Sunday, May 08, 2016

The US Presidential Primary and Class Warfare

Will Barratt, Ph.D.
Roi Et Rajabhat University

A lot of the 2016 US Presidential campaign rhetoric is about money and the inequitable distribution of wealth and income.  This is all good and needs to be part of the conversation.  However, the rhetoric seems to be designed to make the people in the electorate aggressively dislike wealthy people and find them morally reprehensible.  Anyone with money becomes suspect.

One candidate, Donald Trump, is very wealthy.  Interestingly enough, no one really knows how wealthy he is and most reputable sources seem to believe he is worth around $4,000,000,000.

One candidate, Senator Clinton, has a net worth of over $30,000,000, and her husband has an additional $80,000,000.  Certainly not in Trump's bracket, but she is certainly in the 1% for income and wealth.

One candidate, Senator Sanders, has a net worth of around $500,000 - $700,000 depending on the source. Senator Sanders is certainly wealthier than most US adults and is certainly poorer than Senator Clinton or Donald Trump.

Note please that wealth and riches are relative.  But over a certain threshold rich is rich.  Entry into the 1% income is about $400,000 annually (the dollar amount for income varies by source, but this is still a lot of annual income).  Having $11,000,000 in wealth will generate about $400,000 in annual income while preserving the wealth.  (3.5% is a fiscally conservative ROI)

Senator Sanders has made a virtue out of being not wealthy.  Senator Sanders low speaking fee, well below market value, is perceived as a good thing, while Senator Clinton's market value speaking fee is seen as morally reprehensible.  On the other hand the Clinton's have a Foundation that both raises and gives away money and Senator Sanders donates to charity.

Note the furor about the $3,000,000 wedding and $10,000,000 apartment costs for President and Senator Clinton's daughter.  On the one hand, that money is circulating in the economy.  On the other hand, perhaps they should have been restrained in their spending.  On the third hand average wedding expenses in the US, $26,444, amount to roughly half of annual family income of $52,000.  On the third hand Chelsea Clinton's comment that she doesn't care about money has emotional impact for some people because some people care a lot about money.  This is complicated.

Donald Trump is to immigrants as Senator Sanders is to wealthy people.  Manufacturing a common enemy is a time honored political tactic.  Blaming the enemy for the woes of the people is a time honored political tactic.  "But", you say, "the wealthy are really the problem".  Senator Sanders' position is that the wealthy should have their income taxed at a slightly higher level than the current level, that the wealthy should pay proportionately for Social Security, and that the inheritance tax should be changed.  Not bad ideas at all.  Working that solution backward does not blame the wealthy for problems.  This higher tax solution just makes the wealthy pay a higher share.  The data indicates that tax cuts to the wealthy have not met their intended goal of stimulating the economy.  These changes in personal tax will generate more income for the US Government and will hardly affect wealthy people at all.  All that blame, and only a little change.

Corporate tax policy is complicated, however this election cycle has highlighted the dislike and distrust of wealth and that dislike and distrust has spilled into popular support for changing corporate tax policy.  Corporations are not people (please read up on Citizens United) but they are composed of people.  Workers, investors, managers, board members, all are the people who make up corporations.  Corporations don't have social class, or do they?

This 2016 US Presidential election is about ethnicity, nationality, gender, and social class.  It is now acceptable to be racist, nationalist, sexist, and classist because those running for office exhibit these traits.