Tom Engelhardt: Donald Trump – Campaigning on America’s Decline

By Tom Engelhardt, a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World. Originally published at TomDispatch

Low-energy Jeb.” “Little Marco.” “Lyin’ Ted.” “Crooked Hillary.” Give Donald Trump credit. He has a memorable way with insults. His have a way of etching themselves on the brain. And they’ve garnered media coverage, analysis, and commentary almost beyond imagining.  Memorable as they might be, however, they won’t be what last of Trump’s 2016 election run.  That’s surely reserved for a single slogan that will sum up his candidacy when it’s all over (no matter how it ends). He arrived with it on that Trump Tower escalator in the first moments of his campaign and it now headlines his website, where it’s also emblazoned on an array of products from hats to t-shirts.

You already know which line I mean: “Make America Great Again!” With that exclamation point ensuring that you won’t miss the hyperbolic, Trumpian nature of its promise to return the country to its former glory days. In it lies the essence of his campaign, of what he’s promising his followers and Americans generally — and yet, strangely enough, of all his lines, it’s the one most taken for granted, the one that’s been given the least thought and analysis. And that’s a shame, because it represents something new in our American age. The problem, I suspect, is that what first catches the eye is the phrase “Make America Great” and then, of course, the exclamation point, while the single most important word in the slogan, historically speaking, is barely noted: “again.”

With that “again,” Donald Trump crossed a line in American politics that, until his escalator moment, represented a kind of psychological taboo for politicians of any stripe, of either party, including presidents and potential candidates for that position. He is the first American leader or potential leader of recent times not to feel the need or obligation to insist that the United States, the “sole” superpower of Planet Earth, is an “exceptional” nation, an “indispensable” country, or even in an unqualified sense a “great” one. His claim is the opposite. That, at present, America is anything but exceptional, indispensable, or great, though he alone could make it “great again.” In that claim lies a curiosity that, in a court of law, might be considered an admission of guilt.  Yes, it says, if one man is allowed to enter the White House in January 2017, this could be a different country, but — and in this lies the originality of the slogan — it is not great now, and in that admission-that-hasn’t-been-seen-as-an-admission lies something new on the American landscape.

Donald Trump, in other words, is the first person to run openly and without apology on a platform of American decline. Think about that for a moment. “Make America Great Again!” is indeed an admission in the form of a boast. As he tells his audiences repeatedly, America, the formerly great, is today a punching bag for China, Mexico… well, you know the pitch. You don’t have to agree with him on the specifics. What’s interesting is the overall vision of a country lacking in its former greatness.

Perhaps a little history of American greatness and presidents (as well as presidential candidates) is in order here.

“City Upon a Hill”

Once upon a time, in a distant America, the words “greatest,” “exceptional,” and “indispensable” weren’t even part of the political vocabulary.  American presidents didn’t bother to claim any of them for this country, largely because American wealth and global preeminence were so indisputable.  We’re talking about the 1950s and early 1960s, the post-World War II and pre-Vietnam “golden” years of American power.  Despite a certain hysteria about the supposed dangers of domestic communists, few Americans then doubted the singularly unchallengeable power and greatness of the country.  It was such a given, in fact, that it was simply too self-evident for presidents to cite, hail, or praise.

So if you look, for instance, at the speeches of John F. Kennedy, you won’t find them littered with exceptionals, indispensables, or their equivalents.  In a pre-inaugural speech he gave in January 1961 on the kind of government he planned to bring to Washington, for instance, he did cite the birth of a “great republic,” the United States, and quoted Puritan John Winthrop on the desirability of creating a country that would be “a city upon a hill” to the rest of the world, with all of humanity’s eyes upon us.  In his inaugural address (“Ask not what your country can do for you…”), he invoked a kind of unspoken greatness, saying, “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”  It was then common to speak of the U.S. with pride as a “free nation” (as opposed to the “enslaved” ones of the communist bloc) rather than an exceptional one.  His only use of “great” was to invoke the U.S.-led and Soviet Union-led blocs as “two great and powerful groups of nations.”

Kennedy could even fall back on a certain modesty in describing the U.S. role in the world (that, in those years, from Guatemala to Iran to Cuba, all too often did not carry over into actual policy), saying in one speech, “we must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient — that we are only six percent of the world’s population — that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind — that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity — and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem.”  In that same speech, he typically spoke of America as “a great power” — but not “the greatest power.”

If you didn’t grow up in that era, you may not grasp that none of this in any way implied a lack of national self-esteem.  Quite the opposite, it implied a deep and abiding confidence in the overwhelming power and presence of this country, a confidence so unshakeable that there was no need to speak of it.

If you want a pop cultural equivalent for this, consider America’s movie heroes of that time, actors like John Wayne and Gary Cooper, whose Westerns and in the case of Wayne, war movies, were iconic.  What’s striking when you look back at them from the present moment is this: while neither of those actors was anything but an imposing figure, they were also remarkably ordinary looking.  They were in no way over-muscled nor in their films were they over-armed in the modern fashion.  It was only in the years after the Vietnam War, when the country had absorbed what felt like a grim defeat, been wracked by oppositional movements, riots, and assassinations, when a general sense of loss had swept over the polity, that the over-muscled hero, the exceptional killing machine, made the scene.  (Think: Rambo.)

Consider this, then, if you want a definition of decline: when you have to state openly (and repeatedly) what previously had been too obvious to say, you’re heading, as the opinion polls always like to phrase it, in the wrong direction; in other words, once you have to say it, especially in an overemphatic way, you no longer have it.

The Reagan Reboot

That note of defensiveness first crept into the American political lexicon with the unlikeliest of politicians: Ronald Reagan, the man who seemed like the least defensive, most genial guy on the planet.  On this subject at least, think of him as Trumpian before the advent of The Donald, or at least as the man who (thanks to his ad writers) invented the political use of the word “again.”  It was, after all, employed in 1984 in the seminal ad of his political run for a second term in office.  While that bucolic-looking TV commercial was entitled “Prouder, Stronger, Better,” its first line ever so memorably went, “It’s morning again in America.” (“Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”)

Think of this as part of a post-Vietnam Reagan reboot, a time when the U.S. in Rambo-esque fashion was quite literally muscling up and over-arming in a major way.  Reagan presided over “the biggest peacetime defense build-up in history” against what, referencing Star Wars, he called an “evil empire” — the Soviet Union.  In those years, he also worked to rid the country of what was then termed “the Vietnam Syndrome” in part by rebranding that war a “noble cause.”  In a time when loss and decline were much on the American brain, he dismissed them both, even as he set the country on a path toward the present moment of 1% dysfunction in a country that no longer invests fully in its own infrastructure, whose wages are stagnant, whose poor are a growth industry, whose wealth now flows eternally upward in a political environment awash in the money of the ultra-wealthy, and whose over-armed military continues to pursue a path of endless failure in the Greater Middle East.

Reagan, who spoke directly about American declinist thinking in his time — “Let’s reject the nonsense that America is doomed to decline” — was hardly shy about his superlatives when it came to this country.  He didn’t hesitate to re-channel classic American rhetoric ranging from Winthop’s “shining city upon a hill” (perhaps cribbed from Kennedy) in his farewell address to Lincoln-esque (“the last best hope of man on Earth”) invocations like “here in the heartland of America lives the hope of the world” or “in a world wracked by hatred, economic crisis, and political tension, America remains mankind’s best hope.”

And yet, in the 1980s, there were still limits to what needed to be said about America.  Surveying the planet, you didn’t yet have to refer to us as the “greatest” country of all or as the planet’s sole truly “exceptional” country.  Think of such repeated superlatives of our own moment as defensive markers on the declinist slope.  The now commonplace adjective “indispensable” as a stand-in for American greatness globally, for instance, didn’t even arrive until Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright began using it in 1996.  It only became an indispensable part of the rhetorical arsenal of American politicians, from President Obama on down, a decade-plus into the twenty-first century when the country’s eerie dispensability (unless you were a junkie for failed states and regional chaos) became ever more apparent.

As for the U.S. being the planet’s “exceptional” nation, a phrase that now seems indelibly in the American grain and that no president or presidential candidate has avoided, it’s surprising how late that entered the presidential lexicon.  As John Gans Jr. wrote in the Atlantic in 2011, “Obama has talked more about American exceptionalism than Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush combined: a search on UC Santa Barbara’s exhaustive presidential records library finds that no president from 1981 to today uttered the phrase ‘American exceptionalism’ except Obama. As U.S. News‘ Robert Schlesinger wrote, ‘American exceptionalism’ is not a traditional part of presidential vocabulary. According to Schlesinger’s search of public records, Obama is the only president in 82 years to use the term.”

And yet in recent years it has become a commonplace of Republicans and Democrats alike.  In other words, as the country has become politically shakier, the rhetoric about its greatness has only escalated in an American version of “the lady doth protest too much.”  Such descriptors have become the political equivalent of litmus tests: you couldn’t be president or much of anything else without eternally testifying to your unwavering belief in American greatness.

This, of course, is the line that Trump crossed in a curiously unnoticed fashion in this election campaign.  He did so by initially upping the rhetorical ante, adding that exclamation point (which even Reagan avoided). Yet in the process of being more patriotically correct than thou, he somehow also waded straight into American decline so bluntly that his own audience could hardly miss it (even if his critics did).

Think of it as an irony, if you wish, but the ultimate American narcissist, in promoting his own rise, has also openly promoted a version of decline and fall to striking numbers of Americans.  For his followers, a major political figure has quit with the defensive BS and started saying it the way it is.

Of course, don’t furl the flag or shut down those offshore accounts or start writing the complete history of American decline quite yet.  After all, the United States still looms “lone” on an ever more chaotic planet.  Its wealth remains stunning, its economic clout something to behold, its tycoons the envy of the Earth, and its military beyond compare when it comes to how much and how destructively, even if not how successfully.  Still, make no mistake about it, Donald Trump is a harbinger, however bizarre, of a new American century in which this country will indeed no longer be (with a bow to Muhammad Ali) “the Greatest” or, for all but a shrinking crew, exceptional.

So mark your calendars: 2016 is the official year the U.S. first went public as a declinist power and for that you can thank Donald — or rather Donald! — Trump.

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  1. Another Anon

    I recall reading some time ago a British politician stating
    that you know a country is on the decline when its
    politicians start using the word “still” in their speeches. For example,
    “We are still the second largest producer of automobiles”
    which I believe British PM Macmillan said sometime around 1960.

  2. Another Anon

    I recall reading some time ago a British politician stating
    that you know a country is on the decline when its
    politicians start using the word “still” in their speeches.
    For example, “We are still the second largest manufacturer of automobiles”
    which I believe British PM Macmillan said sometime around 1961.
    Does any major US politician use the word “still” in his or her speeches ?

  3. notjonathon

    Make America Great Again is really just another dog whistle, suggesting that America isn’t “great” because there’s a Black Man in the White House. What he really means is, “Make America White again.”

    The result of this overturning of the natural status quo lets all sorts of people of the not “straight” sort into society, and the ensuing Angst of the great unwashed has spilled over into explosive anger.

    Of course, this phenomenon alone is itself a sign of a nation in decline, or at least in crisis.

    1. Carolinian

      And yet writers such as Taibbi have reported that Trump devotes most of his rambling speeches to trade, not Mexicans of Muslims as lightly informed comments such as this one would have it. I have no doubt that many or at least some of Trump’s supporters are offended by having a black man as president but your assumptions about what is and is not being dogwhistled are pure speculation.

      Of course Hillary supporters will play their own “race card” to the max and suggest that anyone who opposes her is wearing a white hood. There are lots of dogwhistles out there.

    2. Brindle

      Thanks for using the establishment Dem party line on Trump. This narrow, head in the ground view that Trump voters are racist (some certainly are) and are not motivated by real concerns is one reason this will be a tight race by November.

      1. Anarcissie

        I don’t think it will be tight. Clinton is a machine apparatchik and she’ll be going up against a guy who is a combination of P.T. Barnum and Adolf Hitler in an electoral environment very different from the Democratic Party plantation. Wipeout is what I foresee. And God knows what will happen after that. National decline and renaissance are traditional fascist themes.

        1. jgordon

          “National decline and renaissance” is not just a fascist theme. It’s the traditional cycle that nations have always gone through. Well, there are a couple of other parts of the cycle that can also occur, like “collapse” and “dark age”. Those are certainly in the cards for our future as well.

          But anyway national decline is already baked into to the cake no matter who wins, and at the end of it America will no longer have an empire nor have the world’s reserve currency. That may sound bad, but it really won’t be depending on how we go about it. What is not in the store of us however, for at least the next few centuries, is renewed world dominance and hegemony status. We’ll be lucky to be just a normal country (or rather a number of smaller normal countries) where nothing particularly good or horrible is happening.

    3. jgordon

      No, that’s not the case. You have no idea what you are talking about.

      If you actually listen to any of Trump’s speeches you’ll see that he spends almost all his time talking about corruption, trade, and jobs, with a few minor asides to (entertainingly) insult his political enemies. This racist/misogynist thing is something that elite establishment types have branded the Trump campaign with because they are desperately terrified that a non-neocon/neoliberal is about to get into the White House.

    4. Larry

      Like all politicians, Trump is bringing as many coalitions under his tent as possible. There is no doubt a strong racist, anti-Obama element of his supporters. Appeals to racists is nothing new, the Clintons themselves have certainly shown a strong ability to make this appeal without appearing odious.

      But Trump has also spoken directly to the issues that impact the economic lives of a vast majority of Americans. Middle aged white Americans have seen their quality of lives decline markedly. For them, Make America Great Again! has a different appeal. It recalls a time when blue collar jobs could be obtained and secured one a firmly middle class status in society. Trump has directly called out the Carrier corporation after their video of a manager informing workers in Indianappolis that their jobs were going to Mexico. He has said he’ll put tariffs on imported goods. In essence, he is stating he will dismantle the agreements and treaties that have undermined American labor since the 1970s. I can’t recall a Republican candidate this successful with a platform like that.

      So yes, Trump draws in racists. And yes, for a majority of Americans, this country is and continues to be in decline. Empty promises may not help, but if Trump were to actually do something like dismantle NAFTA as we know it and oppose the TPP, he would be a great boon to a large cross section of his supporters.

    1. digi_owl

      USA seems a bit like the immune system of an allergic.

      Having been largely insulated from “pathogens” it lashes out in excess against any perceived threat.

  4. sleepy

    Why not? With declining wages, job insecurity, a decrepit infrastructure, debt, and overpriced healthcare, most Americans meet the decline in their living standards in the face every single day. Imho many recognize the “exceptionalism” meme as an increasingly cruel joke, a PR sticker that has little in common with reality. It doesn’t work anymore.

    Everyone knows this, and I’m not sure why it’s surprising that a candidate picks up on this. Trump’s slogan sounds perfectly reasonable and accurate.

    Every other developed nation has some form of universal healthcare, a better public transport system, and cheaper college. We don’t, because well, we just do things differently.

    Hillary is the candidate to manage the decline, to insist that we can’t have nice things, and offers nothing. I think Trump is a fraud and will fold himself into the repub establishment nicely.

  5. Christopher Fay

    I not sure “manage the decline” makes sense. That’s what I though in 2008 when Obama got my vote. “At least his decline trajectory will be shallower than Crash Dive x 3 McCain” was my thinking. And O hasn’t done much good except kept a shallow decline trajectory. Hillary is a different animal. She’s from the profit from a disaster portion of humanity. And she’ll raise the death toll from a single day catastrople by an order of magnitude at least. My fear is she’ll push Russia into making a point by taking out a few cities on our shoes.

    So, when it’s time to head for the lifeboats it’s Trump.

    If we decide not to live again by advancing Sanders

  6. Bill T

    There is an old saying “you can fool some of the people all of the time,,all of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time”
    The ultimate narcissist Obama has proven that theory wrong. He is the only president elected who refused to provide his records for public knowledge and got away with it. None of his supposed classmates,girlfriends remember him from college days.He wins the Nobel Prize after six months in office having accomplished nothing.
    All these facts and yet the “sheeple” elected and re-elected him.What is wrong with that picture ?
    Now Trump is being accused of being a fraud by the uninformed and so called “real” Republicans for exposing the election system (delegate appointment procedure) for the fraud that it is.
    He is called a racist,bigot etc. for wanting to temporarily disallow Muslims entering the country until it gets sorted out .and addressing the ever increasing illegal immigrants (11 million to date)
    Hillary, facing indictment for Benghazi and the very questionable issue of her using her private email server with classified information being under investigation and others has no effect on her electability with Democrats.
    If Trump accomplishes nothing else,he has exposed the Washington closed shop corruptness for what it is.
    Will the people listen and learn or will the “sheeple” refuse to fa e it for what it is?
    Now is the chance with a non politician not in the pockets of Wall Street and bankers etc to have a real opportunity to restore America’s credibility and standing in the world as it has suffered severely under Obama.
    Will the people have the courage to ” draw a line in the sand ” for this political disgrace to finally end and mean it,unlike the current president who talked the talk,but didn’t have the courage to walk the walk with Libya ?
    The credibility and respect worldwide for the US is at its lowest ever and needs to have a strong leader (with experienced expert non politically driven advisors ) to turn it around.The same old same old political,doublespeak has been uncovered publicly by Trump . To continue as is ,will result in the late great USA.

  7. John Wright

    One can go to and find the game plan for the 2000-2099 time frame and America’s place in the world.

    The entire century was to be owned by America, if I’m understanding this correctly.

    America was ascending, not descending, per this group.

    Names such as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, Robert Kagan, John Bolton, Jeb Bush, Steve Forbes, Dan Quayle, William Bennett, Elliott Abrams and Scooter Libby are associated with this noble endeavor.

    One early order of business was addressed in a letter to then President Bill Clinton in January 26, 1998 that started with

    “We are writing you because we are convinced that current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding, and that we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War. ……That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime from power. We stand ready to offer our full support in this difficult but necessary endeavor.”

    They announced what they wanted to do well in advance of the Iraq war and pushed this agenda through a compliant government and news media.

    This project shut down in 2006, to be replaced with a new think-tank, Foreign Policy Initiative. founded by Kristol and Kagan in 2009.

    Perhaps exceptional America will be the first country to have its decline further abetted by organizations perversely titled “think-tanks”?

  8. OIFVet

    I think that a big reason behind 0bama’s insistent use of the exceptionalism jargon is to feed his own large but exceedingly fragile ego. With 0care in a death spiral and seemingly ready to implode before his liebarry can even open its doors, the huckster in chief needs something to hang his limp ego on. That is not to say that America is still great, far from it. America is now sh!t, and the sooner the majority of Americans stop swilling the exceptionalism patent medicine dispensed by the political establishment, the better. Because I get the deeply unsettling feeling that, unlike the Soviets, the American Empire will not have the decency to disintegrate quietly and peacefully…

    1. Carolinian

      Yes unfortunately the people running the show in the US seem to be big fans of the British Empire. It took plenty of violence (WW2) to kill that one off. Obama did finally remove the Churchill bust that the Bushies put in the oval office. But beyond politicians’ ego gratification there are also many billions of defense contracts at stake in the debate over our imperial status. It will be an epic fight.

      1. OIFVet

        Ah yes, of course there are the billions to consider :) Seeing how the Empire is setting up bases on the soil of the motherland, I am actively seeking a way into the scam so that I can get my fair share of US corporate socialism largesse… LOL. Not asking for much, a couple of mil will do. In return I promise substandard products and services, IOW I will meet or exceed the MIC standards…

    2. jrs

      I don’t want to make America great, I want to make America good … maybe for the first time.

      [I realize that’s not really how it goes with empires, but …]

  9. EoinW

    Excellent article! Trump does better reflect reality for 99% of Americans and many voters are desperate for a politician with even a slight grasp of reality. America’s Exceptionalism exists only in the minds of its 1%. How does Clinton, representing the interests of 1% of the voters win an election against Trump whose rhetoric is more in tune with the 99%? I guess if you can dupe a percentage into thinking you have their interests at heart then Clinton has a chance. Or if a larger percentage are caught up in the old left-right narrative and won’t vote for their own best interest she’s a better chance. Or if the 1% have access to the voting process then who cares what the 99% vote. Last resort: a President Trump will have to survive from November to January and beyond.

    Regarding managing America’s decline: Nuclear war is anything but a gradual decline – for anyone! – and that’s what we face with 4 more years of the same people running Washington. At least Trump is the least likely to start a war with Russia. With Clinton one is gambling that it won’t end in obliteration. Why would any sane person accept that wager?

  10. RUKidding

    I forced myself to listen to about 15 minutes of Trump’s speech last night, and I’ve done the same for many of his post-primary speeches. I don’t know what portion of the speech I heard last night (eg, when specifically in the speech). What I heard him talking about was the decline of manufacturing in the USA and the loss of what I took to mean old school blue collar jobs – which used to pay a living wage and support families with a decent standard of living.

    In the part of the speech I heard, Trump was talking about how he, specifically, would “stop” companies from off-shoring such jobs – that he had a PLAN to stop them and “force” companies (more or less his words) to stay in the USA and provide jobs to US citizens. The crowd, of course, cheered.

    My first thought? That ship has sailed! And sailed a long long time ago. US manufacturing jobs are gone and not likely to ever come back. Trump was also specifically saying that he would “stop” companies from leaving the USA, but so many of those jobs left a long, long time ago that the horse is out of the barn.

    So color me entirely cynical and skeptical of Mr. Trump’s alleged “plans” to “make America great AGAIN.” Oh yeah, and in the 15 minutes of the speech that I heard he talked about building that damn wall at least FIVE times.

    Yes, yes, Mr. Trump talks about trade and trade deals a lot in his speeches, but every time I’ve forced myself to listen to portions of his speeches, he brings up the Mexican wall quite a lot.

    I have yet to hear anything particularly specific from Mr. Trump about how he plans to accomplish his lofty goals. For me, it’s an insane amount of hot air that signifies not very much. In many ways, I actually feel sort of sorry for his fans bc I see him as a Pied Piper – holding out a lot of hopeful bravura with not any credible plans (that I’ve heard or read about so far) that would, you know, actually WORK.

    Yeah, I suppose it’s sort of “nice” that Mr. Trump actually does talk about real life issues and problems confronting this country. I wish, though, that he had a credible plan as to how to address these issues. So far, I’m getting bupkiss.

    And if anyone actually believes that Mr. Trump isn’t appealing to white supremacy, well, I can say, you must not be paying attention. I hear it in nearly every speech. He also disses Muslims in every speech I hear, plus he’s pretty brutal towards women on a routine basis.

    I wouldn’t say Mr. Trump uses dog whistles. He’s out loud and damn proud of his bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, and so forth. And it appears to me that his fan base is very very very happy to have a “leader” who is like that.

    Others may wish to disagree with me; that’s your right. I call it as I witness it.

    1. Solar Hero

      I’ve heard Trump talking about tariffs on imported products designed to bring the manufacturing jobs back home.

  11. ckimball

    Right on.
    The reason the critique never came is because most people
    know the statement as fact and possibly amid the spectacle of trickle down
    ethics there is shame that ideas and words such as

    “ask not what your country can do for you…”), and “We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” are no longer spoken and if they were would ring hollow. The lives of the audience who listened to those words spanned our great depression, world war II and were coming into the
    60s. They believed they were a part of something bigger than themselves.

  12. bowserhead

    “For his followers, a major political figure has quit with the defensive BS and started saying it the way it is.”

    Giving him a huge advantage relative to HRC’s endless and platitudinous lines of absolute drivel.

    1. RUKidding

      There is that. I don’t disagree. But what are his real solutions? That’s my issue. It’s all very well to finally talk honestly about real problems facing our country and not trying to white wash with it “USA! USA! USA!” nonsense. Fine. But what real solutions is he offering? That’s what I see as missing… and it’s a huge thing that’s missing.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        H1B1 visas are a huge deal, and TPP’s handling alone makes promises to “renegotiate” sound great.

        1. RUKidding

          There’s H1(b) visas and J1 visas (summer camps) and some other types of work visas that enable employers to get around hiring US citizens – often at lower wages or at least without benefits – by hiring non-citizens at lower rates.

          Trump has TALKED about that, but his record shows something completely different. Trump, for all his talk about this wall, has used undocumented workers time and again in his casino/hotel empire. As well, he uses H1(b) visas to hire workers from eastern Europe at lower rates without benefits and basically has them as indentured servants. So what’s his “solution”??? No more H1(b) visas? I call it bait and switch bc I sure don’t see Donald cutting off his own nose in this regard.

          I guess he’s brought up TPP, which is a horrible “bargain” for US workers, but Trump’s so wacky about it that it doesn’t make much sense.

          I get it that his fans/voters don’t really want to know or care about the details – I’ve had people say that to my face! – but I CARE about that and I want to know. So just saying…

          Again, it’s “nice” I guess that Trump brings up these issues, which are largely ignored by the others, other than Sanders. But … I find it hard to believe that Trump will address these issues in any credible fashion. IF I really thought he might have some workable solutions, I’d be more interested in him as a candidate. As it is: not so much.

          All show and no go, imo. I really don’t get what Trump’s angle is and why he wants to do this thing. I seriously doubt that he has altruistic motives or really “cares” about our nation or really “cares” about making America great again. I don’t buy it.

          1. Seamus Padraig

            I don’t know quite what to make of Trump myself, but in all fairness, your complaint that he doesn’t give details about how he plans to achieve his stated goals is one that could be made about virtually any American politician on campaign.

            Ike Eisenhower got elected by saying, “I shall go to Korea.” Years later, Nixon promised us “peace with honor” in Vietnam, never saying how he planned to bring that about. (The press dubbed this ‘Nixon’s secret plan’.) Reagan promised us lower taxes, a lower deficit and higher defense spending all at once. Vaguest of all was Obama, who campaigned on “hope and change”. He didn’t even indicate the goal! Hope for what ? What sort of change?

            You get my point.

            1. ChrisPacific

              Granted, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask for low level implementation details on some policies the way Sanders has been, for example. But I do think it is fair to ask how a goal will be achieved if it’s stated without that background. So for example “I will stop jobs from leaving the country” is not a policy. “I will stop jobs from leaving using tariffs on imported goods” is a policy – maybe a good one or a bad one, but it can at least be debated at that point.

              If presidential candidates have not provided this in the past then it’s because the voting public have allowed them to get away with it. If voters are tired of being lied to then they need to start asking for this information and holding their candidates accountable. Voting for someone that will hold them and tell them everything is going to be alright doesn’t work.

              1. jgordon

                “I will stop jobs from leaving using tariffs on imported goods”

                I don’t understand. This is exactly what Trump has said. This is also how will fund his wall across the border–tariffs.

                And honestly it seems like a damned good idea to me. America has a population north of 330 million people as well as abundant natural resources. Also, nearly all of the industrial products that America now imports started out being made in America locally.

                Therefore there is no legitimate reason for America to being importing nearly anything at all–aside from scammy and immoral arbitraging. So large tarriffs are a perfectly reasonable idea.

                1. Ian Ollmann

                  Tarrifs like that will mostly lead to a boom in robotics. Those jobs are gone. A lot more jobs, like the long distance trucking industry and cabbies are destined to follow.

                  The place where I work is in my opinion the greatest example of continuing American exceptionalism left. Yet the steady drum beat of nattering negativity and doomsaying about the place leaves me feeling that for the rest of Americans, such things are believed to be an impossibility. I find this frustrating. The can do attitude in my fellow countrymen has left. This is the greatest failure of the Reagan Revolution — the notion that we can do nothing because it would cost too much, as if capital was a scarce and irreplaceable resource.

  13. Russell

    At least Sanders has offered a plan that would bring back physical work directed by engineers. That being infrastructure which isn’t insured at the rate of a clerk in front of a screen 20 steps away from the doctors and surgeons with all that work keeping people alive for 40 years after they can’t pick anything up any more.
    The US has the ability to print money, since its currency is the reserve currency of the world. That currency position is where all the power is. There was a little bit of time that the Euro was on the rise. Proving that Europe, for all its history to learn from, doesn’t.
    Unfortunately for the US it doesn’t seem to value well its great fortune, and protect its fall back position that maintains that reserve currency status.
    That status was deserved because of Glass Steagall, and all that philosophically was simple enough to guide financial operators. Never mind the temporary currency Kissinger and Nixon gave as a gift to the nation. The concentration on that as if more permanent than a currency that as a fiat currency was dependent on its own principals and laws led then to hubris. The hubris created and creates vulnerabilities.
    The Greed of the London Bankers participating in the looting of the USSR enabled by trusted places to hide money for the luckiest of the Russians showed Wall St. the way and they went all in on Meyer Lansky Financial engineering too.
    So why believe in US currency as stable, and deserving of its status now? The Petrodollar died last year in Yemen. This month Prince F of the Saudis threw 750 billion in debt in the face of the US President as a threat in the parallel way of war to tanks massing here and there. That being Economic Warfare, which is fine, great, wonderful, unless carried on longer than about 8 months without some sort of resolution that creates a win win for the contestants.
    So now what upholds the reserve currency status? Reasons to trust the US financial system are not there any more. The petrodollar deal with the Saudis, well they just threatened to bring down the US Financial system by dumping the debt they own.
    They want a loan, or wanted one. I am sure the threat means they will get what they want, since money is power.
    Atomic weapons are power too.
    P.S. My offer is the Insurodollar currency to get past what will not happen, the Exceptional Tax, Progressive Tax, & Banking Transparency and put human capital at the center of capitalism, which would be a good idea to save since long as paychecks flow along peace is more probable than a Hedges Revolt & apocalyptic riot. Scaling up the Uruguay transfer of power to energy capture over oil, separation of church & state to keep parliament honest along with the pot legalization, at the center of the prison industry as number one in the reasons for mass incarceration would all be my wheel look here offers as a leader. I’d tell all of the US politicians to make illegal corporate inversions, or and cancel some corporate charters and aim at the energy sector for reforms as co ops & not corporations because for one thing excess cheap available energy is the foundation of civilization, and I’d prefer not to see at best the middle ages back, though we are in medieval times back again anyway.

  14. ekstase

    It’s intersting that Trump has latched onto shame – something that Americans were/are ashamed of, to garner votes. And it sort of provides us with the opportunity to look at the source of that shame: falling into disarray, losing something valuable by virtue of your own damn fault, having somehow wasted your time here on Earth when your parents and grandparents seemed to have more upward mobility. Things that cause shame in people, until they see the big picture. Trump isn’t going to help anyone see the big picture; he can’t even see it himself. But he has mastered something really gross about shame, and in beaten down people, that little ball of stew has the potential to fester into something awful. I guess the antidote is for people to correctly identify which part of their dissatisfaction is really their own doing, and which part was foisted on them by others. With that, maybe people could turn the world into something great. Hey, think big.

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