Outrage, outrage, everywhere

Donald Trump says some outrageous things. In a Christian Courier article last year, I listed a few of his more outrageous comments. I also predicted he could become President one day and, while it seemed outrageous at the time, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched now.

But just like a stopped clock is right two times a day, Donald Trump sometimes gets it right. Back in January, when he was asked if he was tapping into voter anger, Trump said: “I’m angry, and a lot of other people are angry too at how incompetently our country is being run. I’m extremely angry and upset about it. I think it’s ridiculous.”

So why are people angry? The answer varies. On the right, Trump supporters are angry about immigrants and foreign terrorists while Bernie Sanders supporters are angry about income inequality and access to health care. They agree that the economy is a problem, but Trump supporters tend to be middle-age, white, rural and less educated, and are having a hard time staying in the workforce. Sanders supporters, on the other hand, are largely young, urban, educated voters having a hard time getting into the workforce.

Trump’s solution is to cut taxes, ban imports, throw out the foreigners and build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. That’s because his supporters want low-skills manufacturing jobs to come back to the U.S. – the kind they used to have before the Recession – and they think Trump’s on the right track.

Sanders argues that too much wealth is concentrated in the hands of too few, good jobs are hard to find, and their student debt load is crushing. Sanders supporters want high-skills, high-wage jobs supported by strong public services.

So while both the far right and far left share a common sense of economic outrage, they disagree on what it will take to fix the problem. And yet – here’s the funny part – they’re both kind of . . . right.

Divided

If you’re an educated young person living in a U.S. city right now, what you need is someone to ease your debt while you wait for room to open up in financial services or tech sector jobs. In the meantime, to survive, you’ll need to work in retail. And if you’re a high-school educated middle-aged former factory worker living in a small town, you’d best learn how to say “welcome to Wal-Mart!”

The root of the problem is the same: the loss of U.S. manufacturing. Since China joined the WTO (remember all those kids in Seattle in 1999 rioting about how the new trade agreement would kill American jobs?), the U.S. economy has lost 6.2 million manufacturing jobs.

In manufacturing economies like Ontario, we see the same sort of thing. In the countryside – where there was still light manufacturing 20 years ago – there are fewer jobs and taxes seem high for the services people get. Rural conservative voters want tax cuts, and don’t see the need to invest in transit (which they can’t use) or post-secondary education (which doesn’t lead to jobs in the country). In the city, where skilled job competition is fierce – people demand cheaper education and better transit options. They don’t mind higher taxes as much, because in the city the benefits are easier to see.  

Socially, the countryside is older, less diverse, less educated, less healthy and less tolerant. They’re angry about arrogant city liberals and their social and climate agendas, which seem like a distraction to them. City dwellers are younger, better-educated, more diverse, healthier and more tolerant. They’re angry about backwards-thinking rural hicks and their weird obsession with tax cuts, which would slash the services they rely on.

But as a wise man once pointed out: “Anger is what you often express when you’re actually sad, because it’s easier that way.”

In Ontario – or America – there’s no shortage of outrage these days. But maybe what the pundits are missing is what lies below the outrage – the deep sadness of people caught in the spiral of economic decline that started decades ago, and for which – right or left – there are no quick fixes.

Author

  • Lloyd Rang

    Lloyd Rang works in communications and is a member of Rehoboth CRC in Bowmanville.

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