Kick back. Relax. The show will be fun.
With the Donald Trump’s assumption of the presidency, the future looks dim to many who once dreamed of a diverse, multi-cultural republic, where myriad views were tolerated and people of color played a role in the maturing of the American spirit.
The anger that many white Americans felt about the loss of decent-paying middle-class jobs created an upwelling of race resentment and frustration over American internationalism. People who had not voted for years, or at all, came to the polls on the vague promises of a billionaire, who, in the end, see manipulation of emotion and gut feeling as a means of attaining ultimate self-glorification.
Those voters will not fare well on Trump’s watch. Already, today, he signed a symbolic executive order to “ease the burdens” of Obamacare. What this means is unclear, but it is red meat for his base, many of whom believe that “Obamacare” differs from the Affordable Care Act.
It turns out that most people like most of the provisions of the ACA. Tea Partiers and mossbacks in Congress have never like them, equating public health with evil socialism. Some 20 million people now have health insurance under the ACA. Repealing the Act means that they will be thrown back onto the open market with no protections from increasing insurance costs or guarantees that they will be able to find insurance at all.
Already, the Senate voted to repeal some of the most popular aspects of the ACA, including provisions for children to stay on their parents’ plans to age 26 and preventing insurance companies from rejecting people for pre-existing conditions.
Then, Trump seems ready to propose a budget based on the extreme reactionary Republican Study Committee that would gut environmental and workplace protections, cut education, privatize public broadcasting, defund Planned Parenthood, and get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities. Next will come cuts to social safety net programs, many recipients of which are the very people who voted for Trump.
The problem with Trump is that he has no vision. “Make America Great Again” inspires people who selectively remember a time when the United States was something more than it is today. They dream of the 1950s when the achievement of the American Dream seemed easier.
In fact, most of the country was poor in the 1950s, just as it is today. A recent study shows that more than 60 percent of Americans can’t cover a $500 emergency. It’s not as if this is new. This is a reality of the American landscape and has been for most of the country’s history. That a study reveals such dire circumstances now only confirms what most historians have known for a long time: Most people in the richest country on earth are poor. Half of U.S. households gross $51,939 a year. Half do not. If $52,000 sounds like a good income for a household, remember taxes, transportation, insurance, mortgage, childcare, out-of-pocket health expenses, college and other education come out of that $52,000. It’s good if you have one kid and cheap house, but a nightmare when the population of an individual household goes up.
America is great. It’s the world’s premier power. The economy that Obama inherited was in tatters. Unemployment stood at nearly 11 percent. While it has not returned wages to those before capitalist fat cats eviscerated it, wages are rising. Unemployment stands at just over 4.5 percent.
Sure, I get it. People out there in Red America feel they aren’t getting their share. They see racial minorities make gains that many think they do not deserve. Cities are on the comeback. Jobs and meaningful employment continue to drain away from rural areas.
But a billionaire with little capacity for reflection will not save Red America or the people who turned from their Blue roots to elect a guy who will shake up business as usual.
I once said that Trump is the unlikely vehicle for people who have been itching to undo modern government for over 80 years. Because he has no firm vision, the people who have been waiting all those decades can manipulate him. His ego means everything to him. He needs admiration and loving attention. As long as they give him that, he will do whatever they want.
From my desk, I see the portents. I listened to Trump’s speech today and it’s dangerous jingoistic stuff. I said that to a friend of mine today. He responded that, well, it’s just rhetoric. Rhetoric caused a Civil War. It fueled a spasm of fear in the 19-teens and 1920s that put people in jail and got them killed in the coal fields of West Virginia and factories in the Northeast. It was rhetoric that forced a market crash in 1929, when people believed that America couldn’t fail. Rhetoric contributed to the Red Scare of the 1950s and fueled the Cold War.
Words matter, even to those who believe they don’t. If I walk into a court of law, I encounter a web or words. I cannot prevaricate, exaggerate, or talk off the top of my head. Those people, the lawyers and judges, take me at my word. And since they do, I better be damned careful about what words I utter.
The same goes for the president. If he says he will make America great again, he better figure out what it means to have been great and what it means to make what we have better. The economic forces the determine business practice will not change. Manufacturing jobs are not coming back. Those that do will soon be automated, and the automation of work has cost more jobs than all the businesses that have relocated from the United States to overseas.
So, what to look forward to? Unlike many of my friends walking around with their shoulder hunched, I see a bright future. The satire will write itself. Trump and his billionaire cronies will overreach and gum up their own works. Trump may just have waked up a complacent America. They will take to the streets, and some have already. Wait until the Republicans who want to dismantle modern American government begin to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and all those social programs on which Red America depends.
The absurdity of Trump excites me. He has the bomb. He’s temperamental and mercurial. He has so much power as the president that he can literally upend nations and start wars. It is a dangerous, even murderous situation. I love it.
I will spend my time working. I chop wood. I carry water. I’m at peace.