White middle-aged Americans have every reason to be angry, but there is no reason to believe that Donald Trump will deliver prosperity and get back the good old days, when a high school education and working in the steel mills would allow you to own a home, two cars, and some leftover money to send your kids to junior college.
Those days are gone, done with, and neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will ever bring them back. Statements coming from presidential candidates about getting back American Middle-Class status are at best, trash.
Back in the 1960’s, my father, who had no high school education, worked in the steel mills, and so did I after completing my military service, working the midnight shift at Inland Steel in East Chicago. We both earned around $2.75/hour, but that salary allowed my father and me to own a decent house and each to own our own car and support our siblings. We could never do that again, even if we got a minimum wage of $12/hr.
That Was Then
White Americans of the early fifties and sixties enjoyed the industrial boom that came after the end of the war. With Europe’s and Japan’s industrial bases totally destroyed, Americans – mainly White Americans – enjoyed and benefited from the fact that America’s industrial base was intact and was easily converted from military manufacturing to civilian manufacturing.
Steel mills flourished from Milwaukee all the way to Chicago to East Chicago to Gary to Pittsburgh and Ohio, with great companies of the times such as Inland, US, Bethlehem, and Republic steel employing hundreds of thousands. These factories supplied the steel to booming car industries all over the State of Michigan, Ohio, even Indiana, and Wisconsin.
The South also had its share of the industrial boom, with textile, and furniture manufacturing, in addition to factories producing refrigerators, televisions, washers and dryers to meet the needs of every house in America.
White Americans with high school educations were the engine behind such an industrial boom — and a good job they did. Many small towns became big towns. With the spread of suburbia came the demand for cars, and all the amenities the suburbs can provide.
All of that changed during the Reagan years, where the very idea of a “trickle down” economy was promoted as the new hope for White America. Well, partially true, it made the rich richer, but it left White Americans having a mere high school education behind.
A changing economy was taken shape while White America slept through it. WalMart set up shops that competed with downtown Sears and JC Penny’s and Goldblatt’s, and with a business model that attracted buyers looking for cheap items, over 500,000 small businesses in small town America had to close down because they could not compete with WalMart and many loyal and lifetime customers abandoned these community shops.
The wealth of these 500,000 owners overnight was transferred to a family of 100.
Those White American lost their jobs in these shops, and lost their jobs in over 500,000 industrial manufacturing plants that also closed — no different than the hundreds of thousands of steel mill workers who lost their jobs in the industrial Midwest, the one that won the war neglected and became the Rust Belt.
As the wealth shifted from the owners of these small shops through the WalMart-effect, so did many of the factories in the South close down, then moving to China and Mexico — with no thanks to Congressional tax policies that gave the financial incentives to America’s big corporations to move their manufacturing operation overseas, thus depriving tens of millions of Americans out of a job and the dreams of retiring as Middle Class.
Election reflects Disappointment
Abandoned by both Republicans and Democratic administrations, certainly, by a corrupt Congress, White America is showing its anger by rallying to the side of a man who represent everything but the very ideals that White Middle-Class America hold, hard work, family values, and love for the country.
Donald Trump, notwithstanding his rhetoric, is no lover of America, seeking much deferment to avoid military service, born into privilege and wealth, most gained from morally questionable sources; a person who is the darling of Wall Street, having filed for bankruptcy and bailed out by Wall Street six times — Taj Mahal (1991), Trump Castle 1992, Trump Plaza and Casino 1992, Trump Hotels and Casino Resort 2004 and Trump Entertainment Resorts 2004.
Wall Street always came to the rescue of a man who is presenting himself as a successful businessman, a Wall Street that failed to bail out tens of millions of American, but looted them, looted their assets and their pensions. Most of Mr. Trump’s business is casino business, fleecing the very poor by selling them dreams. Busloads of poor Whites and Blacks board the buses every day and every weekend, only to drop the little of what they have in Mr. Trump’s treasury. Anyone who believes this man will bail out America is a stupid fool.
Of course, I can understand why White America is angry, and yes for good reasons, left behind in a changing economy, when America’s political and business leadership failed to anticipate the changing economies and never invested in “retraining” White America for the new jobs and new economies that while accepting high school education required a highly skilled labor force. It is too late, the game is over.
One can also understand the anger at the “illegal immigrant” who is taking the White Man’s job, but if you look around, these immigrants, legal and illegal, work hard in homes and housing construction, cutting grass on highways, maintaining parks, picking up garbage, cleaning offices, doing all the hard work and accepting minimum wage, which requires them to work two jobs and to have 2 or 3 members of their families working to make ends meet. You hardly see a Latino loitering and without a job.
Angry, yes and for good reasons, but do not be fooled that Donald Trump will make America great by his policies of building walls and have Mexico pay for it, or deporting over 5 million illegal immigrants causing America to come to a halt. Will White America that lost its status as Middle-Class role its sleeves and does the dirty work these “immigrants” do, from picking lettuce in farms to cleaning the streets, I doubt it.
We are all mistaken that Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton has the magic wand to make America Great now or again. It is the Congress and only Congress that enabled the policies that deprived White America of its cherished Middle Class status, by allowing American corporation to set shops overseas giving them tax benefits, by never accepting the very idea of “investing” in people and the White labor force to train them and provide them with the skills for the new economies.
I never understood why White America is against the government. I understand it is against this kind of government that we have, beholding to big money, big business and to the privileged few. But never understood why White America think that “libertarianism” is the right thing for America with the views that the less government, the people are better off?
Well think about, without government investing in its people, in their education, in their health in their well-being, they will never be able to regain their Middle-Class status. If they think that Donald Trump will use his money to bail them they are more than stupid fools.
What we need in America is not big or small government, we need responsible efficient government, corruption free, that gives us as much it takes from us, that while we contribute to the treasury it must also contribute to and save our social security and retirement and give us the security we need in our old age and as we become sick and fragile. Why Congress writes their own health policies and we had to fight for ours. Even the people in the need of real health care are opposed to public health, never understood such logic.
After working so many years contributing to the treasury with most of our money ($ trillions) going to wars, I think that our government owes us something like a safety net. We worked for it, and we earned it. Think about it before you cast your vote for a lousy businessman who is selling White America “trash”, and he knows it.
Sami, a Palestinian-American and a US Army Veteran (66-68), recipient of the “soldier of the month award and leadership award from the 6th Army NCO Academy, is an international legal and business consultant with over 40 years of international experience, in construction, hospitality services, conservation and defense, in the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. Sami is a holder of BA, MPA in Public and Environmental Affairs, Jurist Doctor from Indiana University. While at IU he was elected class president, student government president and chairman of the Indiana Students Association,
Active in peace movement as a co-author of the pre-amble for the One State for All of its people and voluntary service program SalamNation. A frequent contributor on national and international affairs. He resides in the United States.