Why People Turn to Dictators

Michael Kruse writes in Politico that Trump voters have high expectations.

“I think you’ll start seeing improvements in six months,” Bill Polacek said in his corner office at JWF Industries, where he’s one of the owners of one of Johnstown’s last manufacturing plants.

Dave Kirsch stood in the parking lot of Himmel’s Coal Yard in Carrolltown, where he drives a truck, and expressed optimism and preached patience–not, though, that much patience. “My boss, he’s a pretty smart man,” Kirsch told me, “and he said it can’t change overnight, but he said give it six months to a year.”

Maggie Frear, a retired nurse, told me toward the end of our meeting one evening in her home that the changes Trump pledged would “take him at least a couple months.”

Now, you and I know that Trump ain’t gonna do squat for these people in six months to a year. Or two years. Or four years. Or twenty years. You know that by the cabinet he’s putting together. The signals so far are that he’s going to give Republicans a free hand to carry out their most regressive agenda, including gutting Medicare and Social Security.

Even Trump’s infrastructure plan is a scam, according to Bernie Sanders:

“During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump correctly talked about rebuilding our country’s infrastructure,” Sanders said. “But the plan he offered is a scam that gives massive tax breaks to large companies and billionaires on Wall Street who are already doing phenomenally well. Trump would allow corporations that have stashed their profits overseas to pay just a fraction of what the companies owe in federal taxes. And then he would allow the companies to “invest” in infrastructure projects in exchange for even more tax breaks.”

It was Sanders’ strongest rebuke of Trump’s plan, which incentivizes companies to invest in infrastructure projects through tax breaks rather than direct spending. He has proposed an approximately $1 trillion plan to invest in rebuilding the nation’s roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, though it has seen backlash from both sides of the aisle.

“Trump’s plan is corporate welfare coming and going,” Sanders wrote.

(Even if they got a tax break, why would companies invest in public infrastructure, anyway? Why would they spend money on projects that don’t benefit them exclusively, or that will never give them a profit? That makes no sense to me.)

Kruse writes that those Trump voters will turn on Trump if he doesn’t deliver. And he’s not going to deliver. Indeed, if you go back and take apart Trump’s campaign rhetoric, it doesn’t add up to much but slogans. People heard what they wanted to hear.

But the value in reading the Politico piece is that it does give a sense of how these voters in Pennsylvania saw the election, and themselves. They’ve been ignored for a long time. The system doesn’t work for them. Their communities are deteriorating; their sons are being lost to drugs. Clinton-style Democrats offered nothing but platitudes for decades. Trump became the object of their hopes.

Charles Pierce said, “Explain to me how what’s being described here is not people indulging an addiction to the political opioids.”  He also said:

And we finally come to the nub of it. In the campaign just passed, racism and xenophobia and sexism were not “the only reasons” Trump won. That’s stupid. There is genuine economic anxiety and despair in the country. But they were the accelerant. They might not have been the biggest reason why he won, but they damn sure were a big part of filling his rally halls and getting his voters to the polls, and not just in the South, either. All American populism falls into the trap of scapegoating The Other eventually; if it didn’t, Bernie Sanders would be picking his Cabinet right now.

This is something I keep trying to emphasize. Some portion of Trump supporters are flat-out white supremacists, sure. But a lot of them are people who would be much less racist now had their culturally induced racism not been fed and nurtured for years by scapegoating.

“For most U.S. workers, real wages — that is, after inflation is taken into account — have been flat or even falling for decades, regardless of whether the economy has been adding or subtracting jobs,” Pew says. Real wages peaked in January 1973 and have been falling ever since. That was the beginning of the end, and it happened shortly after the the point at which affirmative action was finally being enforced. I graduated college in 1973, and as I remember mine was the first graduating class that was really impacted by it. I have no reason to think that affirmative action caused real wages to decline — there were a whole lot of other causes for that — but it was what people saw.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s it was common for people to scapegoat affirmative action for their deteriorating economic conditions. Now they’re scapegoating immigrants. Politicians and right-wing bobbleheads openly have encouraged this. It’s easier than explaining the real reasons.

But the deteriorating economic conditions were what opened the door to the scapegoating. And we are dealing with long-range deterioration; most of the workforce today doesn’t remember the good old days, but they heard about them from Dad. Or Grandpa. It makes me crazy when someone points to a “good” quarterly jobs report and says, “See? There’s no problem. I don’t know what those people are complaining about.”

Ian Welsh wrote recently,

It is nice that you don’t think that racism and racists get stronger when times are bad, and that people who don’t see a pay raise in 40 years are likely to turn to nasty politics, and it is even important that you think so, since your sheer stupidity and blindness makes it harder to stop, but you are wrong. You are, in fact, part of the problem, because problems happen and we need to be able to fix them, and you and your type are making it harder to do anything by muddying the water.

The inability to separate partisanship from a clear understanding of the world is at the heart of why we are where we are today. Clear consequences of action and non-action are dismissed wholesale until it is too late to do anything about it.

There’s all kinds of scapegoating going on. I’m still seeing people blaming the third-party vote for Clinton’s loss, which rather ignores the larger issues of why it was so damn close to the likes of Donald Trump. The Clinton supporters who demanded we vote for Clinton because Supreme Court picks! had a point in a very narrow sense, but they were ignoring a whole lot of big, festering problems that already had been ignored for too long.

And those were what cost her the election.

Ian Welsh continues,

The warnings on climate change and about the rise of the racist right go as far back as the 80s, in my memory. Why? Because the evidence was already there for people to see. By the late 80s, we could see that the inequality data was going in a radically bad direction, for example, and people were already saying, “This will lead to the rise of bad people, like fascists.”

This was not hard to predict. It was obvious. You did not need to be some sort of special genius, you just had to ask yourself “What happened last time?”

What you had to be “special” to do was to ignore it, to hand wave it away, to spend your life (and many, many lives were dedicated to the project) saying, “Oh, no, inequality is no big deal. They aren’t really poor, they have TVs!”

And history repeats itself:

Right after the Versailles treaty, Keynes was able to predict the gross outlines of history right through to World War II. He said, “Well if you do this to the Germans, they aren’t going to put up with it forever, and it will enable the rise of really nasty people.”

You had to be a special sort of idiot, or a partisan fool, not to see it coming once someone like Keynes had explained it to you (and many others knew it as well).

The fact that Trump, for all his instinctual salesmanship and ruthlessness, is pathologically un-self aware and not the sharpest tack in the box may save us. But we may have a relatively narrow window of opportunity, because more intelligent would-be dictators no doubt are lining up behind him.

And if we want to escape this noose, we must not simply dismiss Trump voters as being deluded idiots. We need to take them seriously, which is not the same thing as agreeing with them. If Trump fails to deliver as spectacularly as I suspect he will, we need to be ready to step in and offer them something besides the wonky little tweaks to the status quo they’ve been getting from Democrats for far too long.

But the other thing we need to keep in mind is that people are drawn into authoritarianism by feelings of alienation and helplessness. The psychologist/philosopher Erich Fromm, who escaped Nazi Germany, saw this first hand:

“We have seen, then, that certain socioeconomic changes, notably the decline of the middle class and the rising power of monopolistic capital, had a deep psychological effect… Nazism resurrected the lower middle class psychologically while participating in the destruction of its old socioeconomic position. It mobilized its emotional energies to become an important force in the struggle for the economic and political aims of German imperialism.”

“It was the irrational doubt which springs from the isolation and powerlessness of an individual whose attitude toward the world is one of anxiety and hatred. This irrational doubt can never be cured by rational answers; it can only disappear if the individual becomes an integral part of a meaningful world.”

We all have a deep need for a sense of connection to others and belonging to whatever society we are planted in, Fromm said. People who are jerked around and treated as disposable cogs for too long are likely to lose that sense of connection or belonging. And then they are likely to give themselves to an authoritarian dictator, because through him they think they will find power. That’s really what Trump was promising — stick with me, and you’ll share in my power. The system won’t kick you around any more.

There’s no question there’s a lot of racism and sexism and nativism and a lot of other things going on with Trump voters that cannot be tolerated or overlooked. My argument is that those isms are symptoms, not causes, but to deal with those symptoms requires making changes than enable alienated people to become integral parts of a meaningful world. And that won’t begin until we address their economic concerns a lot more seriously and aggressively than we have since Franklin Roosevelt’s day.

But we are reaping the consequences of non-action, and both political parties are to blame for it.

38 thoughts on “Why People Turn to Dictators

  1. “…to deal with those symptoms requires making changes than enable alienated people to become integral parts of a meaningful world.”

    Unfortunately, to address this vis a vis Trump one needs to add the word “white” to the description above. To these people, there is no way for a non-white to ‘become an integral part of a meaningful world.’

    • Dan — I reject your opinion, and I say that because the segregated, white blue-collar world is where I come from. I know it well. Most of these people would have rejected racism a long time ago if their circumstances had been different.

  2. I am not sure these white voters for Trumps from the middle states can be helped. They don’t want or are unable to get out of their little world to help themselves. I just read an article in Raw Story which explains that fundamentalist religion has a lot to do with it all. Here is a quote “What I understand is that rural, Christian, white Americans are entrenched in fundamentalist belief systems; don’t trust people outside their tribe; have been force-fed a diet of misinformation and lies for decades; are unwilling to understand their own situations; and truly believe whites are superior to all races. No amount of understanding is going to change these things or what they believe. No amount of niceties will get them to be introspective. No economic policy put forth by someone outside their tribe is going to be listened to no matter how beneficial it would be for them. ..” (http://www.rawstory.com/2016/11/the-dark-rigidity-of-fundamentalist-rural-america-a-view-from-the-inside/.) It really explains to me clearly what I saw and heard from some of those white people in Georgia – it will be very difficult to help them, if ever.

    • Vagabond racial dynamics are somewhat different in the deep south than in the rust belt. I’m not saying there’s less racism, necessarily, but the cultural context is different. It’s hard to describe how.

  3. I just read Dan’s comment and your answer. I agree with Dan. I worked for 26 years in a factory with blue-collar workers. It is not that they are “racist” per se – it is that racism in within them, they breathe it and don’t even know it. Even when they work up to top echelons they still have it within them, it is part of their American psyche. I did work in France and the culture there was totally different – no comparison.

  4. For over 30 years , there has been no “democrat” viewpoint in media. There has been no progressive talk radio or fax news telling people 24 hrs a day how progressive government works for all. These people who have bought into this are truly brain washed. They are unable to admit that Republicanomics does not work and small government isn’t the cure for all ills. They are unable to admit that we live in a mass society( not white settlers against the elements”) close to people unlike us, technologically advanced complex and that technology and modern finance has to be regulated for all our good.We are witnessing big lies like 1984 where our leader is spreading garbage daily and the media has not yet wised up to his game. The democrat party would be wise to start educating first or there is little hope. Yes we are squeezed economically, but it ain’t the catastrophe Trump painted daily telling his followers that everything was a disaster that only he could fix. The depression has not hit yet. If it does then we should really be afraid of where this will all go.

  5. aj–totally agree. I work in a red area of California, the reddest actually. To add to your point, the three Trump voters I spoke with today at work simply do not believe Trump or the Republicans will screw with Medicare or Social Security. They don’t. What they think is Trump is going to take things from people who aren’t working and haven’t earned it. And, “those” people are white trash, “illegals,” or minority groups.

  6. While I’m terrified at the prospect, I’m also fascinated to see how t-RUMP handles his first international crisis – as well as his first national crisis.

    He can bellow and fire underlings in a national crisis.
    But he can’t fire Putin, or any other nation’s leader(s).

    If we look at t-RUMP’s initial cabinet postings, we need to be ready for even worse and more incompetent people after he blames some people, fires them -because we know nothing, NOTHING, is ever Hair Furor’s fault – and has to reach deeper into the conservatve swamp to find replacements.

    Conservatism now has met its Presidential equal:
    Like Conservatism, t-RUMP can never fail – only be failed!

    This country is ripe for folly, tragedy, and everything in between.
    Soon to be gone, are the calm brown hands and nimble mind of President Obama, who guided and led us.
    The country is now in the hands of a blustering, narcissistic, tiny-handed, egomaniacal, demagogic, Cheetos-colored sociopath with the worst comb-over/weave-job in history.

    I’m not a religious person, but may God (or the FSM) have mercy on our souls – for t-RUMP knows not what to do…

  7. I read the article on fundamentalism myself, and I recognized the belief system described, but it was one that was passe in the 1950s, even in the deep South. The belief in the dominance of the White race comes from interpreting the three sons of Noah as the progenitors of the white, yellow and black races — No mention of the red race, oops! 😉 –, an interpretation that is purely speculative and racist. A couple of my Sunday school teachers back then mentioned it as something that some people used to believe, but did not any more. So I wondered where the author was from, some backwater where these beliefs have survived into the present time? It would not surprise me if there is more fundamentalism in the Bible Belt than there was in the 1950s and 60s, but racism is not inherent in Christian fundamentalism. Not that there is not a lot of racism there, but little of it is based on fundamentalist beliefs, I am sure.

    However, there is one aspect of fundamentalism which supports the author’s point about the rigidity of the belief systems of Bible Belt residents, and that is the pride of ignorance: Iggerant and proud of it! Trump mirrors that in not cracking a book and knowing better than the experts. And that rigidity is part of an authoritarian personality, which leads to following a strong authority figure.

  8. “This irrational doubt can never be cured by rational answers; it can only disappear if the individual becomes an integral part of a meaningful world.” Ay, there’s the rub.

    Reading Chris Hedges can sometimes give me the desire to roll up into a fetal position and hide under a thick blanket for a week or so. But, I listened to some interviews where he outlined his concept of “inverted totalitarianism” along with the advancing domination of corporations, which will seem like a done deal come January 20th. I live in solid Trump country, and I don’t think the corporate agenda was on any of my neighbor’s minds. I also think that it will be a long time before it sinks in or even occurs to them. But, I am often wrong, and I hope I am this time.

    I really wouldn’t argue with any of the comments, I think we’re all trying to make sense out of this situation and it has a lot of component parts. So, I’ll just add another Chris Hedges observation. He wrote about the concept of “Richistan,” the parallel reality that the super rich live in. They fly about in private jets, poop in gold plated toilets and are subject to different laws and far fewer restrictions. The only time they encounter someone of the common clay is when they are ordering them around. An eight year child of the super rich might already have a number of subservient adults at his or her beck and call. That hardly engenders empathy, and you can imagine the other psychological effects.

    As my early waking anxiety sounded the alarm this morning, I thought about a common theme in old films and documentaries where an aviator lands his plane among an isolated and comparatively primitive group of people. They have no experience of aircraft, and no established cultural method of confronting that level of technology. As the shopworn tales go, they think that they have met a god.

    In some ways, Trump is that man stepping out of the airplane. Most of us have no real concept of the world he inhabits, and some of us think that he has come out of the sky with a load of cures and miracles. A lot of us think that he has just come to collect artifacts and rob some graves. As we know from both history and popular culture, it won’t end well.

  9. I’m going to post what few will read and fewer will understand. The basis of the economic system we are living in has changed. The foundation of our economy is a balanced relationship between OWNER, LABOR & CONSUMER. A stable 3-legged stool it has been for centuries because labor WAS an necessary leg of the stool. Not any more.


    It’s not comprehended yet but the jobs Trump supporters are expecting can’t return. They didn’t go to Malaysian – they went to microchips. Coal didn’t die because of Obama – it’s too costly compared to other energy. In a book, ‘Rise of the Robots’, the author describes how the very fabric of the economy has changed – while we have a record number of people, they are not NEEDED for many phases of production. We have created potential for incredible productivity – and a society where consumers without jobs don’t have the means to buy. And the chasm between the haves and have-nots is growing. The category of have-a-little/want-more (aka middle-class) is dying out.

    The cure is beyond us. People won’t consider a complete change in the economic model. A guaranteed income that’s independent of productivity (job) scares the hell out of people raised on the ethic of hard work. Capitalism is creating two societies – a utopia for those with access and abject poverty for those without connections. Capitalism is manipulating the anxieties of the ignorant to get them to build the wall that they & we will be on the wrong side of. We’re not talking centuries – we’re talking decades.

  10. I think the topic that Doug raised has surfaced here before. Ever since I was a kid reading my father’s “Popular Science” magazines, the transforming presence of robots and computers has been a source of fear and hope. The event horizon seemed to be receding, and the impact and necessity for change withdrew with it. But, advances in technology and artificial intelligence, together with a rapid increase in the speed and rate of change, have reversed that phenomenon. The event horizon is approaching and picking up speed. A lot will depend on our political state when things like the technological singularity occur. Technology can serve either freedom or repression. It can be shared or hoarded. But, we are right on the brink of a level of technology that will, as Doug points out, make labor obsolete. There will be either transformation or collapse.

    This brings me back to my “Happy Star Trek/Unhappy Star Trek” hypothesis.

    Right now, it’s not looking so good.

  11. I think Kruse (politico story at the top) has it wrong. Trump’s “promises” were less important than what he gave them already: affirmation. He told them that they are important. People like that.

    People who fell for that could easily fall for (nay, embrace) excuses for not delivering; worse, the right-wing noise-machine will probably find a way to blame everything on the Democrats yet again.

  12. Re: tax breaks helping rebuild infrastructure, it can be done, but only by futzing with the numbers until mathematics pukes.

    Note: I have NOT looked at the Trump plan. This is speculation about how it *MIGHT* work.

    Let’s say that Trump says “you give us $10 billion for infrastructure, and we’ll let you bring $500 billion in profit from offshore operations in at a 10% tax rate.” Well, that’s spending $10 billion to save as much as $125 billion (nominal tax rate: 35%, minus the 10% actually paid.)

    This is a really slick game.

    From my understanding – again, I haven’t seen the plan myself! – it even starts with a big tax discount for corporations that bring earnings in from overseas, and rather than noticing the revenue lost (because they’re getting a huge discount), it claims the revenue as a gain, and uses it to pay for infrastructure.

    So: those corporations may owe over a third of a trillion dollars in taxes. Trump’s idea is to get them to pay a small proportion of that to settle the debt forever, and the tells everyone to ignore third-of-a-trillion owed (i.e.: loss of > 300 billion in assets), and instead to look only at the positive cash flow (gain of roughly $100 billion in immediate cash).

    If a Democrat had proposed this, the accounting sleight of hand would be all anyone ever talked about – the dishonest trick being played to rob the US tax payers!

  13. I’m not sure if I understand Doug’s video or not but it made me long for the old, black, square, rotary phones. I talked to a woman who recently had a hysterectomy and she said there was a robot involved in addition to the doctors. Here in WW there are only two big employers and one is the state penitentiary. Everybody wants to promote tourism (except me) and in addition to being annoying, I believe it contributes to the rise of the prices of real estate. I am really glad I am nearing the end of my time on this earth. These changes are too much for me.

  14. Granny, was the robot the “Da Vinci?” It’s pretty remarkable technology. The incisions are smaller and the surgeon directing the device has a microscope to supervise the procedure. But, I know where you’re coming from, and I feel the same way most of the time. I just feel bad that we couldn’t leave the younger folks a better world.

    One of the scary things for me was back in the “Dubya” days when robotic soldiers were being rolled out. They looked just like the robotic soldiers from the Tom Baker era of “Dr. Who.” They could supposedly hit a target as small as a nickel at five hundred yards. That’s dangerous for a lot of reasons, if only that it takes a lot of the horror out of warfare for the side with that sort of technology.

    Has anyone read Sheldon Wolin’s “Democracy Incorporated?”

  15. Grannyeagle – the video showed wonderful machines doing in minutes, with one or two people, the work that would have taken dozens of people days or weeks. Corporations have learned to minimize the need for labor – they have cut off one leg of the three-legged stool of the economy, which has made the previously stable working relationship between owner, labor and consumer – a TWO-party haggle between owner and buyer. Labor previously argued for a piece of the action because their role in delivering the product was indispensable. Labor has become irrelevant.

    The real economic problem of the future is a world of consumers who can’t be buyers because there are (almost) no jobs.

  16. I’ve been telling constitutionalists for years that the sweet spot for “freedom and liberty” has likely passed, thanks to ever increasing population and technology, and that managing basic survival needs will become most important. And they’d better figure that one out before the mob burns all the robots.

    In the meantime, being control freaks, intelligent sociopaths usually want to maintain their ‘hunting grounds’, knowing that messy alternatives could ruin them. Trump may want chaos for his own amusement, but DC is a city of a great many politicians who would likely need to keep this in check. How far they’re willing to test the mob, who knows? They may misunderestimate how quickly this thing could turn ugly for them.

  17. Sanders was right when he spoke about abandoning identity politics. Instead of talking about “white working class voters” and thinking race; instead of talking about African American voters and limiting the frame to BLM, “black issues,” etc., why not talk about “the working class” which encompasses all workers? The problems that frustrate white working class voters are the same that frustrate the working class in general: access to decent jobs, healthcare, access to affordable college education for their children, safe communities, and upward mobility via small business opportunities.

    The democratic party needs to get back to being a working class party that champions the issues of the working class. Sanders resonated with a lot of voters who ultimately went to Trump for this reason.

    This is not to say that this is a “solution” to the racism and bigotry that informs a lot of these folks; just that they’re less susceptible to it when they are able to work, provide for their families, educate their kids and feel safe and secure in their communities.

    Racism and bigotry are problems for sure, but they are symptoms of a larger issue that affects the working class. Address these issues and you alleviate these symptoms.

  18. One other thing. Yes, technology has pretty much decimated the need for industry’s reliance on workers as it once did. For Trump to say he’s going bring back coal jobs to the level they previously existed is a cruel joke on those who are so desperate they are willing to hang onto anything.

    The solution is also not “education and retraining,” as democrats have pushed for years. What type of job is a person in Appalachia who relied on coal to support their families going to retrain for?

    The honest answer is we need to do what politicians on both sides of the aisle have avoided, and that is the heavy lifting required to think of new ways to employ people; new industries (wind, solar, etc) that can be developed to employ workers. Put together government programs to rebuild infrastructure under CCC type organizations, and otherwise brainstorm on new ways to get people involved in the economy where they are so that people can live meaningful lives.

  19. Barbara, excellent piece as usual.

    I thought of you when I read the following prescient article from 2014 linked to by David Brin. I think it pretty much shows that Putin has been planning on creating Trump type politicos throughout the world for some time now. He apparently hit the jackpot with The Donald, who is now Putin’s favorite useful idiot.


  20. Tom Elliot: fascinating article. But, I don’t believe large segments of the western powers are racist homophobes. Enough to add to the scale, maybe, but the one thing America exports big time is culture. Our culture reaches to all ends of the Earth, and the cultural norm is tolerance. That said, I can’t speak to Islamic peoples; the Islamic world is 600 years less “mellowed” than the Christian world with regards to societal attitudes and many Christians are still moral imbeciles — look at Pence. Nevertheless, we have common purpose now with the Muslim world. ANY group or people that would be a potential target for Trump’s goon squad, we must protect and shelter– minorities, immigrants, and especially undocumented immigrants. Tyrants start by picking off the weak.

  21. Great comments and wonderful article. I think Bill has it right and coincidentally I have also been reading Ian Welsh tonight. In my case it was an oldie: http://www.ianwelsh.net/the-problem-of-resistance-to-the-oligarchy/

    Also David Simon’s Two Americas: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/08/david-simon-capitalism-marx-two-americas-wire

    I think I will check out Wolin’s: Democracy Incorporated – it sounds a bit like Korten’s: When Corporation’s Rule the World (1995)…

    I think we will be in the wilderness past my lifetime, I am so glad I live where I do and have a job that allows me to help people in tangible ways.

    And I am very thankful for the thoughtful, intelligent and insightful folks that post here and believe because of you and people like you things will eventually turn around.

    “I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

  22. The Republican messaging machine is in full swing – that should be scary to people.

    Donald Trump hasn’t been requesting intelligence briefings. But that’s okay! Because he cares very deeply about US security, just look at all the world leaders he called!

    Yeah. Without checking with intelligence or the state department to learn about US interests, both security and non-security, before calling them. So he could already have made promises that violate our interests in favor of his own (or because he’s just not too bright).

    This is really the greatest danger to our democracy. Because loyalists will say he’s right, no matter how big of a dummy he is. He’s even worse than George W in the competence department, but no one will call him out, other than as “he said, she said, who knows?” and Fox News will try to rile the base by saying “liberal elites are trying to attack your hero who called all these world leaders to establish a dialogue!”

    And the major media sources will continue to be snowed. “They just want lower taxes because of a belief in smaller government – not just because they loves them some rich people and don’t give a flying fuzzy about the working class, but because of some honorable principle that gives them permission to love the rich and dump on the working class! And we won’t even *question* how *convenient* it is for them to have all agreed upon this ‘(perform oral sex upon) the rich’ principle, without any disagreement.”

  23. I haven’t read all the comments yet, but does anyone have a comment on why this right wing course seems to include Europe where social conditions are very different.

  24. “The European countries turning right are those that have suffered years of “austerity”

    Sprinkle on top existential unease due to a big uptick in immigration from countries still suffering the aftermath of Bush’s foreign policies.

  25. “The European countries turning right are those that have suffered years of “austerity”

    That’s the irony, isn’t it? For a while I was reading a few articles in Le Monde every day. After a while it sank in that Hollande’s unpopularity really resulted from his going along with the austerity crowd, a new socialist in the same way that Blair was new labor and Clinton was a new democrat. (I might just be projecting my American experience onto another political culture and another people. I should apologize to Vagabonde in advance for my projection and ignorance.) The Socialist Party is in ruins and it will be Fillon versus Le Pen. Fillon is a classic budget cutting trickle downer. Sometimes people just can’t get enough of a bad thing.

    What should be puzzling is the rise of dangerous right wing ideologies in countries where a blend of socialism, democracy and capitalism have produced the highest quality of life in human history. There is some structure in our minds that carries our current status forward, and assumes that all the good things will remain and our well being and freedom will increase. A lot of us don’t see that we might be trading off some of what we have for something we think we want, like that cute little pig in a poke. I swear some people I know think that under our new corporate overlords, they’ll enjoy all the freedom and security that they have now, maybe even more, and on top of that they’ll be able to carry their guns everywhere and people will have to say “Merry Christmas!”

    So for them, it’s all good.

  26. Interesting how it had to be Ian Welsh (he’s like, Canadian isn’t he?) to remind us dumb Americans that The Founders themselves, way back in Year One (1789) decided to finance the new government with tariffs, and that the government was mostly funded by tariffs up until the Civil War. He also said this is the way economies were run for centuries, and The Founders simply followed that wisdom. And so did the US for a long time afterwards. Up until the dark times. Until the Reagan/Clinton Corporate Oligarchy. He also wrote that if The Donald is more than just a con artist salesman, that he could be a very popular guy with the mob. Almost enough to be The Donaldictator. But then, all the corporate alligators he keeps bringing in sure seems puzzling….

    • Bill — I missed what Ian said about tariffs, but tariffs have had a bad name since the Smoot-Hawley debacle in 1930. Tariffs originally were the primary source of revenue for the U.S. federal government, yes, although in the latter part of the 19th century the government was making more money from sale of land in the western territories. After the income tax was introduced in 1913 tariffs became a smaller and smaller part of revenue, dropping to under 10 percent in the 1930s when Smoot-Hawley was ended. Since the end of World War II tariffs have been less than 2 percent of federal income, and average tariff rates have been gradually creeping downward, from 7.7% in 1946 to 1.3% now. I’m not really seeing an insidious pattern there.

  27. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/military/former-special-forces-officer-gen-mad-dog-mattis-left-my-n691211

    Fere Fi? Now all we need is a good old fashioned hanging judge on the Supreme Court to round this circus out. Goes to show that if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance you baffle them with bullshit.
    I don’t get the connection in selecting a musty old jarhead and then billing him as a reincarnation of General George S Patton(old blood and guts) for Secretary of Defense. It seems a bit primitive in understanding the nature of the job. I guess it’s an image thing. Well, we can sleep safe tonight because Mad Dog is watching over us.

  28. Really, tariffs are best for developing nations so they have a chance to build industries.If Mexico could put a tariff on corn, then their corn farmers wouldn’t have all been wiped out by NAFTA. (Technically, agriculture isn’t an “industry” but the principal’s the same.)

    I read a book about this and other economic myths – it might have been called “zombie myths”. The developed world started pushing “free trade” as in “tariff free trade” which is one of the reasons why the developing nations aren’t, you know, *developed*.

    I’ve seen some horrible suggestions that maybe the US would package economic assistance to keep nations in debt and to kill of tariffs that (at the time) would typically give the US an advantage over them. The IMF has definitely screwed up in that way too. (Well – is it a “screw-up” if it’s actually a deliberate strategy? And we don’t know that it isn’t.)

  29. Maha, I’d poked around a bit and found this one:
    What I found interesting was that The Founding Fathers (routinely worshipped as infallible by Reagan-worshipping righties), ignore the fact that the founders financed their new government with tariffs. And now their Trump wants to bring em back. But then, righties usually conveniently ignore that the founders “liberty” ignored slaves, women, natives…

    I guess I’m adding to my list of simple ‘fun facts’ with which I can amuse myself with the wingnut in-laws come Christmas.

  30. Bill.. As long as you can amuse yourself it’s all good. I have a situation with Christian relatives and family that makes them look at me like I’m Mrs. Robinson, totally coo coo ka choo. It does get kinda difficult to handle when you see them exchanging glances that say you should be pitied.
    At least you have the Mahablog as a sounding board to know that you’re still anchored to reality.

  31. (Sorry, I shoulda proofread that last one – came out a little weird.)

    Swami, I do know a reasonable number of reality based types – like many of my neighbors and business associates thank god. I’m lucky there. But I need to learn more about these people who use ‘facts’ to back up what they’ve already decided to believe, instead of facts to help them decide what to believe, if you know what I mean.

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