As President-elect Trump announces his choices for various posts in government, those choices look very much like a government of, by, and for the rich. When asked about this, Trump replied to the effect that he wanted winners, and the rich had already proved they were winners.
There are more than a few problems with that philosophy. First, not all the rich are “winners.” While some are indeed winners, some of the rich are inheritors; some are just fortunate to have been born in the right place or time, with the right credentials [Malcolm Gladwell has some interesting insights on that in Outliers]; and some are talented con men who manipulate the system and screw others in their pursuit of winning at all costs.
Second, most of those in the United States are not wealthy winners. Even most Americans in the top one percent by income aren’t millionaires, let alone billionaires. Just what do those wealthy “winners” know about the problems facing the 99.9% of Americans? The present system has shown, pretty convincingly, that the current “political class” is out of touch with the majority of Americans, and that’s one reason why, as a number of my readers have pointed out, so many millions voted for Donald Trump. Just how is appointing millionaires and billionaires who are even less aware of the real problems facing most American families going to improve things?
Interestingly enough, Trump’s election alone is likely to have made life for some of them even harder. Why? Because his election seems to have strengthened the dollar. That strengthening has already made the price of U.S. goods that are exported rise. Higher export prices cost more U.S. jobs.
Third, Trump’s entire concept of “winners” creates the idea that those who aren’t at the top of the pyramid of wealth and fame are “losers.” Is a teacher or a university professor who turns out thoughtful and successful students a loser? Is a doctor who chooses academic medicine and research that saves lives but doesn’t come up with a block-buster drug or medical device a loser? Is the person who struggles from absolute poverty into a “mere” middle-class job and lifestyle a loser?
Fourth, measuring success by the size of profit-margins monetizes all aspects of society, and applying cost-benefit, profit-margin views unthinkingly to government results in policies that are, at best, useful in the short-run and often devastating in the long run. Just in the last year or so, we’ve seen significant environmental damage to regional water supplies, caused by past short-sighted mining rules and, in the case of Flint, unwise cost-cutting decisions. We’re still paying for clean-up to industrial and mining sites all across the country because various industries were allowed to operate without sound environmental rules, and yet the rallying cry of the Trumpistas is that environmental rules are too strict. Too strict for what? That viewpoint seems to suggest that profitable jobs can’t be created without polluting.
While government programs that merely throw money at problems are wasteful, and should be eliminated or reworked, regulations that assure worker health and safely, food purity, product safety, and environmentally safe means of production shouldn’t be trashed because they “reduce” profits. As I’ve said all along, we need a middle way, and I don’t see the super-wealthy showing much concern for anything but profits and unfettered growth.
But then, the super-rich more and more live in enclaves where their water is clean, located in places where the air is better… and they know what’s best for everyone else.