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Reflections


Pitchforks and Billionaires

by Ralph R. Reiland,
Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University
 

I thought Donald Trump's presidential campaign was a
populist insurgency within the Republican Party, a movement
to get the working class back on its feet, economically and
culturally, and to knock down by a peg or two the bumptious
elites in the media, arts, liberal academia, entertainment,
and government.

Trump's support came disproportionately from flyover
country and those who think that Make America Great Again
has more to do with NASCAR and rabbit season than listening
to Wolf Blitzer pontificating about climate change or
allegedly xenophobic cops.

There is within this anti-establishment and pro-change
insurgency a degree of anti-intellectualism, in addition to
anxiety about fundamental and widespread social and
economic transformations, and some old-time religion -- a
combination that's nothing new.

"In 1642," explained Thomas White in the Huffington Post, "
Puritan John Cotton said, 'the more learned and witty you
bee, the more fit to act for Satan will you bee.' "

The morning after election day and Trump's victory, the
title of Amanda Taub's column in The New York Times
focused on race -- "Trump's Victory and the Rise of
White Populism."

There's "a new kind of populism," declared Taub, "not the
rage of the long-marginalized poor, as is typical of
left-populists in Latin America. Rather, it is the majoritarian
backlash; the rage of those who now are slightly less powerful
against the gradual erosion of their privilege. That backlash
fueled Mr. Trump's candidacy."

Jeff Guo and Max Ehrenfreund reported related numbers
in The Washington Post: "The white working class has
received enormous attention since Election Day thanks
to its critical role in electing Donald Trump the next president.
Exit polls show he won this group -- defined as white adults
over 25 without a four-year degree -- by an overwhelming
margin of 39 percentage points. Census data show that 42
percent of Americans are part of the white working class,
bigger than any other single group."

Added Guo and Ehrenfreund: "The 90 million white adults
without a college degree far exceeds the 51 million white
adults who have at least a bachelor's degree. Of those whites
without a college degree -- the white working class -- about
39 million, or 43 percent, have some college or an associate's
degree. Another 41 million have only a high-school diploma,
and the remaining 9 million do not have a diploma."

Quantifying the impact on jobs and politics, Guo and
Ehrenfreund summarized the consequences: "A significant
number of people in the white working class are either
unemployed or not looking for work. Among men between
the ages of 25 and 54 -- prime working ages — only about
79 percent are working; another 5 percent are unemployed,
and 16 percent are not working or looking for a job,
according to an analysis by The Washington Post."
And now, the Trump brigade arriving in Washington isn't
circling the capital with pitchforks, readying an incursion.
Instead, there's an unprecedented jump in demand for
super-pricey real estate thanks to Trump's cabinet
appointees, the wealthiest ever, with a combined estimated
net worth of $5.6 billion.

A forewarning: "Rich men without convictions," said George
Bernard Shaw, "are more dangerous in modern society
than poor women without chastity."
----
Ralph R. Reiland is an Associate Professor of Economics Emeritus at Robert Morris University ,
a weekly columnist with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and the co-owner of Amel's Restaurant.
Email: rrreiland@aol.com
***
Ralph R. Reiland

Phone: 412-779-7583
Email: rrreiland@aol.com
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