Daily Beast writer Joel Kotkin reminds us that while Trump is too busy looting the country and taking the US off the global stage in order to hide his kleptocracy, the rest of the world is moving forward with the next phase of corporate oligarchy, and that means the rise of Big Tech as the controlling interest in the US.
America’s vast midsection, a region that has been hammered by globalists of both parties, has been abandoned by the great corporations that grew fat on its labor and resources.
To many from the Appalachians to the Rockies, Donald Trump projected a beacon of hope. Despite the conventional wisdom among the well-heeled of the great coastal cities, these resource and manufacturing hubs elected the new president.
Yet barely six months after his election, Trump is emerging as the latest politician to betray middle America.
Some of this is his awful management and communications style, which may well leave the country frozen until it is returned to the care of the coastal hegemons, tech oligarchs, high-level bureaucrats, academics, and media elitists whose views of the Heartland range from indifferent to hostile. The rise of China may have been a convenient source of cheap labor and more recently investment capital and lots of full load tuitions for universities, but according to the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, our deficit cost the country 3.4 million jobs, most in manufacturing.
Trump’s trade rhetoric, like that of Bernie Sanders, excited the people and communities affected by these policies, but it remains questionable whether his own voters will benefit from his regime. Certainly the president’s tax proposals have been tailored to appeal to his billionaire friends more than the middle class. His health care reforms failed to prioritize those who feel threatened by loss of coverage, however much they gripe about the inanities of Obamacare.
Meanwhile promises that could help middle-America, like a massive infrastructure program, appear to be roadkill squashed beneath Trump’s staggering ineptitude and his Republican Party’s dysfunction.
There is no chance he will succeed in convincing voters he’s making America great again, let alone in actually doing so, if he cannot address the reasons why companies desert our towns and cities for all but elite functions, leaving so much of America in tatters.
And he's too busy looting the treasury on the way out to care. So what comes next?
The notion of “Making America Great Again” had its flaws, but appealed to people who hoped to see middle-class jobs return to the country. It energized the suburbs and small cities who now find themselves led by an incompetent leader who appears to have used them, like patrons of a casino. Lured by an image of glamour they will find their wallets lightened rather than their spirits lifted.
The big winners long-term as Trump fails to deliver will be the country’s emergent tech oligarchy. Allied with the clerisy, and with an expanding, soon to be dominant, role in the media, they will create the conditions and define the future culture. Hollywood and Wall Street will be partners, but the nerds of the Valley will rule the economy.
To be sure automation and digitization brings many benefits, but Silicon Valley firms have secured advantage for reasons beyond being technically adept. Firms like Apple pay little in the way of taxes (thanks as much to Republicans as Democrats), and companies like Google manage to avoid anti-trust action. The rules are different for the oligarchs; they can afford to raise money without making a profit, as was the case of Amazon, Uber, and others. The shop on Main Street, or the store owner in the strip mall, enjoy no such advantage.
It is almost impossible to overestimate the power of these corporations. Apple alone for example has more cash on hand than the total reserves of both the United Kingdom and Canada. Four of the world’s richest people come from either the Seattle or Silicon Valley tech community. More important for the future, techno-nerds account for the most of 23 American billionaires under 40; 12 live in San Francisco, the de facto blue capital, alone.
The triumph of the oligarchs may spell the end of America as we have known it. Increasingly the core functions—and the big rewards—are concentrated in fewer hands and in fewer places. The distress being felt in rural areas and second-tier cities has its roots in globalization which, as Chicago sociologist Richard Longworth suggested two decades ago, undermines the industrial and routine business functions while boosting the already fantastic wealth of top echelon of executives, and those who serve them.
To keep the voters and the people they vote for at bay, the oligarchs will make common cause with the social justice warriors (as we saw during the election) and the greens to confine and control the terms of our national conversation as they work to expand and enforce a neo-feudal order.
The hoi polloi? They will get a stipend from the wealth generated by the oligarchs like Mark Zuckerberg. Likely not enough to start a business or own a home, but good enough to stave off homelessness or starvation. Silicon Valley and its media tools will forge a generation plugged into its phone but that owns little, and spends its limited capital on media, gadgets, and other idle pursuits. Americans will become more like a nature of serfs, their daily bread dependent on the kindness of their betters, their iPhone serving as both the new confessional and ephemeral town square.
This is precisely the America that Trump’s supporters sought to prevent, but may soon be stuck with. Not because the middle and working class has failed, but because Trump, due to his dysfunctional ways and inborn class biases, has betrayed the very people who put him in office.
And this is the future the folks that said "Once we get rid of Trump we'll have a real progressive state" wanted all along. A discredited Democratic party and a destroyed Republican party, well that leaves the corporatist leftovers in each.