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Posts Tagged ‘special interests’

Donald J. Trump’s Election Day upset defied polls and media expectations. Once the mud-stained curtain of innuendo and accusation is pulled aside, it becomes evident that the Republican candidate appealed to American voters on a diverse array of issues — some of which have been more pivotal than others. Here’s a closer look at how Trump managed to pull off the biggest Election Day surprise many Americans have witnessed.

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“If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets”, entertainer and comedian Chris Rock told New York Magazine writer Frank Rich.

The wealthiest 20 individuals in the United States — a group small enough to fly together on a Gulfstream jet — have as much wealth as the 152 million people who comprise the bottom half of the U.S. population, The Institute for Policy Studies reports in “Billionaire Bonanza: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us“.

But what’s really driving the widening gulf between the haves and the have nots in America?

Among the more widely appreciated reasons for declining economic growth is the advance of automation. But other factors have begun to collide with technology to launch what may be a Perfect Storm: reshaping the economy to a “new normal” marked by economic uncertainty.

Another culprit is the rise of lopsided trade deals in the 1980s and ’90s, which have provided greater incentive to offshore jobs. The late billionaire and financier Sir James Goldsmith in his book “The Trap” predicted that poorly crafted free trade deals would produce a “net job loss”. In the early 1990s, Goldsmith testified before Congress advising against entry into another globalization deal known as GATT. Goldsmith also called out the Clinton administration on the Charlie Rose show in opposition to NAFTA, again predicting an outflow of jobs and capital.

If the wage stagnation of the late 1970s had not persisted to the present — some four decades! — the average American would earn $92,000 per year, reports Forbes in “Average America vs the One Percent“. In today’s dollars, those who identify as middle class are less secure than families that relied upon on a single breadwinner in the 1960s and earlier. We have gone from a society that can pay its bills and raise a family on a single income — and often a blue-collar income at that — to one in which the norm is for two able-bodied adults to work full time to support a family. (And because this is the new normal, illness and divorce are now the leading causes of child poverty and personal bankruptcy, according to the book “The Two-Income Trap“.) During this same period household debts have grown and savings diminished.

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If the headline-grabbing Occupy Wall Street movement proves anything, it is that Americans are gravely concerned about the state of our union.

Just as the Tea Party was regarded with suspicion in their initial rallies to reduce government bloat, throngs of leaderless Occupy Wall Street protesters have been derided for their all-over-the-map set of gripes: Wall Street traders who have funneled investors’ money not into the real economy but speculative gambles that have led to questionable lending practices, volatile commodities pricing and taxpayer bailouts; a higher education system that has become a financial albatross to indebted students; legislative favors aimed at Big Business, and widespread unemployment even among the young and the educated.

Arguably, Occupy Wall Street is to Big Business and Banks what the Tea Party is to Big Government and Waste — two sides of the same coin. Both groups — which for the purpose of this discussion are defined as principled participants not to be confused with their salacious or lawless detractors — grasp a large chunk of the problem.

To cure what ails us, Americans must reach for broader and more inclusive views and bigger and bolder solutions.

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