To make America great again, take away choice. (Bear with me.) First, define “Great Again”. I’m going to shoot back to the postwar era where the US was exporting far, far more than it was importing. The US $Dollar was also recently baptized as the world currency, which means that it is what everyone uses to buy & sell their goods to each other and to the US. This gave the dollar superpower strength. The US was also the great hero of the world, having saved everyone from Hitler and Americans got to walk around as if they were the world’s royalty.
Now imagine how all of this fits into the general psyche of the American population. Wait, let me be a bit more specific: imagine how this fits into the psyche of the dominant culture (i.e., white males) of the time. (We must remember that in the postwar era, women still did not have their basic rights and the Civil Rights movement was in full swing. Try not to think about what happened in the Dixie states in that time. Don’t bring to mind the people that were beaten, hung, murdered, accused to stupid shit just so they can be imprisoned and their lands taken. The Great Again era was, indeed, a golden era for the US, except for those minor, meaningless details, so don’t think about them.)
Let’s get back to real business. The US was hailed as the liberator of the world, its inhabitants (those that mattered) were raking in cash and they primarily purchased goods made on US soil. Why did they purchase US goods? Because they were patriotic? Or was there another reason? Maybe it was because they had no other choice. There was no car to buy but a Ford, a Buick or a Chrysler, basically. All clothing was made domestically as well as all forms of housewares, appliances and electronics. This kept money circulating strongly at home. Meanwhile, people were paid a lot because unions were extremely strong; they could take down any company–and they were everywhere.
Let’s add the Cold War drama in this mix. The mad rush to beat Russia at everything was in the air and it dominated the thinking space of almost everyone (except for a few socialist defectors who were punished severely by the public for their views). Because the competition with the Soviets was the number one priority of the US at the time, they poured all kinds of money into scientific research. Basically, anyone who wanted to participate got a job that paid them well and they got to work. Oh, and women were now working, so their efforts also added to the intensely circulating money pot.
Remember, that all this money going around was being poured back into the US because the options to buy less expensive products was still not available. Now how did all of this turn around to get us to the upside down point where we are at now? It was a progression of things.
It all started at one main point. We were sending barges of weapons and materials to Japan. (Remember that Japan was not allowed to have their own army so the US set up shop there following WWII.) These barges were coming back home empty. That was when someone got the brilliant idea to stock them up with goods that could be sold to the American public at a much cheaper price. Business as usual. As this behavior began to pick up steam, more goods were being purchased from places across the globe, and this put US companies in a bad position. They had to fight to stay alive, so one of the first things the began doing was breaking up their unions and cutting wages – their #1 expense. Many of them, possibly a majority, simply went bankrupt. Their workers now had to take jobs at a major pay cut in similar companies who were not governed by unions.
You can see how this progresses, right? It just gets more intense. Eventually the balance of US exports and imports is flipped and now Americans are purchasing almost all their goods from abroad.
This is just one strand of the foreign trade entanglement. To take another strand into consideration, we have to look at the options to invest in the stock market. Back in the day when America was great, the only people who invested were the wealthy. The Average person did not have the option because of the way the system was set up. Enter the era of deregulation of banks, which began in the mid-70s and was in full swing during the Reagan era. Smart bankers thought of slick ways to sell company stocks to the masses. Now that the general public was on board, what did they want to do with their money? Put it where it can make the most in return, right? Like any investor, they wanted to make sure that they had the best deal.
This was a new blow to the major companies in the US. Now they had to focus on their bottom line in a more ruthless way than they had ever before. So those who survived the shock of new imports were now facing the shock of the masses pulling their money out if their competitor’s stock was a better deal. By the way, this is what directly led to the Superhero CEO and their oversized pay checks: if they could navigate their company to the top, they could set their price. The individuals who were gifted were in hot demand and the major companies were willing to outbid their competition in order to retain this talent.
Because of this situation, most US companies had to cut wages as much as possible just to keep their share price in the arena. Now to cut wages, they had to build their factories overseas where they could pay a person a few pennies as opposed tho the wages demanded by hard-working Americans. Because global trade was now in full swing, it was the natural next step to work out a deal where shops could be built in the most convenient locations. Following this, many of the biggest companies even chose to headquarter in a country where the tax laws were favorable.
Now we have three main arteries that are draining money out of the US economy. Luckily, the $USD is still the world currency, which keeps it in demand. But, this is not good for its import/export balance. Poorer countries with weaker currencies cannot afford to buy US goods because they are sold at US prices. Americans, on the other hand, like to see how far their dollar can go when spending in these countries. It’s like buying everything on discount.
Now all of this has the US in a trade and economy gridlock. And the way to get out of this gridlock is what has everyone up in arms. Our only real options are bad, very bad and outright horrible choices. Everything about it sucks. Now how on earth are we going to get ourselves out of the situation that got us here?
Well, it is the expansion of choice that got us in this mess. Better, cheaper deals. Maybe removing the choice can help? Quit importing goods, don’t let people choose the stocks that give them the best ROI, make them buy everything Made In The USA, don’t hire immigrants, definitely do not give anyone visas to come and take American jobs!, force Americans to do all the farm work and the hard labor in every restaurant kitchen, and definitely, most definitely break apart Amazon. All in all, make them put their money back in the circulation of the US golden pot. Oh, we might want to bring back unions and start the mad Cold War again.
If this does not sound palatable, the other option would be for all sides of the Great-Again war to come to the table and start talking like adults. Maybe we could put our heads together to think of something entirely new. Maybe we could build a beautiful and humane world.