the leaders of the Country are tellin you lies
    That they stole it all and they sold it cheap
    And they put it in their pockets cause you were weak
    And they’re gonna get away, ya they’re getting away
    And they really don’t give a damn what you say!

  4. @pink_point

    I would laugh, but then… I know the number of young people being advised to go into programming courses, and I know the umber who are actually needed. There will be a reserve army of the unemployed there, and soon.

  5. The raw hard truth of life on earth is that you are responsible for yourself, but all you can do is improve your odds, there are no guarantees. Demagogues who try to tell you that it can be different are using you to advance themselves. That is true of the Left and the Right.

    Mr. Whitney attacks “the elite” over and over and mostly what he says is true, they are lying self-serving assholes. So are lots of people. But the undercurrent to his message is that socialism can avert the coming disaster. Socialism can cure our ills.

    Buy that bridge if you want, then meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    • Replies: @NoseytheDuke
  6. @another fred

    No that is not what Mike Whitney is saying. Socialism is not the only alternative and the world isn’t black and white. Long ago, great minds like Friedrich List wrote of the common sense of having a mixed economy. Some things should be socialised, for the good of the greater society, healthcare, education, law enforcement, essential infrastructure etc. There are quite a few other areas that are better suited to private ownership and development. All of this was previously practiced in America long ago… and it worked much better than what is “working” now.

    • Replies: @woodNfish
    , @pink_point
  7. main stream media doesn’t inform the public that the average citizen is impoverished by the american government’s policy of corporate enrichment. if the subject is broached at all, it is because internet journalism brought an awareness that can longer be ignored.
    sure, the public learned that the banks were bailed out with their money. but most believe that money has been payed back. the msm implied the meme and ran with it. and it worked. the torches & pitchforks were put back in the barn.
    alas, the internet is the only platform that offers truth. and the only platform that publishes comprehensive works from varied sources. the only platform to carry out the duties that our constitution entrusted to the media.
    that’s why the web must be regulated – read censored.

  8. woodNfish says:

    Oh yeah, socializing healthcare has worked so well in the US. Odumbass care will be the first to go in the new Trump administration. And then there is education – public eduction is a complete failure and a lie. It is no longer about education, but indoctrination and brainwashing. Socialism destroys pretty much everything ti touches.

  9. woodNfish says:

    Glenn Greenwald summed it up in a recent article at The Intercept:

    Using Greenwald or the intercept as a source for anything is about as dumb as you can get. The guy is a communist and his rag is his vision through leftist ideology – a real waste of time.

    • Replies: @pico
  10. tbraton says:

    I always wondered what it would be like if I were a “prole.” Now I know. It also appears that Larry Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury under Bill Clinton, also has a desire to be a “prole”:

    “He notes that the touted benefits of NAFTA and China’s ascension to the WTO haven’t materialized.

    The core of the problem, he says, is that governments are misguided.

    “A new approach has to start from the idea that the basic responsibility of government is to maximise the welfare of citizens, not to pursue some abstract concept of the global good,” he writes .

    He uses some good examples to show that cooperation can work (for things like cracking down on tax evasion) but that setting international rules where democracies can’t do what they think is needed, or right, is folly.

    “If Italy’s banking system is badly undercapitalised and the country’s democratically elected government wants to use taxpayer money to recapitalise it, why should some international agreement prevent it from doing so?” ”

    What that shows is either that Larry Summers is advertising his availability for a job in the Trump Administration or that the brightest of the bright (summa cum laude from Harvard) sometimes see the light. I think Summers is a phony prole. As a phony prole myself, I think I am fully qualified to recognize a fellow phony.

  11. Priss Factor [AKA "Anonymny"] says:

    “While it’s true that anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise in Europe and the US, the hostility has less to do with race than it does jobs and wages.”

    It should be about RACE.

    Race, culture, and history are more valuable than economics to a nation.

    Identity, history, and territory are priceless. You can’t put a price tag on such thing.

    In contrast, economics is always about up and down in value. Businesses come and go.
    A nation is more than businesses and jobs.

    Race-ism, historism, and territorism are the most valuable assets of a nation. They are the fibers of power and unity.

    Look at China. Economy went up and down like a roller coaster in the past 200 yrs, but China remained China. Why? Chinese kept possession of Chinese land and remember their history.

    Even if there is no economic crisis and even if open borders and free trade will lead to great economic boon, Europeans and all patriots should reject them because they destroy the unity of race, culture, land, and history within any nation.

    If everything should be judged by dollars and jobs, we have no souls left. We’ve traded coca cola for blood.

  12. pico says:

    a communist is a true thinker in live time but a bad adviser so you take the diagnosis and throw away the prescription.

    • Replies: @woodNfish
  13. woodNfish says:

    a communist is a true thinker

    Um, no they aren’t. They don’t understand human nature, motivation, or simple economics and they deny reality.

  14. @NoseytheDuke

    Unfortunately, since humans, especially alpha humans, are characterized by unlimited lust for power, times of balance and evenness are periods of transition, not of stability.

    You achieve fairness for a very narrow time frame, when old hegemony hasn’t been replaced by the next one yet.
    There’s no-one, and no party or institution of power, that aims to anything balanced.

  15. Oooooh, I love it!

    You achieve fairness for a very narrow time frame, when old hegemony hasn’t been replaced by the next one yet.

    I just wrote something similar, and it’s true. People keep wishing for someone to rescue them and make life “fair” for them. Huge mistake cuz it ain’t never gonna happen.

    This is right on as well.:

    another fred says:
    July 18, 2016 at 10:31 pm GMT • 100 Words
    The raw hard truth of life on earth is that you are responsible for yourself, but all you can do is improve your odds, there are no guarantees. Demagogues who try to tell you that it can be different are using you to advance themselves. That is true of the Left and the Right.

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