I’ve had several posts recently elaborating on the theme of Tyler Cowen’s new book, “The Complacent Class,” that too many Americans have become complacent about the comfortable life which they now enjoy.
Let’s take a different approach today and consider some of the problems which large numbers of Americans really are concerned about:
The election of Donald Trump as President. Granted, he just barely squeaked through in the Electoral College with 46% of the popular vote. He makes outlandish statements which have little, if any, basis in fact. But he has appointed many capable cabinet secretaries and other assistants and he listens to them. He adjusts his policies when struck down by the courts. In my opinion he has suffered no major mistakes so far.
Increasing income inequality in American society. This is a problem but, as Nicholas Eberstadt has pointed out, the real problem is income insecurity for millions of blue-collar workers. The best solution here is faster economic growth which the Trump Administration and the Republican Congress hope to achieve through tax reform and deregulation.
Global Warming. More and more Americans understand the increasing severity of this problem. There is a fair chance that a revenue neutral carbon tax will be implemented in the near future. This would be a big boost toward controlling carbon emissions in the U.S. and would provide more clout in establishing worldwide emission standards as well.
A chaotic world. Terrorism will not go away but at least ISIS will soon be defeated as an independent state. Other worldwide threats such as China, Russia and Iran can be managed with a strong U.S. military force undergirded by a strong U.S. economy.
Conclusion. The above problems are considered by large numbers of people to be serious and are therefore being addressed in one way or another. But our biggest problem of all, massive debt, is off the radar for much of the political class, including President Trump. It needs to be taken far more seriously than it is before we have another, and much more severe, financial crisis.
Donald Trump is having a huge impact on the 2016 U.S. presidential race and lots of people are trying to understand why. In a previous post I wrote that the Republican Party needs to figure out where all of the Trump supporters are coming from and then try to keep these people under a perhaps larger Republican tent.
A very good explanation of the Trump phenomenon comes from the AEI social scientist, Charles Murray, writing in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Says Mr. Murray:
The long time American Creed of egalitarianism, liberty and individualism is losing its authority and its substance. One of the most widely acknowledged aspects of American exceptionalism is the lack of class consciousness.
This lack of class consciousness has now been replaced by the emergence of a new upper class, a new lower class and the plight of the working class caught in between.
The new upper class is characterized by its condescension toward ordinary Americans. Mainstream America is fully aware of this condescension and contempt and is irritated by it. It may mean that American egalitarianism is coming to an end.
In the 1960s, white working class men in their 30s and 40s were almost all working and almost all married. But, as shown in the chart, these high labor participation and marriage rates have dropped dramatically in the past 50 years.
The success of the civil rights and feminist movements, both classic invocations of the American Creed, have led to a large scale ideological defection from the pillars of liberty and individualism. The problem is that affirmative action demands that people be treated as groups. Equality of outcome trumps equality before the law.
By the 1980s Democratic elites largely subscribed to an ideology in conflict with liberty and individualism. This produced the Reagan Democrats.
During the past half-century, American corporations exported millions of high-paying jobs while the federal government allowed the immigration, legal and illegal, of tens of millions of competitors for the remaining working class jobs.
As Mr. Murray says, “if you are dismayed by Trumpism don’t kid yourself that it will go away if Donald Trump fails to win the Republican nomination. Trumpism is an expression of the legitimate anger that many Americans feel about the course the country has taken.”