Game of Groans: How focus on Trump Taunts hides GOP war on Middle Class, Workers

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The condition of late capitalism produces a press discourse strangely devoid of any mention of class. Last Thursday we had 10 rich males, all but one white, on a debate stage seeking to represent the billionaire class (some 536 individuals in US, who have more wealth than the bottom half of the US population).

US billionaires are getting richer at a time when wages for working and middle class people have not kept pace with increases in productivity. Working and middle class Americans, unlike the stock market (80% of which is owned by the top 20% of the population), have never recovered from the bust of 2008. And no, it was not caused by ordinary people trying to live above their means. It was caused by bankers who were venal and corrupt and stole enormous sums from the public.

So what did the would-be representatives of the super-wealthy want? They wanted to take away health care from tens of millions of Americans. Why would you want to do that? Having to contribute to health care for the US public is an inconvenience to the business classes, many of whom don’t want Obamacare.

They want to take away your medicaid and social security. Again, this step is in the interest of the super-wealthy who don’t want the government to run such large entitlement programs for fear that Washington will end up taxing them for the operation. (In fact, social security would be healthier if the wealthy had to pay into it according to full income; at the moment, there is a cut-off for payments, which saves the billionaires a lot of money.)

So folks this is an amazing tableau. We had 10 persons up there who openly announce that they want to ruin the lives of the majority of Americans. Before social security, the aged were the poorest segment of the population and a lot of old people just died of poverty. Now, the elderly are a well-off demographic on the whole. The 10 dwarves want to take that away from us. (By the way, private pension plans are next to useless for a lot of people, because the companies go bankrupt before they ever have to pay out, and the workers get screwed).

For camouflage purposes, Jeb Bush and John Kasich even bring up the problem of the hardships of the middle class (they won’t say workers), but they do it in a tut-tut sort of way with few practical plans to help. And their actual policies as governors were not good for workers.

One important help that could be given the working poor is to raise the minimum wage, which has fallen way behind inflation.

All ten are against this step. In fact, some of them want to get rid of the $7.25 minimum wage! Because they aren’t there to help workers, they are there to help super-wealthy businessmen.

Groups representing the billionaires, like ALEC, have managed to defund state universities and push their costs off onto the middle class, basically privatizing them because our selfish business class doesn’t want to pay its fair share for education by paying progressive state taxes. This development has led to massive student debt.

The GOP 10 express concern about this problem, but most of them don’t have practicable plans to reverse these trends and return our state colleges and universities to their original mission of affordable education for all.

A lot of them want a flat tax, which hurts the middle class and vastly helps the billionaires. A businessman who owns a fleet of trucks is engaged in tearing up the highways, which have to be repaired every year. The taxes on the trucks only pay for a fraction of this public spending. The truck billionaire should pay more for the use of a public good like highways. The family of four making $20,000 a year who take public transport into work are not tearing up the roads in the same way. They should pay a smaller proportion of their income in taxes. A flat tax would vastly accelerate the concentration of wealth in a few hands, something the US public says it doesn’t want. In fact, the tax system needs to be made more progressive, as it was in the era of President Eisenhower.

Unfortunately for the GOP candidates, you can’t win a US presidential election with 400 votes. So they have to appeal to a wider public. They can’t appeal to that public on a platform of screwing them over for the sake of their donors (or in Donald Trump’s case, for his own sake).

So then they play identity politics. They use a dog whistle to suggest they are the representatives of white people. They go after the 25% of Americans who are evangelicals and the 20% who are Catholics by promising to make the 16,000 women a year impregnated by rapists bear their rapists’ children.

That’s right. The GOP platform supports the fatherly rights of the rapist element in society.

About a fourth of the evangelicals aren’t impressed, and care about social issues, so they vote for the Democratic Party. The Catholics are fairly evenly split. Still, if you can bamboozle tens of millions of believers by promoting the rights of blastocysts over those of raped women, well that’s better than losing right off the bat because only the Koch Brothers like your economic ideas.

It is the Democrats who manage sometimes to bring up a few of the issues harming workers and the Middle Class. But most of them feel they need billionaire campaign money, too, so there are red lines they won’t cross. Bernie Sanders is the major exception here. He is forthright in talking about class inequities. That is why he is largely ignored by the MSM (which is owned by billionaire corporations) and alarms the punditocracy inside the beltway, most of whom are tied to the Establishment.

In the meantime, in the face of all these problems facing working people, we instead get coverage of some billionaire loudmouth who is a good diversion. The dispute between him and Megyn Kelly is between a billionaire and a multi-millionaire. It isn’t about women. Trump is angry at press lord Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox, for having her go after him. In fact, the real innovation of Trump was to cut out the middle man, and just go straight for an open plutocracy, such that he isn’t beholden to Murdoch and the other 535.

In a society with, like, actual journalism, more time would be devoted on cable television to Sanders’s suggestions for increasing social justice than to food fights among rich people.


Related video:

Thom Hartmann: “Bernie Sanders is the Only Candidate for the Middle Class…”

21 Responses

  1. Good summary. And a sad picture it is.
    One small quibble — regarding company pensions, BPGC picks up old fashioned pension plans from companies that declare bankruptcy (which is in many cases an incentive for exactly that, to release the company from liability for contributions to the plan which have fallen way behind).

    In any case, employee-paid pension arrangements have now made company-funded plans obsolete. Companies that match 401(k) contributions still contribute, but if the employee leaves before a certain “vesting” time those contributions are surrendered and all that can be kept are funds contributed by the employee.

  2. I won’t hold it against you at all, Professor Cole, but as a grandmother who has a granddaughter with dwarfism, I wish you wouldn’t denigrate dwarves.

  3. “…we had 10 rich white males on a debate stage…”
    Dr. Carson is not white, but I’m assuming he’s pretty rich because he’s a surgeon.

  4. What is scary is that they fool so many people. I live in a senior community and it is frightening how many ignore or just don’t know that the Republicans want to change/reduce both Social Security and Medicare. I saw a recent poll that asked people which party was better for the economy and which for foreign policy and pluralities picked the Republicans for both. I guess the Great Recession and the Iraq War are figments of the imagination. It’s hard to be optimistic when you see things like this, or like Rand Paul who recently said that the reason for income inequality is that people in the US don’t work hard enough, and some people actually believe that.

    • The subtext is that some evil Other is responsible for all our problems, and it must be punished, but us helpless white Christians know the Other are an army of drug-crazed rapists who will damage our economy if we try to give them the punishment they deserve, so we must exercise our birthright as the Master Race to trick them into surrendering all their rights. Once you’ve bought into that, the implication is that the rich are the leaders of your tribe and they must be strengthened by allowing them to commit economic crimes, and the victims of the rich are the Other, and you don’t want your fellow tribesmen thinking that you’re soft on Otherism.

  5. Well said…..Bernie is a breath of fresh air….but the very stupid American voters will buckle to the super rich and the paid off media sugar babies …a shame…just when have we had a truly honest fair minded candidate…

  6. What is totally unfathomable is the fact that most, if not all, Trump supporters would not rise above his appellation of “loser”. The fact that they do not seemed troubled by this is amazing.

  7. Juan, I agree with you. FWIW You may want to consider submitting a few op-eds to several different national & local newspapers. The more people know the better.

    It is unsettling that an observable substantial number of low-information, gullible, partisan Republican voter loyalists are utterly oblivious to the extent of hardship & suffering such policies will cause the American people, young & old, rich & poor & middle-class alike.

    The policies Republicans are so tediously trying to sell are not just their old, tried & failed policies of the past, but much more extreme versions that portend an ominous very dark, dystopian future for the country at large.

  8. Speaking of the MSM and the punditocracy inside the beltway, why is Marco Rubio always mentioned 3rd (after Bush and Walker) among serious (non-Trump) candidates, even though he consistently polls 6th or below?

  9. I agree with you that the GOP candidates are, basically, hiding their real priorities. However, I think that the support for Trump in the GOP base is, ironically, an indication that the base is waking up to the shell game that GOP leaders have been playing. When one reads the tweets & posts of Trump supporters they are angry with the GOP establishment and want to “take back” the party from people they feel have betrayed them. That is why their second choice candidate is Ted Cruz. This whole Trump business may be a frustrating circus act, but it may actually help get the GOP back into the universe with the rest of us.

  10. What do we know about Senator Sanders Foreign Policy inclinations (especially as they regard the portfolios of the top 1%)?

  11. Too much hyperbole.

    “… promoting the rights of blastocysts over those of raped women …”

    Of course, blastocysts aren’t aborted.
    Neither are they protected by pro-lifers.
    That’s because, when a woman has a blastocyst inside her, she doesn’t know it.
    Heck, sometimes the formation of a blastocyst does not even result in a pregnancy.
    A woman doesn’t find out she’s pregnant until the blastocyst has developed into something recognizable as distinctly human
    (yet still quite small.)

    “… evangelicals and … Catholics … make … women … impregnated by rapists bear their rapists’ children … [to] support[ ] the fatherly rights of the rapist element in society.”

    Actually, in secular language, it would be more correct to say that we oppose abortion in order to protect the “right to life” of the child in the womb.
    Informed (or if you prefer, affectated) by faith, I would prefer to say that the child in the womb was given life by God, and we have no business taking that life away.
    I don’t think the issue of purported “parental rights” of a rapist is acknowledged by Catholics, let alone a cause for action.

    Among the Catholics I know and live in communion with, we don’t explicitly say there is an exception when the life of the Mother is at serious risk, because we think that’s between a woman, her husband, her Confessor, her God and her Physician. As soon as such an exception is written into law, it will be abused.

    But if the central issue is the fact that God has created a child, then the fact that a certain child was conceived as the result of a rape does not in any way reduce the value of that child in the eyes of God*. Neither would that fact alienate the child’s secular inalienable right to life.

    * – (Actually, I don’t know what God thinks about this or most other specific issues, but the tradition, scripture and magesterium of my church give me a confidence that God loves every child He creates.)

    • No one held that life begins at conception until recently, including the Christian churches, and it is a made up doctrine to control women. You’re welcome of course to your beliefs but you are a minority and shouldn’t want to legislate for the rest of us.

      • Why isn’t it just as likely that the child of rape is the spawn of Satan and a woman seeking an abortion is trying to do the world a favor? I type this only half facetiously since the God-talkers use the devil when they find it convenient.

  12. It is very frustrating. When Bernie Sanders outlines a series of proposals for legislation, that match my wishes perfectly, why is ther3e so few who see it as good for the country?
    Am I unpatriotic or ignorant?

  13. “Unfortunately for the GOP candidates, you can’t win a US presidential election with 400 votes….” A realistic comment; which, by standards of common sense and political judgment stands as reasonably irrefutable. Still…technically (and apparently according to the US Constitution) the number of persons required to elect the US President is only 270 persons: the current absolute majority of the US Electoral College. (Or. to quibble more, although perhaps to some interest from an historical perspective and in the event of the failure of this process, it seems that the number of US citizens required to elect a President could be would be legally be as small as a majority of a roll-call vote of the US House of Representatives, which would then in this perhaps far-fetched scenario be tasked with picking between the candidates. Further per Amendment XII, the voting to elect would be by majority vote, 1 vote each state, with required quorum of 2/3rds of states. & possible abstentions?) Groan….

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