Disillusionment and despair: the Trump turmoil

Donald Trump isn’t a candidate.

Donald-Trump-Caricature

He’s a stand-in for the alienation and disillusionment so many Americans feel as both the Republican and Democratic parties have failed us.

How could it be otherwise when so much seems so wrong and fakery, misdirection, and outright lies by both parties have been so pervasive?

Consider:

  • The past several decades have seen the most sustained rise in inequality in the United States since the 19th century after more than 40 years of narrowing inequality following the Great Depression. By some estimates, income and wealth inequality are near their highest levels in the past hundred years.
  • The 2009 $830 billion stimulus package, with a claimed focus on shovel-ready projects, was supposed to fix things after the Great Recession. The legacy instead – a slow growth economy. The first 23 quarters of the recovery, which officially began in June of 2009, had an annual rate of growth of just 2.1 percent.
  • The distribution of wealth in the United States is even more unequal than that of income. The wealthiest 5 percent of American households held 54 percent of all wealth reported in 1989, rose to 61 percent in 2010 and reached 63 percent in 2013.
  • 71 percent of Americans say life has gotten worse for middle-class Americans over the past 10 years.
  • Today’s fifty-somethings may be part of the first generation in American history to experience a lifetime of downward mobility, in which at every stage of adult life, they have had less income and less net wealth than did people who were their age ten years before.
  • There is now less economic mobility in the United States than in Canada or much of Europe. A child born in the bottom one-fifth of incomes in the United States has only a 4 percent chance of rising to the top one-fifth.
  • Young Americans (ages 18-34) are earning less (adjusted for inflation) than their peers in 1980 ; the college graduating class this year left with an average student debt of $35,051.
  • In 1986, President Reagan signed legislation that was supposed to fix the illegal immigration issue once and for all. Three million applied for legal status and about 2.7 million received it. Today, about 11.7 million immigrants are living in the United States illegally. So much for the fix.
  • Despite all the “mission accomplished” and “victory is at hand” assurances, America has been at war in the Middle East for the past 15 years, with little to show for it, billions of dollars down a rathole, thousands of American soldiers dead and wounded, and continuing chaos in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen.
  • Despite the billions the government has spent on poverty-related programs, half of children age three and younger live in poverty.
  • The White House wants to “press the reset button” on one of Washington’s biggest challenges: its increasingly troublesome relationship with Russia,” Vice President Biden, 2/7/2009; “We’re going to hit the reset button and start fresh (with Russia),” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 3/6/2009
  • “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it.  If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too.” President Obama, 6/6/2009.
  • “I ended the war in Iraq, as I promised. We are transitioning out of Afghanistan. We have gone after the terrorists who actually attacked us 9/11 and decimated al Qaeda.” President Obama, 9/14/2012
  • Despite assurances from some politicians that all’s well, the Medicare program has $28.1 trillion in unfunded liabilities over the next 75 years. Together with Social Security’s $13.3 trillion shortfall, the government has accumulated entitlement spending commitments that far exceed our capacity to pay for them.
  • In the 2012 election cycle, a tiny elite of the U.S. population, just 0.40 %, made a political contribution of more than $200, providing 63.5% of all individual contributions to federal candidates, PACs and Parties, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
  • Fewer than four hundred families are responsible for almost half the money raised in the 2016 presidential campaign to date, a concentration of political donors that is unprecedented in the modern era.

As H.L. Mencken said, “Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule — and both commonly succeed, and are right.”

 

The real war is on our children

Democrats are again pulling out from their rhetorical basement accusations that Republicans are waging a “war on women”. Meanwhile, they’re ignoring another war that’s real, the “war on our children” that government spending addicts are prosecuting.

Our children are going to pay a heavy price for the fiscal insanity that has already led to national debt in excess of $17 billion.

Obama-National-DebtThe increase in our national debt over the past 25 years. years has been mind-boggling. In 1990, it was $3.2 billion, in 2000 $5.7 billion. By 2010 it was $13.6 billion. Now it has leaped to $17.5 billion.

But Democrats, in the spirit of “see no evil”, want to keep the issue under wraps and focus on other things. During a February 2014 House Financial Services Committee hearing, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) even complained about two real-time running national debt clock displays in the hearing room. Ellison said it was just intended to send an ideological message.

Obama says his FY2015 budget proposal is an “opportunity agenda”. Yes, an opportunity for $564 billion more debt, an opportunity to increase total national debt to nearly $25 trillion over the next 10 years and an opportunity to pander to Americans who want it all without paying for it.

As Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said, Obama’s budget is a declaration that “deficits don’t matter, debt doesn’t matter, and that reality itself doesn’t matter.”

Some Democrats are arguing that annual deficits are dropping, so we can all back off worrying about the problem.

But the most recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) budget forecast projects that after a few years of lower deficits they’ll climb again for an indefinite period. In addition, the national debt will increase annually by much more than the amount of the deficit because a considerable amount of federal borrowing is not counted in the budget.

As a result, the CBO projects $7.9 trillion will be added to the nation’s cumulative public debt over the next decade.

That’s because revenue will keep up with economic growth, but spending will grow even more. “Spending is boosted by the aging of the population, the expansion of federal subsidies for health insurance, rising health care costs per beneficiary, and mounting interest costs on federal debt,” the CBO said.

According to the CBO, interest payments will soon become the third largest item in the federal budget, after Social Security and Medicare. Right now, interest on the debt costs $233 billion. CBO projects that interest costs will reach $880 billion by 2024. As interest costs grow, they could crowd out investment in other priorities, including education, research and development, and other programs that could help our economy grow.

Large and growing federal debt that restrains economic growth will give policymakers less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges, and eventually increase the risk of a fiscal crisis.

A Peter G. Peterson Foundation survey released on March 25, 2014 concluded that 67 percent of people say their concern about the national debt has increased over the past few years and 79 percent say that addressing the national debt should be among the President and Congress’ top 3 priorities.

And yet, Democrats continue to resist deficit-lowering efforts.

Deficit reduction surged as a policy priority during Obama’s first term: Between 2009 and 2013,  the share citing the deficit as a top priority rose 19 points, according to a January 2014 report from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. In the most recent 2014 survey, majorities of Republicans (80%) and independents (66%) continued to say reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority for the president and Congress, but just 49% of Democrats viewed it as a top priority, the lowest percentage since Obama took office. Going back 20 years, the gap between Republicans and Democrats on the issue has never been as large as it is today, Pew said.

Not exactly a hopeful sign for the emergence of bipartisan cooperation on the issue.