The Origins of Trumpism II. A National Crisis for Working Men


The American Enterprise Institute’s Nicholas Eberstadt has performed a valuable national service with two recent publications: “Men without Work” and “Our Miserable 21st Century”  These works lay out in great detail what has gone wrong in our country in the past 16 years:

  • Overall household wealth has doubled as a result of a surging stock market fed by the Federal Reserve policy of quantitative easing.
  • The recovery from the crash of 2008 has been singularly slow and weak compared to the 1947 – 2007 trend line.
  • The work rate for Americans aged 20 and older has declined by 4% from 66% to 62%.
  • Half of all prime working age male labor-force dropouts take opioid medication on a daily basis paid for by Medicaid. 57% of this population class is collecting disability benefits.
  • 17 million male ex-prisoners and convicted felons are now in our midst and largely unable to find the employment which would lead to productive lives.

Here is Mr. Eberstadt’s initial prescription for addressing this very serious social problem:

  • Revitalize American business and its job-generating capacities. According to the Brooking Institution’s Ian Hathaway and Robert Litan, “business deaths now exceed business births for the first time in the thirty-plus-year history of our data.”capture63
  • Reducing the immense and perverse disincentives against male work embedded in our social welfare programs. For example, U.S. disability programs are subject to widespread abuse and gaming. Social welfare programs should emphasize a “work first” principle emphasizing training and education, job placement, and tax credits, etc.
  • Drawing men with a criminal record back into productive work life. Note that the huge increase in America’s ex-prisoner and ex-felon population in recent years coincides with a dramatic drop in rates for both violent crime and property crime. This suggests that former criminals do not pose a continuing danger to society.

Conclusion. For the future prosperity and social cohesion of our country addressing this problem should be a very high priority. Let’s hope that President Trump gets the message.

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2 thoughts on “The Origins of Trumpism II. A National Crisis for Working Men

  1. Jack,

    I am glad that you read Eberstadt’s article. I think it was Sunday’s NYT/s that Ross Douthat wrote an article “A Time For Immodest Proposals”. I generally find this Conservative Catholic’s assessments about society not only palatable but also thoughtful and realistic. He is too rigid on birth control and abortion but his general ethics seem more viable than most Liberals. He also cited Eberstadt’s article as did David Brooks. I always emphasize that I am not in either the Liberal or Conservative camps. I see myself as a Radical who wants to establish specific premises about humans and societies that have commonalities in common.
    Douthat’s proposals seem most realistic, even as he indicates he can’t imagine his suggestions to be taken seriously. I would probably have to agree. In particular, here is where the Liberals have been most remiss. And, Conservatives are too frightened of the Government’s control more than appreciative of its ability to benefit the less fortunates.

    I also generally find most economists too narrow in their judgments of human characteristics. Most sides give too much focus on Humans’ rational powers and not appreciative of the inherent irrational elements that can be so easily manipulated and exploited by political leaders. Trump’s abilities in that realm frighten me to no end. There are “knaves and fools”. I place Trump in the Knave camp.

    Well…, there is my less than two cents worth.


    • Eberstadt’s article is outstanding. Douthat’s proposals to address the problems described by Eberstadt are simply unrealistically expensive. Adding $2 trillion to a debt which is already $14 trillion and growing rapidly is not a serious option.
      Eberstadt himself has some good ideas for moving forward (as I elaborate above). The most difficult problem to address is how to move ex-prisoners (convicted of felony) back into a productive role in society.
      I am not yet willing to write off Trump as a knave.

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