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Saturday, October 22, 2016

In achieving their improbable surges in presidential polling, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have profited from the same wellspring of anxiety, a deep-seated fear about the future that is rising across the land. Their answers to that anxiety are very different — as their followers are very different — but they have both tapped into an undercurrent of unease that affects a broad swath of American voters.

And that unease is well-founded. In mid-September, the U.S. Census Bureau issued its annual report on wages, poverty, and health insurance. Its findings come as no surprise: Though the official unemployment rate is down to its lowest level in seven years, the percentage of people living in poverty — around 14 percent — hasn’t budged in four years.

Equally worrisome is the stagnation in wages, which haven’t risen significantly for more than a decade. “Anyone wondering why people in this country are feeling so ornery need look no further than this report. Wages have been broadly stagnant for a dozen years, and median household income peaked in 1999,” Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a research group, told The Associated Press.

And ornery people are. That’s the only thing that explains Trump, who for weeks has enjoyed the top spot in GOP presidential primary polls. Full of bombast, narcissism, and blame, the real estate titan has pinned Mexican immigrants as the purveyors of all that is destructive to the American way of life. It’s astonishing how much support he’s received for his proposal to deport the estimated 11 million who are here illegally.

There’s no doubt a good portion of racism and xenophobia among the Trump crowd; they are largely voters uncomfortable with the country’s increasing diversity. But they are also anxious about a future in which the American dream is out of reach for their children and grandchildren.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Sanders, Vermont’s self-described socialist in the U.S. Senate, is giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money, attracting large crowds, and leading in New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary vote. His answers, at least, are not xenophobic: Among other things, he would increase taxes on the wealthy and end some longstanding trade agreements.

Sanders has long warned about income inequality, which has been growing for decades but was exacerbated by the Great Recession. Suddenly, ordinary workers saw their jobs disappear, their savings evaporate, their homes taken by the bank. Many of them have not recovered the ground they lost, and their traumas have invited fear bordering on panic.

Meanwhile, the rich have only gotten richer. The top 1 percent own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, and they hold a larger share of income than at any time since the 1920s and the Great Depression.

These trends are evident throughout the industrialized world; they’re not the fault of any single politician or ideological philosophy. According to economists, they’ve grown from a convergence of factors, including the technological revolution and the globalization of labor.

Still, the wealth gap is quite worrisome. It’s a recipe for revolution, the sort of gulf between the haves and have-nots that is characteristic of developing countries, where the ties of the civic and social fabric do not bind. It’s hard to overstate the potential for upheaval in a country such as this, where a diverse population is not held together by a single language or race or religion, but rather by the belief that opportunity is available to all. What happens when a majority of the people no longer believes that?

You’d think, then, that income inequality would dominate the campaign trail. But the subject was hardly mentioned during Wednesday’s marathon GOP presidential primary debate, where such pressing priorities as possible Secret Service code names were discussed.

That’s not good. While it’s hard to see either Trump (his bubble may already be bursting) or Sanders as a presidential nominee, the voters they represent aren’t going away. Neither is their anxiety, which could prove a disruptive force in American political and civic life.

(Cynthia Tucker Haynes won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at [email protected])

Photo: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) takes part in a rally to preserve union pensions on Capitol Hill in Washington on September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

  • charleo1

    What the Country needs is a few more decisions from the Supreme Court, like corporations are people, or money equals free speech. Or more deregulation from a sold out Congress to spawn another Wall Street bubble. Or a bigger war in the Middle East. Maybe just one more lopsided trade deal could finally finish off a crumbling Middle Class. And will finally unite our deeply divided Country into the same sinking rowboat. Where we can all pray together. Yes pray! That the billionaires in their passing yachts will throw us a paddle, or a piece of fish from the smorgasbord, or something, anything!

    • @HawaiianTater

      The world would suck even more than it already does without sarcasm. Well played, sir.

  • @HawaiianTater

    The fact that we have the worst levels of income inequality since the 1920s should terrify everyone. What happened next was the Great Depression. It infuriates me that people fail so hard to learn from history. When all the money goes to the top, the entire economy collapses onto itself. And yet, we still have so many dumbtards who believe in trickle down economics. It just blows my damned mind that people can be so stupid.

    • charleo1

      Well said Tater. And sometimes we gotta laugh, or risk blowing out some important gasket, or other. And yes. when all the money goes to the top,
      you get slow recovery, stubborn unemployment, stagnant wages, pressure
      on the safety net. And the Republicans created every bit of it. Then gripe,
      (Using my dumb hick drawl here…)”Obamer’s recovery is the slowest the
      Country has ever seen!”

      • @HawaiianTater

        It seems like it should be such a simple concept. Giving money to the “job creators” doesn’t help the economy nor does it create jobs. Giving money to the middle class helps the economy and creates jobs. When the middle class has disposable income, they spend money. When people spend money, businesses hire more employees to keep up with business demands. On the other hand, when rich people get even more money than they already have, all they do is hoard it. There is only so much money a small group of people can spend. It really kills me that so many people cannot or refuse to understand this concept.

        • Independent1

          What surprises me the most, is that supposedly intelligent people who have been smart enough to make lots of money, fail to see that what they’re setting up for themselves is a situation of rapidly diminishing returns. They’ve bled the poor and middle class so dry, that it’s only a matter of time (a short time if things don’t change) when the top 20% is going to start seeing increasingly smaller profits/returns/income. The top 20% have siphoned off and invested overseas, so much of America’s income and wealth, that the poor and middle class are going to run out of money for them to siphon off.

          See this chart which shows where back in the 1970s and maybe early 80s, new money changed hands up to maybe 20 times before it either had to be destroyed (if it was still in circulation) or it was stashed somewhere for safe keeping. While today, when the Feds print new money, it disappears from circulation after changing hands only 5-6 times (most likely ending up in some of the 20%s overseas bank accounts).

          • Dominick Vila

            A large percentage of the profits being posted by American corporations come from foreign investments. The same is true for their sales volume and corporate growth.
            The fact that so many wealthy Americans, and our corporations, are investment heavily overseas is not a surprise. They see an opportunity to get a greater return on investment, and potential growth opportunities, and they are not about to miss out on that.

          • Independent1

            Yeah! A greater return on investment, mainly because many countries do not tax (or at least not heavily), monies invested in their country by foreigners. For example, I believe Apple has a fake home office (tax shelter) in Ireland, which lets them shelter billions in profits, because Ireland charges little or nothing in taxes to such corporations (foreign companies with home offices in Ireland). And I think the same is true even for individual tax accounts in many countries.

            So even though people like Romney can get away with maybe paying around 5-10% or less taxes on their investment earnings in the U.S. (reducing the 15% capital gains tax rate by a number of deductions); they probably can get away with paying close to 0% by investing overseas and not even declaring those investments on their tax returns.

            So a lot of their earnings advantages overseas isn’t because they’re actually earning more on their investments overseas, but because via the U.S. tax loopholes,they’ve figured out an even better way to cheat America out of paying their ‘fair share’ of taxes – often cheating the country more that’s actually giving them the majority of the income/profits they’re investing and making all their money on.

          • Dominick Vila

            The same is true for Americans working overseas. I did not pay Federal income tax when I worked abroad because I was overseas, even though I was working for American companies; and the local governments did not tax me because I was an American working overseas!

    • Dominick Vila

      What upsets me the most is that the same people that claim to be pro business and wrap themselves in the flag, are the same ones that blocked investment in infrastructure, the pursuit of alternative energy sources, and business opportunities associated with climate change to, as Mitch McConnell acknowledged, ensure President Obama was a one-term president.
      The key to economic prosperity and less income inequality in the USA is higher consumer spending, which requires job creation and higher salaries. Both of these requirements could have been met a few years ago by appropriating funds to improve our decaying infrastructure, to keep up with the gains being made in other industrialized nations as they transition to wind and solar power, to ensure our coastal cities and towns are protected against rising sea levels, to ensure steps are taken to avoid or limit shortages of potable water to large metropolitan areas and critical agricultural areas, to encourage greater enrollment in college education, and to protect social programs such as SS, MEDICARE, MEDICAID, and the ACA to lower the operating costs of our corporations and make them more competitive. Instead of supporting and enhancing our capabilities, skills, and competitiveness, the GOP engaged in political tactics that accomplished the exact opposite. The most insidious is their emphasis on denying our workers the most fundamental needs, such as a higher minimum wage, overtime rights, safety regulations, demanding salary increases from corporations that are posting record profits and exceeding shareholder expectations. Instead, they are protecting and supporting ridiculous rates for the super rich, protecting the tax loopholes and tax shelters that help them accumulate more wealth than they already have, and when challenged the play the role of victims being abused by masses of alleged welfare recipients who love to be poor and hate the wealthy.
      Fortunately for them, a large segment of our population does not understand the impact of their policies, and how harmful they are to our economy, industrial might, and our well being.
      I think it is important to point out that the off shoring (outsourcing) of jobs is influenced, in part, by companies trying to benefit from cheap labor abroad, it is also encouraged by the distinct probability of earning market share in rapidly developing economies. The likelihood of higher sales and profits as a result of these circumstances is simply irresistible to American investors, and it would not make a but of difference if the occupant in the White House has a (D) or an (R) after his name.
      Last, but not least, is the tremendous impact of automation, including robotics, on labor. The days of factories with large assembly lines where thousands of workers assembled parts, the days of the long distance telephone operator, and even the days of customer services provided by human beings, are being replaced with computerized systems. Sadly, the one thing that would help mitigate the impact of this major change in paradigm – EDUCATION – is not only being ignored, it is often ridiculed or attacked. A footnote to this is President Obama’s proposal to make the first two years of college tuition free, and the GOP reaction to that proposal.

      • Independent1

        If American companies really think they’re going to make significant sales increases by going around opening factories in foreign countries with shrinking populations, they’re making a huge mistake. America is the only similarly industrialized nation on the planet that still has a growing population – and guess why: because of immigration.

        Virtually every nation in Europe, including Russia, has a declining population; which I doubt seriously are really great opportunities for significant American investment. And note in the article below, that even what was thought would be a bonanza in China with respect to auto sales, is turning out to be a bust; primarily because of a stagnant population, and the fact that although China has a billion people, only a small fraction of that Billion fall into the ‘elite class’ who are fortunate enough to really be big time consumers of U.S. products.

        A brief excerpt from the Wall Street Journal:

        DETROIT—China’s auto industry faces a second straight year of weaker growth after a sharp 2014 slowdown, according to an industry association and analysts, as car makers continue to grapple with a cooling economy and rising inventories.

        • Dominick Vila

          Most European countries do have a serious negative population growth problem. I would not be surprised if that is a consideration for their decision to grant asylum to hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries.
          I am not so sure about China though. I think that part of their problem involved inability to manage out of control growth, over building, ending up with a huge inventory of housing, office space, cars, and other items that they cannot unload, and the effects of trying to transition from an economy focused on exports, to a consumer oriented economy.

  • Independent1

    “These trends are evident throughout the industrialized world; they’re not the fault of any single politician or ideological philosophy. According to economists,”

    Oh come on Cynthia! Surely you don’t believe that nonsense from economists who clearly have their heads in the clouds!! Sure, a certain amount of inequality is to be expected if some people are going to truly be successful. But there’s only one reasonably industrialized country on the planet that has income inequality worse than America. And America got this way clearly based on IDEOLOGY!!

    One politician, a creep named Reagan, began this extreme level of income inequality as he brainwashed Republicans into every fantasy he could think of that would shovel money from the poor into the pockets of the rich: his Trickle Down economics fantasy; his let’s destroy all the unions project which has paid enormous dividends; his ‘government is the problem’ fantasy so lets be sure to starve it and instead shovel more money to the magical wealthy benefactors of the needy BS; and his brainwashing of CEOs and entrepreneurs across t he country, that it isn’t employees matter, but the owners, operators and stockholders that should be the reapers of corporate profits – so a big part of the problem today, IS CLEARLY IDEOLOGY, CEOs and corporate owners who make certain that the reap the lions share of any corporate profits above what they want to give their shareholders, an average of 300 times the income of the average worker- AND YOU DON’T THINK THAT’S A RESULT OF IDEOLOGY????


    • @HawaiianTater

      As much as I hate Reagan for starting all of this, it’s crazy to realize that even he would be thrown out of the GOP today and branded as a stupid libtard. What’s even more insane is that the right has lurched so far to the right that they think centrists like Obama are extreme lefties. Even Bernie Sanders is only in the middle of the left spectrum. Yet, because the right has gone so far to the right, centrists like Obama look extreme left to them because the right is that far gone.

      • Independent1

        But that far right shift is the result of Republican after Republican trying to outdo each other and be what they thin is more ‘Reaganesque’. In fact, that was actually the assessment of one article I read about the latest GOP debate – the impression by the writer that many of the candidates were doing just that – trying to appear more Reaganesque than the previous guy.

        So if the party has gone extremely to the right, even that is Reagan’s fault for having created so many misguided fantasies in the minds of today’s Republicans. And Republicans even demonstrate that’s true, by constantly trying to turn a very mediocre president, into the super president he wasn’t.

        Even his supposed super economics accomplishments according to right-wingers were mediocre. They didn’t even come close to comparing to the economy under Carter who Republicans love to revile. Our infamous ‘David’ tried to sell me on some fabricated stats for Reagan supposedly published by the 2000 Congress – which were just that fabricated.

        In reality, over 8 years, GDP growth under Reagan averaged about 7.37%/yr. While during Carter’s 4 years, GDP growth averaged 10.9%/yr. And even this graph demonstrates how not only mediocre Reagan was; but how mediocre every GOP president in office after Coolidge was – jobs and GDP growth under every Dem president, exceed that OF EVERY GOP president.

        • Independent1

          The graph that should have been with my prior post.

  • Andrew Freeland

    If only more people would calm down, be reasonable, and think about what a relatively safe and good country we’re in – and stop with the anger and ‘bomb throwing’, have politicians work out fair and decently caring solutions to our problems. People could all ‘get along’, as happened in the past; must we head for revolution? How many people hurt/killed – is the USA that horrible, is that actually necessary? I suppose the Jade Helm/Texas and the Nevada rancher types are spoiling for a fight; hope these folks will remain the fringe.

    • @HawaiianTater

      Republicans cannot get elected without fear mongering. What’s even more depressing is that so many sheeple fall for it.

    • Independent1

      It’s pretty tough to ‘calm down’ when you’re living on the edge of being able to survive and not survive; and I think you fail to see just how many Americans are in that category of really ‘just getting by today’. Its about 80% of the population or around 250 million Americans. You really expect them to ‘calm down’, when for the past 30 plus years, a political party has been doing everything it can to take advantage of them??? Calming down, is not what is needed today – what’s needed is AN AWAKENING OF THE MASSES, to the damage that the GOP has been doing to their lives.

    • DEFENDER88

      JADE HELM is a Govt/Military run exercise.


    My solution – cap exec pay(all pay) at $1mil/yr including stock options.
    Or say 100x the lowest paid employee.
    If that does not motivate you enough you are warped and need an attitude adjustment.
    France had a revolution about many of the things we are facing today.
    Where the 1% makes and controls most all the money.
    It got right nasty and bloody.

    re French Revolution
    Alexis de Tocqueville had observed, “We are sleeping together in a volcano. … A wind of revolution blows, the storm is on the horizon.” Lacking the property qualifications to vote, the lower classes were about to erupt in revolt.[9]

    Down the road a bit, but I think it is coming.
    The Black Folks, in general at the lower end of the economic scale, seem to be near ready for it now.

    We have tried the “Trickle-down” approach and here is what we now have:
    American CEO’s went from making 5X their avg employee wage.
    To 10x, 20x, and now about what 200-400x?
    Then they hoard it – in off-shore accounts and the like.
    More and more people are seeing this as totally unfair.
    The system seems to not be working now – except in their favor.
    ehhh – Go ahead(you monied elite 1% MF’S), keep it up, and watch what happens.
    Just one small example – how is it fair (or right?)that ball players make $5mil a year and Nurses make $50K ??? Madness. And No I am not a Nurse.
    CEO’s make $5mil while Line Workers make $50k. Madness.

    Eventually, if the Govt and the 1% will not fix it(the growing stagnant and income inequality/profit share problem) – the people will.

    I don’t see Trump and his friends understanding that.
    And I don’t see the Dems fixing it either.

    Think it cant happen here? – the Brits thought that too.

    But we have the best military in the world, you say, they would put down any insurrection. Dream on. That is what the Brits thought.

    The view is different from down here in Dog Patch.

    I don’t want it(the new “2nd” revolution here),I do fear it though.
    “I” am probably old enough(hopefully) that I will not see it.
    But I worry about my 2 Grand Kids.

    In the meantime, just in case, I practice every week(defensively) with my pistol and assault rifle and will pass them on to them.

    Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and prepare your kids for the worst.

  • dtgraham

    After saying all of that in her article, she then states at the end that it’s hard to see Bernie Sanders as a Presidential nominee. Why?

  • RED

    I’m getting very tired of the comparisons between Trump & Sanders and this b.s. about how they’re the same just opposite sides of the political spectrum!! More stupidity from the corporate media who have become so ingrained & inculcated with their false equivalency. Trump supporter are ignorant low life morons who haven’t a clue about the greater world around them or even reality. They’re hateful bigots. Sanders supporters are well informed, educated, knowledgeable people who want the government it work as it should, for everyone. The only conceivable comparison between these two candidates, is possibly, that they’re are not wholly owned by their donors. In the case of Sanders this means that he doesn’t have to dance the dance of the donor class that calls the tune. In the case of Trump, it just means that he can be a lunatic without much consequence.