Friday, April 14, 2017

Regional Inequality and the Election of Trump

The election of Trump is part of an international reaction to neo-liberal economics.  Looking at the phenomenon more closely, we can see that increasing regional disparities caused by the decline of U.S. government anti-trust enforcement are a major component of the overall reaction.

Eliminating anti-trust has been good for profits of major American corporations.  The co-option  (co-opting) of the middle class through the ownership society and increasing participation in the profits of large corporations has no doubt been a major factor.  No doubt there have also been some beneficial effects for consumers.

The effects of neo-liberalism on regional economic equality are less well appreciated.  Thus, many of the owners of regional corporations are unhappy and have called for ever less federal government intrusion into the economy.  Ironically, however, these regional corporations are under attack from larger national and multi-national corporations, and lack the protection formerly provided by anti-trust laws.

Thus, Trump rode regional dissatisfaction to the presidency, boosted by anti-government business leaders in flyover country.  Their businesses, however, are not under attack from the government, but from global behemoths such as Amazon.com, Bank of America, or United Airlines.  Their irrational belief that too much government is responsible for the increasing regional disparities is manifest in the profoundly confused Republican economic platform.  Voters in flyover country know something is amiss with their local economies, but their leaders (Republican and Democrat) aren't giving them a reasonable explanation.  They've turned in the exact opposite direction of where they need to go.

These thoughts of mine are still half-baked.  For a more coherent discussion, please see Regional inequality is out of control. Here’s how to reverse it, by Phillip Longman (from 2015 -- i.e. written before Trump rose to prominence).  Here's the concluding paragraph of Longman's article:
Inequality, an issue politicians talked about hesitantly, if at all, a decade ago, is now a central focus of candidates in both parties. The terms of the debate, however, are about individuals and classes: the elite versus the middle, the 1 percent versus the 99 percent. That’s fair enough. But the language we currently use to describe inequality doesn’t capture the way it is manifest geographically. Growing inequality between and among regions and metro areas is obvious to all of us. But it is almost completely absent from the current political conversation. This absence would have been unfathomable to earlier generations of Americans; for most of this country’s history, equalizing opportunity among different parts of the country was at the center of politics. The resulting policies led to the greatest mass prosperity in human history. Yet somehow, about thirty years ago, we forgot our history.


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