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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/4/18

How To Prevent Future Trumps

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From Robert Reich Blog


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Why did so many working class voters choose a selfish, thin-skinned, petulant, lying, narcissistic, boastful, megalomaniac for president?

It's important to know, because we need to stop more Trumps in the future.

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The answer lies in the interplay between deep-seated racism and stagnant and declining wages. Both must be addressed.

Some white working class men and women were -- and still are -- receptive to Trump's bigotry. But what made them receptive? Racism and xenophobia aren't exactly new to American life. Fears of blacks and immigrants have been with us since the founding of the Republic.

What changed was the economy. Since the 1980s, the wages and economic prospects of the typical American worker have stagnated. Nearly 80 percent now live paycheck to paycheck, and those paychecks have grown less secure.

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Meanwhile, all the economy's gains have gone to the richest 10 percent, mostly the top 1 percent. Wealthy individuals and big corporations have, in turn, invested some of those gains into politics.

As a result, big money now calls the shots in Washington -- getting subsidies, tax breaks, tax loopholes (even Trump promised to close the "carried interest" loophole, yet it remains), and bailouts.

The near meltdown of Wall Street in 2008 caused a recession that cost millions their jobs, homes, and savings. But the Street got bailed out and not a single Wall Street executive went to jail.

In the two years leading up to the 2016 election, I revisited many of the places I had visited when I was labor secretary in the 1990s.

People told me the system was "rigged" against them. A surprising number said they planned to vote either for Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump -- the two anti-establishment candidates who promised to "shake up" Washington.

But Trump's racism and xenophobia focused the cumulative economic rage on scapegoats that had nothing to do with its causes. It was hardly the first time in history a demagogue has used this playbook.

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If America doesn't respond to the calamity that's befallen the working class, we will have Trumps as far as the eye can see.

A few Democrats are getting the message -- pushing ambitious ideas like government-guaranteed full employment, single-payer health care, industry-wide collective bargaining, and a universal basic income.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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