Over at Medium’s The Bigger Picture Russ Josephs makes an important point; Progressives and Democrats need to help Trump supporters and former Trump supporters.
In an insightful commentary, Josephs likens Trump supporters to Germany and Japan after World War II. To explain, the German and Japanese peoples were in enormous pain because of the arrogance and stupidity of their former leaders in the late 1940s.
Instead of punishing Germany and Japan, as Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and his intellectual stooges on the American left wanted, the United States helped the German and Japanese people. In the Marshall Plan, the United States spent between $15 billion and $22 billion ($182 billion in 21st Century money) to rebuild war-ravaged Europe.
We Need a Marshall Plan for America
Marshall Plan aid went to America’s allies, France and Britain, and former enemies Germany and Italy.
Historians credit the Marshall Plan with restoring Europe’s economic health and leading to impressive economic revivals in West Germany, France, and Italy in the 1950s and 1960s. All three nations became peaceful democracies and US allies.
Additionally the United States spent $2.2 billion ($18 billion in 21st Century dollars) rebuilding Japan after World War II. Japan became a peaceful democracy, an economic and technological powerhouse, and a close US ally.
Similarly, Josephs proposes a Marshall Plan for the Red States, those areas of America that support Trump. His correct reasoning is that the pain and suffering caused by deindustrialization, the Great Economic Meltdown of 2007 and 2008, and the decline of many American communities created Trump.
America helped the Germans and Japanese out of compassion and self-interest. U.S. Secretary of George C. Marshall saw 291,557 Americans die as the top US General during World War II. Marshall wanted to prevent another World War and enormous numbers of deaths.
The Japanese and Germans did not ask for American help in 1948 just as Trump supporters are not asking for help today. However, many Trump supporters need serious help.
The Pain that Created Trump
The United States lost almost five million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2018, Quartz estimates. Plus up to 73,000 American factories closed between 2000 and 2020 What Become claims.
Economists argue over the reasons those jobs and factories disappeared but they are gone. America’s leaders made no efforts to stem the job loss or help its victims.
In addition, America’s leaders ignore growing income inequality, Pew Social Research estimates the percentage of middle class Americans fell from 62% in 1970 to 43% in 2018. Meanwhile the percentage of lower-income Americans grew from 25% to 29% in the same period.
Many of the 8.7 million people lost their jobs and 10 million families who lost their homes in the Great Meltdown never recovered. Moreover, those people are angry that little of the $797 billion stimulus package and $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program Congress passed after the meltdown went to average Americans. Instead most of the money went to banks, Wall Street, and corporations such as General Motors (GM).
The pain caused by the 2008 Great Recession was immense. UCLA Epidemiologist Teresa Seeman estimates that health problems including high blood pressure and stress increased among Americans during the Great Recession, The Atlantic reports. High blood pressure leads to heart attacks, strokes, and other health problems.
Moreover, the number of US drug overdose deaths rose from 38,239 in 2020 to 70,237 in 2017, The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates. However, drug-overdose deaths fell to 67,330 in 2018.
Many observers think the pain caused by economic collapse drove Americans to vote for Donald J. Trump (R-New York) in 2016. In 2016, Trump made headlines by openly discussing the economic pain ordinary American felt. Trump also offered scapegoats for the pain including immigrants, Mexicans, and China.
In the 2016 Presidential contest, Trump won unexpected victories in Rust Belt states that were hardest hit by manufacturing job loss. Pundits credit victories in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania for giving Trump enough Electoral College votes to reach the White House.
Punishing the Victims
Frighteningly, America’s leaders’ reaction to Trump’s rise has been to blame the victims of America’s brutal economy. In 2016, failed Presidential Candidate Hillary R. Clinton (D-New York) called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables.”
Since 2016, America’s media has been full of cartoons, caricatures, news articles, editorials, and satires portraying Trump supporters as ignorant, racist, reactionary, stupid, crazy, lazy, old, and violent. Many of those stereotypes play on traditional American prejudices about ignorant Rednecks, lazy white trash, and barbaric working class people.
There have been many media efforts to study Trump supporters in Middle America as scientific curiosities but few offers of real help, since 2016. History shows the failure to help the victims of America’s economy could have catastrophic results.
What the Aftermath of World War I can teach us about Trump supporters
Josephs correctly compares Trump supporters to Germans in the aftermath of World War I.
The victors in World War I, the British Empire, Italy, France, Japan, and the USA, treated the defeated Germans, Turks, and Austro-Hungarians in the same way America’s economic winners treated its economic losers after the Great Recession.
Right after World War I, there was some help in the form of food aid from the USA. After 1919, however, the survivors were left to fend for themselves. Worse, the British and French punished the losers.
They forced Germany to pay reparations, and broke up the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Turkish Empires. The British and French seized large amounts of Turkish territory including the Ottoman Empire’s most important resource the Middle Eastern Oil fields.
The result was economic hardship, suffering, and political chaos in Germany and Austria that led to Nazism and Hitler. In his rise to power, Adolph Hitler promised to punish Britain and France for destroying the German Empire. In power, Der Fuhrer kept that promise.
Moreover, two other nations that suffered terribly in World War I; Russia and Italy were left to fend for themselves. The British, the Japanese, and the United States invaded Russia and financed the so-called White Forces increasing the suffering in the Russian Civil War. Italy meanwhile fell apart, as its economy and political system collapsed after World War I.
By 1933, totalitarian regimes promising to restore the nation’s greatness and punish its enemies were in power in Russia, Italy, and Germany. Only Kemal Ataturk’s commitment to democracy prevented a fascist or Communist dictatorship in Turkey.
By 1939, World War II had broken out as Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini moved to restore their nations’ greatness at gunpoint. Those tyrants found willing allies in Japan’s ruthless new military leaders who had similar aims.
Had the world leaders of 1918 reacted with the compassion behind the Marshal Plan the catastrophes of the Soviet genocide, the Holocaust, and World War II could have been averted. I think America is setting itself up for future catastrophe by refusing to treat Trump supporters with compassion.
America’s Coronavirus Pain
The enormous amount of pain and suffering the Coronavirus pandemic and Depression is causing will make the situation far worse. For instance, the coronavirus had killed 225,325 Americans and infected 8.462 million by 20 October 2020.
The coronavirus will disable many survivors with long-term effects. Coronavirus can damage the heart and the lungs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. Coronavirus heart damage could disable thousands or tens of thousands of Americans. Some cases of severe coronavirus damage have been detected in younger people, the CDC notes.
Therefore, thousands of Americans will not be able to work because of coronavirus. That will increase the pain and frustration and leave many households in permanent poverty.
America’s Economic Collapse
The economic pain Coronavirus causes will far exceed the physical suffering. Landlords and mortgage holders could evict between 30 and 40 million Americans from their homes because of the coronavirus, The Aspen Institute claims.
Coronavirus killed 22.2 million jobs in April 2020, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates. Marketwatch estimates only 42% of the coronavirus unemployed, or 9.234 million people, found new jobs. Thus, I estimate 12.876 million people could be permanently unemployed by coronavirus.
Those people will have a hard time finding work because Yelp estimates the number of U.S. small business closures grew by 23% between July and August of 2020. In addition, the number of permanent small business closures in the USA grew by 34% in the same period. Coronavirus is hitting some industries harder; Yelp claims 39% of restaurants, 42% of retail stores, 58% of hair salons, and 46% of bars it surveyed will close permanently.
Frighteningly, Yelp claims 60% of closed small business owners think their enterprises will never restart. That statistic is terrifying because the Small Business Administration (SBA) estimates 99.7% of US employers are small businesses. Moreover, the SBA estimates small businesses account for 46% of private sector employment in the United States.*
Thus millions of Americans face a future of empty stores, no jobs, and no hope. I think such conditions will breed vicious demagogues who will make Americans nostalgic for Donald J. Trump (R-Florida).
Remember, Trump only plays a fascist on TV. The next American demagogue could be a real fascist or a card-carrying Communist.
We Need a Marshall Plan for America
I think the proper response to Trump is a Marshall Plan to rebuild those American regions devastated by the economic collapse of the last 20 years and laid low by coronavirus. I think the American Marshall Plan should include:
- A basic income scheme such as failed Presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s (D-New York) Freedom Dividend. The Freedom Dividend is a $1,000 a month cash payment to all Americans over 18.
- A large increase in monthly Social Security payments for all recipients. Remember, many Trump supporters are over 65. The Freedom Dividend could serve as a $1,000 a month Social Security increase.
- A large increase in monthly Social Security Disability payments. The Freedom Dividend could serve as a $1,000 a month Social Security disability increase.
- A $1-trillion-a-year federal investment in public education.
- Several trillion dollars of federal investment in infrastructure. Infrastructure projects could include rebuilding America’s highways, mass transit in all cities, a national Hyperloop system, rebuilding public schools, new sewer and water systems in American cities, and free high-speed internet and 5 G wireless in all US communities.
- Medicare for All
- Implement Rewiring America’s plan to decarbonize America. Vox’s Era Klein claims the Rewiring America Plan could create 25 million jobs by financing the adoption of green energy technology; such as solar panels, by ordinary Americans.
Yes, these proposals are generous. However they will be cheap compared to the damage a future tyrant could do to America.
America is feeling an incredible amount of pain. That pain is fueling enormous amounts of anger and frustration that could drive violence and tyranny. Americans need to learn from their history and implement a 21st Century Marhsall Plan to fix their nation’s problems before it is too late.