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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Secret, Striking Key To Donald Trump's Appeal Revealed?

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
interviewed by journalist Wolf Blitzer
by Ralph Benko, Contributing Author: Many commentators, including me, together have spilled billions of pixels attempting to explain the riddle of Donald Trump’s uncanny appeal. There may be one simple, striking, explanation. It is implied by James Piereson in his new book Shattered Consensus. It may well be that Trump’s appeal is his implicit promise to end political parasitism.

Sometimes the political parasites are termed “special interests.” This epithet can be applied equally to Big Government and Wall Street, Big Business and Big Labor. There are those who game the system to take out more than they contribute. If the federal government has become a siphon of the fruit of our honest labor into the pockets of the special interests — the parasites — this is a legitimate, and hot, grievance.

This is not a new thing. Consider among the particulars recited in the Declaration of Independence as a grievance against King George: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.”

Given the last 15 years of economic stagnation it has intensified. And the elites, who are doing OK, may be purblind to it.

I recently drew here from James Piereson’s important Shattered Consensus, an indispensable guide to understanding our current anarchic presidential election. Therein he observed:Political paralysis and economic stagnation are characteristic of political system captured by rent-seeking coalitions. … The demands on government have grown far more rapidly than the underlying economy that must finance them. …

[T]he voters would face a choice of either watching the various interests fight it out for shares of dwindling resources or getting behind a party or candidate that could bypass the interest-group system in order to implement policies to restore economic growth. Either of these outcomes — stagnation or upheaval — is possible.
Enter Trump, and political upheaval. My only quibble with Piereson is, in channeling the late, brilliant, Mancur Olson, with his characterization “rent-seeking coalitions.” “Rent-seeking coalitions” sounds too benign. “Parasites” would be stronger and more apt. Wikipedia provides the etymology of parasite as deriving from “the Latin parasitus, the latinisation of the Greek παράσιτος (parasitos), ‘one who eats at the table of another.’”

Could America’s most perilous problem be one not of capitalism or socialism but of rampant parasitism? There is fury among the rank and file, both on the left and the right. It is traceable back to a semi-choate rage against endemic parasitism.

The last five years in America have seen the rise and fall of the Tea Party movement, followed by the rise and fall of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Both were spontaneous uprisings against privileged elites. The echoes of these movements linger. They still can be heard now channeled into the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

The hard right evicted conservative John Boehner as Speaker of the House over his unwillingness to be more confrontational with President Obama’s relentless pushing of Obamacare, perceived as an unholy alliance between the federal government and the health insurance industry, and acquiescence to various special interest giveaways. The right now is venting wrath on Mr. Boehner’s successor Speaker Paul Ryan over the recent budget deal.

Meanwhile the left is stoking fury over “big” (and “dark”) money in politics and demanding vastly more regulation of Big Finance and Big Business and other policies to punish those who, as Hillary Clinton among others states, are rigging the game against regular people.

This is not quite a partisan matter. As I wrote here:Even the sinister former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, writing in his blog, republished at Salon, notes the emergence of populism both right and left:

"More Americans than ever believe the economy is rigged in favor of Wall Street and big business and their enablers in Washington. We’re five years into a so-called recovery that’s been a bonanza for the rich but a bust for the middle class. “The game is rigged and the American people know that. They get it right down to their toes,” says Senator Elizabeth Warren.

"Which is fueling a new populism on both the left and the right. While still far apart, neo-populists on both sides are bending toward one another and against the establishment.

"Who made the following comments? (Hint: Not Warren, and not Bernie Sanders.)

“[W]e cannot be the party of fat cats, rich people, and Wall Street.”

"Answer: U.S. Senator Rand Paul."
Trust in government institutions, most notably Congress, drags on close to an all time, crisis, low.

Activists both right and left may be reacting to parasitism. This is not sheer paranoia. It’s an artifact, at least in part, of the fifteen year long “Little Dark Age” which is throttling the American Dream of prospering and economic security through hard work and legitimate opportunity.

The right is reacting to government parasitism in which Uncle Sam is draining our money through taxes, regulations, and a messed-up Fed monetary policy. The federal government is draining our pockets in feckless ways and for favorite clients. The left is reacting to corporate parasitism under which special interest lobbying and regulatory capture nudge America away from free markets and toward oligarchy.

To give the left some due its fear of business stacking the deck is not unfounded. Observations about the proclivity go back to Adam Smith, who wrote, in Book I, Chapter X of Wealth of Nations:People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.But it’s as important to do the thing right as it is to do the right thing. What the left doesn’t grasp is that its favored remedies are more likely to compound, rather than resolve, the problem. Adam Smith, again:It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.Such assemblies, of course, are exactly what stultifying regulation renders necessary.

So, what to do? Donald Trump, notwithstanding his outlandish statements and policy eclecticism, is presenting to voters as someone who will, and with élan, confront and clean out both government and corporate parasites. “Set a rascal to catch a rascal.”

Could Trump actually eliminate the parasites? Maybe not. Yet maybe so. If that’s what the voters are shopping for and Trump is presenting as his chief value proposition it would go far toward explaining his durable popularity.

As Alcuin famously wrote to Charlemagne in 798, Vox populi, vox Dei. “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” Or as Prohibition Party candidate William J. Groo put it in the somewhat more contemporary 1885, “You can fool all the people part of the time, or you can fool some people all the time, but you cannot fool all people all the time.” (In the event his party was able to fool enough of the people enough of the time to get Prohibition enacted for almost thirteen years.)

There has been endless speculation as to the reason for Trump’s emergence and persistence. Among these, Scott Adams has said it is political hypnosis, I have praised his genius in using Saul Alinsky’s tactics, Daniel Henninger has noted his charisma, Bob Samuelson notes the psychic benefits he offers marginalized voters, Megan McCardle's observation about Trump's claim to magical abilities,and as David French shrewdly notes Trump’s power in shifting the acceptable range of political discourse, a comparable point also made by Peggy Noonan.. All the above present as significant features of the Trump phenomenon.

But these features really aren’t enough to explain Trump’s appeal. What benefit does Trump offer voters? Trump’s “killer app” may be his promise to exterminate the parasites that are debilitating America and threatening to kill their host. This is a more respectful explanation, respectful both of the electorate and of the candidate, and a more interesting one.

What if the voters are on to something real? What if America’s existential problem is that the parasites, both of Big Government and Big Business, are killing the host, America. If so could another candidate, a Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, trump Trump by channeling their magnificent aggression directly against the parasites, making an across-the-board commitment even more explicitly and more elegantly -- and more credibly -- than has Trump?

There may be a way to fashion a “win-win” rather than “win-lose” plan. There may be a way whereby the rank-and-file, and populist leadership, of both right and left — the honorable classical liberal republicans and the honorable social democrats — can unite politically to pick a president to clear out those special interests who are, as the Declaration put it, eating out our substance.

Meanwhile, consider this hypothesis that the secret of Donald Trump is that the plurality of voters now consider him the most formidable candidate parasite exterminator. “Make America Great Again.”
Ralph Benko is senior advisor, economics, to American Principles in Action's Gold Standard 2012 Initiative, and a contributor to the ARRA News Service. Founder of The Prosperity Caucus, he was a member of the Jack Kemp supply-side team, served in an unrelated area as a deputy general counsel in the Reagan White House. The article which first appeared in Forbes.

Tags: Ralph Benko, Donald Trump, secret, striking key, Trump's Appeal To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 4:00 PM - Post Link


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