For more than a generation, the most pressing economic problem confronting the United States has been the growing concentration of wealth among the already wealthy. Whether through government policy, economic transformation or a combination of the two forces, the share of income and wealth available to the middle and working classes has been shrinking steadily for 40 years, and as available resources have declined, so too has the opportunity for economic advancement.
For much of that 40 years, one major political party has campaigned on the necessity of addressing that issue; the other dismissed such talk as “the politics of envy” or “class warfare.” But that policy logjam appeared to break, at least in the eyes of many, when the Republican Party chose as its 2016 presidential nominee a billionaire who offered himself as an unlikely working-class hero.
Yes, he had inherited a real estate empire; yes, over his career he had left a long string of broken contractors and cheated workers in his wake, yes, he reveled in personal conspicuous consumption. But as a member of the economic elite, he also promised listeners that he would take on what he called “the global power structure,” those “responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”
He promised to finally fix the tax code, telling audiences all over the country that he and other billionaires paid too little and he would fix it. He promised to protect Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. He promised not only to repeal Obamacare, but to replace it with a program that provided even better coverage to even more people. He promised to get young people out from beneath student loan debt, to take on the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street lobbyists for firms such as Goldman Sachs.
He even promised to do all that AND eliminate the national debt of $19 trillion.
In eight years.
And people — some people, enough people — believed him. They put their fervent faith in that man, invested their hopes and dreams in him, saw him as their champion. In return, they have gotten themselves and their country royally cheated.
Once in office, that billionaire president who attacked “the global power structure (that) stripped our country of its wealth” immediately installed that very power structure at every crucial post in the economic policy-making and regulatory apparatus. Head of the Treasury Department, check. Head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, check. Head of the Council of Economic Advisers, check. According to every credible, nonpartisan analysis, the new tax code that they are about to enact will compound, not reduce, economic inequity. It will significantly enrich those who have already benefited most over the last 40 years, including himself, while doing almost nothing long-term for those most in need.
It will also add a minimum of $1 trillion to the national debt. We are borrowing money from our children and grandchildren, without their permission, and we are doing so not to rescue an economy teetering on collapse, not to finance a major war of necessity, but to cut taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars for the already wealthy, and for corporations already reporting record-high after-tax profits.
It is absolutely remarkable, at this point in our nation’s history, to be enacting such policies. Merry Christmas, suckers.