Republican policies will fuel more violence and unrest in America

Republican policies will fuel more violence and unrest in America
© Bonnie Cash

Republicans have turbo-charged economic inequality in America. But the GOP’s crusade to enrich those at the top ignores one of history’s most dangerously consistent truths: Inequality fuels instability, social turmoil and violence. Such perilous conditions, in turn, threaten democracy and liberty.

Thanks to Republicans’ unwavering fealty to the ultra-rich, America is barreling headlong towards plutocracy. Extreme wealth now separates a small number of “haves” from a vast number of “have nots.”

The evidence for this dangerous reality is no longer anecdotal, rhetorical or tucked away in abstract data. A pair of devastating national crises exposed the staggering state of economic inequality in America.

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Sobering images of miles upon miles of cars lined up at overwhelmed food banks revealed the astounding extent of food insecurity across America. Simultaneously, widespread looting and riots drove home the violent consequences of sustained inequality. Taken together, they offer a hauntingly dark preview of what is to come if Republicans fail to change course.

Case in point: A recent Department of Defense exercise hypothesized a backlash by Americans disenchanted by crippling college debt, inadequate job prospects and systemic inequality. Unsurprisingly, growing pessimism about the achievability of the American Dream formed the basis of the Pentagon’s scenario.

But things were not always so dire. In 1956, Republicans – rightly – championed minimum wage increases, labor unions, Social Security and robust unemployment insurance benefits as guarantors of a vibrant American middle class.

Then, on January 20, 1981, the GOP – and America – changed forever. Ronald Reagan ushered in an era where mind-bogglingly large tax cuts for the ultra-rich fueled a vast influx of money into the American political system. The injection of enormous sums of cash into politics spurred the establishment of think tanks and policies that favored wealthy corporate interests at the expense of everyday American workers.

It should come as little surprise that the Reagan-enabled infusion of money into politics resulted in stagnating wages, dwindling benefits and the outsourcing of good-paying jobs; all in the name of shareholder profit.

After all, wealth begets wealth; especially when it buys political influence.

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But Reagan’s “trickle down” economic ideology has been thoroughly discredited. A dismal economy followed the George W. Bush administration’s multi-trillion dollar tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy. Similarly, President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE’s $2 trillion tax cuts for the rich failed to boost economic growth or wages, demolishing Reagan’s debt-busting, inequality-fueling experiment.

Perhaps just as dangerously, Reagan’s all-out assault on labor unions decimated American workers’ ability to negotiate robust pay and secure life-saving benefits, further driving economic inequality.

But that’s just part of the story. The era of “free” trade ushered in by Reagan may be the single most consequential element of the GOP’s 40-year evisceration of the American middle class.

NAFTA, which coincided with the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs, was negotiated by the first Bush administration, passed Congress with overwhelming Republican support and fulfilled Reagan’s “vision.”

Seven years later, three-quarters of House Republicans voted in favor of normalizing trade with China, a measure opposed by two out of three Democrats. Unsurprisingly, corporate interests lobbied hard for access to China’s vast pool of cheap labor.

The post-2000 outsourcing of manufacturing to China spurred a catastrophic increase in inequality in the United States. Millions of well-paying jobs evaporated, causing families and communities to crumble. As parts of the country devolved into economic wastelands, Americans turned to drugs and alcohol to cope, leading to a surge in “deaths of despair” among Trump’s white, blue collar base.

Unsurprisingly, studies have linked the devastating opioid epidemic to trade-induced declines in manufacturing jobs. The same holds true for the fierce political polarization seen in recent decades.

Compounding these GOP-induced systemic forces are staggering health care costs, which drive countless Americans into bankruptcy each year. Yet, even the middle of a historic pandemic, Republicans doggedly pursued policies that will result in millions of Americans losing health insurance.

In stark contrast to the GOP’s disastrous approach to health care, Canadians revere the founding father of their single-payer system. The British, for their part, are extraordinarily proud of their “Medicare for All” program.

Much like health care, housing and education costs have skyrocketed in America. College tuition, for example, is rising eight times faster than wages.

When nearly half of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency and socio-economic mobility in the United States lags behind many European countries, it should come as little surprise that so many young Americans view socialism favorably.

But these realities are not the hallmarks of a robust, healthy middle class. They are a recipe for ever-increasing social turmoil. Worse, if left unaddressed, they will lead to increased violence on America’s streets.

Of course, President Trump’s promises to return manufacturing jobs to American shores are nothing more than hollow pandering and demagoguery. As the Wall Street Journal noted, presidents generally have minimal influence over the ups and downs of manufacturing.

With Trump’s trade war lumbering into its fourth year, there is zero evidence of a large scale return of manufacturing jobs to the United States. American companies operating in China simply moved production to other countries with vast pools of cheap labor.

Trump’s failure to deliver on his promises – especially in battleground states – is sure to fuel more anger and frustration among his base. The surge in inequality unleashed by Trump’s tax cut for the ultra-wealthy will only compound economic exasperation in the United States.

Ultimately, Republicans must take a cold, hard look at the disastrous consequences of their policies.

President Trump, for one, quipped that the ultra-wealthy “just got a lot richer” in the wake of his failed tax cuts.

But as inequality spirals out of control and violence occurs more frequently on America’s streets, Trump’s remark sounds increasingly like a thoroughly oblivious modern rendition of “Let them eat cake.”

Marik von Rennenkampff served as an analyst with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, as well as an Obama administration appointee at the U.S. Department of Defense. Follow him on Twitter @MvonRen.