Millions of Americans and Europeans are in a state of rage and rebellion. While the top one percent of society becomes richer, the rest become poorer and the future of their children and grandchildren looks even grimmer. Their “leaders” are more solicitous of illegal aliens and “refugees” than of them. They are enraged that their “leaders” have spent their taxes and put their countries in a state of monumental indebtedness. They are sick and tired of the sneering classes denigrating their patriotism and their attachment to traditional values. No wonder they turn to Trumps and Le Pens who address their concerns about wealth distribution, uncontrolled immigration, security and human dignity. Last week, US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton added insult to injury by calling Republican rival Donald Trump’s supporters as “deplorables.”
Democratic candidate for president, Hillary Clinton, refers to followers of her rival, Donald Trump, as “deplorable”.
According to a think-tank study, ten million working-age men in the United States have given up even looking for work, which makes a mockery of official unemployment statistics.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel loses her own state in regional elections.
These are only the most recent manifestations of a phenomenon in Europe and the U.S. that is not being given nearly the attention it deserves: tens of millions of Americans and Europeans are in a state of rage and rebellion, and they are taking it out on their clueless “leaders”.
Well, for starters, the degradation of the middle and working classes. While wealth (defined as income-producing assets) becomes ever-more concentrated in the symbolic top one percent, with some of the fruits thereof passed down to their servitors in the “ten percent”: lawyers, accountants, managers, technicians, politicians and so on, the rest of society is stagnant or declining. No longer do most adult Americans expect their children to live better than they do. No longer do most Europeans expect that their countries, not to mention the European Union, will last more than another decade or so in recognizable form.
They are enraged that no-one in the one percent or the ten percent even seems to care.
They are enraged that their “leaders” are more solicitous of illegal aliens and “refugees” than of them.
They are furious that the academic elite of their societies denigrate and mock them and are involved in the disintegration of educational standards from kindergarten to graduate school.
They understand fully that no-one in the financial world was punished for precipitating the Great Recession, and that the tsunami of liquidity unleashed by the major central banks through quantitative easing (QE) and other measures serves to float essentially insolvent financial institutions while doing nothing to increase resources for productive uses.
They are dismayed that the same central banks have reduced interest rates to zero or lower, essentially rendering whatever savings they may have sterile, and imperiling their pension plans, if they have any.
They are enraged that their “leaders” have spent their taxes and put their countries in a state of monumental indebtedness pursuing will-of-the wisps about which they care nothing at all, but which they and their children and grandchildren will have to pay for.
They are sick and tired of the sneering classes denigrating their patriotism and their attachment to traditional values: the values inherited from the Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman traditions.
They support Brexit, to the astonishment of the elites. They support candidates such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, anathema to the party nomenklatura. They flock to the polls to vote for anti-establishment candidates in the U.S., Germany, Austria, Italy, France and elsewhere.
This development is like a volcano—many years of pressure building up underground followed by a stupendous eruption of ash and lava, threatening everything in its path.
The economic elite is not concerned—the current social/economic/political structures are just fine with them because they are served and protected by them. The political elite is either bought-off or clueless about what is enraging the new underclass. Only outsiders—the Trumps and Le Pens—sense what is going on and make their appeals accordingly. Is there any mystery as to why their appeals center on the issues of wealth distribution, uncontrolled immigration, security and above all, the imparting of a sense of dignity and personal worth to the enraged, who are sick and tired of being sneered at as lumpen proletarians, yahoos, rednecks and know-nothings.
What was Hillary Clinton’s crime? She told the truth concerning how these people are seen by people like her and her husband—making tens of millions of dollars playing off their access to and influence over the guardians of the honey-pots of society, while the “deplorables” are reduced to the position of serfs of the state, and therefore of those who control the instruments of power.
To add to their rage and fear, contemporary science and technology are destroying the jobs of those who work (or would like to work) while adding to the already gargantuan wealth of those who own.
Is it any wonder that they are erupting? Is it any wonder that they are prepared to support and follow those who articulate their alienation and promise to reverse it?
Will at least some of the people charged with defending the gates of Western civilization come to their senses and start doing their jobs? Or will they continue mindlessly to worship at the golden altars of the Mammon-god of wealth and the Moloch-god of power until they are blown apart by the volcano underneath them–already erupting clouds of black ash and soon to be followed by the all-consuming lava?
Dr. Norman A. Bailey is a political economist, specializing in national security affairs. His career has included academia, business, finance, consulting and government. He was on the staff of the National Security Council at the White House during the Reagan Administration and on the staff of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence during the George W. Bush Administration. He is the author, co-author or editor of six books and hundreds of articles.
The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Asia Times.