Brodie Farquhar: What really makes America great again?
What does “Make America Great Again” really mean? MAGA was the slogan of the Donald Trump campaign. It was both inspirational and vague enough that citizens could project their individual ideas, hopes and dreams into it, much as citizens projected into Barack Obama’s slogan “Yes We Can.”
The Obama administration successfully met some aspirations and failed with others. The Trump administration? Time will tell.
It looks like big chunks of the Trump coalition were looking for dramatic change, just as Bernie Sanders supporters were doing. The status quo simply wasn’t tenable, not for people who’d grown up in the middle class, thanks to good-paying manufacturing jobs for their parents.
Many of those jobs went away, across the border or overseas, leaving Mom and Dad working at Walmart or McDonald’s and the kids struggling with college debt or camped out in the basement working minimum-wage jobs.
There was tremendous anger at the establishment that allowed or encouraged the exodus of jobs in the name of free trade and globalization.
Republicans were basically cheerleaders of the exodus because it made CEOs and investors richer. Democrats, those who weren’t enablers of the exodus in the name of free trade, were ineffectual at stopping or even slowing the exodus of jobs.
Retraining for guys who used to make $80,000 a year working the lines in Detroit, just so they could maybe make $30,000 a year in a service industry, just doesn’t cut it.
Then there was the role of retail giant Walmart, which not only destroyed Mom ‘n Pop retail businesses on Main Street but also forced manufacturers to move factories to low-wage countries. (See Rubber Maid’s well-documented experience with Walmart.)
Reagan’s assault on unions broke the link between ever-greater labor productivity with ever-better pay. NAFTA helped shatter the American Dream for millions.
I suppose that if I could project my hopes onto MAGA, I’d opt for the Eisenhower era, when we had a booming and prosperous economy dominated by manufacturing. We built the inter-state, schools and suburbia for blue-collar families that enjoyed a social contract with owners/managers — I’ll work hard and you’ll provide a job for life and real hope for my kids.
(Of course, all that was predicated on strong unions that had fought and bled for that prosperity, and a 92 percent highest tax rate on the 1 percent that paid off the costs incurred from the Great Depression and World War II. It was also predicated on the fact that the industrial world, save the US, was just emerging from the ruins of that war.)
Did you know that right now, there’s a prosperous, Western, liberal, capitalist country that has a robust economy dominated by manufacturing, one that has never shipped jobs and factories overseas?
Germany copied our best management practices after the war. Labor unions are strong and work closely with management/owners. Germany enjoys trade surpluses with the rest of the world. Jobs are kept at home and immigration provides a labor supply as birth rates decline.
As a result, blue-collar Germans enjoy excellent pay and benefits and virtually lifelong employment. German factories are opened overseas, not to replace shuttered factories at home but to expand market share abroad. And German CEOs don’t make 300 to 400 times what a worker on the line makes. More like 30 times, so Germany doesn’t have a 1 percent that dominates politics with campaign contributions, like our own Koch brothers.
So why can’t we be more like Germany?
What do you want MAGA to mean?
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