Bit by bit, Trump is taking apart the New Deal’s glorious legacyRoundup
tags: New Deal, Trump
Since January, there have been frightening signs that America is becoming an oligarchy overseen by a dictator. From the first, Donald Trump has followed an authoritarian playbook, beginning with his rejection of objective reality. Forced early on to defend the assertion that the crowd at Trump’s inauguration was the biggest ever witnessed, presidential spokesperson Kellyanne Conway explained that the administration used “alternative facts”. Since then, the president has repeatedly attacked fact-based media as “fake news”. Indeed, with his insistence on an alternative reality, Trump sometimes seems like an elderly Fox News-addled neighbour suddenly given power to make his bizarrely warped view of America real.
But now, it feels all too real, with Trump delivering on the economic core of his vision. He has slashed regulations that protect workers, walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, attacked the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and gutted the government. Finally, in a dramatic “win” for his administration, the Republicans last week passed a major tax overhaul that slashes taxes primarily for the wealthy and is projected to create an almost $1.5tn dollar deficit. Republicans have already said that the only way to address that shortfall will be with cuts to Medicare and social security.
Since Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the New Dealin the 1930s, radical conservatives have railed against the idea that the government should intervene in the economy. The New Deal responded to the Great Crash and the ensuing Depression by regulating business, providing a basic social safety net and promoting infrastructure in order to maintain a level playing field for all Americans. Opponents countered this principle by arguing that the government must not hem in America’s business leaders. In their view, government regulations and laws to benefit poorer members of society crippled leaders’ ability to prosper and, since their prosperity drove the economy by trickling down to everyone else, such laws destroyed progress.
But the New Deal was wildly popular, so conservatives sold their reactionary economic vision by enlisting white racism. As the federal government promoted civil rights, they warned that an active government redistributed the wealth of hard-working, white taxpayers to African Americans, a “special interest” that wanted better treatment than everyone else. In contrast, conservatives offered the image of the American cowboy individualist.
Ronald Reagan, with his derision of the welfare queen and his mantra that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem”, rode that racist anti-government cowboy image into the White House. Trump is this conservative macho individualist exaggerated to caricature. He brags about how he knows better than anyone how to run a successful business, how to fight Isis, how to find “the best people” for office. ...