Monday, January 2, 2017

American People in The Mood For Change

Ned K. 

People in the USA have been alienated from the country's two-party (Democrat/Republican) system for decades. 

The rise of Trump to the position of President is a symptom of this alienation. Although standing for one of the two parties, it is arguable that he only won the election because many who voted for him saw him as outside the mould of the usual Republican or Democratic Party Presidential candidate.

The history of the two-party system in the USA is riddled with records of people's alienation from the political system. The most obvious recording of this is the millions of people who do not even bother to vote, decade after decade, as they see no difference between the two parties.

In the 1990s, the Survey Research Centre of the University of Michigan released research which showed that basic discontent and political alienation in 1940 showed that 20% of people identified as "independent" of the major two parties. By 1974 this had grown to 34%.

In 1992 a New York Times article showed how easy it was for the two parties to manipulate people's alienation and desperate need for answers to their life situations by how they framed questions in opinion polls. 

For example on the issue of "welfare", used in the recent Presidential campaign, if the word "welfare" was used in the question about what a government should spend money on, 44% said too much was being spent on welfare, while 50% said the right amount was being spent on welfare or too little.

However when the question was put about whether the government should spend money on "assistance to the poor", only 13% thought too much was being spent and 64% thought too little was being spent.

Another issue that has fortified people's alienation from the two-party system has been the taxation system. Both Democratic and Republican Parties as far back as Kennedy and Johnson in the 1960s have lowered the corporate and high income earner tax rates. These Democratic Party 1960s governments lowered the war time tax rate of 90% for high income earners to 70%.

Reagan followed the Democratic Party lead when his government, with Democratic Party support, lowered the tax rate on the very rich from 70% to 50%. Then in 1986 Reagan lowered the top tax rate to 28% such that "a school teacher, a factory worker, and a billionaire could all pay 28%" (Bartlett and Steele: Who Really Pays the Taxes?").

From 1978 to 1990, $70 billion a year was lost in government revenue and the wealthiest 1% gained $1 trillion!

So what has all this got to do with Trump? He and his backers have made manipulation of people's discontent with the US political parties an art form while at the same time introducing nothing new that will be of fundamental benefit to the majority of American people. The ruling class of the USA knows it is in trouble. Even one of capitalism's intellectual elite, Fukuyama, is predicting "The Coming Collapse of America" (Australian Financial Review 22-27 December 2016).

So why haven't the American people seen through Trump and moved to the political Left some people may ask? Many millions arguably have by not voting at all in the two-party race for the spoils of office. However to find the reason why there is no unified identifiable workers' party in the USA, another look back into history gives the answer. In the 1950s-1960s a working class movement led by Afro-Americans and progressive white working class and intellectuals did develop. It was systematically smashed by a combination of the FBI and other secret forces of the state backed by ruthless anti-union laws at the point of production to weaken workers' mass organisations.

This combination of deception and brute force will no doubt be a feature of Trump's rule and provide fertile ground for renewal of the anti-imperialist working class movement in the "belly of the beast".

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