SYDNEY, Jan 21 2021 (IPS) – Impeachment or no impeachment,
Trump is out of the White House. Trump goes with an approval rating of 34%, far behind his predecessor Barack
Obama’s 60%. A majority, 54%, said Trump ought to be removed from office before
January 20, according to a new CNN poll, for his role in the January 6 events, when
Trump incited his supporters to storm the US Capitol.
Battle for America’s soul
America lost its soul?”, asked Peter Singer, the famous ethics and morality
philosopher. More than 70 million, or 47% of Americans voted for Trump.
With 21,000 votes in three key states, Trump would have defeated Biden.
Trump lies shamelessly. He takes pride in gaming the system
to evade paying taxes. He incites racial hatred and violence, even demeaning
the families of those who gave their lives for America. He celebrates white
supremacists as patriots, and shows no empathy for close to 400 thousand
Americans who died of COVID-19. He ignores science, and shows no respect or
tolerance for opponents.
The list goes on. But most importantly, he undermined the
highest office of the country by abusing it to promote his person and business
Yet, so many Americans ignored Trump’s immorality and voted
for him in an election which Biden declared to be a “battle for the soul of America”. Trump not only got the
highest votes ever for a sitting president, but even increased his votes by
over five million from 2016.
What caused this moral or ethical divide in America? Why did
Biden fail to win half its soul? America’s fault-lines run through the middle,
due to decades of rising wealth and income inequality.
1990 and 2020, as US billionaires increased their wealth by 1,130%, US median wealth
increased by only 5.4%. As the combined net worth of America’s 614
billionaires grew by $931 billion during the pandemic, ‘turbocharging’
inequality over seven months from mid-March, a week after Trump declared a
The US has not had decent income or wealth redistribution at
least since the 1960s. From 1963 to 2016, the lowest 10% of Americans went
from having no assets at all to being US$1,000 in debt. Meanwhile, families
in the top 10% multiplied their wealth five-fold. Most shockingly, families in
the top 1% grew their wealth seven fold between 1963 and 2016.
For most US
workers, real wages
have barely budged
in decades despite low unemployment in some periods. For example, average
real wages during Trump’s final years had about the same purchasing power as 40
years ago. Average real hourly earnings in March 2019 amounted to US$23.24 in 2019 dollars, matching only the long-time peak
of March 1974, and only around US$3 above the early 1960s level.
Furthermore, wage gains in recent decades have mostly flowed to the highest paid workers. Since 2000, workers’
average weekly wages in the lowest tenth of the earnings distribution have
risen 3% (in real terms) while real earnings of the top tenth have risen 15.7%
to US$2,112 a week – nearly five times the average of the bottom tenth
wages either rose less or fell at the middle and bottom of the
distribution, while real wages of the 90th percentile increased for the
workforce as a whole from 1979 to 2019.
Earnings disparities by race, colour, gender and ethnicity are even worse.
At the 90th percentile, wage growth was much higher for White workers and lower
for Black and Hispanic workers. By contrast, middle (50th percentile) and
bottom (10th percentile) wages grew less (e.g., for women) or declined in real
terms (e.g., for men).
earnings and wealth inequalities cannot be explained away by skills
or education levels,
or by including benefits, or by looking at total compensation, or by changing
the price deflator (adjustments for inflation). On the contrary, they
are due to policy decisions that have reduced the leverage of most workers to
achieve faster wage growth.
One is job insecurity, as admitted by Alan Greenspan in his 1997 Senate testimony: “Atypical restraint on
compensation increases has been … mainly the consequence of greater worker
insecurity”, partly attributable to “domestic deregulation”. The situation has
become worse since.
A 2016 study confirmed that the US labour market has become
“more treacherous”. The rise of the ‘gig economy’ is still “too small to affect
the broader workforce”. There are much deeper causes: job creation has been
spotty and often inadequate, while new jobs are typically inferior to their
The 2017-2019 three year period saw employment growth and
declining unemployment. Yet, 6.3 million workers – aged 20 and over – were displaced
from their jobs. Only around 65% of those who lost their long-term jobs
could find similar ones after three years, with many earning less.
inequality and insecurity are results of “a stubborn reliance by policymakers
on markets to do the work of government, and the racism and sexism, sometimes
written into law, that blind policymakers to injustice and to economic sense”,
Boushey notes in
her recent IMF blog. Growing monopoly power of corporations, and
increasing financialization of the economy, with a concomitant rise of the
rentier class, not only led to polarisation, but also fundamentally weakened
the US economy.
US economic problems are deep-rooted: “By early 2020 even
before the pandemic reached the US, manufacturing jobs had stalled out, and
factories shed workers in four of the six months through March”, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Trump’s China trade war also did not reduce overall US trade
imbalances which have continued growing, soaring to a record US$84 billion in
August 2019. US importers have shifted to goods from Vietnam, Mexico and other
countries, but the trade deficit with China has risen amid the pandemic to
where it was at the start of the Trump administration.
Trump still a hero!
Trumpism is likely to stay, although his approval ratings just before leaving
office, is among the
worst since Gallup began regularly tracking presidential approval from the 1940s. Equal
to Jimmy Carter, Trump still does better than Harry Truman’s 32%, George W.
Bush’s 31% and Richard Nixon’s 24%.
The CNN poll is skewed along party-lines – nearly all
Democrats (93%) favoured removing Trump from office before January 20, while
just 10% of Republicans felt the same. Among Republicans, his approval rating
has remained largely positive even after the deadly US Capitol
attack; nearly nine in 10 Republicans approving Trump’s job performance.
ending Trumpism will need more than impeaching Trump. The Bidden-Harris
agenda must include Republican Theodore Roosevelt’s trust-busting as well as
Democrat Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and social agenda to address America’s
deep-rooted socio-economic malaises that are undermining its democracy.
Teddy Roosevelt confronted the bitter struggle between
capital and labour head-on in 1901, threatening to nationalize coal mines and
settle in favour of labour. He took on JP Morgan, then the most powerful
financier, barely six months into his presidency. He was a hunter, yet
dedicated some 200 million acres for national forests, reserves and wildlife
refuges as part of his “Square Deal” of domestic programmes.
Teddy could not be bullied by corporate capital. He was a
conservative, who initiated far-reaching progressive reforms and started the
conservation movement. He rose above party politics and did what thought right
for America as a whole.
He broke away from the Republican Party when it became more
conservative, and challenged his Republican successor William Taft in the 1912
elections after Taft failed to deliver his promise of progressive reforms.
Teddy’s fifth cousin, FDR led the US economy out of the
Great Depression with his ambitious New Deal, defying fiscal conservatism and
pressure from Wall Street. He thus redefined the impact of the federal
government on the lives of Americans.
His vision of global institutions laid the foundation for
the post-WWII Golden Age lasting nearly three decades. He also stood firm
against the European colonial powers to advance the decolonization agenda.
* Anis Chowdhury was
born in Chittagong, Bangladesh. He was schooled at the Government M.E. School;
Chittagong Collegiate School; and Chittagong Government College. Anis obtained
Honours and Masters degrees in Economics from Jahangirnagar University (Bangladesh)
in 1976 and 1978 respectively, and M.A (1980) and Ph.D. (1983) degrees from the
University of Manitoba (Canada).
Trump leaves behind
Three of the big power
centers that drove the GOP’s last successful midterm campaign are no longer the
same forces in party politics now. The Republican Party is confronting an
uncertain future — and key institutions that helped it gain power in the past
have hollowed out or pulled back during Donald Trump’s presidency.Three of the
big power centers that drove the GOP’s last successful midterm campaign are no
longer the same forces in party politics now, with Republicans out of the White
House and in the minority in both chambers of Congress.