Donald Trump’s 100 days are up with very little to show for it, save a few items to satisfy bigots that Trump hasn’t turned “soft” on them, like claiming that he wants to be president for “all” Americans, not just a minority consisting of white xenophobes and nativists. Far-right commentators and Republican lawmakers—and “lawmakers” should be put in quotes when applied here, since Republicans tend to spend their time undoing laws when they are not just lounging about on the taxpayer dime—are warning that if Trump’s anti-healthcare agenda, pro-rich tax “reform,” and racial and ethnic paranoia is not translated into something more substantial than mere rhetoric, then there will be “hell to pay” in the 2018 mid-term elections. Of course, one recalls when a party actually does something constructive—like passing affordable healthcare for all, (some) regulation against a reenactment of the “Great Recession,” rolling back the worst abuses of the Bush-era tax cuts, and saving hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs by keeping the domestic auto industry afloat—there was still “hell to pay” from voters who thought it was too much and it was time to put a stopper on it.
That equation might be different now, because Republicans are in power and they do what they always do, rule by subtraction. Some voters seem to believe that “less” is “more,” but that equation only make “sense” for those who think less wages and benefits for working people should mean more for the few. One paper-pushing corporate CEO who “earns” $100 million a year in compensation is probably paid at least $98 million more than they are worth, and that money could have been applied to a $10,000 raise for 10,000 low-wage employees; multiply that by a few factors (after all, we are talking about just the top .001 percent in that example), you can see just how out-whack this country’s priorities are. And Trump’s proposed tax “reform,” cutting rates for the rich by half, is supposed to “help” working Americans?
There were those who were farsighted enough in the depths of the Great Depression to know that the top marginal tax rates of 70 to 90 percent went far to undo such imbalances by making it more beneficial for corporate executives to employ more people and pay higher wages, since personal greed was not “profitable” for them. It also helped the federal budget because more people were paying taxes (not to mention not being on public assistance), instead of being “replaced” by a few idle rich doing what they could to avoid paying taxes at all. But along came Reagan, and the era of personal greed over national well-being prevailed, and continues to be so. Trump and Republicans claim that reducing tax rates to 15 percent for the super-rich will create jobs, which even the economists who pushed a much less “radical” cut under Reagan admit that its trickle-down benefit never came about, in fact going in the opposite direction ever since.
Trump and many of his supporters in Congress are the product of personal greed and social elitism, and voters who believe Trump is for the “little guy” will soon become disabused of that notion if his agenda actually becomes law; ethnic and racial scapegoating will not create jobs, but likely cost jobs by forcing businesses to shut-down because complaining is an easier occupation than getting one’s fundament off the sofa while watching Fox News. No, what might make a greater impression of what a Trump presidency really means won’t be apparent until he actually does manage to get the Republicans to pass his agenda. It might not become apparent right away, but it did take less than a decade for the massive anti-regulation financial “reform” of 1998 which the greed-ridden Clintons endorsed to do its work, and outside a few of the worst institutional abusers, the ones who “paid” were working people.
One wonders if the reality of Trump matters more than if his agenda becomes substance or not by 2018. Polls on healthcare reform and immigration seem to indicate that the opinion of a radical minority carries far more weight than that of the majority in the minds of Trump and the Republicans, but what does that matter? Does doing nothing “safer” than doing something, or does simply rolling back “change” to the “bad” we already know easier to tolerate? Perhaps people don’t want too many “complications” in their lives, especially those things they can’t perceive directly effecting them, since ignorance of the “unknown” tends to unleash powerful emotions, like paranoia and scapegoating.
But does that also mean they don’t like the idea of having “choices,” which Trump intends to deprive them of? If people can’t afford healthcare, or their employer doesn’t provide it, does that mean they don’t want the “choice” of an alternative (like Obamacare), other than dying? Do they feel more comfortable not having a “choice” about whether unregulated financial institutions are allowed to gamble away their hard-earned money, like they tried to do before the Great Recession? Do they prefer not having a choice if there is environmental and food safety regulation, and polluters are allowed to pollute unfettered by any regulations or laws? Or are we a nation of the kind of person I once overheard, an older man, demanding to know why he should pay taxes to fund public education. He has no kids.
What do I think will happen in 2018 if the Trump/Republican agenda does not come to fruition? Probably no more than if it does, and nobody notices too substantial an effect on their lives either way. Gerrymandering has entrenched the Republicans in the House of Representatives, and they might lose a few seats in the Senate. This is a country that only understands pain of the personal pocket book kind; for now, Trump and the Republicans have found it expedient to focus white paranoia on the usual suspects, but that will only work if things are only so bad enough that the most vulnerable can be blamed. Anything bigger, white voters will have to consider that maybe—like in 2008—minorities and “liberals” were not to blame for the state of country, but people like Trump, his rich friends and Republicans.