Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What's with the Rise of Trump?

The sudden rise of Donald Trump to political prominence is something of a puzzle. So what makes Trump supporters tick?

To some it's due to frustration over the economy, the continued national debt and the seeming inability of Washington to accomplish anything useful.

To others it's the result of anxiety over a changing society, the fear of terrorism mixed with a dash of xenophobia.

To still others it's racism pure and simple.

I think it’s a combination.

They have this vague feeling that things are spinning out of control for them. They also have this vague feeling that there are people, the so-called elites, that don’t have this problem. Then they go looking around for people to blame over this uneasiness.

Their gaze lands on people they see as taking things from them. They see it as their taxes being used to benefit people who don’t deserve it. People who either shouldn’t be here in the first place or are just too lazy to fend for themselves. The impression that these people are people of color simply adds to the angst. The federal debt is just one more example of money being taken from them and used to benefit people that don’t deserve it.

Now, they may not understand the numbers but the numbers say they have something of a valid point. If you look at household income the lowest 40% of wage earners actually experienced a decrease in real income between 2010 and 2014 while people in the 80th to 95th percentile had their real income increase by about 5%. So the economic recovery has been unbalanced at best.

There are about 125 million households in the US. In 2015 the federal budget included payment of $402 billion in interest on the federal debt. Some of this, about $180 billion, was offset by interest received on trust funds such as Social Security but the actual interest paid was $402 billion. Now divide $402 billion by 125 million. My spreadsheet says that’s about $3,200 per household.

The federal budget also includes $446 billion for Health Care Services which includes Medicaid, CHIP and SNAP but not Medicare which is a separate budget item. Do the same division and now you get about $3,500 per household. That totals $6,700 per household which is not an insignificant amount of money. And of course we all know that not all households contribute equally and so do the Trump supporters (I'm tempted to say Trumpettes).

These two numbers are currently projected to increase to $731 billion and $632 billion by 2020. Assuming a one million household increase per year that would mean $5,600 and $5,100 per household for a total of $10,700 per household which is clearly unworkable.

For years the Republicans have been garnering votes by promising to “fix” the “cause” of these “vague feelings.” But of course in many cases the “cause” is a myth or the solution isn’t that simple so now we add to the feeling of being ripped off a feeling of betrayal and you get Donald Trump for president.

Can he win a general election?

I'm still not sure he's getting the nomination but assuming he does, then the more bad things that happen between now and November, the better his chances.

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