Saturday, February 15, 2020

Can Sanders Beat Trump In Capitalist America? Possibly!

Socialist Sanders Versus The Don
The Democrats are searching for the candidate best able to defeat Trump in the forthcoming Presidential race. The question on the mind of many democrats is whether Bernie Sanders can beat Trump in a capitalist America? Considering the surge in inequality the answer is, yes. It is difficult to underestimate the anger building under the surface as Trump makes his rounds declaring this the "best economy ever." The reason for the discontent is many Americans are not feeling all that blessed. Wealth inequality has soared in recent years and now stands at the worst it has been during the entire U.S. post-war period. Simply put, statistics show many Americans lack the money to pay for a $500 repair. Driving a decent car doesn't make a person middle-class or economically equal, especially if they are up to their eyeballs in debt to do so.

Like Always The Swing States Decide  (click to enlarge)
As for whether Sanders could beat Trump, a couple of issues rapidly come to mind. First, Trump is not as loved as he indicates, matter of fact  the President has a way of ruffling the feathers of both friends and foes. The word braggadocios has been used to describe Donald Trump, synonyms for this word according to are blowhard, boaster, bragger, show-off, and windbag. None of these are very flattering and over time such behavior has a way of wearing on people. This has caused many of his supporters to indicate they would like him to stop tweeting and shut-up. The second fact is that by flipping a couple of swing states to blue it would be all over for the republicans.   

Much of Sander's appeal comes from his promises he can deliver a more just society by transferring wealth to those embracing his long-held socialistic values. This highlights a glaring weakness in the democratic system, and that is, a highly motivated minority can overwhelm an unmotivated majority. History shows the promises of generous programs have proven to be a great motivator. It does not hurt that Sanders comes across as sincere and passionate. Those wielding the power to bring about change are often sheltered from the pain inequality and a broken justice system cause. This means they are out of touch with what many people are forced to go through every day. Because of this, the thorny problems of the day become a low priority. Sanders on the other hands seems to relish the challenge of attacking these issues. 

The reality that a vast majority of people face diminishing prospects is a concerning trend. This was highlighted by the IMF in a report focused on data showing how middle-income households have continued to move downward. The U.S. middle class has never recovered after being “hollowed out” when manufacturing jobs fled America and incomes fell. Current trends indicate the "equality gap" is not expected to narrow in the future. This comes at a time when the American worker is being told robots are here and more are being deployed each day. this means millions of jobs will soon vanish due to automation, This is a huge threat and could prove to be a big deal. Growing income inequality is not just an American problem but it is an issue across the globe and no magic or silver bullet exists to address the conundrum brought about by this concentration of power and wealth.

A More Recent Chart Hard To Find! click to enlarge
In a piece titled; "The Morass That Swallowed the Middle Class" Matthew Shaw delves into how much of the inequality debate focuses on the gains of “the 1%,” and less attention has been paid to the economic well-being of what is broadly termed the middle class. These people are all too often just lumped into a diverse group labeled the 99%. Some of these people do very well for themselves but many are dirt poor. Much of this centers around just how out of touch our "professional elite" are with the general population and the economy. By our professional elite, I refer to those who make the rules and their minions, their aids, the academics, the financial institutions, economists and the media, all of which have tied their wagon to the status quo. Conflict and corruption also enter into this because we often find those setting the rules also tend to want a bigger piece of the pie.

Trump's trickle-down economics and tax cuts may sound good but they have not worked for all of America. Trump is very comfortable with economic manipulation and has displayed a surprisingly short-term view in his economic policies. This means he often appears more worried about today than the future. His "damn tomorrow" attitude is reflected in deficit spending, his calls for lower interest rates, and by embracing MMT. The Trump economy which is based on huge deficit spending can only take the economy so far and carries with it a fair amount of negatives. Trump's delusion that his stock market can go straight up forever is not based on years of stock trading but rather his years in real estate where inflation treated him well as prices rose ever higher.

The structural issues that haunt America's competitiveness and far outweigh the benefits of lower taxes. If you are one of the many Americans that pay no taxes this subject only means the government will have less to transfer your way. Healthcare remains a huge issue for most voters and Trump's failure to move healthcare reform forward coupled with Republicans' pathetic excuse for an answer to improve healthcare was short of inspiring. While Trump predicted that Democrats will own ObamaCare if it falls apart reality may not support his view. A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows a majority of voters, 61 percent said they now blame Trump and Republicans for “future problems” with the healthcare law.

Trump's narrative that tomorrow will be brighter is not being heard everywhere, in fact, some people are downright fearful of where he is taking the country. Many Americans balk at the idea their children will enjoy a better life partly because the system has become so unfair. Moreover, a slew of important emotionally charged issues such as immigration and climate change are still being ignored. In fact, Trump often shows a lack of respect and mocks those concerned about these matters  In addition to exorbitant healthcare America has a broken justice system that it is both expensive and often unjust.  As more Americans retire and become dependent on government anxiety will continue to grow. Also, there is the issue of continuing expensive wars, something Trump pledged to end, not only has he failed to do so but he seems to agitate and inflame discontent where ever he goes.

Just like in the previous elections voters should be prepared to be given a less than inspiring choice for a President to lead us forward. Even though he has been acquitted on impeachment charges Trump still has a reputation of being a schmuck which is something he most likely not be able to shake. Expect both these men to be supported by motivated bases with demographics favoring the Democrats but it is the disaffected independents that will decide this election. Do not be surprised if the decision comes down to who these independents dislike the least, at this point, it is a toss-up. The argument that socialism doesn't work and that all countries that have attempted to institute it have miserably failed may not be enough to turn voters away from seeking new answers.

While I have strong reservations as to the argument Sanders can trump the Don I must say Sanders is clearly shining a spotlight on growing inequality and the unrest bubbling beneath the surface. If Sanders can tap into this feeling it may become more about a kinder more compassionate America than socialism or Trump. This means watching how women and the elderly weigh in. Whether Sanders could win the election without increasing polarization and hatred is questionable but it would be wise for those in power not to get overly comfortable or to underestimate the resentment brewing under the surface.

Footnote; This is an exercise based on Sanders becoming the Democratic party nominee. It should be noted this has not yet occurred. A big wildcard in the 2020 election would be a third party candidate drawing off just enough votes to spoil everyone's plans. Remember 1992 and Ross Perot!.

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