Two days ago, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. His inauguration speech was unique (read it here; there are a few errors, all minor). It may go down in history as one of the more significant inaugural speeches, even if (as I suspect will be the case) Trump has made promises he won’t be able to keep.
Trump’s speech has been described (commentaries too numerous to cite individually) as “dark,” or “dystopian.” It was “populist” insofar as that term is thrown around today. “Populism” is not a systematic philosophy of political economy, beyond the idea (common to all conceptions of democracy) that political and other elites should answer to the people. “Populism” is reactive. It is suspicious of elites and rejects elite control, real or imagined. What it is rejecting, given the present environment, is quite real. There is a superelite, as I’ve called them in my book Four Cardinal Errors (2011). Advanced civilizations are basically plutocracies. Various authors have used other terms for the world’s ruling class: globalists, global elites, the one percent (a misnomer, since we’re talking about a group that would fit into a large university auditorium and so does not quite rise to being the point-zero-zero-one percent). Perhaps if rejection of globalism by a substantial fraction of a nation’s population is considered “dark” and “dystopian,” then from the globalist standpoint that might be where we are going.
What we’ve just seen is the end of one era of U.S. history and the beginning of a new one, a new era that could go in more than one direction.
The previous era, which arguably began when the Soviet Union collapsed leaving just one superpower, could be called the neocon-neoliberal era, because it represented the rise to global power of these ideologies, flipsides of one another. Neoconservatism was concerned primarily with establishing the Indispensable Nation as the world’s ruling power, while neoliberalism focused primarily on economics, establishing the dominance of global corporate actors and describing this as the “triumph of the free market.” We saw the catchphrases “liberal democracy” and “market capitalism” — more recently, the “global liberal order” as the term capitalism is again leaving a sour taste in some mouths — even if these were forced on peoples at gunpoint (and they often were, with the price tag of refusing to participate being death and destruction: ask the Iraqis, the Libyans, the Syrians).
This era, which also witnessed the rise of “free trade” deals starting with NAFTA (which Trump has promised to renegotiate or scrap), enriched a very few who sat at the helm of global corporate empires but was a disaster for nearly everyone else — especially the U.S. middle class, many of whose members had become former middle class by the time the Meltdown of 2008 had run its course. At best, the common family’s income flatlined during this era. Employment gravitated towards the part-time and the precarious. I hardly need observe that it made very little difference which party controlled either Congress or the White House. From Bush #41 to Bill Clinton to Bush #43 to Barack Obama, essentially the same agendas of globalism and war went forth into the world from Washington, D.C. While supposed pundits of the “left” have offered one set of diagnoses for rising inequality all over the world while those of the “right” have offered another, to my knowledge no one questions the basic fact of rising inequality in a world where your social mobility was dictated by your ability and/or willingness to “monetize yourself.”
Trump claims to speak for those left behind by globalism. The “carnage,” he called it, stops now.
So what happens next? I am not thinking of policy specifics, such as what will likely be the dismantling of the (Un)Affordable Care Act; those are important but this is not the time or place to discuss them. I am thinking of the broader and longer tendencies that may define the next 30 years, just as the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the neocon-neolib axis defined the past era, just short of 30 years in length.
It could go two ways, and it depends both on if Trump is who he says he is and is as sincere as he sounded in yesterday’s inaugural speech.
For the past year and a half, he’s confounded the so-called “experts” and helped bring on what could be called as the crisis of “expertism”: the sense that whatever the reason, the “experts” no longer know what they’re talking about, especially on political-economic matters. Perhaps the Kuhnian paradigms governing their bailiwicks are no longer functioning; perhaps they simply can’t see the forest for the trees. In any event, at first, back in Summer 2015 when Trump first announced his candidacy, no one took him seriously, including me. This was a joke; it would go nowhere. But then it did. Trump seemed to command the media, getting away with things no other candidate could have gotten away with (e.g., the comment about Megyn Kelly having “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever”). I’ll return to this point below.
His growing legion of supporters loved what they saw!
One by one, Trump’s GOP opponents fell by the wayside as he racked up delegates. Two things were clear, or should have been: Trump’s messages on jobs, on immigration, on trade, and on political correctness, were resonating with the GOP base. The second: the other candidates, with the sole exception of Ted Cruz, were empty suits. They had nothing to say, and often just embarrassed themselves.
Still, Trump would never win the GOP nomination. The “experts” said so. Even I thought the nomination would be taken from him at the last minute, even if it precipitated a civil war within the GOP that practically handed the election to Hillary Clinton, by then the presumptive Democratic Party nominee.
And then Trump won the GOP nomination, giving a firebreathing “populist” speech that had both left-liberals and “movement conservatives” nearly wetting their pants.
I considered Trump’s victory over his empty-suited rivals to be evidence that “movement conservatism” had collapsed. It was not just that the GOP had lost touch with its base, although that much is true. There was nothing left in the culture to conserve. This was empowering the Trump insurgency. “Movement conservatives” weren’t engaging in constructive discussion of how to take the culture back, or even how to develop a parallel culture via new media and other institutions and raising the money to support them. Instead (just read the constant stream of articles in the Washington Post) they whined about their party’s “uneducated” rabble out in flyover country, those who rejected a worldview steeped in globalism, war, and political correctness. There had been discussion of culture in the 1990s, however inadequate. “Movement conservatism” had kicked out its Pat Buchanans, not to mention its Ron Pauls. Neither neocons nor neolibs had any interest in the culture. Common people did. They encountered it daily. When they saw an alternative to someone on the increasingly despised neocon-neolib axis, someone who spoke to their concerns in their language, they turned towards him. In the end, there was nothing left at the GOP center except for corporate donors and the war machine. The former knew only money as influence; the latter knew only brute force.
Surely Trump wouldn’t defeat Hillary, though! The “expert” pollsters said not. Even when James Comey reignited the debate over her emails just days before the election, Hillary didn’t drop beneath The Donald in the “expert”-run polls.
And then Donald Trump won the election!
He won in the Electoral College, the “experts” reminded us. Hillary won the “popular vote.” In the American electoral system, as everybody knows, it is the Electoral College victory that counts.
Trump’s march into the White House would not be derailed — not by the feeble reports about “fake news” on the Internet, not by the evidence-free allegations about “Russian hackers” coming from an intelligence community that had distrusted Trump from the start, not even by those Democrats, e.g., John Lewis of Georgia, who openly denounced his presidency as “illegitimate” (as if their shouting this made it so).
Trump said that unlike his predecessors, he would return government to its people. Imagine that!
Trump wants a peaceful working relationship with Russia! Fancy that!
His speech contained what could be a call for an end to the U.S. imposing its will on other nations of the world by force: “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example, for everyone to follow.”
The repudiation of globalism in statements like America First could not be more evident.
The problem, however: the globalists and those working for them — including the “useful idiots” making mayhem in the streets of Washington and elsewhere, possibly still, even as I write — are not going to go away.
No one in his right mind believes that because of one rogue billionaire, they are simply going to relinquish a project they’ve been at work on for longer than I’ve been alive: undermining and destroying the very concept of national sovereignty, first economically and then politically, in order to build a global state or world government answering to private corporations. This is, I think, a fair statement of the primary long term goal of globalism.
So what follows from this? A number of questions, surely.
How was it that Trump was able to get away with those attacks on Megyn Kelly and other incidences of political incorrectness that would have felled any other GOP candidate in a heartbeat? Was his ownership over corporate media, based on ratings, that total? Surely there were people in media smart enough to realize that even when attacking him, they were giving him hours of free publicity, and that not just he but his supporters were actually relishing these attacks! His base was growing, not shrinking! Many of his supporters later “reclaimed” the deplorables label, after all!
So why didn’t mainstream media simply black him out, as they did Ron Paul?
And, what was really behind Comey’s 11th-hour announcement of new interest in Hillary Clinton’s emails, just days before the election? However one interprets this, Hillary was made to look very bad. The Democrats had already been made to look utterly corrupt, if only by their treatment of the Bernie Sanders insurgency. This was extremely unusual for someone powerful people wanted to win!
Unless those powerful people didn’t want her to win!
Which brings me to the final segment of this piece, doubtless its most disturbing segment. Is Trump the rogue he’s led us to believe he is? Or is either working for the globalists behind the scenes, or being used by them as a kind of Plan B, as they’d realized that had they rigged a Clinton victory they might have had an American Spring on their hands ready to start right about now?
Brandon Smith thinks Trump has been a tool all along, and offers some compelling reasons (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). His claim to credibility is that he predicted not just the Trump victory but the outcome of the Brexit vote, the timing of the first Federal Reserve rate hike, the inclusion of China in the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights, and the Fed’s tapering of QE. He has the most interesting superelite-conscious analysis of recent events I’ve encountered this past year.
For our purposes here Smith’s most important warning is that the “populist” movement is being set up to take the fall for what the globalists have orchestrated and are preparing for: the worst economic crash of all time, the result of decades of governments, corporations, and individuals living beyond their means on unbacked, central bank created money, made readily-available via a brand of “capitalism” based on financialization instead of production. Financial author Bill Bonner has pointed out (numerous videos) that the amount of money that exists electronically in the U.S. alone, in bank accounts, in stocks, in derivatives, etc., created by what amounts to nothing more than data entered into computers, now exceeds the amount of physical wealth in the entire world, several times over. We are talking about a sum of perhaps one quadrillion dollars (that’s one thousand trillion dollars) in derivatives, on the electronic books of very large banks like Deutsche Bank, Bank of America, HSBC, CitiBank, Credit Suisse, and so on! An appearance of “recovery” has been created and is currently maintained via central bank activity alone (as Smith also notes). Anglo-European civilization is sitting atop the largest bubble in human history, a Dow just narrowly missing 20,000 absent any actual economic fundamentals being just one example.
Donald Trump has not, to my knowledge, said a word about this aside from noting the favorable “market response” to his victory, a response very much aligned with the idea that his victory was something the superelite had wanted and planned for, and while he’s criticized Barack Obama’s policies, I do not recall his having said anything about the elephant in the front living room of the present decade: that under Obama’s watch the national debt nearly doubled, going from around $11 trillion to almost $20 trillion. Much of this went to create the sense or appearance of an economic recovery that would not otherwise exist. Many on Main Street voted for Trump, after all, partly because they no longer trusted “expert” pronouncements on the economy. They hadn’t seen any evidence of the supposed Obama-era recovery.
Now Donald Trump could conceivably continue to confound the “experts” by setting the country on course for a jobs renaissance — the “experts” having written a gigabyte-sized quantity of material from their academic and journalistic cubicles about how “protectionism does not work,” that tariffs are a bad idea, that Smoot-Hawley caused the Great Depression, etc., etc. The “experts” contend, and they appear to be right about this, that Trump ignores present and future technological change as a cause of unemployment, as corporations embrace robotics and similar technology to do more with less. Jobs are eliminated, but profits soar.
Be that as it may, Trump won’t be able to enact a whole new set of, e.g., trade policies overnight, and he won’t be able to control what foreign governments do regarding their corporations (this translates into the real danger of a trade war with China). Following what now seem to me the likely victories of Geert Wilder in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France, in those countries’ looming elections, the globalists, their ideological foes the economic nationalists right where they want them, may decide to blow down the financialized, house-of-cards economy they have erected. They will do what they did in 2008 on a much larger scale: pull billions out of the system all at once, threatening a massive collapse of banking and credit systems. With credit frozen, everything that depends on credit will stop almost overnight. Deflation (not hyper-inflation) will ensue. This will happen not just in the U.S. but all across Europe. Via their control over corporate (“mainstream”) media, globalists will regale a panicked public with the contention that the debacle is the fault of the “populists,” as evidence that “populism and protectionism do not work.” These are Brandon Smith’s suggestions, in any event.
Smith accuses Trump of lying about “draining the swamp,” and it’s true: he’s almost exclusively appointed fellow billionaires to cabinet posts, some with ties to Goldman Sachs — after the Federal Reserve probably the most important superelite-controlled entity in the U.S. Ties to Goldman Sachs don’t necessarily translate to insider status, but they both do and ought to raise red flags. Once we peer behind the curtains of Trump’s rhetoric, it is easy to believe that the superelite is going to remain in control, even if they are taking some temporary lumps and portraying themselves as under attack (see, e.g., this). Trump has also put a lot of military men in positions of great authority: positioning them perfectly in case the administration has to deal with bouts of the sort of unrest likely to erupt if the economy really does go into a tailspin.
So who is Donald Trump, really? And does “populism” portend change — or the setting of the stage for something magnitudes worse than the past 30 years have been?
I don’t have answers to these conundrums. I could be wrong about the upcoming elections in Europe. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. But if I am right, and by the second half of 2017 we see “populist” governments settling in and getting comfortable all around the West, what I would not do is get too comfortable right alongside them. The financialization bomb is still there! Dozens of contrarian economists have been arguing for years that we have been in the “eye of the hurricane” since 2008. We might not reenter the storm until 2018 or even 2019, but it could be as soon as September 2017.
As that storm exacts its effects, which will be the literal disappearance of trillions of dollars back into the thin air from which they came, the probable end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, a massive decline in the U.S. standard of living outside elite-owned enclaves and gated communities, and the likely appearance of globalist-sponsored political saviors with a worldview to contrast with Trump’s, all bets are off. The globalists will be in a position to dictate terms to hungry populations. Get with the program, or die in poverty! We may not see a return to the neocon-neoliberal order. More likely, we’ll be looking at a future headed toward of de facto or de jure world government, rapid progress toward a “global union,” whatever they decide to call it, answering to global corporations — its supportive media filling airwaves and bandwidth space with attacks on “populism” in all its stripes. These will ensure that real conservatism and national sovereignty are dead as doornails. The solution to the problem of “blue” versus “red” cultures may be had through the extinction of the latter, even if the former is also under a de facto tyranny of technocrats. The “experts,” in that case, will be back!
Good stuff, Steven! Right on the money!